Salmond: I was disadvantaged in court by ‘reprehensible’ withholding of evidence

The former first minister has suggested the Scottish Government could have been in contempt of court.

Salmond: I was disadvantaged in court by ‘reprehensible’ withholding of evidence

Alex Salmond has alleged the Scottish Government’s “reprehensible” failure to release “crucial” documents put him at a disadvantage in both his criminal trial and legal challenge against the Government’s investigation.

The former first minister also revealed his legal team will ask the Lord Advocate whether the Government was in contempt of court over the “withholding of relevant evidence”.

The Government’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Mr Salmond was successfully challenged by the former first minister, with ministers eventually conceding the case in January 2019.

He was awarded £512,250 after the Court of Session ruled the investigation was unlawful and “tainted by apparent bias” because of prior communication between the investigating officer and complainants.

The following year, a jury acquitted Mr Salmond of all charges of sexual assault and attempted rape after a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Salmond has now criticised the Government for not providing his legal team with some of the documents that have now been released, and questioned whether it amounted to contempt of court.

In written evidence to the committee, Mr Salmond said his lawyers have discovered 46 documents from the Government’s latest submission of almost 400 documents to the parliamentary inquiry that were not provided as part of either the criminal or civil court processes.

“Of these, some are of limited interest but many are crucial and could have been significant in both the civil and criminal proceedings,” Mr Salmond wrote.

He continued: “First, some of these withheld documents would have added a further powerful argument to the judicial review on bias, not just reinforcing the revelations about the role of the investigating officer, but also introducing an argument of bias in the actions of the decision maker, the permanent secretary.”

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Lord Advocate James Wolffe has previously given evidence to the Holyrood committee examining the handling of harassment allegations against former first minister Alex Salmond (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Mr Salmond added: “Notwithstanding the above, the withholding of relevant evidence to either proceedings contrary to a requirement for disclosure in the civil case and a search warrant in the criminal case, may amount to a contempt of court.

“We shall therefore refer the matter to the Lord Advocate, who has already described before this committee the rate of disclosure in the civil case as ‘unsatisfactory’.

“I suggest it is a great deal more than that.”

Alex Salmond court case
Alex Salmond was cleared of all charges against him following his High Court trial last year (Jane Barlow/PA)

“The documents, as produced, have followed a familiar pattern. The documents produced via orders of court have generally been damaging to the case of the Scottish Government.

“The same applies to these documents extracted by the committee and now being seen for the first time.

“It raises the question of what further documentation remains unseen.

His submission also suggests that, in addition to “frequent communication” between the investigating officer and two complainants, the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans met with the women making the allegations before Mr Salmond was informed of the existence of any complaints – a disclosure he described as “staggering”.

Harassment allegation committee hearing
Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans (Russell Cheyne/PA)

“To withhold this information is reprehensible. To attempt to excuse the withholding of this information is indefensible.”

The newly-disclosed documents also indicate investigating officer Judith Mackinnon told both complainers and witnesses details of Mr Salmond’s own legal advice, he said.

“Similar to the revelations on the Permanent Secretary’s meeting, this material should have been disclosed as part of a general duty of disclosure in the judicial review and would have enabled my legal team to introduce yet further arguments on the bias of the investigating officer,” Mr Salmond wrote.

The following two lines are redacted, but he continues: “I was therefore placed at a disadvantage in both cases by the lack of disclosure.”

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