Thursday, 11 February 2010

Further on the Nicola Sturgeon Situtation

As one would have guessed the story of the morning on Scottish blogs revolves around Nicola Sturgeon. One thing you can trust about the internet, bloggers and their commentators is that is some knowledge, sane opinions and comments amongst all the detritus.

Jeff at SNP Tactical Voting launches into a defence of the SNP Deputy First Minister ignoring one key fact, this is not the man's first offence. Yes he is now willing to sell the property that for 5 years he forgot he owned to pay any fine and pay back the amount he had defrauded. But he'd been fraudulent before and after serving a four year term the Judge may not deem that a non-custodial sentence would be enough for the man, as used by the MSP for Glasgow Govan requested.

It is his comments that show some knowledge comes to the fore which I think is worthy of consideration. DougtheDug points out the MSP's code of conduct parenthesis his:

8.1 Dealing with individual constituents' cases

8.1.1 Every constituent is represented by one constituency MSP and seven regional MSPs. It is expected that each member will take on a case when approached although it is recognised that there may be legitimate reasons for a member to decline a constituent's case in certain circumstances, for example, where a constituent requests an MSP to take inappropriate action, or if that case seeks action which would represent a conflict of interest with existing casework or is contrary to the member's political beliefs. If so, the member would ordinarily be expected to inform the constituent that the member is not taking up the case

Also Scott at Love and Garbage adds:

I spoke to a friend that's a Procurator Fiscal (PF) last night and read a locked blog post from another. Their combined experience is around 45 years of prosecuting. Neither is aware of a letter from a serving government minister having been used in mitigation throughout their careers (although MSPs or MPS do write to the PF as matters progress for information or to raise issues which can be taken in the decision to prosecute). Neither has seen a letter from an MSP or MP where there are previous convictions in relation to the same general matter, and the matter has this level of seriousness (and £80,000 fraud is not trivial).

This highlights the point made by Donald Findlay, the Queen's Counsel, who was defending Rauf at Glasgow Sheriff Court, said it was the first time in his long legal career he had handed the court a letter from someone of such importance.

The letter has now been made public (see above) in which Ms Sturgeon writes:

"For a number of years Mr Rauf has suffered from poor health mainly associated with his heart; he has a family, including young children aged under ten; and he is heavily involved in the community. All of these aspects of his life have been impacted upon by the mistake he has made."

No where in this letter does Ms Sturgeon seem to mention as I wrote earlier that she was aware of the previous conviction, indeed she says:

"I have been aware of Mr Rauf's case since July 2008 when he sought assistance from me after a search warrant was executed at his home by the Department of Work and Pension and officers of the Strathclyde Police."

The only mitigating circumstance she puts forward that might be taken into consideration is a heart issue, she does not specify what. As many people survive quite happily with minor heart conditions. That missing factor of the severity, on a casual reading, suggests it is mild but has been worsened because of the pressures maybe of being found out again etc.

As Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken points out:

"It is extraordinary to describe a second conviction for fraud as a mistake. Either Ms Sturgeon didn't care about his previous fraud conviction or she didn't check. Either would be unbelievable and a grave lapse of judgment. His previous conviction was a matter of public record as recently as four weeks ago. To call these crimes a mistake is simply wrong."

The more that unearths about this issue, the lack of propriety that Ms Sturgeon has shown on this issue comes to the fore. As pointed out above there is no 'obligation', nor is there 'precedent' for this level of intervention on a second, more serious, conviction for the same crime.

Whether that is a resigning issue or not is something for Ms Sturgeon and her party colleagues to decide. However, we must not lose sight of the reasons they have called for the resignation or removal of others themselves in the past when we consider the eventual outcome.

UPDATE: As you can see from the top left hand corner this blog got a mention the following day in The Scotsman article on the Blogopshere's take on this story:

Stephen's Linlithgow Blog, put together by a Lib Dem party member, was less damning but still critical:"There is no 'obligation', nor is there 'precedent' for this level of intervention," it said.

Ok they got the name of the blog wrong but still I like the comment.

1 comment:

  1. I think Nicola Sturgeon has shown poor political judgement, but this does not make her a bad person, or MSP. She has merely followed her own moral compass and, possibly with naiveity, been to kind to a bad person.