Law Versus Truth

Craig Murray, former ambassador, human rights activist and whistle blower

Judge Lady Dorrian has refused Craig Murray leave to appeal via the Scottish court to the UK Supreme Court against his sentence of eight months imprisonment for abuse of court rules. However, she did suspend his imprisonment until 6 July while his counsel applies on his behalf direct to the Supreme Court to hear the appeal. The Supreme Court can reject the request or agree to hear the appeal.

Before reporting on the process that sees Murray face an unwarranted term in a prison cell, yet another stain on the face of a Scotland struggling to convince the electorate it is better than England, this author must express an interest in the case. As well as knowing the judge, Lady Leeona Dorrian, I too, reported on the court proceedings, taking care to keep my reports matter-of-fact, in the abstract, opinion and emotion free. For an instinctive creative writer it was not an easy style to adopt. I had to check and recheck my account was cold but accurate, that I had not added extraneous description or opinion, or put on record something that was struck off the record. On proof reading, I regarded my reports as pedestrian, crying out for the language to be spiced up.

On reading Murray’s first report I contacted him immediately with a brief message, paraphrasing a line from the film of Mozart’s life Amadeus, ‘Too many notes, Herr Mozart’, a movie I was sure he would know: “Too many adjectives, Mr Murray”.

At that time I registered no ‘jigsaw identification’ for which Murray is accused, that clunky catch-all phrase. I was concerned at his lack of strict impartiality, or it seemed so to me. Craig Murray reponded questioning why I should imply he had crossed a line. I put my reaction to his first report down to intuition, but I let the matter rest because Murray is a highly educated man with experience of state diplomacy in government that I obviously lack. I took it for granted he knew what he was doing.

On learning he was in contempt of court, I assumed he would be fined. The draconian judgement came as a shock. As far as I can ascertain, my alarm is shared by the general public: the sentence is brutal. Something does not chime in harmony.

This site knows of no graffitti ‘artist’ sent to prison, none given eight months for desecrating grave stones, monuments, bespoiling bridges, historic buildings or railway carriages, public edifices we can see easily, and costs thousands of pounds to rectify. A fine for ‘jigsaw identification’ – something unseen by the general reader for it necessitates a calculated analysis – is enough of a sanction to warn others, but others include a number of respected journalists who remain free of court appearances.

Just as some bloggers who wrote articles on the trial received a quiet phone call from Police Scotland, (as this site did) instructed from the office of COPFS, to remove indirect identification from their articles, one would like to think the relevant journalists were also contacted, their editor too, and repremanded; then again, how could they amend or delete what is published in hard copy and not altered easily on an internet blog?

Hugh Kerr, a former vice chair of the Scottish Executive Council of the National Union of Journalists, calls the verdict and sentence “a real threat to civil liberties”. I am forced to add, that the NUJ was seriously deficient in protecting Stuart Campbell, editor of Wings Over Scotland, from the antics of the British state, police harrassment, death trolls and all. He resigned from the NUJ in disgust.

A Threat to Civil Liberties

Former UK diplomat-turned whistleblower Craig Murray was sentenced to eight months in prison at the High Court in Edinburgh for contempt of court resulting from his coverage of the trial of former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

A three-judge panel determined on March 25, 2021- following a two-hour trial in January- that information published by Murray in a number of his blog posts was likely to lead indirectly to people being able to identify witnesses in Salmond’s sexual assault trial.

This process, known as “jigsaw identification,” refers to the possibility that a person may piece together information from various sources to arrive at the identification of a protected witness.

In doing so, the judge ruled that Murray violated a court order prohibiting the publication of information that could likely lead to the identification of the alleged victims in Salmond’s case.

Former UK diplomat-turned whistleblower Craig Murray was sentenced to eight  months in prison at the High Court in Edinburgh for contempt of court resulting from his coverage of the trial of former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

The trial and eight-month prison sentence was heavily criticized by a number of veteran Scottish journalists and lawyers.

“A key point, of course, the women who are meant to be threatened with jigsaw ID all remained anonymous, Alex Salmond’s life was destroyed, and Craig Murray’s life is about to be destroyed too.”

