Alex Salmond wins case against Scottish Government over its handling of sexual harassment probe

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 9 January 2019 in News
News

Scottish Government perm sec Leslie Evans apologises "to all involved for the failure in the proper application of this one particular part of the procedure"

Alex Salmond has won his legal case against the Scottish Government after it admitted that officials had mishandled sexual harassment claims against him.

The ex-First Minister took legal action against the administration he used to run over the process used to investigate the claims, which were made a year ago and date back to 2013, when he was in office.

However, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this morning, the Scottish Government conceded it had breached its own rules by appointing an investigating officer into the cases who had "prior involvement" in the case.


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However, the conclusion of the civil case does not affect the ongoing police inquiry into the claims made by two female civil servants a year ago.

Ronnie Clancy QC, who acted on behalf of Salmond, claimed the government had acted unlawfully and that the handling of formal complaints was “unfair” and “tainted by bias”.

The government's lawyer, Roddy Dunlop QC, told the court that the investigating officer was a "dedicated HR professional" who had acted in good faith, but had had contact with the complainants prior to being appointed to the case.

Speaking to journalists after the case,  Salmond said the Scottish Government's permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, should "consider her position and take the appropriate action".

“While I’m glad about the victory which has been achieved today, I’m sad that it was necessary to take this action.

“The consequences are very clear. Because the process has been agreed as unlawful, unfair and tainted by apparent bias then the Scottish Government have had to concede on the case and on the expenses to the maximum extent.

“That is going to raise a cost to the public purse of many, many hundreds of thousands of pounds and all of this was unnecessary, because throughout the process we offered mediation, legal arbitration so that this matter could be properly settled without having to come to the highest court in the land.”

In a statement, Leslie Evans said the flaw in the investigation was “deeply regrettable” and that an internal review had been commissioned.

“I want to apologise to all involved for the failure in the proper application of this one particular part of the procedure.

“There is nothing to suggest that the investigating officer did not conduct their duties in an impartial way.

“Unfortunately, the interactions with the complainants in advance of the complaints being made meant that the process was flawed, however impartially and fairly the investigating officer conducted the investigation.”​

Responding to the announcement, FDA general secretary Dave Penman said the decision to set aside the investigation was "hugely regrettable".

"The women who have come forward in this case deserve to have their complaints investigated fairly and a conclusion reached.

”This decision relates to a procedural flaw in how the investigation was conducted. It does not challenge the process itself or make judgement on the substance of the case. In these circumstances, subject to the wishes of the complainants, we would call on the Scottish Government to re-investigate the complaints at the most appropriate time.”

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Nicholas Mairs
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Nicholas Mairs is a news reporter for PoliticsHome, where this story first appeared. He tweets @Nicholas_Mairs

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