Crim­i­nal probe into Sal­mond ha­rass­ment leak

SNP Gov­ern­ment un­der pres­sure over al­leged data breach

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Hutcheon

NI­COLA Stur­geon’s Gov­ern­ment is at the cen­tre of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion over the leak of highly sen­si­tive al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to the Alex Sal­mond sex­ual mis­con­duct case.

In a let­ter to the for­mer First Min­is­ter’s team, the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice (ICO) wrote that it ap­pears an of­fence may have been com­mit­ted over the unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure to a tabloid news­pa­per.

The ICO added: “This com­plaint has been al­lo­cated to the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions team to in­ves­ti­gate the sub­ject mat­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to the ICO web­site, this team can carry out search war­rants on the premises of sus­pects to re­cover ev­i­dence dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The let­ter added that the watch­dog would write to the SNP Gov­ern­ment to re­quest any ev­i­dence of un­law­ful dis­clo­sures and to iden­tify any per­son re­spon­si­ble for the al­leged data breach.

Two civil ser­vants ac­cused Sal­mond of sex­ual mis­con­duct when he was in of­fice, com­plaints which led to an in­ter­nal Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment probe.

Sal­mond, who de­nies the al­le­ga­tions, suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the process in court af­ter the Gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted flaws in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

NI­COLA Stur­geon’s Gov­ern­ment is at the cen­tre of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion over the leak of highly sen­si­tive al­le­ga­tions re­lat­ing to the Alex Sal­mond sex­ual mis­con­duct case.

In a let­ter to the for­mer First Min­is­ter’s team, the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice ( ICO) wrote that it ap­pears an of­fence may have been com­mit­ted over the unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure to a tabloid news­pa­per.

The cor­re­spon­dence also re­veals that Sal­mond’s com­plaint was passed last year to the ICO’s Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions team.

The SNP Gov­ern­ment is at log­ger­heads with the for­mer First Min­is­ter over the way civil ser­vants han­dled com­plaints about his al­leged be­hav­iour when he was in of­fice.

Two women ac­cused Sal­mond of sex­ual mis­con­duct, com­plaints which led to an in­ter­nal probe fol­lowed by a re­fer­ral to the po­lice.

Sal­mond, who de­nies the al­le­ga­tions, suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the process in court af­ter the Gov­ern­ment ad­mit­ted flaws in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The Gov­ern­ment breached its own pol­icy af­ter ap­point­ing an in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer who had pre­vi­ously been in con­tact with the two women who made the al­le­ga­tions.

Af­ter his court vic­tory, Sal­mond re­peated his call for Les­lie Evans, the Gov­ern­ment’s most se­nior civil ser­vant, to quit, and he point­edly re­fused to of­fer an olive branch to First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon.

She and her Gov­ern­ment face a raft of en­quiries which may fo­cus on the cost of the botched probe as well Stur­geon’s de­ci­sion to meet Sal­mond re­peat­edly dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The ICO, which is re­spon­si­ble for look­ing into data pro­tec­tion breaches, last week con­firmed Sal­mond had “raised a con­cern” with the watch­dog, adding that they are “cur­rently mak­ing en­quiries with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment”.

How­ever, de­tails of a let­ter sent by the ICO in Novem­ber shows the se­ri­ous­ness of the probe, which re­lates to a leak to a news­pa­per about the Sal­mond case.

The let­ter states: “From the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided, it ap­pears that an of­fence con­trary to Sec­tion 170 of the [Data Pro­tec­tion] Act may have been com­mit­ted.”

This part of the leg­is­la­tion cre­ates a crim­i­nal of­fence if a per­son “know­ingly or reck­lessly” ob­tains or dis­closes per­sonal data with­out the con­sent of the “data con­troller”.

Var­i­ous de­fences ex­ist, such as if a per­son charged with an of­fence proves that the “ob­tain­ing, dis­clos­ing, procur­ing or re­tain­ing” of the data was nec­es­sary for the pur­poses of pre­vent­ing or de­tect­ing crime. A pub­lic in­ter­est de­fence i s also en­shrined i n the statute.

