Alex Salmond's accusers 'devastated' by court verdict

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Media caption,
Alex Salmond was cleared of 13 charges of sexual assault

The women who made sexual assault allegations against Alex Salmond say they have been left "devastated" after he was cleared in court.

A jury found the former first minister not guilty on 12 of the sexual assault charges facing him, while another was found not proven.

A further charge of sexually assaulting a 10th woman had previously been dropped by prosecutors.

Mr Salmond maintained he was innocent throughout the two-week trial.

A legal representative of Mr Salmond has been contacted by the BBC but declined to comment on the women's statement.

The nine women insisted they would not let the former SNP leader being acquitted define them.

And they said that while the experience of taking the case to court had been "traumatic", it had been the "right thing to do".

'Empower women'

In a joint statement, issued through Rape Crisis Scotland, the nine women said: "While we are devastated by the verdict, we will not let it define us.

"We hope through shining a light on our experiences, it will serve to protect and empower women in the future."

The women spoke out almost a week after the former SNP leader was cleared of the 13 charges he had been facing - including an allegation of attempted rape - by a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh.

The complainers, whose identities are protected by a court order, were identified in the trial only as Woman A, Woman B, Woman C, Woman D, Woman F, Woman G, Woman H, Woman J, and Woman K

They said: "The jury has delivered a majority verdict on the charges brought against the former first minister.

"We are devastated by the verdict. However it is our fervent hope that as a society we can move forward in our understanding of sexual harassment and sexual assault."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Mr Salmond and his lawyer Gordon Jackson QC avoided shaking hands as they congratulated each other outside court

They recalled that Mr Salmond's lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, had quoted Woman H and said his client "should have been a better man".

In her evidence to the court, Woman H had said: "I wish for my life the first minister was a better man and I was not here."

Mr Jackson told the jury: "If in some ways the former first minister had been a better man, I wouldn't be here, you wouldn't be here, none of us would be here."

'Political bubble'

In his closing speech, the lawyer said the case against the former first minister "stinks" - saying it comes from "this political bubble with no real independent support".

The women said in their statement: "Today we want to send a strong and indisputable message that such behaviours should not be tolerated - by any person, in any position, under any circumstances."

"Many of us did speak up at the time of our incidents but were faced with procedures that could not deal with complaints against such a powerful figure. Others were silenced by fear of repercussions.

"It was our hope, as individuals, that through coming forward at this time we could achieve justice and enact change.

"We remain firm in our belief that coming forward to report our experiences and concerns was the right thing to do.

"But it is clear we alone cannot achieve the change we seek."

'Deliberate fabrications'

During his evidence to the court, Mr Salmond said the claims made about his alleged conduct were "deliberate fabrications for a political purpose" or "exaggerations".

And he said he had "never attempted to have non-consensual sexual relations with anyone in my entire life".

Mr Salmond's defence team said during the trial that a senior Scottish government official known as Woman A, who was one of his accusers, had contacted some of the other complainers before Mr Salmond was charged.

Speaking outside court after his acquittal, Mr Salmond said: "As many of you will know, there is certain evidence I would have liked to have seen led in this trial but for a variety of reasons we were not able to do so.

"At some point, that information, that facts and that evidence will see the light of day."