Legal debate in Carmichael case ends

Two days of legal debate over the future of Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has concluded.

Judge Lady Paton brought the first part of the trial against Isles MP Alistair Carmichael to an end this afternoon.

Closing speeches were brought by Jonathan Mitchell QC, for the petitioners, and Mr Carmichael’s legal representative, Roddy Dunlop.

The case against the former Scottish Secretary has now been adjourned.

Lady Paton said she and judge Lord Matthews, who has also presided over the debate, needed to consider the submissions that had been brought forward.

She said a written judgment, or report, would be brought at a later stage.

The case had been brought by four of Mr Carmichael’s Orkney constituents. They claim the isles MP breached the Representation of the People Act over his involvement in a story published in a national newspaper on 3rd April.

Mr Carmichael admitted lying about his involvement in leaking a communication between the First Minister and the French Ambassador. The leaked memo had falsely claimed that Nicola Sturgeon would have preferred to see Prime Minister David Cameron returned to Downing Street after the general election.

Much of the debate in court has focused on Section 106 of the Act, which states that a person who, before or during an election, makes or publishes any false statements in relation to a candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show he had grounds to believe it was true.

Mr Dunlop had claimed an attack against a candidate’s political position did not equate to an attack on character.

Addressing the court, he reiterated his claims that the Carmichael case had no relevancy in law.
“We intend to lead no evidence at this part of the trial because we say the thing is irrelevant,” he said.

“I urge the court not to be diverted from what is, in essence, a very simple question. For the purposes of Section 106 a statement is either personal, or it is not. It cannot be both political and personal.

“My learned friend said, ‘I find it quite difficult to categorise an allegation of leaking the document as either personal or political.’

“Well if this court finds itself in that same difficulty, Mr Carmichael wins.

“The narrow construction means in the case of doubt the case is resolved in favour of Mr Carmichael.

“A false complaint that the secretary of state authorised a leak by the Scottish Office, can only be seen as public or political.”

Mr Dunlop added: “In closing, my learned friend advocates parliamentary reticence – Mr Carmichael should have said nothing. And if he’d done so he would have been fine.

“But consider what he actually did say. Because much of the discussion has focused on what has been claimed to be a false denial in involvement in the leak.

“He wasn’t accused of involvement in the leak.

“A false denial of knowledge of source of the leak is yet one further step removed from a false denial of involvement.

“If that does transcend the political and shade into personal, almost any false denial will.

“The true analysis is, as I said yesterday, this was political from start to finish. It relates to what the Scottish Secretary did as head of the Scottish Office, and he actually said nothing about his personal character or conduct.

“For these reasons I adhere to my submission that this court should bring an end to the matter now by ruling that the petition is, in law, irrelevant.”

Mr Mitchell insisted the petitioners were not complaining that the memo had been leaked.

“We do not complain that it was leaked. What we complain about is the cover up. That is what is seen as the issue of reputation.”

He cited the story of George Washington who owned up to cutting down the cherry tree.

“George Washington cut down the cherry tree and then said ‘I can not tell a lie,’ and owned up. That was more important. That’s why the anecdote is created and more important than the original act of vandalism.
“We do not complain of any non-statutory attack on Nicola Sturgeon, or on the SNP, or anyone else in the memo, and the leak process and the Daily Telegraph article.”

He denied that the “floodgates” would be opened if the court ruled against Mr Carmichael.

“There will be no likelihood of many more cases similar to this unless one agrees with a hypotheses … that, in fact, there are far more false statements made by candidates of themselves than are otherwise made in the way that has been noted in cases to date.

“It sounds highly unlikely. It may be true, who knows? If it is true, it would be a healthy discipline if it was made clear that it had to stop at risk of petitions.”


Add Your Comment
  • Robin Barclay

    • September 10th, 2015 15:16

    What I don’t understand is – Charmichael may have leaked the memo, but he didn’t write it. Why was it written? Surely it was someone’s view of what took place, even though the author may have “misunderstood what he heard”? If this person was submitting a memo to someone for some purpose and has not, as far as is understood, been disciplined for doing something malicious, why has there not been a bit more clarity on what went on and why this person wrote this memo and for whom?

  • David Howell

    • September 10th, 2015 15:43

    “…Mr Carmichael admitted lying about his involvement in leaking a communication between the First Minister and the French Ambassador. The leaked memo had falsely claimed that Nicola Sturgeon would have preferred to see Prime Minister David Cameron returned to Downing Street after the general election…”

    Oh well then! As long as everyone on the Shetland Islands is happy to have a proven liar as their MP, then that’s alright then, isn’t it!

    • Ali Inkster

      • September 10th, 2015 17:28

      We have one as a first minster so why not one for an MP? Or do you hold them to a different level of honesty? At least Carmichael has put his hands up to his lie, Sturgeon and Salmond have yet to admit any of theirs even when they are caught out.

    • Gordon Harmer

      • September 11th, 2015 5:58

      Seems to be endemic in Scottish politics, I remember the ex First Minister lying about Scotland’s re entry into the EU during the referendum campaign. Along with every SNP MSP lying about what currency an independent Scotland would have; why they even printed a white paper about Scotland’s future which was full of lies.

  • iantinkler

    • September 11th, 2015 18:49

    What a waste of time and money!

  • Haydn Gear

    • September 11th, 2015 21:03

    For once I agree with Ian Tinkler—-A total waste of time and money. But, Robin Barclay makes a good point Who indeed wrote the script for Carmichael to leak? Surely he didn’t make it up so who is the hidden culprit? Somebody must know.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 12th, 2015 3:18

      It was the French who allegedly made the call and claimed that Nicola Sturgeon kept the new French Ambassador waiting for an hour and finished their meeting early because she was having “a busy Thursday”!

      Was that story true?

  • iantinkler

    • September 12th, 2015 10:34

    It is all a French plot, Remember Agincourt, Crecy, Joan of Arc, Waterloo,Trafalgar, Blenheim : “Once more unto the breach and all that”!! Only then it actually made a difference!!

  • Haydn Gear

    • September 12th, 2015 14:06

    Probably true John. It’s only 32kms from central Paris to Disneyland France. HaHa

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 12th, 2015 14:09

    Brian Wilson has once again hit the nail squarely on its head, concerning this waste of time and money.


      • September 12th, 2015 21:09

      Brian Wilson won’t be happy with Labour’s new leader.

      • iantinkler

        • September 13th, 2015 10:19

        I am happy though Robert.. Labour just shot itself in the head. Talk about empowering Cameron. Now the Liberal party have a real chance at taking the moderate middle ground. Corbyn can join up with Salmond in Westminster, they deserve each, talk about a strange couple!! odd bedfellows

      • Gordon Harmer

        • September 13th, 2015 12:50

        Probably not Robert, but neither is Sturgeon, her latest knee jerk reaction is proof of that. Hey but I am delighted.

      • Gordon Harmer

        • September 13th, 2015 20:25

        Just in case you ask me why Robert I will let someone else answer.

      • Johan Adamson

        • September 14th, 2015 11:58

        What a load of tripe that last link Gordon Harmer. He has misread the signs, Corbyn is not old school, or unelectable. We are fed up of spin. But it might lead to less support for the SNP because the left can now go back to the labour party in Scotland, now that they have a decent leader in the UK.

  • iantinkler

    • September 12th, 2015 17:03

    Gordon, it is a great spectator sport, watching the NATs wasting their time and money. Shows just what really matters to them, forget the poor starving Scots clamoring at the food banks (apart from those suffering from morbid obesity, rather a lot, by all account, on shetland!!) and spend their meagre austerity plundered money on a Carmichael witch hunt. lol (Just now wait for Robin to perk up!)

  • Gordon Harmer

    • September 14th, 2015 14:01

    Johan, “Corbyn is not old school” I love your blind optimism, he wants to nationalise anything that moves, if that’s not old school then I’m Tony Benn. The Labour party is in the middle of a transient political comedy, with a shadow chancellor who heaps praise on the IRA and deputy leader Tom Watson its become a comedy farce cartoon. Welcome to the Tom and Jerry show.

    • iantinkler

      • September 14th, 2015 14:31

      Tom and Jerry, Now Buster the rampant cat castrated the socialist comedy side show gets cattier by the minute!!

    • Johan Adamson

      • September 14th, 2015 14:51

      We shall see then. But exciting none the less


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.