“I know that Craig shall appeal not only to the Supreme Court but also to the European Court of Human Rights. He will do so with the support of many people in Scotland and many people around the world,” Kerr added.

“It is believed to be the first instance in Scottish legal history where ‘jigsaw identification’ has led to an individual being imprisoned,” a statement released on behalf of Murray’s family declared.

Award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger said, “In these dark times, Craig Murray’s truth-telling is a beacon. He is owed our debt of gratitude, not the travesty of a prison sentence which, like the prosecution of Julian Assange, is a universal warning.”

“Craig Murray has compiled a remarkable record of courage and integrity in exposing crimes of state and working to bring them to an end,” Professor Noam Chomsky stated, contending Murray “fully merits our deep respect and support for his achievements.”

No choice but to imprison Murray

“A significant fine is how this court normally deals with media contempt, even those that actually interfere with the course of justice,” Roddy Dunlop QC, Murray’s lawyer, told the High Court on May 7. “To rule otherwise, in this case, would be harsh to the point of being disproportionate.”

In mitigation, Dunlop informed the court that Murray is 62 years old, the father to a newborn child, and suffers from pulmonary health conditions, which will worsen if incarcerated. There was also no risk of repeating the crime and Murray’s intent was never to violate the anonymity order. Murray’s legal team highlighted sentences handed down in other cases, such as the English contempt of court case against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), the far-right co-founder of the English Defense League.

In 2017, Yaxley-Lennon filmed and published a video online of criminal defendants on trial for rape, in which he described them as “Muslim child rapists”. He was given a three-month suspended sentence for contempt of court that was conditioned on him not prejudicing any other pending trials.

One year later, Yaxley-Lennon published another video in explicit defiance of a reporting ban regarding three related sex-assault cases. He was ultimately sentenced to 9 months in prison.

At the most serious end of the scale

Murray’s case is “at the more serious end of the scale,” Judge Lady Leeona J Dorrian said on 11 May, when addressing the other cases raised by the defense. Lady Dorrian, who also presided over Salmond’s trial, headed the panel of senior Scottish judges that heard Murray’s contempt of court case. In reading out the court’s sentence, Dorrian said that Murray’s actions created “a real risk that complainers [sex offense cases] may be reluctant to come forward in future cases, particularly where the case may be high profile or likely to attract significant publicity.”

The publication of jigsaw identification strikes “at the heart of the fair administration of justice,” and therefore “notwithstanding the previous good character of [Murray] and his health issues, we do not think we can dispose of this case other than by way of a sentence of imprisonment,” Dorrian added.

As part of his defense, Murray submitted examples of mainstream outlets which he argued published even more “jigsaw identification.” In effect, an argument of selective prosecution could be inferred.

But the judges in Murray’s case considered that to be “irrelevant to whether what [Murray] published constituted a contempt of court.”

A politically motivated stitch up

Murray was critical of the prosecution of Salmond which he described as a politically motivated stitch-up, a fact which appears to have irked the judges in his case. 

“As with many of the articles with which these proceedings are concerned, the respondent does not merely identify information, put the material before the public, and ask questions arising from it. He acts as arbiter, presenting the matter on the basis that his belief, opinions and interpretation of the information, assuming that is the right word to use, is “the full truth,”” the judges noted in their opinion [PDF] on March 25.

Before Salmond was tried in March 2020, evidence had already emerged of a potential conspiracy against the former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Emails and text messages between members of the Scottish civil service, the SNP bureaucracy, and some of Salmond’s alleged victims revealed an apparent conspiracy to destroy Salmond’s political career and reputation.

A number of legal and journalistic observers, such as Scottish lawyer Gordon Dangerfield, Scotland’s former Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill MP, and Murray himself called attention to this evidence.

The High Court of Scotland, which reviewed the investigation and handling of Salmond’s case, determined that the process was “unlawful”, “procedurally unfair” and “tainted by apparent bias,” a year before the trial commenced.

