From the Scottish Law Reporter.
Former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini set to appear in trial of anti abuse campaigner Robert Green SCOTLAND’S most expensive ever Breach of the Peace trial against the well known anti-abuse campaigner Robert Green, a case which has so far cost taxpayers a staggering HALF A MILLION POUNDS, having already seen FOURTEEN COURT HEARINGS, 16,000 travel miles for the accused, trips by Grampian Police Officers to England to search & raid homes & seize property including computers & documents, Crown Office staff being flown into Aberdeen especially for the case, and a witness list which has varied in numbers and currently totals SIXTY ONE persons is set to begin at Stonehaven Sheriff Court next week 16 January 2012 in front of Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen
However, it is still unclear at this late stage whether the person described as the central witness to the entire case, former Lord Advocate and now Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC will be called to appear to answer questions about the peculiar circumstances of the charges against Mr Green, arising from an incident where the anti-abuse campaigner visited Aberdeen in February 2010 to hand out leaflets detailing the allegations in the case of Hollie Greig, a downs syndrome girl who is alleged to have been abused by an Aberdeen based paedophile gang.
While it has been reported Mr Green is insistent on calling the former Lord Advocate in his defence, a move described by legal insiders as “a must, given her role in the affair”, it has now become clear that defence QCs acting for Robert Green have on each occasion refused to add Angiolini to the witness list, and when instructed to do so, they had immediately withdrawn from acting for Green, leaving him without legal representation for the trial.
Writing on his blog in an article last week, Robert Green said in relation to a meeting with his defence QC : “I had made it clear that Elish Angiolini is probably the most important witness for the defence and must be called. However, after deliberations, Senior Counsel Gary Allen QC felt that Angiolini`s appearance in the witness box would prove damaging to the defence, on the grounds that she would refuse to answer questions that may incriminate her and in that, her position would be supported by the sheriff.”
“I stated that whilst I had never held any great expectation of Angiolini breaking down under cross-examination and confessing, I considered it valuable both to the defence and in the public interest for her to be seen in court, failing to answer pertinent questions about her conduct in public office in connection with both my case and that of Hollie. It has been her failings and private interventions with the media, using public funds, that led to me taking the course that has resulted in the prosecution that she in fact personally authorised. Thus I regard her as a key witness. I also failed to see how Angiolini being cross-examined could possibly harm the defence.”
“As a result of our difference of opinion, we have mutually agreed that I would be best served by instructing another Senior Counsel to represent me. I accept that Mr Allen and Junior Counsel, who supported his view, were acting professionally in what they deemed to be my best interests and there is hence no ill will of any kind. It is just that an impasse was reached on a single important issue that could not be resolved. My solicitor will try to find a new team to represent me in the future, but it must be on the fundamental basis that Elish Angiolini is called as witness for the defence. I will not accept any deviation from that position.”
Commenting on the debacle over calling Angiolini as a witness, a key Scots legal figure today branded the saga as outrageous, saying “..there should be no reluctance on anyone’s part to call an individual as a witness, no matter what position they previously occupied in the justice system”. He said the former Lord Advocate “had no immunity from justice and should appear if called as a witness”.
Meanwhile a note prepared by Sheriff Principal Bowen over his refusal to grant the defence its request to call Procurator Fiscal Stephen McGowan as a witness has emerged, and can be viewed online here : Sheriff Principal Bowen note – PF Stephen McGowan excused from witness testimony. The decision to excuse Mr McGowan from being cross examined by Mr Green’s defence team has raised eyebrows in legal circles, with some expressing their opinion the decision violates Mr Green’s right to a fair hearing under Article 6 of ECHR.
Serious questions also remain about the fairness of any prosecution against Mr Green after it emerged Crown Office officials had privately briefed a tabloid journalist to expect Mr Green to plead guilty at an earlier hearing, a matter reported by Scottish Law Reporter in an earlier article HERE.
The journalist reported he had attended a November hearing of the case at Stonehaven Sheriff Court on the basis he had been told by Crown Office officials Mr Green was to plead guilty to the Breach of the Peace Charge. The journalist indicated he had been assured “a deal had been worked out for the accused to plead guilty”. However, when the hearing took place in November at Stonehaven, Mr Green rejected the prosecution’s efforts to force a guilty plea which then suspiciously resulted in the withdrawal of Green’s legal team which included Francis McMenamin QC.
The tabloid journalist has confirmed to colleagues he spoke to individuals who attended the November hearing before it began. However after it became clear there was to be no guilty plea the journalist left the court as soon as possible without speaking to anyone else. A legal insider verified the journalist’s account of matters to Scottish Law Reporter. Alarmingly, the insider also claimed a transcript of a draft Press Release to be issued if Mr Green had entered a guilty plea has now been destroyed.
Reporting on the background of the case, Robert Green was arrested by Police on 12th February 2010 in relation to a breach of the peace alleged to have been committed in Aberdeen when Mr Green attempted to hand out leaflets regarding the anti-abuse campaign. It was also revealed the then Lord Advocate, now Dame Elish Angiolini had employed private law firm Levy McRae to serve interdicts on Mr Green in connection with his campaign
to ‘out’ alleged abusers of downs syndrome victim Hollie Greig. Glasgow law firm Levy McRae who later represented shamed former Glasgow City Council Boss & Cocaine addict Steven Purcell, proceeded to threaten several media outlets & journalists over their reporting of the case, covered by Scottish Law Reporter HERE & HERE. The Purcell scandal caused some newspapers to ‘evaluate’ their relationship with Levy McRae, details of which were featured in a report here : HERE
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill worked at same law firm used by then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini in interdict case. As details of the case began to be reported in the wider press, it emerged the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill has personal links to LEVY MCRAE, the law firm employed by the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini in legal action against Mr Green. Mr MacAskill has made no comment on the fact he served his apprenticeship at Levy McRae and also worked at the firm for a considerable time during his years as a solicitor before he entered politics, while he is thought to have backed Dame Angiolini in her actions at the time. The revelations were reported by Scottish Law Reporter at the time, HERE.
The now record costs of the Crown Office’ prosecution of Robert Green for a single Breach of the Peace, dubbed by legal insiders a “Three year private vendetta bankrolled by taxpayers against Robert Green & abuse victims” were revealed when Scottish Law Reporter earlier reported pre-trial costs had already risen to around HALF A MILLION POUNDS, after factoring in the expenses of all previous hearings and work by the Crown Office, Police, several other public bodies & legal aid.