Alex Salmond inquiry: High Court publishes judge's full reasons in relation to Spectator court case

Lady Dorrian’s full reasons for amending a court order linked to the criminal trial of Alex Salmond have been published.

The publication comes less than a week after her judgement to amend the contempt of court order banning the identification of complainants in the trial by adding the words “as such complainers in those proceedings”.

The Spectator magazine had brought the case to the court and had hoped to add “in connection with these proceedings” and a specific direction to the Salmond inquiry, with a compromise settled on during the hearing.

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The Holyrood inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond continues.The Holyrood inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond continues.
The Holyrood inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond continues.
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The full extent of the impact of the changes to the order remains unclear, as does whether the decision will actually lead to the harassment complaints committee publishing the evidence it has received from Mr Salmond and his former chief of staff Geoff Aberdein.

Lady Dorrian’s judgement explicitly states the decision by the committee to publish the former first minister’s submission or not is not a matter on which the court should offer guidance.

The committee will meet on Wednesday to consider next steps in relation to the order.

One potential result is the committee publishes Mr Salmond’s resubmitted evidence with appropriate redactions in order for him to give evidence on the ministerial code aspect of their remit.

Mr Salmond’s lawyers indicated on Friday they would resubmit his evidence this week.

Lady Dorrian’s opinion states: “All matters relating to the decisions of the committee, its way of working, the rejection or acceptance of submissions, the question whether, when and to what extent redaction of material was necessary to enable it to consider material which could not be published for one reason or another, whether to accept material on a confidential basis, the way in which it ensured adherence both to the order and generally to the principle that complainers in sexual cases should not be identified, are in my view wholly irrelevant to any matters which it is within the jurisdiction of the court to address.

“These are all matters entirely in the hands of the committee and it is not for this court to interfere with that or to seek to direct the committee in any way.”

In her conclusion, she adds: “However, I recognised that a reputable journal and responsible senior counsel have suggested otherwise, and that any slight risk of misinterpretation could readily be addressed by the addition of a few words to the order, which the Crown did not oppose.

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“I did not consider that adding the words ‘in connection with these proceedings’ would achieve the stated aim – it seemed to me that these words ran the risk of actually creating confusion and of diminishing the protection of complainers.

“I considered that the addition of the words ‘as such complainers in those proceedings’ would serve to highlight the scope of the order whilst maintaining the necessary protection for complainers.”

The committee is examining the botched handling of harassment complaints against Mr Salmond by the Scottish Government, which led to a £500,000 legal bill after the government conceded a judicial review challenge on the grounds of the process being “tainted by apparent bias”.

Mr Salmond was also acquitted of sexual offence charges in a trial last year.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Salmond are set to give evidence around the end of February.

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