The Alex Salmond Trial and Censorship 175

I am just off to the High Court to check out physical arrangements for access on Monday, and was inspired to send the above email, which I add as an update.

On Monday morning at 6am I shall again be queuing up outside a courtroom. I never had any intention this blog would become so concentrated on court reporting, but then I never expected the state to be trying to put so many of my friends in prison.

Nor had I expected at this stage in my life to be threatened with prison myself. The Procurator Fiscal’s office in Scotland wrote to me to say that they are considering prosecuting me for contempt of court – which when it is related to a major criminal trial, carries a maximum sentence in Scotland of up to two years in prison.

20200121 LRM letter to C Murray[353039]

I have still not heard where their consideration of whether to prosecute me has led them. But the job of the Crown Office is to prosecute criminals, not to write them letters. My interpretation of the letter, which I believe would be the interpretation of any reasonable person, is that it is an attempt at censorship by terrifying me into removing the article of which they complain.

The Crown should not be doing that. If the Crown is ordering the suppression of satire without the decision of a judge, then we have set Scottish society and Scottish liberties back several hundred years. The Crown is not in the position of somebody who feels themselves libeled and might send a “cease and desist”. For the Crown to attempt direct censorship without judicial authority is a very serious breach of human rights.

The article complained of, clearly labeled as fiction, does not mention Alex Salmond nor any of his accusers and is largely a satire on the Moorov Doctrine. If the Crown is saying that it is illegal to satirise the Moorov Doctrine lest you reduce its efficacy, that again appears to me to have serious human rights implications. A senior QC told me shortly before Christmas that, entirely unrelated to the Salmond Case, they had been briefed by the Procurator Fiscal Service that it was their policy to push and extend the use of Moorov Doctrine. There is a very wide public interest in discussing that.

All of which naturally constrains my reporting next week. It is of course important both to give the fairest hearing to the accusers and not to prejudice jury members on the facts with which they are faced. But I cannot even tell you what happened in court at the last case management hearing, although it is very important. When combined with the anonymity of the accusers, it does make it very difficult indeed to report the background to the case, which given its profound political implications that engage a legitimate wider public interest, is deeply disturbing to me. I shall however do my best, in full compliance with both the law of contempt and the rulings of the court, but operating hard up against that boundary in the interests of free speech and public knowledge, to the extent that is permissible and legitimate, to report as much of the truth as I can.

Hopefully without going to prison. Wish me luck.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

175 thoughts on “The Alex Salmond Trial and Censorship

1 2 3 4
  • Smiling Through

    How kind they are, Craig, to alert you of the CCA 1981’s strict liability rule!

    I wonder how many similar letters have been sent to the proprietors, editors and journalists who have been seriously prejudicing legal proceedings against Julian Assange for years?

  • brendan stebbings

    Best of luck Craig, stay safe. I have ‘saved’ said article…just in case!

  • Bob Costello

    I certainly do wish you luck Craig and I wonder if the prosecution service will consider that a fair trial cannot now be conducted thereby dropping the case against Alex Salmond, I doubt it unless they see it as being a way to get them and the Scottish government out of a potentially embarrassing situation.

  • Vivian O'Bliviion

    Interesting, I was only vaguely aware of the Moorov Doctrine. In practical terms the belief that isolated accusations spread out over a period of time can be judged to be mutually supportive is fairly nebulous, what matters is the application of rules / guidelines as to the required frequency and temporal grouping of the accusations before they are mutually supportive. Interestingly the guidelines are a movable feast depending on the public profile of the alleged crime at any moment. This also applies to the degree to which an individual accusation is to be taken as a credible “fact”. The pendulum swings wildly and never appears to settle for long in the reasonable middle. When rape victims are not believed, the John Worboy’s of the world are free to commit their crimes, when Carl Beech is taken at his word, injustice is done to the accused.
    The accusations against Jimmy Savile originated in the chat rooms of Friendsreunited particular to inmates of Duncroft Approved School near Heathrow. Curiously those accusations when forensically examined turn out to be the concoctions of ego inflating fantasists. We can only conjecture about the pressures of group think that leads to mass false accusations of the type of the “Satanic panic” of the 1980’s.

    • Paul Barbara

      @ Vivian O’Bliviion March 5, 2020 at 11:53
      Satanic sexual abuse and human sacrifice is very real indeed.

    • Magic Robot

      ‘Human Resources’ departments (what used to be just the ‘personnel officer’) have been using this tactic for years: they run it as: ‘the employee demonstrated a pattern of behaviour.’

      Using this, they then bring in any and every little thing, even personal foibles, to smear any person who is facing a hearing for alleged misdeeds. The fact that none of these events warranted official action at the time, is by the by.

