A former Dundee University Rector who published “unlawful” information about the identities of women who gave evidence against Alex Salmond will be sentenced on Tuesday.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Friday Craig Murray – once British ambassador to Uzbekistan – may be be unable to “cope” in prison.
Scotland’s most senior advocate Roddy Dunlop QC said Murray, 62, is in poor health and suffers from pulmonary hypertension – a debilitating lung condition.
Mr Dunlop told judges a senior doctor fears Murray’s health might make it difficult for him to be in prison.
High Court submissions
Mr Dunlop made the submission to judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull.
Murray, 62, breached a strict court order which was passed to protect women who gave evidence at the former first minister’s high court trial last year.
At a hearing held earlier this year, the judges found Murray had broken the law by publishing information which breached the order.
He also breached a long standing practice which the media follow in not publishing information which could allow readers to realise the identities of sexual assault complainers.
He now publishes a blog about political matters and often criticises the media and established politicians.
His previous lawyer John Scott QC told the judges earlier this year Murray saw the Alex Salmond trial as part of “a bigger picture”.
At proceedings, which resulted in Mr Salmond being acquitted of all charges, Lady Dorrian passed orders which prevented journalists from naming the women who gave evidence against the politician.
Reporters were also ordered not to disclose any details about the women which would allow readers to realise their identities.
However, Murray breached the orders and published information on his blog which allowed readers to gain enough knowledge that they could go onto identify the women.
Earlier this year, Clive Thomson from Rosyth was jailed for six months for publishing the names of women who gave evidence on his Twitter account.
Mr Dunlop said jailing Murray may breach his client’s rights under article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to freedom of speech.
Mr Dunlop said Murray had been married to his partner for 21 years and was a father to a two month old baby and an 11-year-old son.
The lawyer said that jailing Mr Murray would have a negative impact on his family.
He said that in recent years, members of the media have been found guilty of committing contempt of courts.
He added: “Allowing that the finding of contempt in this case has been justified, the question, is whether given all the circumstances that justification extends further to countenancing prison.
“By taking a retired diplomat with an exemplary background away from his wife, 11-year-old son and his baby – for what purpose?
“The decision has been and will be widely publicised. If anyone out there thinks that playing with fire in the field of jigsaw identification is a zero sum game, their views have been disabused by the ruling this court has already made.”
He said that courts do not jail journalists or editors but fine them.
He said the court should impose the same punishment on Mr Murray.
The judges told Mr Dunlop that they’d impose their sentence on Tuesday.
Lady Dorrian told Mr Dunlop: “We want to take longer to reach a decision in this difficult and anxious matter.
“We want to make sure we give adequate and proper attention to the submissions that you have made to us this morning.”