Saturday, 11 April 2020

Memory Lapse

It's not everyday that the Dean of Scotland's prestigious Faculty of Advocates faces serious criticism over his or her behaviour.

But if Gordon Jackson is to be believed, Alex Salmond's QC  is suffering from a severe memory blackout over a complaint   regarding comments he allegedly made about the Scottish Child Care Inquiry.

The Sunday Herald reported last week that the complainer has now re-submitted his complaint to the SLCC Scottish Legal Complaints Commission on the basis that he believes Jackson has "no place" in Scotland's judicial system.

The newspaper contacted Mr Jackson for comment who responded by saying: 

"My understanding is that this was all dealt with by the Vice Dean. That's what the Vice Dean told me, she had a meeting with the person and made my position clear ... whatever it was at the time ... I don't remember.

"If I said anything that offended the individual concerned ... I thought I had apologised through the Vice Dean but I would have no difficulty apologising in person, none whatsoever.

"I don't remember any suggestion of [training] whatsoever. If had been asked to make the apology personally at the time of course I would have done that."

An intriguing story and one which looks likely to run and run.

Alex Salmond's QC faces second complaint over 'moany' child sex abuse victims remarks

By Hannah Rodger - Sunday Herald

SCOTLAND’S most senior advocate is under fire for the second time after being accused of making disparaging remarks about "moany" child abuse victims.

A complaint was lodged against Gordon Jackson QC by a man attending the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry in November 2018, who claims he heard the advocate openly describe victims as “moaning about their abuse” while sitting in the public waiting area.

Jackson, a former Labour MSP, was contacted by The Herald on Sunday regarding the complaint earlier this week, and days later announced he was quitting his post as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

It is alleged that Jackson, lead counsel for children’s charity Barnardo’s during the inquiry, was heard saying there was “no sense” of systemic child abuse, and abusers were “just bad apples”.

He also said people complaining about not being able to access their social care records “should know that there are people who have been raped and that it's hardly the same".

At the time the complainer had no idea who Jackson was, but felt obliged to contact Inquiry officials about a lawyer who was speaking openly and within earshot of potential victims who could have been attending.

The complaint, seen by The Herald, states: “When I was in the public waiting area, one of the legal representatives was talking with their colleagues. He was an older man and was wearing green cords. He was with a much younger man in a suit.

“The older man spoke with his colleagues in a normal volume and didn't appear to mind that my friend and I heard. In the hearing, he sat three rows back on the left hand side.

“He described people as 'moaning about their abuse' and said that 'it's unpopular and people don't want to hear it but there's just bad apples, there's no sense this is systemic'.

"He said that people complaining about not accessing their records should know that there are people who have been 'raped' and that it's hardly the same.

"He spoke about the upcoming sessions as being 'interesting because they contradict each other'.

“I wanted to tell you about this because I think it may be useful to remind those participating in the inquiry because of their professional background to keep their opinions to themselves, or at least to the confines of non-public spaces.”

Correspondence from Inquiry officials states that Lady Smith, who was leading the independent probe, “was concerned to learn of the conversation ... and she is taking appropriate action”.

The judge then passed on the complaint to the Faculty of Advocates, of which Jackson was Dean.

Read more: The Faculty of Advocates must address lack of accountability

The complainer only discovered the QC's identity in December 2018, at a meeting with the then Vice Dean of the Faculty, Angela Grahame QC, who said she would be handling the complaint as it was about the head of the legal body.

Following the meeting, the complainer contacted the Inquiry stating: “Having met with the Vice Dean today, I'm now aware of who the person that I referred to in my email is. I was, as you can imagine, taken aback.

“I was immediately conscious of how many different reputational, professional and personal outcomes there could be for the person, the professional body and the inquiry…

“I understand that the Dean wishes to write to me separately to convey his regret. My interactions with you/the inquiry give me assurance that I will be the last person to overhear those kinds of comments from a QC in a public space.”

The complainer said he was given assurances that Jackson would receive training on the impact of such statements, and would be issuing a personal apology – both of which the Faculty has denied.

