A former diplomat has been sentenced to eight months in prison for publishing details about the identities of witnesses from the Alex Salmond trial.
Craig Murray, 62, who is now a prominent blogger covering Scottish politics, was told that his actions struck at the “heart of the administration of justice”.
Lady Dorrian told the blogger that he may he have discouraged other sexual assault victim from giving evidence in court.
Murray defied a court order that was passed during the former first minister’s trial last year, in which he was acquitted of all charges, to protect women who gave evidence against him. At a hearing held earlier this year, the judges found that Murray had broken the law by publishing details about the women that could have allowed readers to discover their identities.
He also breached a practice that the mainstream media follow in Scotland in not publishing information that could allow readers to work out the identities of those who claim that they have been assaulted, so as to maintain their privacy and avoid possible stigmatisation.
On Tuesday, Lady Dorrian, Scotland’s second most senior judge, told Murray that his actions were so grave that a prison sentence was the only appropriate response. He will not go to prison immediately. The order has been suspended until later his month so that Murray’s lawyers can prepare an application to the High Court to grant them permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
The suspension will also allow Murray to give evidence in a Spanish case concerning the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. This case will focus on allegations that a Spanish firm spied on him whilst he lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Murray will have to given evidence remotely because he has agreed to hand over his passport.
Lady Dorrian, who sat with Lord Turnbull and Lord Menzies, said: “Anonymity provides complainers with the security they ought to have of the certainty that their identity will be protected.
“Actions such as those of the respondent . . . create a real risk of complainers being reluctant to come forward in future cases — particularly in those cases where the case may be a high profile or one likely to attract significant publicity. The actions strike at the heart of the fair administration of justice.”
Murray is an former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan. He now publishes a blog about political matters and often criticises the mainstream media and established politicians.
Earlier this year John Scott QC, at the time Murray’s lawyer, told the judges that Murray had a passionate interest in “open justice” and “whistleblowing”.
Scott said: “He sees and reported on the court as a beacon of integrity.”
In February Clive Thomson, an independence activist, was jailed for six months for tweeting the names of women who gave evidence in the Salmond trial.
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Jailed in Scotland for identifying Alex salmolnd's accusers