The Salmond Trial

Referendum Debate Continues As Campaigns Enter Final Week

Alex Salmond

For reader’s information.

The first thing to say is obvious, readers are cautioned against prejudicing the trial by posting intemperate comments that, understandably, some might feel impelled to make, all things considered. Emotions and prejudices will run high, as they say, but the wise will keep an eye on the detail and not the over-wrought. Alex Salmond has already won the first part of his action against the Scottish Government. It remains to be seen what bearing it will have on the main part of the case against him.

I shall try to attend the court proceedings on days available to me which may be few. Guest passes are strictly controlled. I have been inside the High Court only once, coincidentally a rape case on which I served as a member of the jury. I was not impressed with the reasoning of some of my fellow jurors, but judged by your community and peers is the way democracies operate.

I read in the press some aspects of Salmond’s case may be held in camera (private, behind closed doors) in particular his own evidence. I’d prefer all such cases open to scrutiny in a new nation. Secondly, my friend Craig Murray is planning to attend and he will be writing of his observations. Readers may wish to follow his blog. Lastly, where I have no information, I shall refer to BBC’s court reporter, Philip Sim, one of the few BBC staffers I’ve met and found to be scrupulously factual when we both attended and reported on the same case last year.

There is talk of the trial lasting up to three or four weeks. I have it at two. We shall see.

The Judge

I am obliged to state I know the judge personally, Lady Leeona June Dorrian. She was born in Edinburgh. I have always found her pleasant, intelligent, a welcoming host, a person of good company. I cannot think other she will be scrupulously fair in her dealings in this case. Last time I was in court was the Court of Sessions. (I prosecuted the theft of copyright and won.) I was impressed to see so many female solicitors there, but of females judges and magistrates there are still too few. Lady Dorrian was the first woman to be appointed to such a senior judicial office. She sits as Lord Justice Clerk. She became a Judge of the Supreme Courts of Scotland in 2005. She is Scotland’s second most senior judge and as such has been overseeing reforms of court procedures in Scotland, including the evidence allowed in sexual assault cases and Scotland’s unique jury system. I am sure she understands the trial will make history, whatever the outcome.

The Prosecution QC

The crown case against Alex Salmond and for complainants is led by Alex Prentice QC, a senior crown counsel known for securing murder convictions in the most difficult cases. He will have been chosen for his forensic skills, to quote a cliché. A low-key lawyer with nearly 40 years’ experience, Prentice has prosecuted some of Scotland’s most high-profile cases, including winning murder convictions against Nat Fraser in 2012 and David Gilroy in the same year although no bodies were found, and the perjury case against the Solidarity leader Tommy Sheridan. Specifically, in 2012 he twice won a murder conviction without a body in the murder of Suzanne Pilley and the retrial in the murder of Arlene Fraser. Further to this, Prentice won an appeal lodged by Fraser in 2013. In June 2013, Channel 4 screened Nat Fraser’s second trial in The Murder Trial, which featured Prentice himself.

The Defence QC

Scotland’s most senior advocate, Gordon Jackson QC, appears for Alex Salmond. Jackson was elected dean of the Faculty of Advocates – the ruling body for the country’s most senior lawyers – in 2016, and is regarded by other lawyers as one of the best defence lawyers in Scotland. Jackson was educated at Ardrossan Academy and studied Law at the University of St Andrews. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1979 and served as an Advocate Depute from 1987 to 1990. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales (Lincoln’s Inn) in 1989, appointed Queen’s Counsel in Scotland in 1990. An interesting aspect to Jackson’s career is his Labour Party affiliations. In his 41-year career at the bar, during which he has also qualified as a barrister in England and Wales, Jackson sat as a Labour member of the Scottish parliament for Glasgow Govan for eight years, before unseated by Nicola Sturgeon in the 2007 Holyrood election.

Deputy Defence QC

Gordon Jackson’s deputy for the trial is Shelagh McCall QC, one of Scotland’s most senior civil rights specialists who worked for two years at the UN’s international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia war crimes hearings as a prosecution appeals lawyer. Her LL.B (Hons) comes from Edinburgh University. She is now convener of the Faculty of Advocates ‘Human Rights and Rule of Law’ committee. McCall is also a part-time sheriff and chair of the Scottish arm of the legal rights campaign group Justice, after serving on the Scottish human rights commission, where she helped produce an action plan for justice for child abuse survivors. It is good practice to have a female QC ask question in a rape case.

