Thursday, 2 April 2020

Sunday Times Scoop

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.