Emma Caldwell Case

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

2. Presiding Officer,

“A toxic culture of misogyny and corruption meant the police failed so many women and girls who came forward to speak up against Packer. Instead of receiving justice and compassion, they were humiliated, dismissed and in some instances arrested, whilst the police gifted freedom to an evil predator to rape and rape again.”

Those were the powerful words of Margaret Caldwell yesterday. We know that, after the murder of her daughter Emma in 2005, Iain Packer committed 19 rapes, sexual offences or assaults. Those victims could have been protected if Iain Packer had been properly investigated.

I want to press the First Minister on the issue of who would lead any potential inquiry. This injustice has spanned 19 years and, in that time, we have had five Lord Advocates and six chief constables. Does the First Minister agree that, for any inquiry or review to be truly independent, it requires to be led by an individual who is separate and independent from Scotland’s criminal justice system?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Much like Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar makes some very important points on this issue. I will come to a few of them, if I can.

First and foremost, Anas Sarwar is right that, in Scotland, we still have a serious problem with misogyny. There is a lot of cross-party consensus on some of the actions that the Scottish Government is taking forward to tackle violence against women and girls. I hope to bring a debate to the Parliament on positive masculinity, which is a concept designed to remove and eradicate some of the toxic behaviours that we see among some young men and boys in our society. There is little difference between us on the need to tackle that pervasive issue in our society.

With regard to the timeline of the multiple failures of the justice system in relation to Emma Caldwell’s murder, as I said to Douglas Ross, I think that there is a strong argument that, for whichever type of review is held, or if there is, ultimately, a judge-led public inquiry, it should be led by somebody outwith Scotland. I do not remove that option from the table—it is firmly on the table and part of our consideration.

However, as I said to Douglas Ross, there are a few considerations that we must deal with rapidly and urgently around the on-going legal process. I must also hear directly from Margaret Caldwell—I have not yet had the opportunity to meet her, as I am waiting for the conclusion of the case before I do so.

We will give the suggestion that both Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar have made serious consideration.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

There are many troubling issues with this case—misogyny, prejudice and the failure to listen to women who come forward with evidence. Among those failures is a wider culture in which Scottish institutions too often fight for their reputations rather than take the side of victims and seek to find the truth. That culture still prevails today.

Key breakthroughs in this investigation were possible only due to the work and bravery of journalists who investigated leads that officers had ignored. Distressingly, the police’s first response to that vital work was not to look at the flaws in their own investigation but to attempt to intimidate and criminalise those journalists. In this case, and today, journalists, victims and campaigners who seek to uncover an injustice in Scotland too often find themselves victims of intimidation and harassment. Does the First Minister accept that? What steps is he taking to end that culture?

The First Minister:

That should not be the culture in any of our institutions. Anas Sarwar will be aware that, on the back of the work that Dame Elish Angiolini has done for the Government, we have introduced the Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill, which is making its way through the parliamentary process. The bill will improve the police complaints and misconduct process.

There is a lot of cross-party consensus, although there will obviously be some challenge from Opposition colleagues for the Government to consider. However, the bill includes important provisions to ensure that justice can be pursued even after a police officer retires or resigns. The bill will build on the significant improvement work that has already been delivered by policing partners since Dame Elish Angiolini’s report in November 2020.

There are things that we can do to improve the culture across our institutions. Anas Sarwar and I have often debated the national health service and the actions that the Government is taking to ensure that there are whistleblowing champions, for example. The Government takes seriously the premise that all our public institutions should encourage whistleblowing and the bringing forward of any concerns. The individuals who raise such concerns should not be the ones under scrutiny and pressure, and they should not be subject to any intimidation whatsoever.

On the issue of violence against women and girls, there are always improvements for Police Scotland to make—that almost goes without saying. I have seen comments from organisations that work tirelessly to tackle violence against women and girls that, since the formation of Police Scotland, they have noticed improvements in the investigation of rape and sexual offences. However, there is still room for improvement. There is no doubt about that.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

Although any inquiry will look at the failings in this case over the past 19 years, we know that there are issues that persist today. The First Minister has referenced some of them already. In 2020, an independent review of the police complaints and disciplinary system found evidence of misogyny, racism and serious discrimination issues in Police Scotland. Only last year, the outgoing chief constable, Iain Livingstone, clearly stated that

“institutional racism, sexism, misogyny and discrimination exist” in Police Scotland.

I return to the words of Margaret Caldwell:

“Whatever a woman’s job, status, addictions or vulnerabilities, it should never be used as a reason to ignore sexual violence or treat them as a second-class citizen.”

Whether 19 years ago or today, we know that that culture leaves victims unprotected and costs lives. As a previous justice secretary and now as First Minister, how will the First Minister end the culture of prejudice and discrimination that denies so many justice?

The First Minister:

I thank Anas Sarwar for reading out Margaret Caldwell’s words—they are incredibly powerful. I think that every single one of us will be moved by her words. She is absolutely right.

We are doing a lot of work, particularly through our equally safe strategy but also to challenge men’s demand for sex. I am happy to write to Anas Sarwar with greater detail.

It is important that we all recognise that prostitution is a form of violence against women and girls and is completely unacceptable. Our recently published strategy to challenge men’s demand for prostitution outlines actions to support women who are in prostitution and describes a new pilot programme to improve access to support for those with experience of prostitution. Lessons learned from the pilot will inform any legislative consideration, including whether to criminalise the purchase of sex.

The Government has an important job to do in supporting women, regardless of their background or vulnerabilities. We have taken forward a range of work, a lot of which has cross-party support, to improve victims’ experiences in the criminal justice system. I will write to Anas Sarwar with more detail. Just this week, we have been piloting free court transcripts for victims of rape and sexual offences. A number of campaigners have met members from across the parties on that issue.

The Government will continue to ensure that victims are at the centre of our justice system and are protected, but there are plenty of lessons to learn. I go back to my initial responses to Douglas Ross and Anas Sarwar. I will meet Margaret Caldwell, and due consideration is being given to a judge-led public inquiry.