Emma Caldwell Case (Independent Public Inquiry)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

1. Yesterday, after nearly 20 years, the murderer of Emma Caldwell was finally brought to justice. As well as her murder, Iain Packer was convicted of 33 offences against 22 women, which he committed over three decades. He should have been behind bars years ago.

This morning, speaking via her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, Emma’s mother, Margaret Caldwell, told us:

“They knew it was Iain Packer as far back as 2006, but they gave him ... freedom to carry on attacking and raping vulnerable women like my Emma.”

Margaret had a message for the First Minister:

“If Mr Yousaf genuinely cares about victims and my Emma then he has no other option but to organise an independent public inquiry.”

She continued:

“with respect—what are you waiting for?”

Will Humza Yousaf take the opportunity today to immediately announce the establishment of a judge-led inquiry?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank Douglas Ross for raising an exceptionally important issue. First and foremost, I once again give my condolences and those of the Government to Emma’s family, friends and loved ones at what will continue to be an extraordinarily difficult time. I pay tribute to Margaret Caldwell, Emma’s mother, and her family, who tirelessly fought for justice for not only Emma but the many other women who suffered at the hands of Iain Packer. I also recognise the important role that journalists from the

Sunday Mail and BBC Scotland have played in the case, as well as the tenacity of the reporters in trying to seek out justice.

Yesterday’s verdict will not, I suspect, have brought elation or happiness to Emma’s family, or to Margaret in particular, but I hope that it gives them a tiny crumb of comfort that justice, to some extent, has been done. However, Douglas Ross is right that justice came far too late. There is no doubt that there are serious failings in the case. I have responded in writing to Margaret Caldwell’s legal representative to say that I am willing to meet Margaret Caldwell, alongside the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs.

With regard to a public inquiry, I want to hear from Margaret Caldwell and examine the case. It is not just about getting more detail—it is important to say that there is still an on-going legal process. Iain Packer has the right to appeal, so we must wait, to some extent, to see the next stages of that legal process. Let me be clear that we are exploring a judge-led public inquiry. It is absolutely not off the table, and we are giving serious consideration to that, given the systemic failings of the case.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I agree with almost everything that the First Minister said, but a judge-led inquiry needs to be more than explored and should not be off the table. Of course, legal routes still have to be established and finished, but we know that there are major failings in the case that will not change, regardless of an appeal.

This morning, via her legal counsel, Aamer Anwar, Margaret Caldwell told us:

“A judge led public inquiry—that acts without fear or favour—is the very least my Emma and the many women who spoke up deserve. For far too long, those in the police or crown who failed us have remained in the shadows.”

She finished by saying:

“Only a judge led public inquiry will reveal the corruption, the criminality and the motivation.”

Emma Caldwell’s family and many other women who were attacked need answers now, not in another 20 years. The victims and their families need a free and fearless public inquiry that they can fully trust. The First Minister needs to say today that he agrees to that judge-led inquiry. We are calling for that inquiry to be led by a judge from outwith Scotland. Will he agree to that?

The First Minister:

There is not much difference between Douglas Ross and me in this regard. I do not rule out a public inquiry. I am suggesting that it is important and prudent for me to meet Margaret Caldwell in order to hear directly from her and from her legal representative, and to explore and examine what the interaction would be between any inquiry and an on-going legal process. I hear what Douglas Ross is saying. If there is to be a judge-led public inquiry, the question is whether it should be led by a judge from outside Scotland. That question is worthy of consideration if we get to that position.

Let me be absolutely clear that we do not rule out a judge-led public inquiry—in fact, it is firmly on the table. As First Minister, it is important that I consider the on-going legal process.

I go back to the central point, on which Douglas Ross and I do not disagree, that many women—we know of at least 21 of them—were subjected to the most horrendous attacks, sexual assault, rape, and, tragically in Emma’s case, murder, by Iain Packer. Ultimately, they were let down by failings in the justice system and failings in the police service at the time. I commend the bravery of the many women who have come forward to speak about their experiences in the pursuit of justice.

