Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Craig Murray should be receiving an award for services to journalism, not going to prison

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and one of Scotland's leading pro-independence bloggers, was today denied leave to appeal over his conviction for...well, for blogging, and his eight month jail sentence.  The ostensible reason he will be sent to prison is the harm allegedly caused by threatening the anonymity of the complainers in the Alex Salmond trial.  I've even seen it being argued on Twitter that it's entirely appropriate to treat Craig as the equivalent of a violent offender and to put his life at risk (he has significant health problems) because the harm caused to the women in question was on a par with a violent offence.

The most obvious response to that point is that it hasn't actually been established that any harm whatsoever has been caused to the women - no-one has credibly demonstrated that identification occurred as a result of anything Craig wrote.  But some would go further and ask why the law is taking such punitive steps to protect the women at all, given that the jury in the Salmond trial didn't - or so the theory goes - believe their claims.  The reality, of course, is that the jury weren't faced with a binary choice between "the defendant committed the crimes" and "the women are perjurers".  They were simply asked to decide whether the charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt, which means that the acquittal verdicts can cover a spectrum of meanings, of which the possibility that the complainers lied is only one.  It's therefore not a contradiction to say that Alex Salmond is innocent in the eyes of the law and also that his accusers are not perjurers in the eyes of the law - which by extension suggests that it's not necessarily wrong for the latter to continue to enjoy some protection.

But to me the real question here is why that protection is so one-sided.  As Alex Salmond is innocent, why isn't the law extending him some protection, given that it's beyond all reasonable dispute that media reporting of the trial caused infinitely more harm to his own reputation than it did to the reputation of his accusers?  That's precisely the problem that Craig Murray's coverage of the trial was intended to address.  It's been pointed out by a number of people that if it hadn't been for Craig's reporting of the defence evidence, they would have been none the wiser as to why Mr Salmond was actually acquitted.  The coverage would have consisted of blanket reporting of the prosecution evidence, followed by a seemingly inexplicable not guilty verdict, thus creating the bogus impression that "he got off on a technicality" or whatever.  Indeed, that's exactly the impression that anyone who didn't read Craig's blog was left with.

As we have a post-trial legal process that is (theoretically) giving redress to the complainers, why isn't similar redress available to Mr Salmond?  Why shouldn't the media be held accountable for one-sided reporting that caused immense reputational harm?  And shouldn't we look at whether it's appropriate for the complainers to have been able to continue to use the cover of anonymity to try to get Mr Salmond found guilty in the court of public opinion after he had already been found not guilty in the real court?  Legal protection must surely carry responsibilities as well as rights, and shouldn't be abused with impunity.  

As Craig Murray's blog was the corner of the media that came closest to redressing the disgraceful imbalance in this episode, he should really be receiving an award for outstanding journalism, rather than facing jail time.  


  1. You've absolutely hit the nail on the head with this post, James. I agree with every word.

  2. I believe Salmond was cleared because he wasn't a criminal. Craig Murray however did, it seems, committed a crime, so was found guilty. We should be careful in questioning one verdict lest we open to question them all. If the courts are wrong about Murray, then maybe they were wrong about Salmond too? ​One verdict can't be right and one wrong just because it suits 'our side'. I feel there's a bit of this happening with the Murray case.

    My own thoughts are that Salmond was no criminal, just overstepped the mark and behaved inappropriately, notably for a person of power. That was his own defense and the court's conclusions. He rightly walked, but with a bit of stain on his reputation.

    As for Murray, I feel if he hadn't been pushing hard on the IfS/Wings grand 'SNP + civil service + lord advocate + police and courts to further Sturgeons personal career' conspiracy, he might not have attracted the attention of Salmond's trial judge (who oversaw his fair trial and acquittal).

    I did read Murray's blog and it was good to get something of a different perspective in his trial reports. However, I don't think these were the problem, but the related conspiracy pushing blogs which were substance free tin foil bunnet stuff at times. He really, really wanted me to believe in the grand conspiracy, and key to that was knowing the identities of the 'alphabet women'. So aye, I can see why the judges concluded this in their verdict. IfS was doing the same on here, fueled by Murray and Wings.

    The grand conspiracy crap (notice how that's all gone quiet after it totally flopped in terms of stopping a Yes majority) was a real threat to Salmond's fair trial.

