Senior judge says she will not ‘interfere with’ or ‘direct’ Salmond inquiry

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A SENIOR judge has said she will not “interfere with” or “seek to direct” a Holyrood inquiry into the Alex Salmond saga. 

Lady Dorrian made the comments as she set out her written reasons for altering a court order made during the former first minister’s criminal trial. 

It followed a legal challenge taken by The Spectator magazine last week.

Mr Salmond’s team believe the ruling could allow evidence he submitted to an ongoing Holyrood inquiry to be published after he resubmits it tomorrow.

However it is not clear whether this will happen, or what the impact of Lady Dorrian’s alteration will be.

 Judge publishes full reasons for varying Alex Salmond court order

She stressed “all matters relating to the decisions of the committee” are entirely in its hands, making clear the ball is in its court. 

It will meet again tomorrow to discuss its next steps. One source said it is “not obvious” to see how Mr Salmond’s submission can be published.

MSPs on the inquiry are looking at how the Scottish Government botched its probe into sexual misconduct claims made against the former first minister by two civil servants in 2018.

Mr Salmond was due to give evidence last week but a row broke out after the inquiry narrowly vetoed publishing a submission by him.

The submission contains multiple accusations against First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, including that she repeatedly misled parliament and so breached the Scottish ministerial code – a resignation offence which she denies.

The decision appeared to rule out Mr Salmond ever testifying in person, as he had made publication of the submission a precondition of an appearance.

However Mr Salmond’s team believe it could now be published following The Spectator’s court action.

The magazine challenged the scope and terms of a court order made during the former first minister’s trial to protect the anonymity of his accusers.

Ronald Clancy QC, who was representing the magazine in its High Court application, said there was a concern the Holyrood inquiry was being “overcautious” in its interpretation of the order, which he argued was not sufficiently clear.

Following a hearing, Lady Dorrian agreed to vary it slightly, although not in the manner suggested by The Spectator.

She said in her view the original wording was clear, adding: “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.”

The order prevents “the publication of the names and identity, and any information likely to disclose the identity, of the complainers” in Mr Salmond’s case.

Lady Dorrian said: “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. I agreed therefore to vary the order to that extent.”

In her ruling, she made clear “all matters relating” to the Holyrood committee’s decisions “are in my view wholly irrelevant to any matters which it is within the jurisdiction of the court to address”. 

She said: “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.

“The only matter with which this court should be concerned is whether the order made is clear, and is sufficient as a mechanism to enforce the common law order withholding the identity of the complainers in the criminal proceedings, and preventing publication of material likely to lead to such an identification.”

Lady Dorrian’s written reasons will prove crucial in influencing the committee’s decision on whether to publish Mr Salmond’s submission.

Mr Salmond was cleared of multiple counts of sexual assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh last year.

The row around his evidence means Ms Sturgeon could have to wait until next month to give evidence before the inquiry.

She was due to appear today, but this was postponed.

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