A Scottish independence activist who named women who gave evidence against Alex Salmond during his 2020 trial has been jailed for six months.
Clive Thomson, 52, breached a strict court order which prohibited the identification of the complainers who gave evidence at the former First Minister’s trial last year.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard how Thomson, of Rosyth, named the women on Twitter on two different occasions in August last year.
Lady Dorrian – the judge who presided over the trial which resulted in Mr Salmond being acquitted of all charges – had passed the order during trial.
Journalists working in Scottish courts do not name complainers in sexual assault cases in order to prevent complainers’ privacy being breached.
Fifer thought he was safe from prosecution because he was abroad
However, the defence industry worker ignored the order and named the women on the social media network.
The court heard that he knew that he wasn’t supposed to name the women but did so anyway.
He believed he was safe from prosecution because he was holidaying abroad at the time of one of the offending tweets.
The court also heard that he sought advice from other Twitter users about how he could get around the court order.
Jail only option, says Lady Dorrian
On Thursday, defence advocate Mark Stewart QC urged Lady Dorrian, Lord Pentland and Lord Matthews not to send his client to prison.
Mr Stewart said Thomson cared for his wife who was currently shielding from the Coronavirus pandemic. He also was the family’s main breadwinner.
But Lady Dorrian said what Thomson did was so wrong that jail was the only option available to the court.
She said: “The court has taken account of the fact that this was a deliberate and indeed planned contempt of court. It is a very serious matter.
“There are very good reasons why complainers in sexual offences cases are given anonymity.
“The protection is extended by convention to complainers in all cases – not just the one which we are concerned.
“It so happens that the protection in this case was backed up by a specific order by the court to underline the importance and you knew that this order had been made.
“Nevertheless you deliberately took it into your own hands to flout that order and post the names of those involved believing the second time that…you were safe from proceedings from contempt of court by being abroad.
“You had given thought about how you were going to get away with it – you went as far as seek advice about that on Twitter.
‘A blatant and deliberate breach’ of court order
“Clearly you decided to take a calculated risk. The reason for such protection extends beyond the complainers in the present case is that the risk of public knowledge for their identities can operate as a severe deterrent to others against making complaints to public authorities.
“This was a blatant and deliberate breach of the order which was likely to cause serious stress and concern to the complainers and interfere with the protection extended to them by the order.
“We have listened to the points advanced on your behalf this morning.
“We are not unmindful of the effect that prison will have on your life and that of members of your family.
“However, for such a premeditated contempt, we are satisfied that there is no alternative to a custodial sentence and we therefore propose to impose a sentence of six months imprisonment from today’s date.”
Mr Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault earlier this year. A further charge of sexual assault had previously been dropped by prosecutors.