    Incidentally, is Salmond openly questioning the court's decision on Murray?

    1. "We should be careful in questioning one verdict lest we open to question them all. If the courts are wrong about Murray, then maybe they were wrong about Salmond too?"

      So what you're saying is that no-one should have dared to question the guilt of the Birmingham Six or Guildford Four? A self-evidently bogus and dangerous argument - let's waste no further time on it.

    2. So you are saying that because Craig openly criticised the Scottish Government /SNP he became 'known' to the authorities and became more likely to be prosecuted?

      Shocking if true; I only thought that happened in places like South Korea or China etc were people who dared to criticise the ruling class were detained on trumped up charges, now your telling me the same happens in Scotland?

    3. That wasn't his defence and you know it. You are david leask. Admit it.

    4. Skier, the difference between the Salmond trial and the Murray trial is glaringly obvious ....... a jury.

      Alex Salmond was afforded the right to a jury trial and was acquitted by a jury of his peers, who looked at all the evidence, including the fact that only two of the defence witnesses were cross-examined by the prosecution (a fact that I STILL find incredible).... and found him not guilty.

      Craig Murray has been " bounced" by judges, who have proved that, left to the lawyers, the law truly IS an ass.

    5. Skier,

      "My own thoughts are that ....."?? How dare you? Who gives a rat's ass what "your thoughts" are? Were you at the trial? Did you listen to all the witnesses, including the defence witnesses? Did you watch as the defence led the defence witnesses through their testimony, followed by the prosecution allowing that testimony to go unchallenged by cross-examination, apart from only two of the defence witnesses?

      I have faith in the Scottish jury system. The jury listened and came to their conclusion. I have no faith whatsoever in the verdict at Craig Murray's "trial", which, if it had happened in Moscow, would quite rightly have been pilloried throughout the world as a complete sham.

      An innocent man is going to prison, and we should all be ashamed to call ourselves Scots. If this is what we are going to be faced with in an independent Scotland, then we might as well give up and live in the U.K. The Scottish judicial system has now got a big, black stain on its reputation. From the heights of the Pan Am bombing trial, when the Scottish judicial system stood against immense international pressure, it has now been dragged into a low place.......

    6. On your first paragraph Scottish Skier, a relevant point is that Craig Murray has been found guilty by Lady Dorrian, not a jury, as was the case with Salmond. I am not inclined to question a jury in the same way I would question a Judge.

    7. From the heights of the Pan Am bombing trial, when the Scottish judicial system stood against immense international pressure, it has now been dragged into a low place.......

      If it makes you feel any better, the Lockerbie verdict was fully supported by the most powerful international actors and was by any measure the path of least resistance for the Scots judiciary.

    8. @Alex Birnie. No, I wasn’t at either trial. This is why I am not arguing the findings of either are wrong. Were you in attendance / are qualified to judge?

      I was kinda surprised when Murray was convicted, at least at how hard the court came down on him. But then I read the verdict and things became clearer to me, much clearer than you get from the papers. I’ve attempted to explain things as I understood them. That’s all. I'm not passing judgement myself.

      So you are saying that because Craig openly criticised the Scottish Government /SNP he became 'known' to the authorities and became more likely to be prosecuted? Shocking if true; I only thought that happened in places like South Korea or China etc were people who dared to criticise the ruling class were detained on trumped up charges, now your telling me the same happens in Scotland?

      That’s some tinfoil morris dancing hat conspiracy theory. ‘Scotland = China’ is straight out the hardcore unionist handbook. And isn’t South Korea is a quite modern democracy? Geography not your strong point maybe?

      Anyway, I obviously didn’t say that at all. I imagine he was ‘known’ to the authorities because he applied to report from the courtroom as a journalist. So, the court knew he was there and publishing articles on his quite high-profile blog. To ensure a fair trial, his output would be monitored along with that of all the other journalists in the courtroom. After all, leaks or heavily biased reporting can cause trials to collapse, particularly for high profile cases. I am sure Salmond’s lawyers were keeping tabs on trial reporting lest he be found guilty so they could argue for a re-trial due to ‘undue media bias’. But let’s just ignore all this factual reality stuff as it doesn’t suit.

