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22 Mar, 2021 13:21

Former Scottish ambassador Craig Murray facing prison over reporting of defence case in Alex Salmond trial

Former Scottish ambassador Craig Murray facing prison over reporting of defence case in Alex Salmond trial

Former Scottish diplomat Craig Murray faces possible imprisonment after he lost a contempt of court case over his coverage of the Alex Salmond trial in 2020. His legal team is preparing an appeal to the Supreme Court.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and RT contributor Murray faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison and an unlimited fine if his contempt of court ruling is upheld. 

Murray sat in the public gallery when he attended two days of a trial against the former first minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, who was cleared of 13 sexual assault charges made by nine women following a 2020 trial at the High Court in Edinburgh. 

Virtual contempt of court proceedings were held at the High Court of Justiciary, Edinburgh, before Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian on Wednesday, during which the court argued that information published on Murray’s blog could have led to the identification of the women involved in the Salmond trial, in breach of a court order and potentially influencing the jury’s decision.

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Murray’s defence counsel John Scott QC said the Crown contacted Murray about one such article in January 2020, but did not request that it be taken down. 

Murray’s defence team argues that, if these publications were likely to influence the trial, then it should not have gone ahead as planned and action taken immediately, not once proceedings had concluded. 

“[Murray] was aware of the names of the complainers, even when there was no court order regarding them. But he said it would not be responsible journalism to have named them,” Murray’s counsel said. 

“The fact alone is that he knew about the names and if he wanted to name them, he could have done so.”

The team added that Murray discovered who the complainants in the trial were via jigsaw identification, the process of piecing together names kept secret for legal reasons using multiple pieces of information and sources, which anyone else could have done, but insisted that he chose not to publish their names publicly out of journalistic responsibility.

Murray is expected to stand as a pro-Scottish independence candidate in the upcoming Scottish parliamentary elections, but he will be disqualified from standing if he is sentenced to more than a year in prison should he lose his appeal. 

Murray posted a brief reaction to the news on his blog. “I suspect I should say as little as possible in the next few days,” he wrote in a piece titled: ‘The World Darkens a Little More: I May Have to Spend Some Time as a Political Prisoner’.

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