Alex Salmond’s lawyer has referred himself to Scotland’s legal watchdog after he was recorded on a train naming two of his client’s accusers while the trial was ongoing.
Gordon Jackson QC has been condemned for the remarks, captured in mobile phone footage on a Glasgow-Edinburgh train, in which he also describes the former first minister as an “objectionable bully”.
Jackson’s comments, revealed by the Sunday Times, disparaged one of the women accusing Salmond as a “flake” who he thought people might find unlikeable.
He was also heard discussing court tactics to discredit a witness, saying: “All I need to do is put a smell on her.”
In a statement released through the Faculty of Advocates – where Jackson serves as Dean – he said he “decided that the proper course of action is to self-refer this matter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission”.
The lawyer added: “I… deeply regret the distress and difficulties which have been caused.”
Jackson, a former Labour MSP, led Salmond’s successful defence against 13 sexual offence charges in the High Court.
The former first minister was cleared of all charges by the jury – found not guilty on 12 counts, including an attempted rape charge, and not proven on a single count of sexual assault with intent to rape.
While giving evidence, Salmond described some of the charges against him as “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose”.
The revelations of Jackson’s recorded remarks come after the nine women who accused Salmond issued a joint statement expressing their devastation at the jury’s verdict through charity Rape Crisis Scotland.
A spokesperson for the charity described Jackson’s comments as “horrifying and completely unacceptable”.
In the recorded conversation, within earshot of other rail passengers, he named two of the nine complainants despite their identities being strictly protected by law.
Speaking to an unnamed person, he reportedly went into further personal details that made one of the women easy to identify.
And referring to one witness, Jackson remarked: “See, we thought that eventually people might think she’s a flake and not like her.”
He also seemed to use the phrase “sex pest” in relation to Salmond, adding “but he’s not charged with that” – however, the recording does not make clear the full context of those remarks.
In a statement, Jackson said: “I have decided that the proper course of action is to self-refer this matter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and that has been done.
“It will be for the commission to consider this matter.”
“To be clear, however, I do not regard Alex Salmond as a ‘sex pest’, and any contrary impression is wrong.
“I also deeply regret the distress and difficulties which have been caused, but given the reference to the SLCC it would not be appropriate to comment further.”
Roddy Dunlop, QC, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “The faculty takes this matter extremely seriously.
“It plainly warrants investigation, but as the Dean has self-referred to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission it would not be appropriate for the faculty to comment further.”
A spokesperson for Rape Crisis Scotland said Jackson’s recorded remarks were “chilling”.
The charity said: “Protecting the anonymity of all people who report sexual crimes is of critical importance and is one of few reassurances that can be offered as part of an otherwise daunting and intimidating process.
“For this to be undermined by such a senior lawyer in a public place in such a high-profile trial is horrifying and completely unacceptable.
“Jackson is Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and we cannot see how this behaviour – caught on film – is in keeping with the Faculty of Advocates’ own guidance on conduct.
“There should be an immediate investigation.”
The spokesperson added: “One of the most chilling aspects of this is Jackson’s statement about his strategy for the cross examination of one of the women in the trial: ‘All I need to do is put a smell on her.’
“This statement alone confirms the fears of many, many survivors who do not report for fear of what would be done to them in court.”
Speaking outside court after the verdict, Alex Salmond said evidence that was not able to be heard in court will “see the light of day” but not until the coronavirus outbreak is over.
It comes amid reports he is writing a book about the case.
A spokesman for the former FM said: “Mr Salmond was acquitted on all charges against him on Monday, March 23, by a jury of nine women and six men (eight women and five men by the time of the verdict) after hearing all the evidence in a two-week trial.
“He made a statement on the steps of the High Court and said that he would make no further public comment on these matters until after the coronavirus crisis was over.”