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by Louise Wilson
29 February 2024
First Minister Humza Yousaf urged to order public inquiry into Emma Caldwell case

First Minister Humza Yousaf said questions around the murder case "demand answers" | Alamy

First Minister Humza Yousaf urged to order public inquiry into Emma Caldwell case

The first minister has been urged to order a judge-led public inquiry into the circumstances around the Emma Caldwell murder case.

During today's session of First Minister's Questions Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said a “free and fearless” inquiry was needed to get to the bottom of the situation that let killer Iain Packer remain free for 19 years.

And Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said such an inquiry must be led by someone “separate to and independent from” Scotland’s justice system.

First Minister Humza Yousaf said his government was “very seriously considering the option” of an inquiry.

And he confirmed he would seek to meet with Caldwell’s mother, Margaret, as soon as possible to discuss the matter.

Emma Caldwell was murdered by Iain Packer in April 2005. Despite being a suspect early in the investigation, Packer was only convicted this month.

He has been jailed for at least 36 years, having been found guilty of Caldwell’s murder and 32 other charges. Of these, 19 rapes, sexual offences and assaults have happened since April 2005.

Police have apologised for the handling of the original inquiry and accepted Caldwell and other victims had been “let down”.

Caldwell’s family said she has been failed by a “toxic culture of misogyny and corruption” within the force and have backed an inquiry.

Speaking at FMQs on Thursday, Ross said victims had been “betrayed by what is one of Scotland’s worst policing scandals”.

He said: “We need to know why did it take so long to charge Iain Packer, why was he allowed to remain free and attack more women, and who is responsible for allowing him, after multiple interviews, to continue to walk free?

“I hope the first minister will take from this to urgently and immediately meet with Margaret Caldwell and her legal representatives, [and] to bring an urgent statement back to this parliament in a matter of days to finally announce that this government is launching an independent inquiry and it will be led by a judge from outside Scotland.”

The first minister agreed that those questions “demand answers”. A meeting is expected to take place between Margaret Caldwell and the first minister and his justice secretary, Angela Constance, next week.

On an inquiry, he said: “We do not rule out – in fact it’s very firmly on the table – a judge-led public inquiry. As first minister, it is important that I do consider to ongoing legal process.”

Sarwar said the case was one in a long line of “failures” within Scottish institutions, which “too often fight for their reputations rather than be on the side of victims and seek to find the truth”.

He added: “As a previous justice secretary, and now as first minister, Humza Yousaf must set out how he will end the culture of prejudice and discrimination that denies so many justice.”

Yousaf highlighted the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill currently going through parliament, which he said would “improve the police complaints process”.

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