  • Jenny Baboolsl

    A very worrying development. I keep wondering why there is barely anything on news about Julian Assange. Will it be the same with Alex Salmond? Are we citizens not allowed to know what is happening?

  • Stonky

    Oh well Craig. Who would have thought you would find yousrelf in the same boat as Tommy Robinson!

    • Stonky

      I should perhaps clarify that as a contributor I am profoundly grateful for the work you do, and sickened by the increasingly brazen ways in which the Establishement seeks to intimidate, neutralise or silence anyone who poses any kind of genuine threat to its machinations – whether that be Salmond, Assange, yourself or, indeed, Tommy Robinson.

  • Merkin Scot

    Dear Agony Aunt :
    Does this mean that anyone reading the article in question and making a comment is also, potentially, going to get their collar felt?
    Is it now a crime to pass on to others a satirical article without issuing a disclaimer (or, indeed, at all)?

  • N_


    Has the Alex Salmond case been assigned a judge yet? If so, could you write to the judge and tell him that Miller seems to be arrogating to himself the right to tell you what does and what doesn’t constitute a contempt of the judge’s court? Take the piss.

    What a stupid b*stard Lindsay Miller is! He thinks he’s a really tough guy, but he can’t even issue a threat properly, let alone write a proper sentence (“Meantime”). And what does he mean, when he reminds you that the case is “serious”? Are some prosecutions not serious? Who did he know to get his job? If he were a proper official, he wouldn’t say “gives rise to a potential contempt”. He would first decide whether or not in his opinion it does, and if the answer was in the affirmative he would prosecute you and apply to a judge to issue an interim order for you to remove the material.

    He’s all sash and no trousers. He thinks he’s a gangster. Practice in the mirror, do you, Lindsay?

    He probably didn’t foresee that you would publish his threatening letter.

    He used to be the procurator fiscal for organised crime and counter terrorism, so he may have touched his forelock to a criminal godfather or two and perhaps also to Andrew Parker. Are you hoping Parker will get you a gong, Lindsay?

    Some other dirty business Miller involved himself in.

  • Davy Smith

    Good luck, Craig.
    These people are going to need to learn the limits of their power.

    • James Cook

      Craig, you are an Alumnus of the “insiders club” and as such are subject to a higher level of polite reminders from those who you once worked with and for. This is solely for the benefit of those still within the “insiders club” by way of setting an example for how this works.

      Anyone who has burned a major bridge with power people has seen this in one form or another and know that when the end comes there will be no mercy and no quarter given if one continues to be a thorn. Like Julian, you have made your choices and are in charge of your own destiny.

      As I have stated previously, Covid-19 is an opportunity that will be used to greatly expand the powers of the state and part of this will be silencing any critics or those who point out inconvenient facts or first-hand observations – like you have done for Julian at his show trial.

      “Limits of their power”………………..well those “limits” will soon know few bounds.

      Fight the good fight, your enemies secretly admire the strength of your character and convictions, but the state will not lose and those that oppose it must be silenced.

      All of us are watching.

  • Shab Jaffri

    It’s a poorly written letter by the CPS. Reminds me of a debt collection agency style letter which uses scaremongering tactics by implying illegal/inapplicable threats of litigation and highlighting the consequences of such litigation, such as sequestration of the debtor even though the amount being pursued is below the sequestration threshold. And similarly just like the debt collection agency writes on behalf of a third party it would appear from the style adopted by the CPS in its email to you it too is writing to you on behalf of a third party!! However, regardless of whether it’s written to you on behalf of a third party it’s frightening to note the CPS, an institution which represents the establishment, is forcing complete censorship on your reporting of the forthcoming trial. Whilst it refers to the appropriate legislation to support its blatant censorship it fails to advise you on the guidelines under which you can still discuss the case as it’s is heard during the trial or even report the daily proceedings without jeopardising the course of justice without being in contempt of court. Now let us wait and see how the bench will react to reporting of the trial. It is normally the case the judge or judges will address this matter at the opening of a trial (sometimes during a trial) if it is felt by them that reporting of the case may prejudice the outcome of the trial. It will be very interesting to see whether the bench will completely censure all reporting on the case, and therefore show it’s approval of the CPS’s take on reporting, or if it will set out guidelines on reporting the trial etc. Given the CPS has written to you about what it considers such an important matter one would expect it will have advised or even copied the email to the bench of the high court justiciary? It also raises the question whether CPS will or has singled you out for its state censorship. All very interesting. Wish you best of luck, kindest regards Shab

    • Tom Welsh

      “Reminds me of a debt collection agency style letter which uses scaremongering tactics…”

      Well, after all, what is government but a huge debt collection agency that uses “scaremongering tactics” (up to and including murder) to acquire immense amounts of wealth?

