Alex Salmond trial: two more witnesses tell of ‘disgust’ at alleged assaults | UK news

Two more women have told a court of their disgust and shock when Alex Salmond allegedly sexually assaulted them, as well as their initial reluctance to complain formally about the behaviour of the man who was then Scotland’s most powerful politician

The former first minister is charged with 14 sexual offences against 10 women, including attempted rape and intent to rape. He denies all charges.

On the third day of the trial at Edinburgh high court, Witness A – a senior Scottish government official who cannot be named for legal reasons – said she felt “disgusted, embarrassed and quite humiliated” when Salmond regularly greeted her with a “very sloppy, very unpleasant” kiss on the lips, while holding her shoulders firmly so that she was unable to turn away.

She said that this had happened on at least 10 occasions, and alleged that there were “four or five” other incidents involving the former Scottish National party leader deliberately moving his hand from her back to touch her breast or bottom, often when the two were attending political events or in crowds.

She told the court the assaults took place in 2008 while they were campaigning together for the SNP in Glasgow. A added that she “came to expect something like this to happen in my days with [Salmond],” and that she made efforts not to be alone with him.

When Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, asked why she didn’t challenge Salmond about his behaviour at the time, A replied: “I didn’t know how to say ‘Don’t do that’ to the first minister.” She added: “I had experienced volatile mood swings from him and it was easier to move away than risk antagonising him.”

Asked why she did not tell colleagues at the time, she replied: “I was doing this job which meant a lot to me, and him humiliating me on a regular basis was embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell people he was doing this – it would make me look weak.”

Later on Wednesday afternoon, a third complainant told the court she was “totally taken aback” when Salmond put his hand on her leg just above the knee and left it there for the duration of a journey in his official government car in 2011. “I was absolutely gobsmacked that it had happened and the first minister – someone I looked up to – had done this.”

Witness C, an SNP politician who also cannot be named, said Salmond had suggested her husband sit in the front while she join him in the back. Both women were challenged by Salmond’s lawyers about why they had not disclosed the alleged incidents earlier.

Gordon Jackson QC questioned whether the incidents described by Witness A were distressing at all. “The reality is that these events, such as they are, were absolutely nothing and were not distressing in any way or form, and the reason they have turned into criminality is embarrassment and revisionism because other things happened since,” he told her. She replied: “No, that is categorically wrong.”

He also dismissed her description of an alleged assault at an Edinburgh nightclub during which she claimed Salmond ran his hands down the curves of her body as “hardly groping”.

Jackson challenged A repeatedly about why she had not told anyone about the incidents, even after Salmond’s behaviour became “a live issue” following revelations in the Daily Record in August 2018 that sexual harassment allegations against him were being investigated by the Scottish government.

“I had put it behind me,” she responded, adding that she didn’t see how disclosing her own experience “would make a difference”. She told Jackson: “Until the police came to see me, I was content not to be part of it.”

During a hostile cross-examination, Jackson questioned why she had made contact with five of the other complainants, all of whom she knew professionally, following the Daily Record story.

Witness A insisted: “When I initially contacted them, I didn’t know any of them were making allegations or speaking to the police … I was concerned for their welfare … It was a sensible, right and proper thing to do to reach out and make sure they were OK.”

Shelagh McCall QC, another of Salmond’s lawyers, later asked C why she didn’t alert the other people in the car to what was happening, or attempt to move her leg away. C replied: “It’s hard to explain, but he was everything in the party. My husband completely adored him and looked up to him so much. I just blocked it out.”

But she denied that she had felt pressurised by A into giving a statement to police, and disputed that she had initially set the incident aside because she believed it to be trivial. “I thought it was entirely inappropriate and wrong. I suppose when you look back at things, you realise how much you excuse a person because of who they are.”

She added: “I didn’t think it was nothing. It was because of who he is and what he was. Who on earth was I going to tell and what on earth were they going to do about it?”

The trial continues.

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