James Doleman reports from day three of the trial of Salmond, who is facing charges of sexual assault and attempted rape.
Two further women have testified at Edinburgh High Court today that they were sexually assaulted by the former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.
The first woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons but is now a senior official in the Scottish Government – told the court that she first came into regular contact with Salmond during an election campaign in 2008.
She told the court that she would greet Salmond when he arrived at the party office, saying “he would sometimes act like he was going to kiss me on the cheek, but would then kiss me on the lips” – actions she said left her “disgusted and embarrassed”. She said this happened about 10 times and “if there were other people loitering around it wouldn’t happen”.
She then described Salmond as “putting his hands on my shoulders so I couldn’t turn away”, saying that his kissing was “sloppy and unpleasant” and that he would sometimes put his arm on her back but then move it to touch her chest or her bottom.
Asked if this was accidental, the witness said: “I took the view it was deliberate, there was no need for it… These were the kind of things I came to expect from him.” She said that she did not encourage this behaviour or wish it to happen and that she took to carrying a bag that she could place between them.
Asked why she didn’t say anything about this behaviour, she replied: “I liked my job, he was the most powerful man in the country, I didn’t know what would happen, so I just sorted it out by not putting myself in that situation. Who do you complain to that is more powerful than him? He humiliated me on a regular basis, I was embarrassed.”
The woman then told the court about another alleged encounter she had with the former First Minister, at a Christmas event in Edinburgh in 2010.
She said that, during the event, “he did the shoulder thing again” and started by putting her hands on her shoulder and then running his hands down her body, over her breasts and hips and saying: “You like nice, you’ve lost weight”. She said she was disgusted and embarrassed and he “thought he could just do that to me”.
The woman told the court that she did not tell anyone about the incident and decided to stay away from Salmond for the rest of the night.
Gordon Jackson QC, for the defence, began his cross-examination of the witness by discussing the allegations the woman had made about what she said was unwanted kissing and touching from Salmond. He asked the witness if he would not often kiss members of the public on the lips. She replied: “I was a member of his staff… He didn’t hold them in the same way.”
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Jackson told the witness that “you seem to be avoiding admitting that he kissed other women in the same way” and noted she had said this in a police statement. She replied: “He might give old grannies a kiss on the cheek, but not in the same way.”
The defence advocate then suggested that these events “were absolutely nothing, this only turned into criminality because other things have happened since”, which the witness said was “absolutely not” the case. She reiterated that “Mr Salmond assaulted me”.
The second witness – who also cannot be named for legal reasons and was described as a ‘Yes’ campaigner and a Scottish National Party politician – told the court that, in February or March 2011, she had been at a celebration at a Pizza Express restaurant in Edinburgh with her husband when a group, including Salmond, entered and joined them.
She said “it was a great night” and that there had been alcohol “on the table”. She and her husband went to leave at around 11 pm to catch a train back home when Salmond, she said, offered them a lift in his Government car to Waverly train station – an offer they accepted. The court heard how Salmond suggested she sit in the back of the car while her husband sat in the front passenger seat, which they did.
The woman told the court that, during the journey, Salmond put his hand just above her knee. “It wasn’t a quick touch, he put his hand there and it stayed there for the duration of the journey,” she said. “I was absolutely gobsmacked… I was taken aback he would do that”. She said she didn’t say anything as she was embarrassed and in shock. “I just wanted it to stop,” she added. Asked if she had told her husband about the incident, she said she hadn’t because “he was in great, happy form and a big admirer of Alex. I just hoped it would go away”.
Cross-examining for the defence, Shelagh McCall QC said that the distance between the Pizza Express branch was only a quarter of a mile from the train station – “a rather short journey” – and asked the witness if she was sure that Salmond had asked her to sit in the back seat with him. The witness said she was. The defence QC also suggested that, in that model of car, there was an armrest between the two back seats so it would have been difficult for Salmond to reach across.
“He says he didn’t touch your leg,” McCall said, “I wish he hadn’t,” the witness replied.
Asking why she had come forward, the woman said that she had received an “unsolicited email” from a police officer. She agreed that she had been a member of a WhatsApp group that had been discussing the allegations, but denied being put under pressure by anyone to make her statement.
Alex Salmond denies all of the charges. The trial continues.