Sex harassment claims against Alex Salmond 'were upheld'

Sex harassment claims against Alex Salmond ‘were upheld by Scotland’s most senior civil servant’ in probe that was then struck down by the courts

  • Civil servant Leslie Evans decided to uphold five charges of sexual harassment 
  • Court of Session in Edinburgh said Ms Evans’ report ‘tainted by apparent bias’
  • Probe stuck down by the courts and Alex Salmond acquitted of sexual assault

Five of the sexual harassment charges against Alex Salmond were upheld by Scotland’s most senior civil servant before he was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults. 

The investigation into the former SNP leader saw two civil servants, Ms A and Ms B, accuse him of sexually harassing them during his time as First Minister.

Following an inquiry into the allegations, Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, decided to uphold five charges of sexual harassment before the probe was stuck down by the courts.

Mr Salmond was later acquitted of sexual assault with intent to rape at a criminal trial and won a court battle against the Scottish government over the way it dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct against him. 

Five of the sexual harassment charges against Alex Salmond were upheld by Scotland’s most senior civil servant before the probe was struck down by the courts and Mr Salmond was acquitted of sexual assault with intent to rape at a criminal trial

The latest findings were revealed in the book Break-Up: How Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon went to War, by journalists David Clegg and Kieran Andrews.

In an extract, seen by The Times, the journalists write: ‘Ruling on complaints from Ms A and Ms B, Evans wrote that his conduct on a number of occasions was ”unwanted and of a sexual nature” and had the effect of ”violating” their ”dignity” and ”creating an intimidating, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment”.

‘Some of the allegations were considered so serious that Evans decided they should be referred to the police — despite both women expressing reservations about becoming involved in a criminal investigation.

‘Ms A’s four complaints — three of which would be upheld by the Evans inquiry — alleged a rapidly escalating pattern of behaviour by Salmond that ultimately resulted in the December 2013 Bute House encounter that would become a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape.’

In January 2019, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ‘reduced’ Ms Evans’ report and it was never issued to the public.

The courts ruled the report had been ‘tainted by apparent bias’ because both women were known to Ms Evans.

They also said the Scottish government had acted unlawfully in its investigation, and ordered it to pay out £500,000 to Mr Salmond to cover his legal expenses.   

The latest findings come just weeks after Ms Evans denied that the Scottish government’s harassment complaints system was set up ‘to get Alex Salmond’.

Ms Evans said there had been a ‘procedural error’ in the inquiry into the allegations against the former First Minister. 

Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, decided to uphold five charges of sexual harassment

Mr Salmond was acquitted by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh (pictured outside court)

The civil servant, who has faced calls by Mr Salmond to quit, apologised for the government’s handling of allegations but she insisted that investigating the complaints was ‘the right thing to do’.

A Holyrood committee has begun its own investigation into what happened.

Ms Evans said: ‘When complaints were raised it would have been unconscionable, and a failure in our duty of care, not to investigate those complaints 

‘It was accepted at judicial review that one part of our procedure should have been applied differently.

‘I apologise unreservedly to all concerned for this procedural failure.’

She added: ‘We have already learned early lessons from this experience as part of work being led by our people directorate.

‘And we also await the findings of the review which I commissioned, externally led by Laura Dunlop QC, now under way.

‘But it remains the case that the investigation of those complaints was the right thing to do.’ 

In 2018, Mr Salmond took the Scottish Government to court over the way it dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

In January 2019, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled the Scottish government acted unlawfully in its investigation.

Later that year, the Scottish Government paid out £500,000 to Mr Salmond to cover his legal expenses.

This legal fight was purely over the process of investigating the complaints – not the complaints themselves – which were subject of a police investigation.

In March this year, Mr Salmond was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults – including one with intent to rape – by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

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