After receiving no apology, the complainer contacted the Faculty again last year but was told the Vice Dean had resigned.

He has now sent the complaint to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), stating he believes Jackson has "no place" in Scotland's judicial system.

He told The Herald on Sunday: "I can understand that sometimes defence lawyers have to tell themselves a story to do the job they do.

"But what I heard was Gordon Jackson, representing an organisation that allowed people to perpetrate emotional and sexual abuse on children, publicly discrediting those who had spoken out. When I saw the video of him speaking about the Alex Salmond trial, doing the exact same thing, I realised that he has learned nothing."

It comes after a video of the QC emerged last weekend, where he is seen on a train openly discussing witnesses in the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond.

He named two of the women accusing Salmond of abuse, saying he all he needed to do was "put a smell on" one of them, and described Salmond as "a bully".

Jackson said he had referred himself to the SLCC as a result, and said he did not consider the former FM as a bully.

The Herald on Sunday contacted Jackson earlier this week about the 2018 complaint, and days later the QC made a shock announcement that he was to resign as Dean of the Faculty by June 30.

Read more: Alex Salmond's QC Gordon Jackson resigns as Dean of the Faculty of Advocates

On Friday Jackson said: “It would not…be appropriate for me to remain as Dean at a time when the Faculty was considering disciplinary proceedings regarding my conduct.

"Accordingly, if, before that date, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission remits the recent complaint for consideration by the Faculty’s complaints committee, I will stand down as Dean immediately. I do not intend to make any further comment.”

When contacted, before his resignation, about the 2018 complaint, Mr Jackson said: "My understanding is that this was all dealt with by the Vice Dean. That's what the Vice Dean told me, she had a meeting with the person and made my position clear ... whatever it was at the time ... I don't remember.

"If I said anything that offended the individual concerned ... I thought I had apologised through the Vice Dean but I would have no difficulty apologising in person, none whatsoever.

"I don't remember any suggestion of [training] whatsoever. If had been asked to make the apology personally at the time of course I would have done that."

When asked if his remarks were appropriate, Mr Jackson responded: "I'm not going into the merits of that. I don't even remember the exact detail ... it was a situation ... I don’t remember the detail, I just remember Angela [Grahame] dealt with it and that was the end of the matter."

The Faculty of Advocates said at no time was the complainer "told that there would be an apology, or that Mr Jackson would undergo training" following the incident.

A spokesman confirmed that the complaint was raised with Lady Smith and then passed to the faculty, with Angela Grahame QC meeting with the complainer.

However, he said the complainer was told at the time he could raise the matter with the SLCC, but he "preferred to work with the Faculty informally".

He added: "In the absence of any such complaint, Faculty had and has no reason, or indeed jurisdiction, to do anything further.

"We understood that as of December 2018, [the complainer's] view was that matters were closed. That being so, there has not been any lack of handling; there simply is no extant complaint.”

The SLCC said it could not confirm nor deny any complaints received regarding any member of the legal profession.

Sunday Times Scoop (02/04/20)

The Sunday Times had an incredible scoop last weekend with the story about Alex Salmond's defence counsel   describing the former First Minister as a 'sex pest' and  an 'objectionable bully'. 

Gordon Jackson QC has now referred himself to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission which has the power to refer  the case to the Faculty of Advocates which, in turn, has the power to investigate complaints of serious professional misconduct. 

Read the full report and listen to the recording via the link below to The Sunday Times.

Alex Salmond’s QC Gordon Jackson described him as a ‘sex pest’

By Jason Allardyce - The Sunday Times

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s former first minister, was referred to as “a sex pest” and an “objectionable bully” by his own QC before being acquitted of all charges in his sex offences trial last week.

The Sunday Times has viewed footage of an indiscreet conversation that Gordon Jackson, Scotland’s most senior QC, had in a public place in which he made shocking comments about his client and two of Salmond’s accusers.

He named two of the women who alleged sexual assault by Salmond, despite strict rules that protect the anonymity of complainers in alleged sexual offences cases.