The let­ter con­tin­ued: “In these cir­cum­stances, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is the data con­troller of Mr Sal­mond’s per­sonal data when it is be­ing pro­cessed for the pur­poses of the in­ter­nal mis­con­duct in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“This com­plaint has been al­lo­cated to the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions team to in­ves­ti­gate the sub­ject mat­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to the ICO web­site, this team can carry out search war­rants on the premises of sus­pects to re­cover ev­i­dence dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

The let­ter added that the watch­dog would write to the Gov­ern­ment to re­quest any ev­i­dence of un­law­ful dis­clo­sures and to iden­tify any per­son re­spon­si­ble for the al­leged data breach.

A source said the fault lay with the l eaker, not t he news­pa­per t hat pub­lished the story.

Sal­mond was in­censed by the Au­gust leak and ac­cused some­one in Gov­ern­ment of “sus­tained leak­ing” of the “most un­fair kind”. Al­lies of Sal­mond hope the ICO probe will flush out the leaker.

He said in Au­gust: “Con­fi­den­tial­ity is at the heart of a just pro­ce­dure and is nec­es­sary for both com­plain­ers and those com­plained about.

“If it is breached, then who is go­ing to com­plain in fu­ture with con­fi­dence and how can the per­son com­plained about se­cure any fair­ness?”

Speak­ing af­ter last week’s court hear­ing, the for­mer First Min­is­ter re­turned to the same sub­jected: “I’ve been deeply trou­bled through­out the case by the leak­ing of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion by who­ever.

“Any com­plaints process has to be t r ans­par­ent, bal­anced, f air and con­fi­den­tial.

“That’s i n the i nter­ests of the com­plain­ers and those com­plained about.”

In an­other devel­op­ment last week, the Gov­ern­ment said it had found no ev­i­dence of a data breach re­lat­ing to the Sal­mond case.

The Gov­ern­ment, fol­low­ing its own in­ter­nal re­view, con­cluded it was “sat­is­fied” that in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to the case was pro­cessed cor­rectly.

An ICO spokesper­son said: “Mr Sal­mond is happy for us to con­firm he has raised a con­cern with the ICO and we are cur­rently mak­ing en­quiries with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.”

A spokesper­son for Sal­mond said: “There is an on­go­ing po­lice in­quiry and we are mak­ing no com­ment, on or off the record.”

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesper­son said: “This process was on­go­ing within the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment for eight months and was kept en­tirely con­fi­den­tial through­out that pe­riod.

“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has never com­mented on the con­tent of the al­lega-

From the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided, it ap­pears that an of­fence con­trary to Sec­tion 170 of the [Data Pro­tec­tion] Act may have been com­mit­ted

I’ve been deeply trou­bled through­out the case by the leak­ing of con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion

tions against Mr Sal­mond and we will not do so.

“As a pre­cau­tion and in line with our le­gal obli­ga­tions, we in­structed a de­tailed re­view into our han­dling of Mr Sal­mond’s data in Au­gust 2018.

“We are sat­is­fied that in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to t his case has been pro­cessed in ac­cor­dance with our le­gal and in­for­ma­tion han­dling obli­ga­tions, and that there is no ev­i­dence of any data breach.

“We are cur­rently in the process of shar­ing this in­for­ma­tion with the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner.”

Scot­tish Tory MSP An­nie Wells said:“Once again it looks like the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment might have made a sig­nif­i­cant er­ror in the han­dling of this case.

“If there has been a data breach here then it reaf­firms the ut­ter sham­bles that they have made of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We can’t lose sight of the fact that the com­plaints against Alex Sal­mond by these two women are fall­ing apart be­cause of how poorly this is be­ing han­dled.”

Alex Sal­mond’s team re­ceived a let­ter from the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner’s Of­fice (ICO) stat­ing it ap­pears an of­fence may have been com­mit­ted over the unau­tho­rised dis­clo­sure to a tabloid news­pa­per

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.