In the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser last week it was reported that then Cumbernauld Councillor Alan O’Brien had published an election leaflet in which he claimed that the North Lanarkshire SNP group leader David Stocks had provided “dishonest testimony” in support of charges brought by fellow SNP Councillor Michael Coyle.
The claim was rebuffed in the article by Councillor Michael Coyle who said that:
“We have reported this leaflet to the police and the relevant authorities as it is full of lies and smears. These actions bring politics into disrepute.
It was the view of the the court that the incident was an argument between two councillors which, unfortunately, was established before any of the other witnesses had the opportunity to give their testimony.
However, the police found there was enough evidence to arrest and charge Mr O’Brien and the procurator fiscal felt it appropriate to progress the case to a Crown court hearing.
These are both facts and the case was dismissed. It was a not guilty verdict, but Mr O’Brien would no doubt have everyone believe his version of events.”
So, what evidence would be required for the police to charge Mr O’Brien and for it to be progressed to court? Given that there appears to be no physical evidence and no CCTV evidence then I would have to draw from that that the evidence in the case was all in the form of witness statements. In Scotland if someone makes a statement to the police that you committed an offence, all that is required for charges to be pressed is another statement which corroborates the first statement. So two allegations is enough “evidence” to allow a charge to be made. That is a fact. So the procurator fiscal is passed a charge which all things being in order will then be assigned a court date for the Sheriff to sort out. That’s also a fact.
Those “facts” however are not an indication of guilt. That is to be established in court and the court found that Mr O’Brien was not guilty, after hearing the testimony of Councillor Stocks and Councillor Coyle. Yet Councillor Coyle somehow expects us to take the allegation of guilt over the findings of the court? Generally if someone is found not guilty then their version of events is the one which has been believed. If Councillor O’Brien’s testimony wasn’t even heard it would suggest that the evidence put before the court did not support the charges when placed under scrutiny.
The article concludes with a quote from Inspector Steven Miller who states that they are reviewing its content and looking into it. That bland quote looks serious and you would expect it to have been fully investigated by now. I contacted Alan O’Brien prior to the publication of this article and he stated that as of this date he has not been approached by the police in relation to this matter. Nor does he expect to be.