Alistair Carmichael has case to answer over memo leak scandal

Election Court concludes that Carmichael's behaviour calls into question his "suitability" to be an MP

THE legal challenge against Alistair Carmichael's election as MP for Orkney and Shetland will proceed after an Election Court found he has a case to answer under the Representation of People Act 1983.

Judges Lady Patton and Lord Matthews said that the section 106 of the act, which makes it illegal to make "any false statements of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct", can relate either to false statements made by one candidate about another, or false statements made by a candidate about themselves.

During the May 2015 General Election, whilst in his post as secretary of state for Scotland, Carmichael authorised the leaking of a memo containing an erroneous conversation between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the French ambassador implying that Sturgeon would prefer David Cameron to win the election.

Quoted in the National , the judges said that Carmichael's statement during the election that he had no knowledge of the leak was "untruthful, as he was well aware".

"It was a deliberate attempt to conceal the truth, namely that he was not only aware that the leak of the memorandum had come from the Scotland Office but that he had been directly involved in its release," they said.

"The fact that the first respondent [Carmichael] saw fit to tell untruths in this regard, and to deliberately conceal his role in the leak of the memorandum, relates directly to his personal character. It calls into question his integrity as an individual. It thus calls into question his suitability to represent the constituency at Westminster," they added.

The judges have determined there must now be a "By Order hearing" in order to take evidence on whether Carmichael made false statements of fact relating to Mr Carmichael's personal character or conduct, and whether any statements were made to alter the outcome of the election of any one candidate.

The case was brought by four of Carmichael's constituents who felt that his conduct during the election meant he was unfit to represent them. The constituents financed their challenge through crowd funding, raising almost PS100,000.

UPDATE: The Quotes attributed in this article to judges Lady Paton and Lord Matthews were in fact statements previously made by the petitioners, reproduced in the judges report. The quotations were reprinted as those of Paton and Matthews in the original source for the article.

We thank our diligent readers for pointing this out.

Picture courtesy of Liberal Democrats