Crown Office has ‘not sought and will not seek to limit’ harassment inquiry
Lord Advocate James Wolffe has insisted the Crown Office had “not sought and will not seek to limit the evidence” given to the parliamentary committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints made against Alex Salmond.
He also confirmed he had no role and was not consulted on the letter sent by the Crown Office to the Scottish Parliament regarding the publication of a submission from the former first minister.
That submission, initially published on Monday evening, was removed from the parliament’s website on Tuesday and replaced with a redacted version.
It led to questions being raised about the reason for the intervention from the Crown Office and whether the parliament may have breached a court order in publishing the material.
The matter was raised by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie. She said: “Can I ask him about the meeting held between Levy and McRae with the Crown in advance of the hearing with Lady Dorian. It was confirmed at that meeting that the Crown's sole concern was one paragraph in their article about the former first minister's ministerial code submission.
“No other concerns were raised, nor have they been raised subsequently, so given this article has been up, and is still up, since 15 January, and this is essentially Mr Salmond’s submission, can he perhaps advise what has changed in the Crown Office?”
While unable to go into the substance of the letter, the Lord Advocate said the only reason for it was to ensure the anonymity of the women who made the complaints was protected.
He said: “The Crown’s sole interest in this matter is to secure respect for that court order. It has not sought and will not seek to limit the evidence which the committee may have available to it, nor to interfere with the work of the committee. Ultimately, it’s for the parliamentary authorities to determine what they may lawfully publish within the bounds of the order laid down by the court.”
Concerns were also raised about a perceived conflict of interest for the Lord Advocate.
Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “It is fundamental to democracy in Scotland that this parliament is free to conduct its business without external pressure from government agencies. Does the Lord Advocate agree that the actions of the Crown Office over the last week threaten that freedom and also show inherent conflict in the Lord Advocate being both the government's chief legal advisor attending Cabinet and the independent head of Scotland's prosecution service?”
Wolffe said all law officers exercised their functions with “complete independence”, adding it was his responsibility to “uphold the rule of law and the administration of justice in Scotland”.
He added: “At no time have I encountered any situation in which ministers have sought to influence a prosecutorial decision.
"If any minister were to try to do so, I would not countenance it. Nor, I am confident, would any professional prosecutor who acts on my behalf. Ministers know that they should not seek to do it, and they don't do it.”