Clive Thomson

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Clive Thomson is a Scottish independence activist who was convicted of contempt of court and jailed in February 2021 for six months. Clive Thomson had breached a strict court order which prohibited the identification of the complainers who gave evidence at the former First Minister Alex Salmond’s trial in March 2020. Lady Leeona Dorrian - the judge who presided over the trial which resulted in Salmond being acquitted of all charges - had passed the order during trial.

Judges Lady Dorrian, Lord Pentland and Lord Turnbull heard how Thomson, from Rosyth in Fife, named the females on Twitter on two different occasions in August 2020. The court heard that Thomson knew that he was not supposed to name the women but did so anyway. He believed he was safe from prosecution because he was holidaying abroad at the time of one of the offending tweets. The court also heard that he also sought advice from other Twitter users about how he could get around the court order.[1]

Jailed for contempt

Sentencing Clive Thomson Lady Dorrian stated:

“The Court has taken account of the fact that this was a deliberate, and indeed planned, contempt of court. It is very serious matter. There are very good reasons why complainers in sexual offence cases are given anonymity. The protection is, by convention, afforded to complainers in all cases, not just the one with which we are concerned. Moreover, the reason for such protection extends beyond the complainers in the present case. One reason for it is that the risk of public knowledge of their identities can operate as a severe deterrent to others against making complaints to the authorities in sexual cases.

"It so happens that the protection in this case was backed up by a specific order of the court to underline its importance, and you knew that this order had been made. Nevertheless you deliberately took it into your own hands to flout that order and post the names of those involved, believing at the time of your second post that you might be safe from proceedings from contempt of court by being abroad. You had thus given thought to how you might get away with it, going as far as to seek advice about that on Twitter. You decided to take a calculated risk. This was a blatant and deliberate breach of the order, which was likely to cause serious stress and concern to the complainers and interfere with the protection extended to them by the order. You not only provide the names of five of the complainers, you linked them with the initials by which they were referred in mainstream media. First you tweeted the name of one complainer, and were immediately warned in response by someone else that this was contempt. In the face of both that warning and the court order you tweeted other names. Your actions were clearly politically motivated, with a small “p”, as can be seen from the content of the third sentence of the second post. The first three words show very clearly that you knew what you were doing and that you deliberately chose to flout the order of the court.

"We have read with care the Criminal Justice Social Work Report and listened to the points advanced on your behalf this morning. We are not unmindful of the effect imprisonment will have on your life and that of members of your family. However, for such a premeditated contempt, we are satisfied that there is no alternative to a custodial sentence, and we therefore propose to impose a sentence of 6 months imprisonment from today’s date, which period reflects the early acceptance of your guilt.”[2]

Avoiding jail by naming pre-trial

Stuart Campbell writes in Wings Over Scotland:

In Scotland, unlike England, no automatic right of anonymity in sexual assault cases exists. It has to be specifically ordered by the judge in each case, something that didn’t happen until the first day of the Salmond trial after James Doleman of Byline Times directly named one of the complainers in a tweet, for which major breach he was merely admonished and excluded from the court on subsequent days.[3]

(This is despite the fact that Byline Times is not subject to IPSO adjudication and indeed calls the organisation a “sham regulator”, and therefore by Lady Dorrian’s own ruling she should have treated Doleman more harshly than “proper” journalists.)[4]

This, clearly, would be a wildly undesirable state of affairs. Genuine victims – unlike the Salmond complainers – would be strongly dissuaded from making their complaints, in the knowledge that their names would be public and they themselves might be subject to intrusive and traumatic scrutiny in the press.

But it is the inescapable logic of Lady Dorrian’s judgement. Naming all of the Salmond complainers before the trial would have protected Craig Murray, and he wouldn’t be going to jail today (nor would Clive Thomson, who served a six-month sentence earlier this year for naming some of them on social media).[5]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Lady Dorrian's Lawblog post30 July 2021Stuart CampbellThe ruinous determination of the Scottish Government and the Scottish judicial system to put someone, anyone connected to Alex Salmond in jail out of the First Minister’s demented paranoia and sheer malice has had many disastrous outcomes, for individuals, taxpayers and the country as a whole.
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