On the first day of the trial of the former First Minister of Scotland for charges of sexual assault and attempted rape, one of his alleged victims – a former Scottish Government official — gave evidence against him.
One of the most politically important trials in a generation began today at Edinburgh’s High Court as the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, entered the dock to face 14 criminal charges – including sexual assault and attempted rape – of 10 women.
Salmond, who in 2014 came within 5% of a referendum vote of becoming the first Prime Minister of an independent Scotland, denies the 10 sexual assault charges, two charges of indecent assault and two accusations of attempted rape, between 2008 and 2014.
He is denying the majority of the charges on the basis of “consent” and one on the basis of alibi, stating that he was not at the location named in the indictment at the time alleged.
After a jury of nine women and six men was selected (unlike in England, a Scottish criminal jury is made up of 15 not 12 people), the presiding judge Lady Dorrian told them that the accused was a “well known public figure” and that they should consider if they held animosity or strong feelings about him or any of the witnesses. If they did, they were told to step down. No one took up the offer.
As there are no opening speeches in Scottish criminal proceedings, the Crown then called its first witness who, for legal reasons, can only be named as ‘Witness H’, a former Scottish Government official .
From behind a screen, the witness told the court about two alleged incidents involving Salmond which occurred in 2014 at his official residence of Bute House in Edinburgh.
In the first, in May 2014, she said that she was in a small study in the building after an official dinner when Salmond, who she said she was “half-cut”, had asked her to stay for a drink, initially of red wine and later “shots” from a Chinese liquor. She told the court that Salmond then sat on the floor and invited her to join him.
She said: “He then proceeded to touch me… inappropriately… He was putting his hand inside my top… touching my legs… He was just groping me basically, I can’t think of another word for it.”
The witness said that she responded by asking him to stop. “I just wish that, looking back, I just got up or decked him one, but it was like I was paralysed,” she added.
Questioned by Advocate Depute Alec Prentice QC, for the Crown, Witness H agreed that she had not told anyone about the alleged incident because “I was in shock… I was embarrassed… I didn’t want anyone to know this had happened, I didn’t want to be another one of his women”.
The witness then told the court about another alleged assault in June of the same year after a dinner which had been attended by the Scottish actor Ken Stott. She told the court that, after the actor left, she was alone with Salmond and told him that she had a new boyfriend and didn’t want what had happened before to happen again. “He thought it was funny,” she said.
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The court heard that Salmond’s “behaviour changed” and that “he sat on the sofa and pulled my legs up over his,” the witness said. “I felt frozen, but I thought I could talk him out of it, like I had before.” She said that Salmond stopped her from leaving and that she felt “there had been a change of tempo, he was titillated by the situation, he wanted me to be okay with him touching me.”
The witness then said she got up and tried to edge out towards the door as she “started to feel like I was getting chased”.
“I tried to get out of the main door… he put his arm out and leaned over me, he’s quite a big guy,” she told the court. She said she got away and went upstairs to get her property but “he followed me up”. Asked if she wanted him to do that, she said “no”.
She then testified that Salmond undressed himself and her, against her will, and that she was forced to struggle to push him off before he “passed out and started snoring”.
The court was told that the witness ran into a bathroom, locked the door and “lay there thinking ‘stay quiet, he won’t hear you’.” Stating that she was in shock, she said she “just wanted to get out the back door with no one seeing me” – which after a few hours she did.
Asked if she had consented to any of this, the witness said: “I did not want this to happen, I didn’t want to be humiliated at work, why would I want to go out with him, he was an older man who didn’t look after himself? I wasn’t attracted to him, why would I be?”
The trial continues.