      As for Murray…. he has not been found guilty of simple ‘jigsaw identification’ (which is not a crime) as the papers are saying, but doing so with malicious intent, which could have undermined the trial and put the complainers at risk. It could have even led to Salmond being convicted, either by unduly influencing the trial jury, or forcing a re-trial where Salmond faced a new, less sympathetic jury.

      Do people think Murray's blog was an appropriate read for the jurors, or was it trying very hard to convince them (and the public) that the complainers were perjurers and part of a grand SNP led conspiracy against Salmond? If you think Murray was doing the latter while attending the trial, then he was breaking the law in jigsaw identifying as he had malicious motive for people knowing who the complainers were. Or are we going to argue Murray doesn’t believe there was any grand Sturgeon led conspiracy?

      As for what the Salmond court concluded; it did not conclude the women were liars / perjurers. It judged that no criminality took place; that Salmond's actions deemed to happen (some of which he apologized for) were not criminal, as per his defence. That or there was insufficient evidence anything / anything illegal happened at all. If the women had been found to be ‘lying to the court’, they would be in court themselves for perjury or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. There have been plenty of cases where malicious made-up allegations of sexual assault have led to convictions for perjury; the courts don’t take kindly to this. So, the complainers are as innocent as Salmond until such time as they might be found guilty of something.

      Finally, have we reason to believe lady Dorian and the other judges in the Murray case are corrupt? Maybe getting brown envelopes from Murrell? If we have, then I’d like to hear it as that could influence my feelings on both the Murray and Salmond trials. Certainly, if Dorian is corrupt, so did not give Salmond/Murray fair trials, then these would need to be tried again for to ensure fairness.

    9. Alex Birnie; Pan Am bombing trial heights? Holding a trial in a foreign country, sans jury, at the behest of a foreign dictator. Heights?

    10. I misspoke. I meant to say the heights when Kenny McAskill stood up against the bullies and released Al-Megrahi....

  3. Good article, James. The continuing decline in the Justice system in Scotland is sad to see. If Craig's verdict/sentence is overturned by the Supreme Court, it would be the height of irony that it would be an English court repressing what to all appearances to be a perverse and biased judgement.

    As a side note, isn't "Lady" Dorrian (Scottish Justice has always been a tightly closed community) hoping to get a senior position in the Justice system, one which requires the approval/support of the First Minister? A purely coincidental aspect, I'm sure

  4. Aye but it was always a risk - the SNP is a venal disgrace here - and they wonder why Alba is stripping them of members/support... far from an unfathomable mystery

  5. It is my (very limited) experience that practitioners of law are not interested in justice, merely in rigidly following the rules, and manipulating the ambiguity in those rules to their advantage in the fashion of a game.

    That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the legal system.

  6. Here is the original judgement:


    And the recent appeal one:


    I think everyone commenting should read these through in full. They are interesting and informative. It's not possible to understand the judgements without reading them in full.

    They are quite a read but, as discussed, I understand from them that the court did not specifically have issues with Murray's belief in a 'grand conspiracy theory' (i.e. that Salmond's trial was unwarranted and politically motivated), but with the repeated jigsaw id of the complainers which occurred as he pushed that theory on his 'unregulated' (by IPSO) blog.

    Most of his blog trial reports are actually dismissed as perfectly legal by lady Dorian and co, but a few too many fall foul of the court order to make the jigsaw id 'accidental'; that and he had clear motive for identifying the complainers.

    As noted above, he was in court as a journalist. I understand he could not get accreditation for the press gallery (I guess because his blog is not covered by IPSO), so did so from the public gallery, and was only present for the defense case (so could not possibly present a balanced view of proceedings even if he'd wanted to).

    By being in court, you get yourself covered by the court order and are directly liable for contempt in a way people who don't attend are not.

    If he'd not been in court, he could probably have written everything he did without issue. But by attending, he became directly covered by the court order and he would have been well aware of that fact, as a journalist. So each time he did jigsaw id, he would have known he was pissing into the wind. This is why he was convicted; for doing it knowingly in the opinion of the judges.

  7. People reading this thread might want to read Craig's latest post, and perhaps contribute to his court costs. I have.
    (it's also listed top-right on James's post.)

  8. The jury in the AS trial had choice of three verdicts, guilty, not proven and not guilty. They chose not guilty in all but one charge. There may be ambiguity in the verdicts in the USA and English courts but there was no ambiguity that the women were not subject to rape or sexual assault in the judgment of the jury.