Murdo Fraser has welcomed the Lord Advocate’s concession that there needs to be a judge-led inquiry into the case involving the Crown Office and the former Rangers Football Club but says “it doesn’t go far enough”.
The call for an inquiry comes after the Lord Advocate admitted to the malicious prosecution of David Whitehouse and Paul Clark, administrators of the former Rangers Football Club.
Now, Mr Fraser says the inquiry should be led by a judiciary from outwith Scotland in order to be “credible in the eyes of both the legal profession and the Scottish public”.
Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark, of corporate restructuring firm Duff and Phelps, were arrested on suspicion of fraud after Craig Whyte’s takeover of the club in 2011.
They were both forced to spend an entire weekend in a Glasgow jail cell after being arrested at their Chester homes in 2014.
Former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland dropped the case in 2016, before current Lord Advocate James Wolffe continued to fight it until last year.
Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark were awarded £21 million in compensation and a further £3m in legal fees as a result of their malicious prosecution.
There are still live proceedings in regards to five other cases between directors and administrators of the former Rangers Football Club and the Crown Office.
The Crown Office could be forced to pay overall damages of up to £100m when all the cases are finalised.
‘The Crown Office cannot prosecute itself”
Mr Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday that as Mr Whitehouse has now made allegations of criminality by the former Lord Advocate and current high court judge Mr Mulholland, the inquiry should be overseen by a judge from outside Scotland.
He said: “We know already that there are questions of criminality within the Crown Office and it would be outrageous for these to be investigated internally.
“The Crown Office cannot prosecute itself. That is why my motion today is calling for a full independent and public inquiry conducted by a member of the judiciary from outside Scotland.
“That is the only way that the findings of any inquiry will have credibility in the eyes of both the legal profession and the Scottish public,” he added.
‘Essential there is full public confidence’
Expanding on this, Mr Fraser said that questions need to be answered by both Mr Mulholland and Mr Wolffe.
He said: “The only connection between these seven individuals was their association with Rangers Football Club. What was the motivation of the Crown Office in pursuing them, given the lack of evidence of any crime having been committed?
“In any democracy where the rule of law is respected, it is essential that there is full public confidence in the prosecution system.
“That is precisely why we need answers to all these questions. The public need to be reassured that what we have just seen can never happen again.”
In response, Mr Wolffe ensured the chamber that “any allegations of criminal conduct will be considered fairly and objectively”.
He said: “I’m putting in place arrangements, including the involvement of external senior council with no previous involvement in these matters, to ensure that any allegations of criminal conduct will be considered fairly and objectively.”
While Mr Wolffe would not agree that a judge from outwith the country is needed, he said that any judge would need to be “demonstrably independent”.
“I entirely agree that any judge appointed would require to be demonstrably independent and command confidence in that regard.
“It may well be appropriate to appoint a judge from outwith Scotland; however, it would be premature at this time to conclude that, when the time comes to establish the inquiry, there is no Scottish judge that could satisfy that requirement.”