Editorial: Counting the cost of Scotland’s malicious prosecution scandal

Editorial: Counting the cost of Scotland’s malicious prosecution scandal

Graham Ogilvy

Prior to his apology to the Scottish Parliament yesterday the Lord Advocate gave welcome confirmation that the Duff and Phelps administrators’ Clark and Whitehouse have indeed been paid £21 million in compensation and awarded £3m towards their legal costs as was widely rumoured and reported.

But many more questions about the full costs of this scandal remain.

How much did the original prosecution cost Crown Office in terms of hours and expenses? In the ensuing debacle how much has been spent by Crown Office on external solicitors and counsel? And, separately, how much has been spent to date by Crown Office to pay for the independent representation of individual members of staff by solicitors and counsel?

These sums will require to be added to settlements in two other cases where liability has already been accepted and, potentially, in other cases that are ongoing – cases that will also involve very substantial legal costs.

So far, Police Scotland have done a pretty good job of keeping their heads down in this affair. But it was a multi-agency failure. The Chief Constable has said that compensation for Clark and Whitehouse has been agreed. The details remain obscure. A confidentiality agreement is hinted at. But does one, in fact, exist? If so, Mr Whitehouse does not seem constrained by it in revealing details of his appalling treatment.

The public deserves to know how much the police spent on the persecution of these men in terms of hours and expenses as well as how much compensation they received. And what were the legal costs to the police in clearing up this mess? Will the police also be liable for compensation payments in the other two cases which were maliciously prosecuted? And what of the costs and potential pay-outs if the other ongoing cases are successful?

And what has become of the police officers involved? Have they been disciplined or reprimanded? if so, how much did that process cost?

The costs to the Crown and, most likely, the police are continuing to escalate and it is too early to come up with a final total. Nothing less than total clarity is required to restore confidence in both organisations.

So, there is one cost to which we should not object – the cost of a thorough independent inquiry to ensure that such a disaster can never happen again.

Until such an inquiry is conducted and its subsequent recommendations are implemented, we cannot be satisfied that innocent people without the financial means of Clark and Whitehouse are not in danger of terrible injustice.

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