Salmond, along with Murray, is known to be a fierce proponent of Scottish independence and his prosecution comes at a time of splits within the SNP about the direction of the party and how the matter of independence is being approached by the current leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A number of well-known Scots joined with Salmond to form the pro-independence Alba Party in February 2021. However, the overall politicized nature of Salmond’s case did not feature in Murray’s contempt of court trial. 

Murray’s intentions and motives deemed irrelevant

“The question which must be asked is whether in its context the material was such as was likely, objectively speaking, to lead to identification of the complainers,” the court determined. Also of significance was the court’s decision to apply a wide test when deciding whether Murray committed contempt of court. Though the defense argued that the threshold should be whether “the public at large” was likely to be able to piece together the identification of a protected witness, the court disagreed.

“If the material would be likely to enable a particular section of the public to do so that would be sufficient.” In other words, if someone who knows the complainants in Salmond’s case is likely to be able to piece together their identity from a combination of Murray’s articles along with their own specific knowledge – that is enough for Murray to have violated the court order.

Two other charges—one alleging that Murray violated a court order barring the reasons given for the dismissal of a juror and the other alleging that two articles he published created a substantial risk of prejudicing the jury—were both dismissed by the court.

According to Kerr, Dorrian, who presided over both Salmond’s trial and Murray’s contempt of court proceedings, “has led the campaign to get rid of juries in the cases of sex offenses in Scotland.”

The Scottish government has been looking into specialized legal proceedings in sex offense cases, whereby complainants might be able to give evidence via video link as a matter of course and where judges would give the final verdict as to guilt or innocence.

Kerr considered this to be a “very worrying” development, which would have deprived Salmond of a jury and likely resulted in a conviction.

Appealing to the supreme court

Although the court originally gave Murray 48 hours to suurender himself to authorities, they extended that to three weeks after Dunlop requested more time to lodge an appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

n a twist of irony, Dunlop, who is Scotland’s most senior lawyer – known as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, was among the attorneys representing the Scottish government when Salmond successfully sued them in the High Court. Dunlop and one of his colleagues, threatened to resign if their client, the Scottish executive, didn’t concede the lawsuit, once it became apparent that they withheld evidence that they were obligated to disclose to Salmond’s lawyers.

“We have a very serious problem in Scotland at present”, veteran journalist Mark Hirst told The Dissenter. In Hirst’s view, the Crown Office is “an institutionally corrupt prosecuting authority” which is “abusing their power and acting in an evidently biased and political manner.”

Hirst, a longstanding friend of Murray, said he knows through his own discussions “with senior lawyers and serving police officers that there is concern the Crown Office are bringing the entire legal system in Scotland into utter disrepute.”“Major reform is needed or we will see other journalists and political activists falling victim to malicious proceedings,” Hirst concluded.

If an appeal to the UK Suprme court is accepted, perhaps the sentence will be reduced, or annulled, a fine imposed. That would be more in keeping with the misdemeanour.

The crime is Scotland dragged out of EU membership by vindictive English. In an independent Scotland, Murray could take his case to Strasbourg and there argue openly his sentence is persecution not prosecution. Scotland wants to be part of the international world but seems destined to remain a poor copy of England.

Grouse Beater offers huge thanks to journalist Mohamed Elmaazi for his work on this report. He has followed the political case assiduously.


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11 Responses to Law Versus Truth

  1. broonpot says:

    A confusion of ‘scales’ in Scottish justice which in this instance is most definitely not blind –

    “Murray’s case is “at the more serious end of the scale,” Judge Lady Leeona J Dorrian said on 11 May, ”

    A statement which does not sit well with the facts of the case nor with the ‘Scales of Justice, which I have always understood represented the balance of the individual against the needs of society with a fair balance between the interests of one individual and those of another.

    I despair.

  2. IF Craigs ‘reporting’ has led to Jigsaw identification, how come their names are not now plastered all over the place? They are piling more & more stress on the poor man, trying to kill him I think. Cruel & Unusual I would call it. Would not surprise me he ‘wins’ his appeal & doesn’t go to jail. Just wanted to punish him & warn off any Salmond & Justice or Indy supporters! As if that will work!

