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Former Scotland leader in court on sex charges

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Former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond arrives at the High Court in Edinburgh on March 9, 2020, to attend the first day of a his trial over allegations of sexual assault. – Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond was due to go on trial Monday accused of a string of sexual offences, including an attempted rape at his official residence in 2014. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond arrived in court on Monday for the start of his trial for a string of alleged sexual offences, including an attempted rape at his official residence in 2014.

The 65-year-old, wearing a dark suit, said nothing to waiting for reporters as he entered the High Court in Edinburgh for the case, which has been scheduled to last four weeks.

Salmond, who led the devolved government in Edinburgh from 2007 to 2014, faces two counts of indecent assault, 10 of sexual assault, attempted rape and a sexual assault with intent to rape, according to the indictment.

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The case is being held before a 15-member jury and a judge.

Salmond told reporters outside the court when he was charged in January 2019: “I am innocent of any criminality whatsoever.

“I refute absolutely these allegations of criminality and I will defend myself to the utmost in court.”

Salmond, who is married and a former economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, took over the leadership of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1990.

He led the unsuccessful SNP campaign for Scottish independence in a referendum in 2014.

He left office at the end of that year and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon, who has revived calls for a new referendum after Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Salmond, who lives in northeast Scotland, has since been employed as a talk show host by Russia Today.

Three possible verdicts
The prosecution alleges in the indictment that the offences were committed at various locations across Scotland between June 2008 and November 2014.

The most serious allegation of attempted rape is said to have happened in June 2014 at the first minister’s official Bute House residence in the Scottish capital.

He is alleged to have repeatedly kissed a woman’s face and neck, groped her, pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her.

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The other offences are alleged to have taken place at a nightclub and a restaurant.

Under Scottish law, none of the 10 alleged victims can be identified.

Strict media reporting restrictions are in place to prevent information not presented before the jury in court prejudicing the trial.

Salmond himself could be called to give evidence, although he is under no obligation to do so, as the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Unlike in England and Wales, which has a separate legal system, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proven, which has the same status in law as an acquittal.

The jury’s decision does not need to be unanimous. A majority verdict needs only eight of the 15 jurors to agree.

At the end of the prosecution evidence, the defence can also argue there is no case to answer and that the evidence is not strong enough to put before the jury.

Should the judge agree, the accused can be acquitted.

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