Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionAlex Salmond is cleared of 13 charges of sexual assaultAlex Salmond has been cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland’s first minister.A jury found the former SNP leader not guilty on 12 of the sexual assault charges facing him, while another was found not…
Alex Salmond has been cleared of sexually assaulting nine women while he was Scotland’s first minister.
A jury found the former SNP leader not guilty on 12 of the sexual assault charges facing him, while another was found not proven.
A further charge of sexually assaulting a 10th woman had previously been dropped by prosecutors.
Mr Salmond had said he was innocent of all the charges against him throughout the two-week trial.
The women who made the allegations against Mr Salmond included an SNP politician, a party worker and several current and former Scottish government civil servants and officials.
During his evidence to the court, he said the claims made about his alleged conduct were “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose” or “exaggerations”.
And he said he had “never attempted to have non-consensual sexual relations with anyone in my entire life”.
Mr Salmond’s defence team had claimed during the trial that a senior Scottish government official known as Woman A, who was one of his accusers, had contacted some of the other complainers before Mr Salmond was charged.
Defence lawyer Gordon Jackson QC told the jury: “That stinks. It absolutely stinks”.
Speaking outside court after his acquittal, Mr Salmond said: “As many of you will know, there is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.
“At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day.”
He also said his faith in the Scottish legal system had been “much reinforced”, and thanked his legal team and everyone else who had supported him.
Mr Salmond added: “Whatever nightmare I have been through over the last two years it is as nothing compared to the situation we are all going through.
“If you can, go home, take care of your families, God help us all.”
After a political career crossing four decades, Alex Salmond has spent more time than most sitting nervously waiting for a result to come in. Never, though, one quite like this.
As the foreman of the jury read out verdicts clearing the former first minister of sexual assault, it was like the air had gone out of the room. After six total hours of pacing and speculation, the inhabitants of court three were utterly silenced.
For two weeks, Mr Salmond had sat placidly in the dock as his future and freedom were debated in front of him. Giving evidence, there was little evidence of the political showman of old – this was a reserved Alex Salmond, acutely aware of the difficulty of the situation facing him.
Outside the court too, there was little in the way of triumphalism. He thanked the jury and his supporters, and voiced fears about the coronavirus crisis.
But he also spoke about how “certain evidence” was yet to come to light.
This underlines that while the court case is over, there are many matters which are far from settled.
There will now be myriad questions directed at the Scottish government, the SNP, and Nicola Sturgeon.
But these will be debated in the political arena, not the legal one.
The Scottish government admitted during a judicial review in January of last year that it had acted unlawfully while investigating sexual harassment complaints made against Mr Salmond by appointing an investigating officer who had “prior involvement” in the case.
Mr Salmond was arrested by the police and formally charged later the same month.
He resigned from the SNP in August 2018, but made clear at the time that he intended to apply to rejoin the party once he had cleared his name.
The jury’s verdict was welcomed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, who said that there were now “serious questions about the background to these cases.”
Ms Cherry added: “Some of the evidence that has come to light both in the judicial review and at this trial raise very serious questions over the process that was employed within the Scottish government to investigate the alleged complaints against Mr Salmond.
“I am sorry to say some of the evidence also raises serious question marks over how these complaints were handled by the SNP.”
What did the jury decide?
The jury returned not guilty verdicts on 12 of the sexual assault charges, including one of attempted rape, and returned a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.
The not proven verdict is an unusual and highly controversial feature of the Scottish legal system which in practice is exactly the same as a verdict of not guilty.
The charges were all alleged to have happened while Mr Salmond was serving as Scotland’s first minister, with several alleged to have happened at the first minister’s official Bute House residence in Edinburgh.
Mr Salmond was first minister between May 2007 and November 2014, when he stood down in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon.