Alistair Carmichael has revealed how he failed to tell an official inquiry the truth about his role in a government leak until five days after he was elected to Parliament.
The former Scottish secretary yesterday told the election court that he didn’t tell a cabinet office investigation about how The Daily Telegraph acquired a confidential memo until 12th May.
Mr Carmichael told the court he was not truthful about the role he played in how the newspaper was given the document.
He said he gave the go-ahead to his special adviser Euan Roddin to leak the document to a Daily Telegraph journalist on a flight between Copenhagen and the Faroe Islands.
But when the document was used as the basis of a story which alleged Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to win this year’s general election, government watchdogs launched a probe.
He told lawyer Jonathan Mitchell QC that he thought he could be “less than fully truthful” when he was quizzed by civil servants.
Mr Carmichael said that because Mr Roddin released the document, he could have avoided telling any lies to the inquiry.
He added: “I thought I could have truthfully said I didn’t leak it.”
He told Mr Mitchell, who represents four of Mr Carmichael’s constituents, that his conduct “fell south” of the conduct expected of a government minister.
Mr Carmichael said that he thought the government investigation would not uncover the truth of how The Telegraph came into possession of the document.
He said: “It has to be said that most leak inquiries very rarely establish the source of the leak.”
But Mr Carmichael said he decided to reveal his role in the process after becoming concerned about his special advisor’s well-being following the election.
He added: “He (Mr Roddin) was legally represented. He was under enormous pressure on social media.”
Mr Carmichael also said that Mr Roddin felt the document should be given to a newspaper.
He added: “Euan felt very strongly that this was information that should be put in the public domain.”
The Liberal Democrat MP was giving evidence on the first day of proceedings into whether his May election to the House of Commons should be declared null and void.
A number of residents in his Orkney and Shetland constituency have objected to his conduct in the aftermath of the newspaper publishing a piece on 3rd April, which was headlined Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs David Cameron.
The story told of how the First Minister allegedly told the French ambassador that she preferred to see the Tory leader continue as Prime Minister.
Journalists at the paper used the contents of the leaked memo as the basis of their story which was denied as being inaccurate by the SNP.
The constituents believe that Mr Carmichael breached election laws when he told Channel 4 News that the first he knew of the memo was when a journalist phoned him looking for a comment.
Mr Carmichael denies breaching electoral laws.
He will continue to give evidence to the court today before judges Lord Matthews and Lady Paton.
• Copy supplied by United News Services.