Last week a jury at the high court in Edinburgh returned not guilty verdicts for all but one of 13 sexual offences Scotland’s former first minister was charged with, after Jackson argued that his behaviour was not criminal. It returned the unique Scottish verdict of not proven for a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.

In a statement today, several of the women who accused Salmond in court say they are “devastated by the verdict”. They add: “However, it is our fervent hope that as a society we can move forward in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

During a conversation on board an Edinburgh-Glasgow train during the first week of the trial, Jackson — in easy earshot of fellow passengers in the carriage — made a series of indiscreet remarks about his client and two of the accusers. The conversation was filmed by a concerned fellow passenger.

Jackson, dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said of Salmond: “I don’t know much about senior politicians but he was quite an objectionable bully to work with in a way I don’t think Nicola [Sturgeon] is. I think he was a nasty person to work for … a nightmare to work for.” He then appears to say Salmond could be seen as “a sex pest but he’s not charged with that”.

During the conversation, he said: “OK, it’s no’ right but it’s no’ war crimes … this is hardly sexual … Sex offenders register? Not for you. Inappropriate, arsehole, stupid … but sexual? Unfortunately, [names one of the female accusers] and [names another female accuser] say it’s sexual.”

Alleged victims of sexual offences are entitled to anonymity and a court order was issued to protect their identity. Such protections reflect concern that being identified would lead to even fewer victims coming forward to police. Only 15% of those who experience sexual violence are thought to notify police in the UK.

Despite a court order protecting the identity of Salmond’s accusers, he also went into further details that made one simple to identify, and spoke of her in disparaging terms — calling her “a bit flaky”.

As Britons stockpiled food and self-isolated due to coronavirus, the QC also shared a crass joke about the Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank who documented her wretched diet as food became scarce prior to her capture and death in a concentration camp.

He told a passenger with him, apparently recounting an anecdote from a friend: “I have plenty supplies of food — tea, coffee, ‘cup a soups’ and crackers, a wee fridge for my milk and blueberries, and a microwave for my porridge. A hot meal has been delivered from the kitchen on two occasions to the landing below. Believe me, if Anne Frank had all of this there would have been no diary. He’s very good, he’s a great pal.”

Jackson’s actions appear contrary to the code of conduct that applies to the Faculty of Advocates he has led since 2016. It says actions must not “impair the trust and the confidence, which others place in him and his profession”, that advocates must “respect the confidentiality of all information that becomes known to him in the course of his professional activity”, must not bring the faculty into disrepute and must “act in the best interests of the client”.

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said she was “extremely shocked”. She said: “It is hard to see how he can continue in his role as dean. Anonymity of complainers in cases of this nature must be taken very seriously, otherwise women will not report. When you consider how traumatic and distressing this case was for the women involved, it is sickening to hear it being discussed in this way.”

Jackson and Salmond were approached for comment.

Roddy Dunlop, vice-dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “The dean and the faculty take this extremely seriously, and if, after sight of a full transcript or access to a recording of what is said to have transpired, he considers there is any suspicion of wrongdoing on his part, he will self-refer to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.”

In court Jackson said Salmond could have behaved better but was not guilty of criminality, adding: “There’s no such thing as a trivial sexual offence, but common sense tells us that some of these things are more serious than others.”

Complainee and Complainer (29/03/20)

The curious thing about Gordon Jackson QC referring himself to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) is that, for the moment at least, he is acting as both 'Complainee' and 'Complainer'.

So the obvious question is who is setting out the basis of the complaint? - because the SLCC has a process to follow which normally requires the complainer to:
  • complain to the lawyer or law firm first
  • have allowed the lawyer or law firm at least 28 days to provide a response
  • provide the SLCC with copies of the complaint and the lawyer's or law firm's response
Now in the case of a serious conduct allegation, the SLCC web site states that these normal procedures can be set aside.

So how will the nature and scope of the complaint against Mr Jackson now be decided since this important first step in the process clearly cannot be left to the person whose professional conduct is under investigation.