The Jury

The jury is made up of 15 people from various walks of life, chosen at random the first morning of the trial. None are asked their political affiliations. There are three possible verdicts: not guilty, guilty, or not proven.

The British media

Like wasps to a dead carcass, the British press will be all over the trial, all the while hoping a bad outcome will trash Scotland’s hopes for constitutional renaissance. It makes me think of the tabloid hack who cried “Let’s get the bastirt!” when he read the Settlers and Colonists essay of the late Alasdair Gray. We have seen already one insidious mouthpiece of the British state, the Herald, publish a crass article implying association of Alex Salmond’s plight with serial rapist-murderers, all found guilty.

Third-rate press pundits think this trial will put an end to ambitions of reinstating independence. To believe a mass movement for greater liberty is wiped out by a single incident in over 300 years of struggle, is the deluded talking to the deluded.

The Guardian mentions “over 40 newspaper and broadcasting journalists, including overseas media,” are expected to attend the hearings. I have no idea how they arrived at that figure. It has to be an understatement. What is certain is the trial will take place under Scotland’s strict procedures on staging and reporting sexual offence cases, which include the convention that complainants are not named.

In summary

The trial will make plain who is lying, who is deceitful, and who has a political agenda. I once asked a judge I knew how he could tell when a defendant or a witness was lying. He said, “Over the years with experience you acquire a sixth sense; sentence construction, body posture, eye contact, evasion, they all tell you something is amiss.” I listened and watched him answer my question … and I was sure he was telling the truth.

Alex Salmond has always insisted he is innocent of all the charges, including the curious one tacked on the end of the list, a fracas at Edinburgh Airport. (It was over “inappropriate behavior” in a corridor his bodyguard-driver claims never happened.) For the one politician to secure for the people of Scotland the first fully democratic plebiscite on our future, he gets the respect of the last word in this introduction.

“The only thing that I can say is, I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court. I’ve got great faith in the court system in Scotland – that is where I will state my case.”

 

*******************************************

The trial as it is reported

Please Note: For ease of following evidence, each week’s record is moved to a separate blog. When the trial is over and the judge has published her adjudication, the record here will be erased. Unless a Guilty verdict followed by an appeal, the record published here will be redundant. If Not Guilty or Not Proven, the Court will publish the record of the case together with the judge’s summing up.

Day 11 – Monday 23 March 2020

a. The Jury was sent home at the weekend; they and Alex Salmond return to court today,  the likelihood a verdict will be reached in hours. Please check in for updates from 10am.

b. The jury have gone out again in the Alex Salmond trial – but there are only 13 now. Lady Dorrian tells the remaining jurors that two have been discharged for “various reasons”. No explanation given, but it could easily be for pressing domestic reasons, or they feel unable to bring themselves to judge. In Scottish Law a jury can continue deliberations with reduced numbers so long as there is at least 12 remaining. A majority verdict, however, must have no fewer than eight in agreement for a conviction on any charge.

c. The jury chairperson stands and reads out their verdicts as follows:

  • Trial Charge 7 (sexual assault of Woman F) Not Proven by majority
  • Charge 8 (sexual assault of Woman F with intent to rape) Not Guilty by majority
  • Charge 9 (sexual assault of Woman G) Not Guilty by majority
  • Charge 10 (sexual assault of Woman G) Not Guilty by majority
  • Charge 11 (sexual assault of Woman H) Not Guilty by majority
  • Charge 13 (sexual assault of Woman J) Not Guilty by majority
  • Charge 14 (sexual assault of Woman K) Not Guilty by majority

d. Not Guilty on all but one count, and Not Proven on that. (Not enough evidence.)

e. The judge, Lady Dorrian asks Alex Salmond to stand and told – he is a free man, and discharges him from the court. The jury is thanked. The trial is over.

NOTES:

Week 1 can be found here:  https://wp.me/p4fd9j-oAX

Week 2 can be found here:  https://wp.me/p4fd9j-oEj

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90 Responses to The Salmond Trial

  1. Colin Jackson says:

    The Weinstein trial has been mentioned a couple of times, once by one of the witnesses if I’m not mistaken. Does anyone think there’s a possibility that some of the terminology used in the evidence could have been influenced by that ?

  2. Terence Callachan says:

    The world has changed over the last decade ,behaviour of men and behaviour of women has changed too, if anything I would say that women now behave much like the men that women used to criticise thirty years ago for their drinking ,bad language and bad comments about women.
    Gone are men only pubs
    Gone are men only clubs , golf clubs etc
    Some as a result of legal action
    Oddly we do still have women’s hour on radios 4 but no men’s hour on radio 4 ?
    Or is it odd ?
    What do you think ?