I go back to my central point. I will meet Margaret Caldwell and her legal representative. I am very open to the suggestion of and the calls for a judge-led public inquiry.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I really feel that the First Minister has to go further. He said in his answer that people have been let down. There are many failings—we know that. Regardless of any appeal that is still to come, the failings of the police and the Crown are crystal clear. That is why a judge-led inquiry by someone from outwith Scotland is the only option—it must be the only option on the table. The First Minister needs to take the opportunity today to agree to that and announce it.

An inquiry led by a judge from outwith Scotland will get to the bottom of what happened. Those were not just mere accidents by Police Scotland or the Crown Office; it seems that evidence was deliberately ignored and suppressed. The truth only emerged after years of campaigning by Emma’s family and when a former detective, Gerry Gallacher, stepped forward as a whistleblower. He publicly identified Iain Packer as a suspect in the media. It is utterly shocking that the response from the police was to launch a surveillance operation targeting the journalists and the whistleblowers. One of the whistleblowers, Gerry Gallacher, said that there must be consequences for those who are responsible. Does Humza Yousaf agree on that point?

The First Minister:

I agree that the targeting of not just police officers but journalists is incredibly worrying and concerning.

I go back to the question that Douglas Ross asked me from the very beginning about a public inquiry. If the Government is to announce a judge-led public inquiry, which we are seriously considering and exploring, it is important for us to speak to Margaret Caldwell and to come to the Parliament with the full detail of what any public inquiry could look to explore and examine, and what any potential terms of reference might look like. I go back to my central point that we are not at all opposed to a public inquiry and that, in fact, that is very firmly in our consideration.

Douglas Ross is absolutely right. When we look back over the history of the case, some of the allegations that are being made in relation to Police Scotland—and the legacy forces that existed prior to Police Scotland’s formation—are astonishing. On behalf of the Government and to give some level of assurance, I note that that is why the work on violence against women and girls is so important to this very day. We continue to ensure that we fund that work.

There are many questions to answer around why Iain Packer was able to evade justice and continue to commit the many crimes that he did for so long. We will seriously consider all the options that are on the table, including a judge-led public inquiry. We will also take on board Douglas Ross’s suggestion that, if there is to be a public inquiry, we should consider whether a judge outwith Scotland should lead it.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

Emma Caldwell, her grieving family and Iain Packer’s many other victims were betrayed by what was one of Scotland’s worst policing scandals. Many questions remain about this shameful saga, which can be answered only by a fearless, transparent and independent inquiry. I really think that that is the only option.

We need to know why it took so long to charge Iain Packer. Why was he allowed to remain free to attack more women? Who was responsible for allowing him, after multiple interviews, to continue to walk free?

I hope that the First Minister can take from this the need to urgently and immediately meet Margaret Caldwell and her legal representatives, to give an urgent statement to Parliament in a matter of days, and to finally announce that the Government is launching an independent inquiry, and that it will be led by a judge from outside Scotland.

The First Minister:

Douglas Ross is right that there are lots of questions that demand an answer. It is important that the many women who have been failed—Emma Caldwell was ultimately failed, but many other women have also been failed by the justice system and police forces previously—get the answers to the questions that they rightly have.

I assure Douglas Ross that we will seek to meet Margaret Caldwell and her legal representative urgently, and we will look at the options in front of us and come back to Parliament on that urgently. As Douglas Ross said in his opening question, women have waited far too long for justice, given the history of the case.

I will end where I started, by paying tribute to Margaret Caldwell in particular, but also to the many other women who came forward bravely to speak about their experiences, and to the fearless journalists who first unmasked Iain Packer’s activities and were tireless in their pursuit for justice. Not only will we meet Margaret Caldwell, but we are very seriously considering the option of a public inquiry.