You can read 9 more articles this month
SCOTTISH ministers were accused of “heavy-handed interference” in the freedom of the press today, as Nicola Sturgeon claimed she was not aware that one of her own government agencies had taken a newspaper to court until the case became public.
Last month the Sunday Mail published images of HMP Edinburgh prisoner Allan Marshall being dragged naked across a corridor and “restrained” with a towel over his face in an incident three years ago. Mr Marshall died in hospital while still in custody.
On Saturday August 24 the paper was told to attend a court hearing to stop publication of the images in the paper the following day.
At a hearing after midnight the Scottish Prison Service, which officially filed its interdict via the Scottish government, withdrew its objection to publication of the images.
The newspaper agreed to hold off publishing a video of the events pending full legal considerations. But prison chiefs dropped their case entirely on August 28, allowing the video to be uploaded online.
At First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) today, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard demanded to know who authorised the action.
Noting that a fatal accident inquiry had said Mr Marshall’s death was “entirely preventable,” he asked if Ms Sturgeon or her Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf was responsible.
Ms Sturgeon replied: “It was neither. The decision was taken by the Scottish Prison Service and it decided later not to proceed with the action in the circumstances. I think that that decision was the right one.”
Mr Leonard went on to ask: “Does the First Minister regret this heavy-handed interference in the freedom of the press? Will she apologise to members of Allan Marshall’s family, who are in the public gallery in Parliament today?”
He also called for a “full independent investigation into her government’s actions.”
In a press briefing after FMQs, Ms Sturgeon’s spokesman confirmed that Mr Yousaf had been informed of the court proceedings on the Saturday night.
But the spokesman said: “There’s a very clear distinction between being told it was happening and being involved in it.”
Asked if Mr Yousaf had informed Ms Sturgeon, the spokesman said: “No … the first the FM, as I understand it, became aware was when it came into the public domain.”
“[Mr Yousaf] was informed, but he wasn’t involved.”
The spokesman said Mr Yousaf had not made representations that the case should not be pursued.
Mr Marshall’s aunt Sharon MacFadyen, who attended FMQs today, said: “Allan’s death has devastated our family and the attempts to stop journalists reporting on what went on inside the prison was disgraceful.”
Following a meeting with Mr Marshall’s family, Mr Leonard and Scottish Labour justice spokesman James Kelly agreed to call on Holyrood’s justice committee to launch its own investigation.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.