    Being a stay at home husband who does the shopping cooking cleaning ironing washing etc etc with a wife who works I can honestly say that she now does the things that she used to moan at me about thirty years ago, we are all people , women do behave as badly as men they just do it a bit differently
    Looks to me as if we have a group of women here who know each other have communicated with each other before charges were brought who each have no witnesses to support their allegation and who all did nothing about the alleged offence at the time ?
    WOW
    AS has denied the allegation each has made and has given perfectly good alternative explanations
    Perfectly good explanations but not perfectly good behaviour nevertheless not criminal behaviour

    Who will support what side ?
    How will they justify their decision ?

    Innocent until PROVED guilty ?
    Where is the proof ? Personally I don’t see any proof
    Or do we find people guilty by getting several people to accuse individually and reach a decision of
    No smoke without fire , is it possible that a conviction can be brought about without witnesses and just accusation ?
    A no smoke without fire decision
    Time will tell

  3. Douglas MacMillan says:

    For me the trial is going along predictable lines… with the exception that the SNP Executive sat on a complaint of sexual assault and sought to use it for political purposes. Will the SNP employee responsible be brought as a defense witness?

  4. I can’t believe this garbage was actually brought to court. There seems to be no corroboration at all, how much public money is going to be wasted on this pointless show trial.

  5. James Caithness says:

    I hope they call Lesley Evans as a witness. She has a lot to answer.

  6. I’m in my late 50’sand came up through the late 70’s/and the 80’s and office manners were sadly lacking – but as a woman, you just didn’t tolerate it. You slapped a hand away etc and told them off. It didn’t matter who it was. You were not ‘frozen’ or ‘terrified’; you reacted to defend yourself. AS is coming off as a bit of a flirt with a dose of handy man as a side plate. I would like to have given him more credit than that.

  7. millssandra says:

    Like many of the public I was aghast when I heard of these numerous ”criminal” charges against Alex Salmond . My first reaction was that he must be guilty of these ‘serious’ charges – until I heard the ‘evidence ‘ provided by the complainers .
    Now I understand why so many charges were bundled together . On their own none of these would hold up to proper scrutiny by any reasonable person . However the act of throwing a baker’s dozen of complaints at AS gives the prosecution some hope that ‘mud ‘may stick and they get one or two convictions .
    This whole case stinks !

  8. crabbitgits says:

    They’re going to use the Moorove Doctrine tough millssandra; google it it you need to know.

  9. Colin Jackson says:

    Err, how can I put this ? ” Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, ” yes, I think that covers it.
    However, in my experience, the word woman can be interchanged by the word man in certain situations. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any significance in the fact that this trial will be over in half the time allowed.

  10. Love the Crown’s summation “…they are masters of the facts”

    Jury should be able to make a decision in minutes then. Unless, of course, ‘facts have a new definition.’

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    Have added final section of Crown case….

  12. Colin Jackson says:

    crabbitgits – Just read the prosecution summing up. You were spot on with your Moorov Doctrine comment.

  13. crabbitgits says:

    BBC on their Scottish page with headline “Prosecutor claims Alex Salmond was a ‘sexual predator'”. Well, what do we expect eh?

  14. millssandra says:

    Prosecution declines to cross-examine any of the Defence witnesses ( save one ) when much of their evidence clearly undermines the accusers’ testimonies .Mmmmmm?

  15. Prosecution in summing up says there was an emerging theme…almost like there was a WhatsApp group co-ordinat…..

    BBC coverage of the events partisan as ever.

  16. Ian Stewart says:

    In another blog it states a witness Ann Harvey had her evidence ruled inadmissible. Any info on this ?

  17. crabbitgits says:

    “He concludes his summing up speech telling the jury that he doesn’t care if they like Alex Salmond or not – he’s not above the law, but he’s not below it either. “This has gone far enough!”” A belter of a closing from Gordon Jackson – sit and wait now. I’m not guilty on all charges and hope the judge comes in at the end and severely reprimands for the entire process! Thanks once again GB for putting this all in one place here. Not many trusted sources out there, and any there were getting kicked out of court: Craig Murray yesterday.

  18. Grouse Beater says:

    I think it had no direct connection with any incident, Ian.

  19. Mark Melville says:

    great reporting on this final day, it looks like the verdict should be simple enough – heres hoping!

  20. Leslie Ross says:

    Did Lady Dorrian say anything at all about corroboration to the jury?