  3. “Dorrian, who also presided over Salmond’s trial, headed the panel of senior Scottish judges that heard Murray’s contempt of court case.”

    Would it not be best practice to select judges who have no direct connection to the original trial? Even if they can, by some superhuman feet, maintain their impartiality, it is rather unseemly and unnecessarily brings in the possibility of personal grievance where this could have easily been avoided.

  4. diabloandco says:

    It is utterly shameful – the bias is showing and the world is watching.

  5. nallyanders says:

    And yet the individual who did actually publish the names of the ‘accusers’ got a sentence of 6months. Yet Craig who did not publish the names receives the heavier sentence?
    Which of the two are at the ‘most serious end of the scale’.
    Sheer vindictiveness and definitely no advertisement for Judge only trials.

  6. peeliewallie says:

    I just want to cry very angry tears.

  7. alfbaird says:

    Excellent succinct analysis Grouse Beater.

    Postcolonial literature of course tells us that the independence seeking native cannot expect anything from a colonial justice system (Fanon). This is one reason why the UN regards colonialism as ‘a scourge’, a form of punishment, which should be ended. Unfortunately we must expect the oppression to continue until our nation and people are FULLY independent. Indeed, here is another in an ever growing number of illustrations of ‘the colonial disease’ (Memmi) this very morning:

    “INDEPENDENCE activist Gary Kelly is to stand trial at Aberdeen Sheriff Court later this year on two charges. The case arises from the All Under One Banner (AUOB) march in the city in August 2019, for which he was the named organiser.”

    Jail for marching for liberation – which has a long imperial and thus barbarous history. It is especially during the ‘decolonisation period’ (which us Scots are perhaps now in) that ‘the oppressor starts the process of domination, of exploitation and of pillage’ (Fanon). Our oppressor, which always includes elements of the native population, needs to think carefully about what they are doing (in bad faith) because such an approach does not end well for them either.

    They say in Kenya that the British colonizers had to build a great many prisons. It may be purely coincidental that Scotland already has the highest prison population per head in Western Europe, but having seen how the system ‘functions’ I doubt it. Oor fowk hiv aye bin haud-doun!

  8. duncanio says:

    Scotland, birthplace of The Enlightenment, appears to be entering a new Dark Age.

    Dundas and Braxfield would be applauding this outrageous suppression of free speech.

  9. Derek Grainge says:

    Readers might like to look at Craig’s latest post.
    There’s a link within whereby uou can, if you wish, donate to what will be horrendous appeal costs.

  10. sadscot says:

    It’s difficult to take in the fact that any judge is being allowed to display such a personal interest in a case, indeed, a series of cases. It’s most concerning. More concerning is the fact that no one, at a level that matters, appears to be even trying to rein her in.
    Lady Dorrian should not even be involved. She presided over the Salmond trial and, almost immediately afterwards, became the leading light in moves to abolish jury trials in sexual assault cases among other changes to the process in such cases. She is working closely with Sturgeon’s government in those matters as well as Rape Crisis Scotland.
    Her statements, within judgements, concerning Murray, are also alarming as she makes utterly astonishing claims about CM’s mindset and intentions which are, even to a lay person, clearly speculative and therefore irrelevant. Yet she presents these as fact. That she’s getting away with this is terrifying.
    Furthermore, she’s suggested now that there are two medias! She claims she can’t challenge the MSM because it’s “regulated”! That is simply not true. The warnings issued ahead of the Salmond trial went out to all media, not just online bloggers, and all were warned that contempt charges would follow should anyone breach the order. It’s ludicrous that a woman in her position is being allowed to make it up as she goes with no one intervening.
    Like you, GB, I too felt uneasy when reading some of CM’s material on these matters. I felt he was taking huge risks but I certainly did not expect an individual judge to be able to blatantly manipulate the system as this one has, including the refusal to allow his appeal. What I’m grateful to CM for is getting an accurate account of the defence case in the Salmond trial out here, because MSM journalists weren’t keen on publishing that!
    I wish CM well and I’m thoroughly sickened by all this. These are not “interesting times”. They are terrifying.

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