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Explosive extracts from senior civil servant’s journal that formed Alex Salmond sex assault probe

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Explosive extracts from a senior civil servant’s diary that formed a key part of the sexual assault probe against Alex Salmond have been revealed for the first time.

Michael McElhinney’s accounts reveal what he says are the stream of claims against the former first minister from his female staff and his anger at no action being taken.

Mr McElhinney, who was in charge of the rota for Mr Salmond’s private office, wrote that he brought in rules to keep women from working after 8pm.

He said one reported a chat about sex on the Eurostar in April 2014 and another told of ‘fondling and an invitation to lie on [the] bed’ at Bute House in October 2013.

Meanwhile Mr McElhinney’s notes said a third claimed Mr Salmond put his arm around her and tried to kiss her, in what he said was just comforting her because she was upset.

Mr Salmond, who has always denied claims of sexual harassment, was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults, including one with intent to rape, on March 23, 2020.

He faced 13 charges including one of attempted rape, one of intent to rape, nine charges of sexual assault and two of indecent assault.

The ex-SNP leader, 66, was cleared of all charges by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

A separate Scottish government probe into the allegations was found to be unlawful, unfair and ‘tainted by apparent bias’ by the Court of Session. 

Michael McElhinney's accounts reveal the stream of claims against the former first minister from his female staff and his anger at no action being taken

Michael McElhinney’s accounts reveal the stream of claims against the former first minister from his female staff and his anger at no action being taken

Mr McElhinney’s diary accounts, revealed in a new book reported in the Times, chart what he says are the claims made by the women against Mr Salmond while they worked for him.

He told how the Eurostar incident was not the first claim the woman had made against her boss for his behaviour.

They had been on a trip to Europe and Mr McElhinney emailed her to check everything was well, according to Mr McElhinney’s notes.

She reportedly replied: ‘All fine. He’s a pig, but he’s not an angry pig today. Just a disgusting one.’ He advised her to ‘keep safe’ and avoid any uncomfortable situations.

But he said she replied again just ten minutes later and outlined a sexual conversation Mr Salmond had initiate.

She said: ‘Too late. Didn’t even get through the Eurostar journey without him speaking about having sex with me.’

She added: ‘To be honest, I think I need to minimise my time with him this week after tomorrow.’

Mr McElhinney, who was in charge of the rota for Mr Salmond's (pictured) private office, wrote that he brought in rules to keep women from working after 8pm

Mr McElhinney, who was in charge of the rota for Mr Salmond’s (pictured) private office, wrote that he brought in rules to keep women from working after 8pm

The woman, who went on to make two claims of sexual assault against the first minister, asked for her rota to be changed so she did not have to see him.

Mr McElhinney vowed he would change it for the rest of the week and the woman replied she wanted a ‘break from seeing his fat face and hearing his lewd comments’.

Mr McElhinney had less than a year before left his job in the private office of Labour first minister Jack McConnell for the more senior role with the SNP.

He knew Mr Salmond well, having worked with him previously on energy policy and was keen to work well together on the Scottish independence campaign.

He was offered the job by principal private secretary Joe Griffin, who led Mr Salmond’s private office of civil servants.

But within mere weeks, according to the diary, it turned into a nightmare as several women reportedly came forward to claim the first minister had acted inappropriately towards them.

His diary reports that most were centred around working with Mr Salmond late into the night, which was frequently needed during the political chaos of the time.

The first hitch apparently came when a woman said she was uncomfortable with being asked to watch a film in the study of Bute House on October 30, 2013.

She claimed Mr Salmond turned off the lights and shoved two chairs together so they were close.

Mr Salmond, who has always denied the claims, was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults, including one with intent to rape, on March 23, 2020

Mr Salmond, who has always denied the claims, was acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults, including one with intent to rape, on March 23, 2020

She made clear there was ‘no inappropriate contact’ and wanted no formal procedure, but said it had unsettled her.

Mr McElhinney reported the alleged incident to Mr Griffin and said he was alarmed by the claim.

Mr Salmond later apologised to the woman for what he referred to as a ‘sleepy cuddle’.

