Letter To The Presiding Officer + Linda Fabiani MSP
Ken Macintosh MSP
Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament
Linda Fabiani MSP
Convenor Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints
I note the decision today by the Scottish Parliament Corporate Body that it is possible to publish Alex Salmond’s submission to the Inquiry.
I write to seek urgent reassurances that Parliament intends to uphold the contempt of court order which is in place to protect the anonymity of complainers from the criminal trial.
We are extremely concerned that this decision is being taken without the legal basis to do so. Lady Dorrian’s slight variation of the order following the Spectator challenge made no difference to the meaning of the order, as I am sure your own legal advice has confirmed.
I cannot stress how important it is that the Parliament fulfils its obligations in respect of not identifying – either directly or in combination with other documents in the public domain – complainers from the criminal trial.
The treatment of the complainers from the trial has been intolerable, particularly online. They have been hounded, identified online and had threats made against them. I am clear that if the Parliament publishes anything which could lead to the identification of any of the complainers you will be directly responsible for putting their safety at risk.
There has been a widespread misinterpretation of the verdict of the criminal trial as meaning that the women made up their allegations. This is inaccurate and dangerous. In reality what the not guilty and not proven verdicts meant – as is the case in all criminal trials – is that the jury did not consider that the Crown had proven the case beyond reasonable doubt.
This is serious and important in itself, but you should also be aware that many women are watching how the Parliament is handling this case, including women who work for the Parliament, and getting a clear message about how they might be treated should they ever consider making a report of sexual harassment, particularly if this report is against someone in a position of power or influence.
The inquiry should have been an opportunity to hold the Scottish Government to account and consider how to improve responses to sexual harassment complaints. There is a grave danger that instead the actions of this Parliament and its politicians are not only endangering women who have already been let down multiple times but making it much harder for women to ever feel able to report sexual harassment in the future.