The Scottish Government is refusing to disclose whether it has lost or destroyed communications records relating to the Hollie Greig case which may indicate when the First Minister Alex Salmond became aware of allegations of sexual abuse, which Ms Greig claims was carried out against her over many years whilst resident in the Aberdeen area.
Last month the Scottish Ministers were compelled by the Information Commissioner to address a series of questions put to the First Minister in correspondence in relation to the case in January this year, the first of which was: “When did you first become aware of the allegations made by Hollie Greig about her being abused by members of a high-ranking paedophile ring in Scotland?”
The commissioner required the Scottish Ministers to respond by today’s date or risk being held in contempt of court.
It was reported in April 2009 that Greig received a payout of £13,500 from the criminal injuries compensation authority, and was described by Detective Inspector Iain Allen of Grampian Police as “a truthful witness to the best of her ability and an entirely innocent victim.”
Two Grampian Police Officers interviewed Greig in September 2009. No charges have been brought against anyone in connection with sexual abuse.
The Scottish Ministers’ response to the question, issued by the First Minister’s Private Secretary Terry Kowal stated: “Following a search of our paper and electronic records, I have established we do not have a record of when the First Minister became aware of these allegations. Therefore, the information you require is not held by the Scottish Government.”
However, The Firm has seen correspondence from the Crown Office dated 23 July 2009 addressed to the Greig family’s lay representative Robert Green, which suggests that correspondence addressed to the First Minister outlining the allegations was received over two years ago.
“Thank you for your email of 20 June 2009 to the First Minister in which you raise concerns about the handling of the case involving allegations of abuse perpetrated against Hollie Greig,” the letter says.
The letter then says that Green’s inquiry was passed to the Crown Office for response, given the nature of the subject matter.
When pressed by The Firm to explain the apparent contradiction between the two positions, the First Minister’s office told The Firm today only that “we do not have a record of when the First Minister first became aware of these allegations”.
The First Minister’s office have acknowledged receipt of The Firm’s subsequent query asking whether the records had been destroyed, but have offered no direct response, despite repeated requests.
Russell Fallis of the Scottish Government communications team issued a statement to The Firm that said the First Minister’s office “receives a large volume of correspondence on a wide range of subjects, which is answered by that office or by relevant officials” , and added that the Government does not have “any indication that this information was recorded.”
Pressed to confirm whether the correspondence was destroyed or lost, the First Minister’s office has provided no response.
The correspondence questioning the First Minister was sent on 28 January and had received no response, despite a series of reminder letters. The Information Commissioner later ruled that the Scottish Ministers had failed to comply with their obligations under Sections 10(1) and 21(1) of the Freedom of Information Act.
This afternoon the Information Commissioner confirmed he is now considering whether “further action is required” against the Scottish Government in respect of their handling of the original correspondence containing the six queries.
In May, Andrew George MP wrote to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland asking him to outline the options available to “those many people who remain concerned” about the “unsafe” investigations into the Hollie Greig case.
“There appears to be a lot of evidence and allegations which point in one direction and indicates that this whole case deserves a through review,” George wrote in constituency correspondence.
He adds that “many of the professionals with whom she came into contact…have allegedly failed in their duties or even covered up important facts.”
George was the second Westminster MP to raise concerns about the case, following David Ruffely MP’s intervention earlier this year.