25 January 2011

Sheridan answers from Scottish ministers...

I must have been napping, but ahead of schedule, the Scottish Government have answered two of the queries put to it by the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Robert Brown.  The text of the three questions was as follows, followed by the two answers Kenny MacAskill has provided thus far:

S3W-38760 - Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD) (Date Lodged Wednesday, January 12, 2011): To ask the Scottish Executive what guidelines cover the release of information and documents by the (a) police, (b) Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and (c) courts to the press or public in connection with criminal prosecutions.

On Monday, Kenny MacAskill gave him this answer:

Answered by Kenny MacAskill (Monday, January 24, 2011): 

The police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and the courts are required to comply with the relevant legal requirements such as the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. The Lord Advocate has issued guidelines to police on releasing information to the media in relation to criminal investigations. These are publicly available on the COPFS website at:


Internal guidance is available to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal staff to deal with routine enquiries.

Internal guidance is available to Scottish Court Service (SCS) staff to assist them in handling enquiries received from either the press or public on accessing court records or on other aspects of criminal proceedings. Further advice is available from SCS senior staff or SCS communications where required.

Secondly, Robert Brown wondered...

 S3W-38761 - Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD) (Date Lodged Wednesday, January 12, 2011): To ask the Scottish Executive what documents were released by the police, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service or the court to the press or public in connection with the prosecution of Her Majesty’s Advocate v Thomas Sheridan and Gail Sheridan.

This query has not yet received its answer, which falls due tomorrow.

UPDATE

The Solicitor-General, Frank Mulholland, answered this query on Wednesday. He told the Liberal Democrat that...

Answered by Frank Mulholland (Wednesday, January 26, 2011): The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service made the following documents available to the media for use in the event that Thomas Sheridan was found guilty.

These were:

i. Barbara Scott''s handwritten notes from 9 November 2004 meeting;

ii. Typed draft minute of 9 November 2004 meeting;

iii. Photograph of Thomas Sheridan and others at his wedding;

iv. Photograph of diary entries for week 27 September 2002.

v. Copy transcript of the McNeillage tape (released during the trial to assist the media in following the evidence).

This material was led in evidence and was the subject of a request by the media. This request was considered and approved by Crown Counsel.

Thirdly:

S3W-38762 - Robert Brown (Glasgow) (LD) (Date Lodged Wednesday, January 12, 2011): To ask the Scottish Executive whether recordings of interviews under caution with Tommy and Gail Sheridan by police officers of Lothians and Borders Police were officially released to the BBC and, if not, what action has been taken regarding the use of this material in the BBC programme, The Rise and Lies of Tommy Sheridan.

On which point, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice responded thus. The answer alluded to inter alia (S3W-38760) is in fact simply the first of Robert Brown's enquiries, quoted above.

Answered by Kenny MacAskill (Monday, January 24, 2011): Recordings of interviews under caution with Tommy and Gail Sheridan were not released to the BBC by the police or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Both the police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service must adhere to strict requirements around the release of information. I refer the member to the answer to question S3W-38760 on 24 January 2011. It is for Lothian and Borders Police and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service to consider whether these requirements have been met.

All answers to written parliamentary questions are available on the Parliament''s website, the search facility for which can be found at

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/Apps2/Business/PQA/Default.aspx.

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