A former Dundee University Rector should have the right of appeal to the Supreme Court against a jail term for publishing unlawful information about women who gave evidence against Alex Salmond.
Roddy Dunlop QC said his client Craig Murray, 62, should be given leave to appeal against the eight-month prison sentence imposed earlier this year for breaching a strict court order which was passed during the former first minister’s trial in March 2020.
Judges found Mr Murray published pieces of information online which, through jigsaw identification, could lead readers to establish who the women were.
He was jailed for eight months but bailed pending consideration of his appeal.
Right to free speech
On Monday, Mr Dunlop told judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull the case raised legal issues which should be examined by Britain’s highest court.
Mr Dunlop, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said the practice of blogging raised issues surrounding article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to free speech.
He said the UK Supreme Court’s involvement could address concerns expressed by some people that the prosecution against Mr Murray was “politically motivated”.
He said: “This is an area of acute sensitivity and one which the guidance of the Supreme Court would be welcome.
“This case has attracted a great deal of public interest, a great deal of public comment and a great deal of public concern.
“Much of that comment and concern has highlighted Mr Murray alone was brought to the attention of the court despite other journalists publishing material that was arguably more likely to identify the complainers.
“Some of that has led to public comment that proceedings against Mr Murray were politically motivated.
“I myself make no such submission. I cannot make any such submission and I do not make any such submission.
“But the fact remains these comments are out there and they continue to be made on matters of real public concern.
“The interests of justice lean heavily in favour of scrutiny and accountability.”
Mr Murray is an ex-UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and was rector of Dundee University from 2007 to 2010.
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 has a passionate interest in “open justice” and “whistle blowing”.
Mr Scott said his client also 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.
Mr Murray breached the orders and published such information on his blog.
Lady Dorrian told Murray that his actions struck at the “heart of the administration of justice”.
She told the blogger he may he have discouraged other women from coming forward and giving evidence in court.
Judgement on Tuesday
Mr Dunlop also told the judges on Monday it they refused permission for his client to appeal to the UK Supreme Court, Mr Murray would launch is own bid for the London judges to hear his case.
He said that if the Scottish judges refused to grant permission, he would ask for his client’s bail to be continued pending the outcome of Mr Murray’s own direct appeal.
Lady Dorrian told the lawyers she and her colleagues would issue their decision in the matter on Tuesday and continued Murray’s bail.