Mr McElhinney recorded nine cases of alleged sexual language, unwanted touching and other inappropriate behaviour, that reportedly emerged over the following months in his diary.

There was increased fear in Bute House about the claims made in the April, the book says.

It refers to the hurried discussions Mr McElhinney and his team had in the days following the claims.

They found Mr Salmond had not behaved acceptably and wanted to address it but without making a formal complaint.

Mr McElhinney wrote of his anger that the civil service did little to provide the women with a safe working environment.

He gave the diary notes to Police Scotland in 2018 and it became a key part of Operation Diem into Mr Salmond’s alleged sexual assaults.

Mr McElhinney’s diaries are revealed in Break-Up: How Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon Went To War by the journalists David Clegg and Kieran Andrews.

TIMELINE: The two-year battle of the figurehead of Scotland’s independence movement as he fought to clear his name

Alex Salmond has been acquitted of attempted rape and a series of sexual assaults, including one with intent to rape.

The former first minister of Scotland was cleared of all charges by a jury following an 11-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Here is a timeline of events leading to the verdict.

January 2018: The Scottish Government receives two complaints of harassment involving Alex Salmond, dating back to 2013, and launches an inquiry.

March 2018: The former first minister is informed about the investigation against him.

August 23 2018: The Daily Record publishes news of allegations made to the Scottish Government against Mr Salmond via a tweet.

The former first minister denies claims of harassment and launches a court action against the Scottish Government to contest the complaints process that was activated against him.

August 24 2018: Nicola Sturgeon posts a statement on Twitter saying she has been aware for ‘some time’ of the investigation into Mr Salmond and has no role in the process.

She says: ‘My relationship with Alex Salmond obviously makes this an extremely difficult situation for me to come to terms with.’

Police Scotland confirm allegations have been passed to the force.

Mr Salmond strenuously denies sexual harassment complaints made against him during his time as Scotland’s first minister, saying he has ‘never engaged in criminality’.

August 26 2018: Ms Sturgeon says there is ‘no legal basis’ to suspend Mr Salmond from the SNP, following calls for the move from opposition parties.

She says her party has not received any complaints about her predecessor’s conduct – nor has it carried out the investigation.

August 27 2018: Mr Salmond writes to Scotland’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, calling for an inquiry into how sexual harassment allegations against him were made public.

August 28 2018: Mr Salmond formally begins his legal action against the Scottish Government by lodging his petition for a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

August 29 2018: The former first minister announces he has resigned his membership of the SNP to avoid divisions in the party.

He launches a crowdfunding campaign to help with his costs in the legal action and the £50,000 target is smashed within hours.

January 8 2019: Judge Lord Pentland rules at the Court of Session that the Scottish Government’s actions were ‘unlawful in respect that they were procedurally unfair and they were tainted with apparent bias’.

Ms Sturgeon supports the decision of Ms Evans to settle the case after a failure to properly apply the complaints procedure.

Mr Salmond calls on Scotland’s top civil servant to quit her post after accusing her of ‘wasting’ hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.

January 15 2019: The Scottish Parliament announces it will mount its own investigation into the fallout from allegations against the former first minister.

January 24 2019: Police Scotland confirms it has arrested and charged Mr Salmond.

He appears at Edinburgh Sheriff Court facing allegations of sexual assault, including attempted rape.

The former first minister gives a statement saying he ‘refutes’ the criminal allegations and plans to defend himself ‘to the utmost’ in court.

January 31 2019: An investigation into whether Ms Sturgeon breached the ministerial code during discussions with Mr Salmond is put on hold until the conclusion of the court case against him.

February 6 2019: MSPs vote to establish a Holyrood committee to investigate the Scottish Government’s handling of complaints against Mr Salmond, later agreeing to put its work on hold until the conclusion of the court case.

November 21 2019: Mr Salmond first appears at the High Court in Edinburgh and pleads not guilty to the charges against him.

March 9 2020: The trial starts at the High Court in Edinburgh.

March 23 2020: The jury returns not guilty verdicts on 12 charges, including attempted rape, and a not proven verdict on a charge of sexual assault with intent to rape. 

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