Monday 15 February 2021

It's absurd to imagine there was a conspiracy


BBC Scotland has chosen this moment to conduct an interview with one of the women who accused Alex Salmond of sexual assault. Glenn Campbell’s interview with the woman allows her to state that it was utterly absurd to suggest that nine women would perjure themselves by conspiring in a plot to bring down Alex Salmond. She says that the experience of the committee was more traumatic than being involved in the court case. That nine women would not lie to the police and the court, “and the truth is that we individually had experiences of Alex Salmond’s behaviour.” None of these statements is challenged, probed or contradicted by Mr Campbell. BBC journalists when interviewing people, they disagree with frequently can hardly be held back from interrupting, contradicting and putting forward the best possible counter argument. But not in this case.

One of the issues facing the Alex Salmond Inquiry is the necessity of not revealing information that might lead to someone being able to identify any of the women who accused Mr Salmond. The result is that I don’t know who any of these women are. But Mr Campbell does. How was this interview arranged? Did the woman contact the BBC or did the BBC contact her? But in either case Mr Campbell would have had to know that she was one of the accusers. How many BBC journalists know who these women are? Perhaps only those who were at the trial know. But what of the other people in the room where the interview was held, the cameraman, sound man etc? The Inquiry ties itself in knots over whether it can read evidence submitted by Mr Salmond in case it reveals even accidentally the identity of one of the accusers, but Mr Campbell and his crew is allowed to know it and indeed help others to know it.

The interview appears to reveal the woman’s voice, her dress and her build. Anyone seeking to fit the jigsaw together would find these clues useful. Anyone who knew the woman would recognise her. Why can the Committee not read evidence that merely mentions someone’s name in case it leads to identification, while Mr Campbell can reveal the woman to his camera crew and do very little to disguise who she is to television viewers?

The only people who know the truth about what happened between Alex Salmond and his accusers are the people involved. The events happened in private. But Alex Salmond was acquitted. This means one of two things.

1. He was really innocent in which case nothing illegal happened.

2. He was really guilty, but there was not enough evidence to convict him.

If I had been interviewing her, I would have questioned her statement that it was utterly absurd to suggest that nine women could lie and perjure themselves, by asking her “Why then do you suppose Alex Salmond was acquitted?” Clearly the jury believed that it was possible for nine women not to tell the truth, because if they had believed they were telling the truth they would have convicted Mr Salmond? One explanation for why the jury acquitted Mr Salmond is that it suspected that the case was politically motivated, i.e. that there was a conspiracy. But in that case the witness interviewed by Mr Campbell would have been one of the conspirators. Now she denies that there was a conspiracy, but do we expect conspirators to admit to taking part in a conspiracy?

While it might be reasonable for a jury to fail to believe one witness, after all it was her word against Salmond’s it would be unreasonable for a jury to reject the testimony of nine women, unless there was some other explanation. But the jury not only rejected the testimony of the woman being interviewed it rejected the testimony of all the other witnesses too. Yet Mr Campbell treats every statement she makes without query and without counterargument.   But the jury has already said that it did not believe her. Why should the rest of us? After all we were not at the trial.

The witness maintains “the truth is that we individually had experiences of Alex Salmond’s behaviour”. But how does she know what Mr Salmond did or didn’t do to the other witnesses? After all she wasn’t there. All she knows is the truth of what happened between her and Mr Salmond, and the jury rejected the truth of what she said in court. If it hadn’t it would have convicted Mr Salmond. But Mr Campbell even though he knows that the jury did not believe her, treats her testimony as being true without the need for any further questions? Why?

Perhaps Mr Campbell believes that women are incapable of lying. But in that case why have trials at all? Women could simply go to the police station accuse whoever they wished of sexual assault, the police could then arrest the suspect and send him to jail immediately. But if on the other hand women are capable of lying, why didn’t Mr Campbell even probe what the woman was saying in the interview.

The witness mentions that the experience of the Inquiry was worse than the trial. Mr Campbell did not ask how it could be that standing in a witness box was less traumatic than sitting at home and reading about the Inquiry in the newspapers. He merely accepted the statement at face value, with no counterargument. But the woman’s statement should have led Mr Campbell to ask her whether she had been reluctant to testify at all. Unfortunately, the fact that the Scottish Government forced all the women to accuse Mr Salmond by making them go to police would have rather undermined her statement that it was absurd to suppose that there was a conspiracy. If my employer makes me testify, it suggests not merely that my employer has something against the person I am accusing, but also that my testimony might not be as reliable as testimony freely given.

Is it possible for women to take part in a conspiracy? Women just like men can conspire. They can be offered career advancement if they cooperate, they can be threatened with something unpleasant if they don’t. Why then is it absurd to suppose that women might make up or exaggerate testimony? If one woman can lie about a sexual assault case, nine can certainly conspire about it, especially as it is clear that they knew each other and talked to each other. They might do so to take revenge against a hated former employer or because a subsequent employer desired them to do so. This sort of conspiracy has happened before and will happen again. This is why we have courts and juries who decide whether even nine witnesses are credible. If nine witnesses are rejected, it suggests the jury trusted none of them. One reason not to trust is if a jury suspected a conspiracy.

The BBC are supposed to be impartial, but it is quite clear not merely from this interview but also because of the Kirsty Wark documentary that BBC journalists have taken sides. They think that Salmond ought to have been convicted for which reason they disbelieve the alternative explanation that there was a Scottish Government conspiracy against him. This is partly because of the liberal bias in the BBC that treats all accusations of sexual assault as true, because women don’t lie, but more importantly since 2016 the BBC has lost all objectivity about Scottish politics because Sturgeon campaigned for Remain.

If justice was served when Salmond was acquitted and the jury was right to do so, then the only good explanation for why nine women came forward with testimony saying he sexually assaulted her, is that there was a conspiracy. It is hard to believe that nine women would lie or exaggerate independently if they did not know each other. If the jury were right, then it is reasonable to suppose the women’s testimony was organised and that sensing this the jury therefore acquitted the defendant.

But it is just this that the BBC cannot countenance. It would undermine the whole #Metoo movement because it would admit that women do lie about sexual offences and that therefore it is difficult to know what happened in private years ago. So too the BBC would have to admit that Sturgeon was not the saintly figure who tried to stop Britain leaving the EU, but rather something quite different and closer to the ruthless Lady Macbeth conspiring with her husband to get rid of a rival. But if that were true Glenn Campbell would spontaneously combust because everything he thought was true would turn out to be false.

Thanks to  @Cartoonsbyjosh