Page last updated at 20:32 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Nicola Sturgeon apologises over court fraud plea error

From Democracy Live: Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's statement

Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has apologised for asking a court to consider alternatives to custody for a convicted fraudster.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that she had acted in good faith but accepted that the wording of her letter was "wrong".

She was criticised for writing to the court on behalf of constituent Abdul Rauf, who defrauded Department of Work and Pensions of £80,000.

Opposition parties argued it amounted to a serious error of judgement.

During her statement at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said she had given serious consideration to the criticisms levelled at her over writing the letter.

I assisted a constituent in good faith and for what I considered to be the right reasons, but in doing so I did get some things wrong and for that I am sorry
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister

She said: "I do believe in certain respects it could, and should, have been written differently.

"I regret the use of the word 'mistake' to describe Mr Rauf's offence.

"As I hope will become clear from other parts of the letter, I did not intend to downplay the seriousness of the crime that had been committed.

"However, I accept the use of the word mistake was open to that interpretation."

The deputy first minister also said that, on reflection, she should not have asked the court to consider alternatives to custody.

"Having drawn the court's attention to Mr Rauf's personal circumstances, I should have left it there," she said.

"I should not have gone on to ask the court to specifically consider alternatives to custody.

'Welcome' apology

"On reflection, that was a request more suited to my former occupation as a solicitor than to my current job as an MSP."

Ms Sturgeon added: "In short, I assisted a constituent in good faith and for what I considered to be the right reasons, but in doing so I did get some things wrong and for that I am sorry."

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said Ms Sturgeon's apology was "welcome" but called on her to withdraw her "letter of support" for Rauf.

He said: "She has accepted that she was not obliged to write the letter that she did, as was claimed last week.

I thank her for her candour, and her humility and her courageous recognition that she didn't get everything right
Annabel Goldie MSP
Scottish Conservative leader

"And she has accepted that she made a mistake and should not have written the letter she did.

"Her apology is welcome but she can still put this mistake right by withdrawing the letter, the terms of which she has now disavowed. Will she do that?"

Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie praised Ms Sturgeon for admitting that she had made mistakes.

"I thank her for her candour, and her humility and her courageous recognition that she didn't get everything right."

Ms Goldie said this contrasted sharply with the way First Minister Alex Salmond had reacted in the immediate aftermath of initial criticism of Ms Sturgeon's intervention.

"We got the usual Alex Salmond decibel delivery of rhetoric and arrogance," she said.

"Where there should have been humility and reflection all we got was bluster. Where there should have been an apology, all we got was defiance."

'Accepted guilt'

Robert Brown, Lib Dem MSP for Glasgow, welcomed the apology.

"But the deputy first minister knows that her explanation of the basis on which constituent complaints should be handled is simply not compatible with the repeated statement by the first minister that MSPs have "an absolute obligation" to take on such a case," he added.

"Her statement turns the spotlight fully on the first minister."

The letter which Ms Sturgeon wrote to Glasgow Sheriff Court suggested that 60-year-old Rauf might be spared prison on grounds of ill health.

In it, Ms Sturgeon stated: "Mr Rauf has accepted his wrong doing and has experienced the consequences of it through the effect on his health, the distress caused to his family and the impact on his standing in his community.

"He and his wife are anxious that a custodial sentence may be imposed by the court and of the effect this will have on Mr Rauf's health and the impact on family life.

"I would appeal to the court to take the points raised here into account and consider alternatives to a custodial sentence."

Rauf, who has a previous conviction for fraud, was released on bail after being told by Sheriff Alan MacKenzie that a prison term was "at the forefront" of his mind when the case calls again for sentencing.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
Cameron enters Sturgeon fraud row
13 Feb 10 |  Scotland
Salmond backs fraud plea minister
11 Feb 10 |  Scotland
Sturgeon faces resignation call
11 Feb 10 |  Scotland
Minister intervenes in fraud case
11 Feb 10 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific