Alex Salmond: Police probe 'potential unlawful disclosure' of trial WhatsApp messages

Officers were instructed to investigate the leak by the Crown Office.

Police Scotland are probing the leak of WhatsApp messages connected with the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond
Police Scotland are probing the leak of WhatsApp messages connected with the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond

Leaked WhatsApp messages appearing to show the SNP’s chief executive and Nicola Sturgeon’s husband Peter Murrell backing police action in relation to former First Minister Alex Salmond are the focus of a police probe.

The Press and Journal reported the Crown Office has instructed police officers to examine the leak of the messages.

The probe comes after SNP MP and former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said he received an anonymous document with the leaked messages enclosed, including a message from Mr Murrell backing prosecutors taking action in relation to the former First Minister.

The document claims to show that they were sent in January 2019, the same month Mr Salmond was under investigation by the Metropolitan Police in London – who later dropped the complaint – and when he had appeared in court charged with sexual offences.

The former First Minister was later acquitted of all charges in March 2020.

In Scotland, it is a criminal offence for an accused person or his legal representatives to use information disclosed to the defence during a criminal trial for any other purpose other than to carry out the criminal proceedings.

If the law is found to be broken under Section 163 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, the offence can lead to a prison sentence of up to two years.

The Press and Journal reported part of the probe into the leaked WhatsApp messages will examine whether they were part of the dossier of information passed to Mr Salmond’s legal team during the criminal trial.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has instructed us to investigate the potential unlawful disclosure of material. Enquiries are at an early stage."

Mr MacAskill, a Salmond ally and now SNP MP for East Lothian, had demanded a Scottish Parliament and police probe after he received the letter.

A Scottish Parliament spokesperson told the Daily Record: “All information received by the committee is considered in line with its statement on the handling of information.”

The handling of sexual harassment complaints is being examined in the Scottish Parliament by MSPs following Mr Salmond’s successful judicial review against the Scottish Government, costing the taxpayer £500,000.

Scottish Conservative spokesperson on the Salmond inquiry, Murdo Fraser MSP, called for ministers to make it clear no-one applied political pressure to the police in connection to the Salmond investigation.

He said: “Scottish people will be disgusted by the staggering information coming from SNP ranks about what happened here.

“I would expect Scottish Government ministers, particularly the justice secretary, to make it clear that no-one asked them to intervene in this case on any side or at any time. If political pressure was applied to the police in any sense, the public must hear it.

“In the middle of all this murkiness, the only thing that’s clear is the SNP are keeping the truth covered up. They won’t release the key documents and they’re making the Salmond inquiry a sham.”

The SNP have been contacted for comment.

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