  21. Grouse Beater says:

    She gave a balanced instruction. But that’s all I am in a position to report.

  22. tintochiel says:

    Thanks for all your valiant efforts, Grouse Beater. It says it all about the Stenographers for The State, aka the MSM, that we have to rely on yourself and Craig Murray for an accurate account of what happened in court.

  23. murren59 says:

    Thanks again GB and tintochiel above sums it up well for most of us.

  24. diabloandco says:

    Thank you and Craig for the efforts made to keep us properly informed – I haven’t relied on the MSM for accuracy , integrity or unbiased reporting for some time now and never will again.

  25. Michael Cranna says:

    Thank you very much Mr Grouse Beater. Or can I call you Grouse?

  26. peeliewallie says:

    Thanks for all your input. Without you and Craig Murray we wouldn’t have been told the half of it.

  27. Grouse Beater says:

    Grousey or Gareth is fine, better than ‘that bastard separatist’. 🙂

  28. Bill MacFadyen says:

    I now await the headline in the Daily Mail, ” Salmond freed to strike again “

  29. crabbitgits says:

    Thanks again Grousey for this record, clear, complete and concise. Thank xxxx for our legal system, for an excellent defense team, although I could probably have got him the same result and the Indy movement, who have largely stood behind AS. Alec Salmond showed such dignity and humility in being cleared and has reminded everyone, once again that he is a true man of the people by thinking more of this terrible CV19 crisis and the struggles people are going to face than he did of his own freedom. There will be an almighty reckoning and he will have HIS day but that will be put on hold. I, personally look forward to his return to politics. He’ll be absolutely unstoppable. The ones responsible for this debacle will have their just deserts some day, I’m sure of it.

  30. Grouse Beater says:

    Bob,
    Now the trial is over I have reinstated your comments, as promised. You had some interesting things to say but I didn’t want you to get into trouble saying them too early. A jury goes home nights and though sword not to, might inadvertently come across views and opinions they had not considered. Anyhow, you are proven correct. Well done. And thank you for your contribution. Gareth.

  31. diabloandco says:

    Grouse, I read a hint that all is not well with you , take care.

  32. Grouse Beater says:

    That is correct. But I am resilient despite my predicament, and I do like life lived well. Thank you for your concern.

  33. Alastair Murray says:

    The not proven verdict, what differentiated that case, was there anything obvious ? Or an artefact of jury member drop out (explanations/thoughts?). In any event this was really well done and provided a service for which I am very grateful. There are so many questions, but I suppose answers will be in short supply for some time? Many thanks again, bravo and I hope all becomes well with you asap. Thanks.

  34. Grouse Beater says:

    First, thank you for your good wishes. I shall prevail – which I think is a lyric from a song. To your question: the Not Proven signifies there was not enough evidence to judge either way, a mere accusation not corroborated. In Scots Law it means two things, you are innocent, but if new evidence comes to light the complainant can bring a charge again against you. In this instance, I believe all the complainants have shown themselves guilty of conspiracy and wasting the court’s time. The jury, for example was predominantly made up of women, and the judge was female, aspects normally thought to be against acquittal in rape cases. Onward!

  35. scotlandlad says:

    Grouse,

    We’re indebted to your (and Craig’s) comprehensive reporting of this trial.

    However, grateful if you could clarify what you meant when you said: “If Not Guilty or Not Proven, the Court will publish the record of the case together with the judge’s summing up”? My understanding is that the Court record consists of the minute of proceedings (which won’t be published and which is excluded FOI (Scotland) Act 2002). On the other hand it is possible to apply to the Court for a transcript of the Lady Dorrian’s charge to the jury pursuant to section 94 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1994. There is an hourly charge for the audio transcription in that case.

    Many thanks.

  36. Grouse Beater says:

    Ah, yes, I overlooked the charge. W e’ll be paying for oxygen next. I’m waiting to see what is published, so yes, I might in the end, edit things down and leave things on the board.

  37. Alastair Murray says:

    Any thoughts/observations on the Times story, my own (first thought) is it was a Murdoch era black ops thing where they just followed his QC (using a 3rd party agent to be the “lucky” commuter) on his daily commute hoping he would drop the ball, which eventually he did and bobs yer uncle.

  38. Alastair Murray says:

    So it’s a kind of hatchet job, albeit self inflicted in a way.

  39. Grouse Beater says:

    One must be ultra-careful of naming names. I shall answer by saying one person’s evidence was considered too circumstantial to hold any weight and, with the agreement of counsel, was deemed inappropriate.

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