I will never get back the four months of my life I spent locked at least 22.5 hours a day in a 12 foot by 8 foot cell. I have nothing personally to gain from carrying on the legal fight – I was a civil prisoner and do not have a criminal record.
But the legal distinction made by Lady Dorrian’s judgement between “new media” and “mainstream media”, in terms of their liability to prosecution and to imprisonment, has to be fought, because coming from a three judge bench of the High Court in Edinburgh it is a citable precedent throughout many English speaking jurisdictions (and is directly contrary to ECHR rulings).
On Wednesday we appeal to the nobile officium, the Scottish appeal court of five High Court judges, where Lord President Carloway will hear the appeal. In pursuit of my commitment to Open Justice and to giving readers original sources so they can make up their own mind, I had intended to publish our Submissions to the Court here, but the legal team informs me I cannot in law do this until the court starts its hearing. So watch this website on Wednesday.
However what I can tell you is that a common theme emerges from the various points of appeal – the arbitrariness of Lady Dorrian’s proceedings. Consider these points, all part of my appeal:
1) Neither the Crown nor the Court ever suggested in the proceedings or papers, a distinction between “mainstream media” or “new media”. It was never put to us, so we could never argue against it. Lady Dorrian simply formed it in her head and then set it in stone. Had the distinction been put to us at the trial, we would have wished to bring forward expert witnesses to refute Lady Dorrian’s dicta that “mainstream media” is more ethical than “new media”. To introduce the distinction into law is deeply worrying. To do so without hearing arguments is extraordinary.
2) The majority of the jigsaw clues to identification found in Lady Dorrian’s judgement, were never in the accusation against me, so we had no opportunity to refute them in court. The Crown identified in its petition a number of phrases they claimed could be identifying, and we argued in submissions and in my affidavits that this was not so. But Lady Dorrian in her judgement came up with a number of new phrases she stated were identifying, but which proposition had never been put to me in proceedings, and I had no idea were claimed to be identifying, until the judgement.
3) Lady Dorrian entirely discounted my affidavits as untruthful without ever putting that to me to give me a chance to respond. I submitted two detailed affidavits on oath setting out that it had never been my intention to disclose identities. I stated the steps I had taken to ensure I did not do so, and how my precaution was greater than that of the mainstream media. My counsel informed the court that I was prepared to answer any questions on my affidavits, either from the Crown or from the Court. Both Crown and Court declined to question me. The normal presumption is that if evidence is not challenged in court, it is accepted. To dismiss my affidavits with no cross-examination is extraordinary.
4) Lady Dorrian had based her substantial prison sentence on her judgement that I had “relished” giving clues to identity. This had not been alleged by the Crown, the court had heard no evidence from anybody to this effect, and it was directly contrary to my own unchallenged evidence on oath.
5) It is impossible for the journalist to know exactly where the line lies for “jigsaw identification”. My article of 11 March, for example, consisted entirely of material gleaned from mainstream media as I was not in court nor yet had my own sources in court on that day, yet I was found in contempt for publishing nothing but what the mainstream media had already published.
This is all remarkably arbitrary, in the most literal sense.
These are points of process. The more fundamental point is that I, as a journalist, had access to both written and eye witness evidence that led me to believe that the current First Minister of Scotland was orchestrating a plot to frame the former First Minister of Scotland on entirely false charges: a belief of which I am now quite certain. This was a matter of the highest possible public interest leading to an overwhelming Article 10 ECHR right to publish. I realised that right was in conflict with the Article 8 right of the accusers to the privacy ordered by the Court, and I did my best to balance the two (even when I was publishing articles on the plot for eight months before there was a court order in place protecting identities).
However, Lady Dorrian gave no weight whatsoever to the Article 10 Freedom of Speech side of this equation. This was worsened by the fact that the Crown held the documents which I had seen which convinced me of the plot against Salmond, many of which are still not public, and the Court refused my application for their disclosure, so I could assert the reasonable grounds for my belief in the plot against Salmond.
The current situation is that Wednesday’s appeal will be held with no public gallery and no streaming or dial-in access. I have asked my legal team to object to this, and will keep you posted. I am frankly furious that the public will be kept away from the hearing.
I am afraid that I am going to have to renew my appeal for funds to help with the legal costs. Fighting these kinds of actions is simply crippling. Your dedication to freedom and your support have so far saved me from personal bankruptcy, but we now need to raise a further £80,000 immediately.
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