Former First Minister Alex Salmond acquitted of all sexual assault charges
Former First Minister Alex Salmond has been cleared of a series of alleged sexual assaults against nine women.
A jury found Salmond not guilty on 12 of the sexual assault charges facing him, while another charge was found not proven. All verdicts were by a majority.
A further charge of sexually assaulting a tenth woman was previously dropped by prosecutors.
Salmond maintained that he was innocent of all the charges – which included one charge of attempted rape – against him throughout the ten-day trial.
Judge Lady Dorrian had told the jury of eight women and five men that they must decide whether the charges had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Salmond denied 13 alleged sexual offences against nine women, who were all either working for the Scottish Government or within the SNP at the time.
The accusations spanned a period between June 2008 and November 2014 and ranged from him stroking a civil servant's hair to attempting to rape a former Scottish Government official in Bute House.
He was first arrested and charged by Police Scotland in relation to the allegations in January 2019.
Judge Lady Dorrian told jurors on Friday they must decide whether the charges have been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
On Monday, the judge discharged two jurors, with the remaining 13 sent out to continue deliberations.
Joanna Cherry, the SNP’s spokesperson for justice and home affairs at Westminster, said she was “very pleased” that Salmond had been acquitted, but that there now needs to be an independent inquiry into how the SNP dealt with the allegations.
She said: “Those of us who know him, and indeed many of the thousands of people who have met him over the years, did not recognise the man described in the evidence led for the Crown. The press reporting of such cases must always be done carefully but I am pleased that having heard all the evidence the jury has found him to be innocent of the charges laid.”
She added: “As a feminist, lawyer and former specialist sex crimes prosecutor, I fully support the right of all women who make a complaint of a sexual crime to have their complaint properly investigated.
“However, I also support due process and the principle of innocent until proven guilty. 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 and I am sorry to say some of the evidence also raises serious question marks over how these complaints were handled by the SNP.
“We are presently in a time of great national crisis and dealing with the pandemic must take precedence. However, in due course, the inquiries before the Scottish Parliament must be allowed to complete their work. There should also be an independent inquiry into how the SNP dealt with these allegations and an inquiry into our internal complaints procedure with which many members have expressed significant dissatisfaction.”
Former Justice Secretary and now SNP MP, Kenny MacAskill said on social media that he was “delighted” for Salmond and that he now expected resignations to follow.
Speaking outside court after his acquittal, Salmond told journalists: "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 said that today was not the day to lead that evidence because of the pandemic, adding: “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.”
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 over the past 18 months.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said that Nicola Sturgeon and her government still needed to answer “profound questions of integrity” but said now was not the time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “As we all know, Scotland is dealing with a much more severe challenge today than this high-profile court case.
“That said, there are now some very serious questions facing the SNP, the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon.
“The court case may be over, but for them this is just the beginning.
“Clearly, there is still a lack of information which needs to be fully interrogated, and the Scottish Parliament inquiry will provide that opportunity.
“This remains a national political scandal with profound questions of integrity for the First Minister and her SNP government.
“However, that opportunity must be deferred for the time being while all our efforts and resources concentrate on Covid-19.”