Wednesday, 14 September 2016

The naming and shaming of a procurator fiscal depute who wanted to cover up evidence and her own name

Aberdeen Sheriff Court, 13th September 2016

That's me, Peter Dow, photographed leaving Aberdeen Sheriff Court on 13th September 2016

Sheriff Morag McLaughlin, presiding

In Aberdeen Sheriff Court 6 yesterday, Tuesday, 13th September 2016, I appeared in the dock, representing myself, before Sheriff McLaughlin, presiding, who invited the unknown-to-me lady procurator fiscal depute (who wasn't introduced to me, nor would she give her name to me at the end of proceedings - in violation of the principle of open and transparent justice) to report back to the court regarding police cooperation with my request to have, if not my computer equipment returned to me, at least a copy of the data made from the hard drive, for my defence.

The lady procurator fiscal depute said that the police estimated a cost of £200 to £300 in equipment that would need to be purchased, it would take a week to complete the copy and therefore the time and cost required was "not commensurate".

When allowed to reply, I reiterated my 2 reasons my defence needed the data -
  1. the distress and offence to me caused by the seizure by police of my irreplaceable science research data, from years of efforts (much longer than the "week" of police support officer time claimed to do the copy) - all particularly unhelpful when I am expected to represent myself in court,  
  2. I intended to consider what data from my hard disk I could extract and present as evidence in my case, to show my tweets in the context of my political activities as a republican
Further I said that, although I was not a lawyer, I believed that there was a duty on the prosecution to disclose evidence, that whilst the computer data evidence had been discovered - now we know the police have it - still the evidence had not yet been disclosed to the defence and that, were the crown to refuse to disclose the evidence, they had no business bringing the case to court.

Sheriff McLaughlin said that she had some sympathy with my request for a copy of the computer data, noting the requirement to ensure a fair trial with regard to the particular restrictions as to what the crown is prepared to agree with me being an accused representing myself and so she asked the prosecution to think again, ordering another intermediate diet, for the 27th September.

      Accused Details          Court Ref No            PF Ref No        Court Room
27 Alastair Peter DOW    SCS/2015-060310    AB14008188     Court 3

I restrained myself from interjecting to rebut Sheriff McLaughlin's claims to be attempting to ensure a "fair trial" because whilst I have already stated in writing in my plea letter that -
"To add to those police and bail condition violations of my human rights, you propose what would amount to a show trial of myself, a republican, for my anti-Queen comments, in the court of a Sheriff who has given an oath of allegiance to the Queen. 
Assuming the Sheriff has not recanted his or her oath of allegiance to the Queen, such a Queen's Sheriff cannot be impartial while presiding over a case where the Queen's interest is at issue. 
Since the Sheriff would not be impartial it follows that the trial cannot be fair. It could only be a show trial. 
So you propose no less than a kangaroo court where my anti-Queen comments are to be given a show trial before a Queen's Sheriff presiding in a Queen's court. 
In a Queen's court, the expectation must be that the Queen's interests will be given a prejudicial priority by a Queen's Sheriff and the scales of justice weighed heavily against any party whose interests are opposed to the Queen's interest. 
My interests in defending against your charges certainly are opposed to the Queen's interest. So my interests cannot be given a fair trial in a Queen's court. 
There is a public interest to have political freedom which is also opposed to the Queen's interest to suppress political criticism of the Queen and her officials. So this public interest cannot be given a fair trial in a Queen's court either. 
A fair trial of your petition and my defence to your charge can only be had in a court which is not a Queen's court. 
Therefore if you wish to insist on prosecuting your charge against me, I have a human right under the ECHR to be afforded a fair trial before a court other than the Sheriff Court, a court which must not be a Queen's court and which must be seen to be impartial."
- I have not already explained the details of my plea letter in court and much remains unsaid about that.

At one point Sheriff McLaughlin said that I would get my computer equipment back (eventually?), saying "sorry" at which point I did interject to say that whilst I was pleased to hear her say "sorry" the appropriate apology was for her to throw the case out of court - but she claimed that she was not able to do that for me.

Before leaving the dock I did ask if it was in order to ask for the name of the lady prosecutor but when Sheriff McLaughlin looked to the procurator fiscal depute for her response to my request, the lady procurator fiscal depute shook her head and would not state her name for me to take note of.

I said that I was attempting to establish a dialogue with the procurator fiscal's office to seek an out-of-court settlement (deleting the tweets, apologising, etc) and so it is helpful for me to know the names of the people involved, that the reluctance for the lady to be named was embarrassing for the court, that I had to give my name in court, that I knew the Sheriff's name, that I had been introduced to Mr Townsend (the procurator fiscal depute for the previous 2 court diets) and that we were supposed to have open justice but Sheriff McLaughlin defended the unidentified prosecutor saying she was there as a (nameless / faceless?) representative of the crown.

Yes, the shameful nameless lady prosecutor fiscal depute was indeed a typical representative of a unjust crown which much prefers to get away with covering the truth up.

Post-script - Naming and shaming

Thanks to today's Press and Journal story of 14th September, North-east man accused of threatening Queen demands police return computer, the heretofore shamed lady procurator fiscal depute has subsequently been named as "Sophie Hanlon".

 Stephen Walsh in the Press and Journal wrote -
An Aberdeen man accused of threatening the Queen on social media sites has accused prosecutors of “offending science and humanity” after they seized his computer as evidence.
Alastair Peter Dow is alleged to have caused fear and alarm on July 25 and 26 2014 by posting offensive, abusive and threatening messages online about the monarch.
Prosecutors claim the 54-year-old acted in a threatening and abusive manner at his home, 21 Hollybank Place, Aberdeen.
Dow denies the charge against him.
Yesterday, he appeared at the city’s sheriff court and asked for the Crown Office to return his personal computer, which was seized by police more than two years ago.
But fiscal depute Sophie Hanlon said the Crown Office had been told by police it would cost between £200-300 for the files on Mr Dow’s computer to be copied and returned to him.
She also said that police were reluctant to copy the files because it would take them up to a week to do so.
But Mr Dow argued there could be evidence on his computer which may help in his defence.
He said: “I consider that the data on the computer is essential to my work.
“It’s stressful enough being in the dock without this offence against science and humanity.
“There’s years of my research that’s in the hands of the police, it’s my whole life’s work essentially.
“The data itself has not been made available to me, I may wish to make comment on it to provide context to the Tweets.”
Sheriff Morag McLaughlin said some of the files could be used by Dow in his defence and that to prevent him from accessing them may result in an unfair trial.
She called for another hearing later this month to give prosecutors the chance to go back the police and see if they can provide a copy of Mr Dow’s computer files.
Dow is due to stand trial later this year.
Well I'd rather be appearing in the pages of the Press and Journal under happier circumstances but thanks to Stephen Walsh for his court report - and thanks to the photographer too!

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