James Doleman continues his reporting from Edinburgh High Court, where the politician is on trial for charges of sexual assault and attempted rape.
The former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond is a “sexual predator”, Edinburgh’s High Court heard today, as his trial for charges of sexual assault and attempted rape approaches a conclusion.
Addressing the nine women and six men who will decide the case, Advocate Depute Alex Prentice QC began his closing speech by reminding the jury of the words of one of the accusers: “I wish to God the First Minster was a better man and I wish I didn’t have to be here”. He added that this was surely the view of many of the others, “especially in these unusual times”.
He then asked the jury to note that there was no issue of identification in this case: both sides agreed that the man the complainers were referring to was Salmond.
Prentice said a man kisses a woman and there is “nothing unusual in that”, but “putting all the facts together, an age difference, he is older, he is First Minster and they are alone in a large house”. If this happens again, there is a “course of conduct… not a plot or a political conspiracy but a powerful man abusing his power for his sexual gratification”.
The prosecution lawyer then said that the complainers were brave women and that Salmond himself could be a kind man and was a gifted politician – but argued that people with those characteristics still commit crimes, because “that’s life”.
Noting that some of the women had not said anything about the alleged incidents at the time, he asked the jury: “Does someone who is a victim have to complain? Were they wrong to try and put this behind them? To get on with their lives?”
He reminded the court that one of the women who did complain was offered a new role and asked “why should she lose her job, they loved their jobs?” The lawyer asked the jury to remember the testimony of one accuser who said Salmond “was the most powerful man in the country, who was I to complain to?”
The Advocate Depute then went over each of the remaining 12 charges (one was withdrawn) and asked the jury to consider the similarities in the alleged conduct. He asked the 15 jurors to consider that, just because there were no witnesses to many of these events, this did not mean that they did not take place. “People who commit crimes tend to try and do them where there aren’t any witnesses,” he noted.
The QC said that “much is made of the First Minster being a tactile politician” but that is not a licence to grope women. His behaviour didn’t consist of “posing for selfies or hugging grannies on the campaign trail… this was about his sexual gratification,” he added.
Prentice said that the politician was a “sexual predator” and that the progression of events showed that his behaviour had been “escalating” – reminding the jury that it had heard evidence that the civil service had put in place an unofficial policy of not letting women work alone with Salmond late at night.
Turning to the first allegation of attempted rape, he said that Salmond telling the woman involved to “get on the bed” during the incident were “chilling words” and he highlighted how she said she struggled with him because “I had to get him off me”.
He asked the jury to remember that this woman had made an official complaint and received an apology. “If this was consensual why would she tell anyone?” he added.
Prentice next turned to the second charge of attempted rape and noted that Salmond had denied that the woman was even at Bute House on the night concerned and was claimed that she was simple inventing the story after reading a celebrity was there in a book. The QC asked the jury if this would not lead to the danger that someone would not just ask the celebrity who was there – and the police did, referring them to evidence that they had heard from the celebrity that there had been someone matching the woman’s description in Bute House that night.
He then told the jury that, if it concluded that Salmond had lied about who was at the dinner, that in itself would not be proof of guilt, but might make the jurors want to closely scrutinise everything else he had said in his evidence.
Addressing suggestions of the accusations being a “conspiracy to prevent Alex Salmond returning to politics”, Prentice said that the former First Minster has said he has no interest in standing again. “In whose interests would this conspiracy be, what would he its purpose?” he added.
Prentice concluded his closing speech by telling the jury that “these women had nobody to turn to, they do now” and invited them to “convict Alexander Salmond of all the charges against him”.
Alex Salmond denies all of the charges. The trial continues.