Salmond trial: Ex-first minister denies sexual assaults

Former first minister denies there was a policy that prevented him working alone with female civil servants.

Salmond trial: Ex-first minister denies sexual assaults /Jeff J Mitchell

Alex Salmond has denied there was a policy which prevented him being alone with female civil servants at Bute House.

The former first minister was giving evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh, where he has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges of sexual offences against nine women.

“No there was no policy like the one that’s been described,” Salmond said.

But he said there would be “a blurring of the normal social/professional boundaries” in the ’24/7′ role with “people living out of each other’s pockets”.

Asked by Gordon Jackson QC if there were problems with female staff, Salmond said: “In general, no. There was an incident I was made aware of, but in general, no.”

Salmond said he believes some of the allegations against him have been fabricated for political reasons.

“From where I stand now, I wish I had been more careful with people’s personal space, but there was no intention whatsoever to offend,” he said.

“But I’m of the opinion, for a variety of reasons, that events are being reinterpreted and exaggerated out of all possible proportion.”

Asked why, Salmond said: “There were two reasons – one is that some, not all, are fabrications, deliberate fabrications for a political purpose. Some are exaggerations taken out of proportion.”

Salmond also said publicity over the past 18 months may have led some people to “quite innocently” reassess their opinion.

But he added: “At least one of the charges against me on the indictment, I think there was a legitimate grievance, even if it wasn’t what actually happened and not what was presented at the time.”

Salmond agreed with his barrister, Gordon Jackson QC, that “things that didn’t happen” or “innocent things” had been “turned into sexual offences”, as he was taken through the charges against him.

He said a civil servant in the Scottish Government, who accused him of grabbing her and trying to kiss her following a meeting in Bute House in 2010, had “misremembered” the incident.

Known as Ms B, she told the court on Monday that Salmond had asked to recreate an image of a Christmas card design, featuring a man and a woman about to kiss beneath the mistletoe.

“I think over the passage of time the incident is misremembered,” he said. “I did say, ‘let’s recreate the Christmas card’. It was a joke, it was hijinks, it was a piece of fun. It was not meant to be anything more than that.

“She said, ‘don’t be daft’, and we sat back down again.”

Salmond said one of his accusers had encouraged at least five other people to exaggerate or make claims against him.

The senior Scottish Government official, known as Ms A, said he sexually assaulted her in Glasgow between June and July 2008.

But Salmond told the jury: “I would never, under any circumstances, be touching (the complainer) inappropriately. These are all public places. It would be insane to do anything like that. These claims are a fabrication.”

He also denied running his hands down her body at a nightclub in Edinburgh in December 2010.

“What’s a fabrication is that on the dance floor I proceeded to sexually assault her. It’s not just a fabrication, it’s ludicrous,” he said.

“It makes no sense whatsoever and that’s because it’s not true. It is a fabrication, just as she has encouraged at least five other people to exaggerate or make claims against me.”

Salmond told jurors he has never had a non-consensual relationship with a woman in his life as he was questioned about an allegation he assaulted a woman in his bedroom at Bute House, in late 2013.

He said he and a Scottish Government official, known as Ms F, had “collapsed into what I would describe as a sleepy cuddle” on a bed after they drank the Chinese spirit Maotai together.

“My left arm was underneath (the complainer), my right arm was around (her) and both her feet were still on the floor. It was not a comfortable or easy position to be in. We were side by side and we were both fully dressed.”

He explained he said sorry two weeks after the incident after the issue was raised by one of his staff.

“I apologised. I was the first minister. She was in my bedroom. We were tipsy, it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

But asked if he had intended to rape her, Salmond said: “Not in the slightest… I have never entered into a non-consensual sexual relationship with anyone during my entire life.

“In these circumstances, I don’t even think I had an intent to cuddle. It’s something that happened in tipsy circumstances and as soon as (Ms F) made it clear, by saying, ‘it’s a bad idea,’ I snapped out of it and said, ‘it’s a very bad idea,’. We were still fully dressed.”

Salmond said he had a single “consensual sexual liaison” with a complainant, known as Ms H, after a dinner at Bute House.

He said he did not have sex with the former Scottish Government official, who had earlier told him: “I never thought I would be drinking shots with first minister.”

“Neither party were naked but in a state of partial undress, in terms of buttons or whatever,” he said.

“It shouldn’t have happened but both of us agreed it would be put behind us.”

Salmond told the jury: “It was just two old friends and things had gone too far. Both of us realised it wasn’t a good idea and we parted good friends.”

The trial continues.

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