A former SNP councillor who was fined £1,000 after sending a string of racist messages to his Muslim lover in the wake of the Paris terror attacks has lost an appeal against his conviction.
Craig Melville, who was a councillor in Dundee and also worked as an aide to Nationalist MSP Stewart Hosie, sent the derogatory messages to Nadia El-Nakla on the night of the attack on the Bataclan theatre.
In one message, he told Miss El-Nakla that Islam was ‘a horrible disease’. The texts were later discovered by her husband, who searched her mobile phone after uncovering her affair with Melville.
The 37-year-old, of Dundee, had denied a charge of behaving in a threatening and abusive manner, aggravated by racial prejudice, towards Miss El-Nakla that was ‘likely to cause a reasonable person fear and alarm’.
But he was found guilty following a trial at Dundee Sheriff Court in March and fined £1,000.
Melville launched an appeal and his legal team argued that the texts should not have been allowed as evidence in the case because they were obtained improperly by his lover’s husband.
Following a hearing at the Sheriff Appeal Court in Edinburgh, Sheriff Principal Marysia Lewis, sitting with Sheriff Principal Craig Turnbull and Sheriff Norman McFadyen, ruled his conviction should stand.
She said: “The solicitor advocate for the appellant submitted that the sheriff ought not to have excused the irregularity because he had failed to properly determine the context in which the messages were recovered by the complainer’s husband, filtered by him for passing to the police, and transcribed by the police.
“The complainer’s husband suspected that his wife was having an affair with the appellant.
“The iPhone which was examined by the complainer’s husband did not belong to the appellant but to the complainer. His purpose in using data recovery software was not to uncover evidence of criminality but to secure evidence of adultery on the part of his wife.
“Having uncovered evidence of adultery through the downloaded messages, he shared the data with his wife.
“It was his wife who made the complaint to the police. She voluntarily handed over her iPhone to the police for examination. He voluntarily provided the police with the transcript of some of the messages passing between the appellant and the complainer.
“The offending messages are racist and anti-Muslim. The messages were sent by a public official to a Muslim who as the sheriff notes “was alarmed and shocked by the content”.
“We are not persuaded that the sheriff erred by failing to consider context. He had regard to the factors which we have mentioned, including fairness to the appellant. He was well entitled to hold that any irregularity should be excused.”
The appeal sheriffs also rejected Melville’s claim there was no corroboration that he had sent the messages.
Miss El-Nakla, a parliamentary assistant and senior case officer for Health Secretary Shona Robison, told Melville’s trial she began working at the SNP’s Dundee offices in January 2014.
By that April, she and Melville had started an ‘on-off intimate’ affair’ - despite her being married and him being engaged.
The 34-year-old said she was at home on the night of November 13, 2015, when Islamic extremists murdered 130 people in a string of attacks in the French capital.
In the early hours of the next morning she received a drunken phone call from Melville, who then proceeded to send her a series of text messages.
The court heard one of the texts read: ‘It’s not personal I just f****** hate your religion and I’ll do all [to] defeat your filth.’
Another text said: ‘Horrible murdering Islamic c****.’
She told the court her now estranged husband, Fariad Umar, took her phone after discovering a text from Melville’s number and downloaded 14,000 pages of information from it, including many deleted texts.
Mr Umar, 39, told the trial that he had spotted messages on her mobile phone under the name ‘Karen’ that were clearly not from Miss El-Nakla’s friend of that name.
Melville was suspended by the SNP and quit as a Dundee councillor when the allegations came to light in January 2016.