      “The State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime . . . . It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or alien”.

      – Albert Jay Nock, “On Doing The Right Thing”

      • Antiwar7

        Exactly. Governments are like criminal gangs, with more weapons and better propaganda. Both gangs and governments provide services as well as coercion. They both demand their cut of certain economic activity in their area, and try to monopolize various services and the use of force. The only true mass murderers are governments, especially when they go to war.

      • Shab Jaffri

        Exactly! When the state murders and steals its legal.. Re the author of the email from CPS I noted someone quizzing the gender of the author because folk sometimes get confused about this name being of a woman or a man, I took to my niece who worked as a solicitor for the CPS who confirms Lindsey Miller is a woman. Not that gender is an issue here.

  • Tony

    You’re in their sights Craig. I suspect your exposure of their treatment of Julian Assange was the tipping point. These psychopaths are after complete control. Take care.

  • ` extremebuilder

    Four beers a month or a small donation to your good self. No contest….
    Good luck Mr Murray, be safe.

  • Northern

    Reality becomes more and more Kafkaesque by the day. We keep speeding through events I like to imagine would be the catalyst to opening people’s eyes to the fascist system the state is slowly cultivating in front of our eyes – the 24 hour news cycle ensures they’re quickly forgotten again. I fear we’ll be well past the point of no return before any such critical mass of understanding appears.

    Much the same as the Assange case, it’ll be interesting to note which other members of the press, if any, attempt to defend your right to free speech. The deafening silence in Julian’s case says a lot about which side these government stenographers bread is buttered on. Do as you’re bloody well told Mr Murray, or else.

  • Eoin

    Interesting that, in the seven weeks since the letter was sent to you, there hasn’t [because presumably, you would have mentioned it above] been any further action to remove your publication of 20 January.

    Even in Scotland, it seems, the judiciary needs more than shaky “holding the view” and “potential contempt” and “may give rise” to remove allegedly contemptuous material.

    Good luck in Edinburgh.

  • Ingwe

    As a retired lawyer, who practised entirely under English jurisdiction, I’m not qualified to comment on Scots law in general and the Contempt of Court Act 1981 (“the Act”) in particular. But, had such a letter been sent to one of my clients, my first reaction would have been to ask the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal for further and better particulars of both what sections of the Act the alleged offending article breached and the particular words in the offending article that caused the breach. I’d have asked for these details by return and, in default of which, they could, in equivalent legal parlance, piss the fuck off.
    They are clearly out to intimidate you Mr Murray.
    Having grown up in apartheid South Africa, I remember how the police and other authorities dealt with people who they couldn’t silence by threats of court action or prison. They were arrested and then died when they fell four floors from the police headquarters when mistakenly opening a window allegedly seeking fresh air or there were the spate of unfortunate shower deaths where the unfortunate ‘offender’ (invariably black) would slip on soap and repeatedly bang his head on the concrete floor until he died.
    As the ‘joke’ ran in those days ” A black prisoner was found dead with sixteen bullet wounds in his back and his throat cut. Police called it the worse case of suicide ever seen.”
    Mr Murray, when the ‘subtle’ approach as manifested in the letter fails to work in silencing you, beware of the less subtle approaches. Be careful out there!

    • Tom Welsh

      “They were arrested and then died when they fell four floors from the police headquarters when mistakenly opening a window allegedly seeking fresh air…”

      More or less the same thing happened to James Forrestal, showing that even a white US Secretary of War can make such mistakes.

      Isaac Newton certainly does seem to be the friend of the powerful, doesn’t he!

  • Paul Barbara

    Would it perhaps be useful to inform Alex Salmond’s lawyers of the letter? They might offer some advice, and it might even be of some use in the Salmond case.

  • Ben

    For a civilized Western Nation the UK certainly has stringent anti-speech provisions ostensibly to uphold the Rule of Law, but mostly to bolster the bulwark of the Bureaucracies.

    Too late for your own revolution. Sorry you missed your chance.

  • elkern

    Reminds me of a t-shirt I saw advertised on FB yesterday, emblazoned with…

    “Make Orwell Fiction Again”

    …but in this case, we might want to change “Orwell” to either “Kafka” or “Monty Python”, not sure which.

    Best of luck, from kindred spirit on other side of the Pond. (note: tried to donate, but couldn’t find a way to do it without getting hooked into PayPal?)

  • Mist001

    That’s actually a very good, considered response from you to the PF rather than a hysterical OTT reaction which I suspect the PF may have been expecting.

1 2 3 4

Comments are closed.