Friday, 17 June 2011

More on Supremecourtgate

Not content with helping his justice secretary to dig a hole, Alex Salmond appears to have taken over full hole digging duties.

To recap, a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court – the successor body to the Law Lords – asked the Scottish courts to look again at the conviction of Nat Fraser for the alleged murder of his wife.  Alleged because Fraser was convicted without the presence of Arlene Fraser’s body, though that wasn’t the issue.  The Issue was that the prosecution held evidence that may have influenced the trial against the prosecution.  This practice might be ingrained into the fabric of Scots law, but there is no place for this in a post-human rights country. 

The trial of Nat Fraser is not the only prosecution where the withholding of evidence by the prosecution teams is not the first case – this practice is one of the many issues surrounding the conviction of Abdelbasset Al Medgrahi.  However, it is the first case to be taken to the Supreme Court, which quashed his conviction on this technicality.

However, rather than accept the verdict and look at ways to modernise Scots Law, Salmond has decided to lash out at the Supreme Court, arguing that “Scotland's distinct legal system, including our criminal law, has served our country well for centuries, ensuring justice for victims while also protecting the rights of those accused of a crime.  We believe the UK Supreme Court should have no role in matters of Scots criminal law - a view supported by Scotland's leading legal figures.”  Except, Scots Law has not served our country well, and as we have established above it does not protect innocent people accused of a crime.  In the race to criminalise many parts of society, the proof threshold has fallen to dangerous levels, only two witnesses are required for a successful prosecution.

Salmond’s plan though has nothing to do with human rights or modernising Scots Law.  His pledge to hold an Independence referendum will not be fulfilled if the polls continue to show that a majority of people are still against Independence.  Rather than combat the drip feed of pro-union stories (the New Labour term for it was “rapid rebuttal” – except the SNP despite reading most of the New Labour handbook look to have ignored the chapter on media relations.), Salmond has decided to go on the attack on Independence related subjects.  Hence his new found enthusiasm for the findings of the Calman Commission – which is currently going through Westminster, and his two footed tackle on the Supreme Court.

Salmond’s latest bout of digging coincided with the publication of an interview with the Holyrood magazine were Salmond said

All I would say to Lord Hope is that I probably know a wee bit about the legal system and he probably knows a wee bit about politics.  But politics and the law intertwine, and the political consequences of Lord Hope's judgements are extreme and when the citizens of Scotland understandably vent their fury about the prospect of some of the vilest people on the planet getting lots of money off the public purse, they don't go chapping at Lord Hope's door, they ask their parliament what they are doing about it.”

Which completely ignores the issue at stake here, that of modernisation of the Scottish Law System.  Salmond was again unrepentant today at First Ministers questions, continuing with the line that the Supreme Court was undermining Scot’s Law and that he “think(s) it's a real issue. The integrity of the criminal law of Scotland is a matter of public concern.”.  Again, the Supreme Court would not quash this case if fundamental technicalities were followed.  As a result of these practices, the criminal law of Scotland is already compromised.

How Salmond gets out of this hole is anyone’s guess.  I would suggest a tactical retreat would be the best option.  I don’t think that this will happen though, which is why I think that this will rumble on until some sort of stalemate emerges.  However, why the Pro-Independence camp see this as being beneficial to their cause is anyone’s guess as I think that more harm than good will come of it.

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