A FORMER diplomat sentenced to eight months in jail for contempt of court during the Alex Salmond trial has been refused leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court by three judges at the High Court in Edinburgh. 

Blogger Craig Murray, 62, was told he had “seriously and flagrantly impaired” the rights of complainers in the trial and had a "high" degree of culpability. 

He now intends to apply for leave to appeal directly to the UK’s highest court instead.

The warrant for his imprisonment has been suspended to July 6 to let him do so.

The former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan was found to have published material capable of identifying four of the women who accused the former First Minister of sexual assaults.

Mr Murray, who believed the prosecution was unwarranted, attended two days of the trial at the High Court in Edinburgh in March 2020, then wrote about it on his website.

Three judges, including the trial judge the Lord Justice Clerk Lady Dorrian, later ruled he was was in contempt of court due to the risk of jigsaw identification - publishing material which added to other information in the public domain could have identified complainers.

At his sentencing last month, Lady Dorrian said Murray seemed to be “relishing” the potential disclosure of identities despite court orders granting the women lifelong anonymity.

Mr Salmond was cleared of all charges of sexual assault at the trial.

Murray was given three weeks to appeal the court's contempt finding.

At a High Court hearing on Monday, Murray's lawyer Roddy Dunlop QC argued he should be granted permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against verdict and sentence.

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The notion of jigsaw identification had received “relatively little attention” from the courts, Mr Dunlop said, adding: “The proliferation of blogging makes the outcome here one of general importance. This is an issue of acute sensitivity and one on which the view of the Supreme Court would be very welcome.”

However delivering a written verdict today on behalf of herself, Lord Menzies and Lord Turnbull, Lady Dorrian refused, as there were “no arguable points of law arising”.

Mr Murray had sought leave to appeal by arguing the contempt finding was incompatible with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that the sentence was “disproportionate” and so incompatible with Article 10.

But on the sentencing aspect,  Lady Dorrian said it was the rights of the complainers not to be identified which had been “seriously and flagrantly impaired” by Murray’s actions.

She said the “scale of offending” and “high” level of culpability on Murray’s part had been taken into account by the court.

She said: “Some complainers were the subject of repeated articles, thus constituting aggravations of the original breach.

“The level of culpability - high - was also taken into account, as were the personal circumstances of the applicant.

“The sanctions determination was in itself an exercise in proportionality.”

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She went on: “In its determination, the court considered the rationale for the protection of anonymity, and the fact that it extends beyond the rights of complainers in the individual case to providing comfort to those who may be considering reporting a sexual offence. 

“It considered that the actions of the applicant were such as struck at the heart of the fair administration of justice.”

She said it was “not a tenable argument” that Mr Murray’s “genuinely held belief that the prosecution of the former first minister was unwarranted” was relevant to the sanction.

“It is the repeated publication of material likely to lead to identification of complainers in the face of a clear order of the court prohibiting that which drew the sanction. 

“The [complainers’ anonymity] order did not prevent discussion of whether the prosecution was objectively justified. The applicant [Murray] remains free to pursue discussion of that issue, as long as the anonymity of the complainers is respected.”

She concluded: “Having reached the conclusion that there are no arguable points of law arising, the court will refuse the application.

“We understand that it is the applicant’s intention to seek to apply for leave directly to the UKSC. In the circumstances we will suspend the warrant for a further four weeks.”

Mr Murray later took to social media to complain about his treatment.

He wrote on Twitter: “Most important point in my trial? Crown is allowed to release lurid details of prosecution case. Then the court has set the bar for jigsaw ID so low ANY reporting of the defence case on top of Crown releases becomes ‘jigsaw ID’. 

“So the public only knows the prosecution case.

“A huge constraint on freedom of speech, media and right to fair trial. Verdict in my case makes it impossible to clear public name of accused even if acquitted.”