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Alex Salmond trial witness ‘scared’ to come forward

Alex SalmondImage copyright PA Media
Image caption Mr Salmond says he is innocent and has pled not guilty to all 14 of the charges against him

A woman who has accused Alex Salmond of sexually assaulting her has told a court she was “scared” to come forward because he was a “powerful man”.

She said she raised the allegations after getting “flashbacks” around the time of the #MeToo movement.

The former Scottish government official, known as Woman H, was giving evidence for a second day during Mr Salmond’s trial.

Mr Salmond denies carrying out a total of 14 sexual assaults on 10 women.

He says he is innocent of all of the allegations against him, which are alleged to have happened while Mr Salmond was serving as Scotland’s first minister and the leader of the SNP.

The charges include allegations that Mr Salmond sexually assaulted Woman H at the first minister’s official Bute House residence in Edinburgh in May 2014, and attempted to rape her at the same location a month later.

On Monday, Woman H told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had felt “hunted” by Mr Salmond, who she claimed had “pounced on her” in June 2014, pulled her clothes off, pushed her onto a bed and then lay naked on top of her despite her protests.

Giving further evidence on Tuesday morning, she said she had emailed a colleague the following day to say she would not be attending a sporting event with the first minister.

The woman said she used an arm injury she had previously suffered as an excuse and did not mention the alleged attack because she was “still in shock” and had “just tried to pretend it didn’t happen”.

She added: “I didn’t communicate to anyone that I had been assaulted. I asked a friend and colleague if anything had ever happened to her because I was trying to figure out whether this was a one-off like a drunken mistake due to the pressure of the campaign and he (Mr Salmond) had just gone off the rails.

“I was trying to make sense of what on earth had happened. I didn’t go into the details of it.”

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Woman H was being questioned for a second day by Crown prosecutor Alex Prentice QC

Woman H went on to say she had told her husband while they were on holiday together some time later that she was considering speaking to SNP headquarters about some “bad things” involving Mr Salmond that had happened to her during the independence referendum campaign, but had not gone into any detail.

She said: “I was trying to work out if there was a process in the party because I was confused and scared and wanted to be secure about talking to anyone before I did so.

“The first minister was a very powerful man and I didn’t want to get on the wrong side of him.”

Woman H said she started having “flashbacks” around the time of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein case, and that she believed the SNP was starting to look out for cases of sexual harassment so the party could take action.

She said: “These issues started to be discussed and I started to have what I could describe as flashbacks. I started to come to the realisation at the October/November 2017 period”.

“I thought I would call a staff member at SNP HQ who had been dealing with these issues, Ian McCann. I might have texted him first.”

The court was shown texts sent to Mr McCann, where he arranged a meeting and gave assurances that the processes would be confidential.

She said the first time she told the full story was when she spoke to Police Scotland.

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Image caption Shelagh McCall QC is one of the defence lawyers representing Mr Salmond during the trial

Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Shelagh McCall QC, Woman H described a personal political project in which she had been involved.

The court was shown texts between Woman H and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheik, a former SNP MP, where Woman H appeared to ask if “Alex will be OK” with it and saying it would be “great to be working with him again”.

The court was also shown an email from Woman H to Mr Salmond in which she invited him to attend a fundraising event in 2017, but the witness said it was not her idea and she had only sent the email “out of courtesy”.

The court had earlier heard that, after Woman H contacted the SNP about making an anonymous complaint about Mr Salmond, she got a reply saying: “We’ll sit on that and hope we never need to deploy it.”

Woman H said: “I wanted it to be known in the party so it could become a vetting issue and they could deal with it at whatever stage they saw fit. For vetting, for future staff, for party conduct.”

Text messages

When asked by Ms McCall whether anyone had encouraged her to speak to the police, Woman H insisted: “Nobody had cheerled me to do this.

“I’ve done this off my own bat. This isn’t fun, I’d rather not be here.”

She said she had spoken to another complainer about the “process”, but insisted: “I made this decision on my own.”

Woman H went on to say she had been in regular contact with another complainer in the case, known as Woman J. The court was shown text messages in which they apparently discussed the “AS stuff”.

A text from Woman H to Woman J appeared to say: “I have a plan and means we can be anonymous but see strong repercussions.”

Woman H told the court she was “bricking it” about Mr Salmond’s response, but “felt I was becoming more secure that the process could be confidential and anonymous”.

She said the “repercussions” mentioned in the text were the police and party taking action over “misconduct”.

Woman H also said she had been in contact with a complainer known as Woman A, but denied that Woman A had encouraged her to speak to the police.

Mr Salmond says he is innocent of all of the allegations against him, and has entered not guilty pleas to all 14 charges.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51817397

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