Salmond sex case ‘could collapse after blunders by Government’
Fears ex-first minister won’t get fair trial following inquiry fiasco
THE ‘incompetent’ inquiry by the Scottish Government into allegations of sexual misconduct against Alex Salmond may undermine the criminal case into the claims, police sources warned last night.
They fear it may now be ‘impossible’ for the former first minister to receive a fair trial.
Accusations that key witnesses were encouraged by the Government’s investigating officer, Judith MacKinnon, could call into question any evidence given by those witnesses, according to a police source.
And the Government’s failures will pile pressure on the alleged victims if and when they give testimony, another source claimed.
The suggestion that the ‘incompetence’ of Nicola Sturgeon’s Government could damage any criminal case against her former boss will be profoundly embarrassing for her.
Two women lodged formal sexual misconduct complaints against Mr Salmond in January of last year. The complaints were not passed to Police Scotland until last August, by which time Ms Sturgeon had held five separate conversations with Mr Salmond about the case – three in person and two on the phone.
Their talks ceased when Mr Salmond began legal action over the Government’s inquiry, which he branded ‘grossly unfair’ and ‘fundamentally flawed’.
He argued the probe was biased and it was revealed that Ms MacKinnon had met witnesses before she was appointed as the investigating officer.
Last week, the Government probe into the sex claims was branded ‘unlawful’ at the Court of Session and the Government was forced to concede the case and apologise. Ms Sturgeon admitted Ms MacKinnon’s meetings with complainants had given ‘the impression of partiality’. But she said: ‘The Government does not accept claims that it was in any way encouraging the complaints, nor is there any suggestion that the investigating officer did, in fact, act in a partial way.’
But it is the ‘impression’ of partiality which has potentially weakened the criminal case.
A senior police source warned: ‘I don’t think it’s got any implication, but that’s not to say it has not, in some way, compromised evidence that may be forthcoming.
‘If, as has been widely alluded to, Judith MacKinnon has assisted the witnesses, that creates a false impression as to what people’s experiences might have been, and that will be a particularly difficult matter for any court or prosecutor – if it gets that far – to discount.
‘It can only have a prejudicial impact on fairness to any potential accused.’
The source added: ‘If he does find himself in court, the actions of the Scottish Government will make it impossible for Alex Salmond to be given a fair hearing.’
Another insider said it would put added scrutiny on the complainants’ evidence, if the case reaches court.
The insider said: ‘Those who support Alex Salmond appear to be building a narrative suggesting the case against him is already tainted by the incompetent efforts of the Scottish Government.
‘Those efforts have undoubtedly created yet another hurdle to taking matters forward.
‘In the event of a criminal trial, it has opened up a new dimension to a key defence question, “How can we trust the evidence given by witnesses is the truth?”.
‘As a result, this debacle places additional and unwelcome pressures on the women concerned –
‘Created another hurdle to taking matters forward’
additional pressures they should not have had to face.’
Political opponents say the women have been let down.
Scottish Tory equalities spokesman Annie Wells said: ‘Nicola Sturgeon’s actions might have had a profoundly negative effect on the criminal case. The failure of the SNP Government procedure to be impartial – a procedure signed off by Nicola Sturgeon – has critically undermined criminal proceedings.
‘The women who brought these complaints forward deserved a fair hearing but Ms Sturgeon may have denied them that opportunity.’
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: ‘Two courageous women put their faith in a system that has badly let them down. Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government have questions to answer about how this case has been handled.’
The police, Scottish Government and Alex Salmond’s representatives declined to comment in detail.
A Police Scotland spokesman said: ‘Inquiries are continuing and we will not be commenting further.’ A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: ‘There is an ongoing police inquiry and we will be making no further comment.’
The Scottish Government said: ‘There is nothing to suggest that the investigating officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way. We reject any suggestion that complaints were in any way encouraged.
‘The investigation Police Scotland are conducting is entirely separate. That investigation is live and we therefore cannot comment on it.’
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