Scottish solicitor cleared of contempt

Comments following conviction merely 'inaccurate' and 'misleading'

A Scottish Human rights lawyer who commented on the conviction of a man for terrorism offences did not commit contempt, the Scottish High Court ruled this week.

Aamer Anwar described the man’s conviction as ‘a tragedy for justice and for freedom of speech’ and intimated that the case was heard in ‘an atmosphere of hostility’ and that there was no equality of resources between prosecution and defence. His comments were made in a press release and on BBC Newsnight Scotland.

Liberty intervened in Anwar’s contempt hearing, arguing that contempt in the circumstances was incompatible with Article 10 and the comments were ‘political speech’.

The Scottish High Court rejected the argument that there could be no contempt where a prosecution had been concluded as immaterial. A person may be in contempt if language used was of an extreme nature that attacked the integrity of the judge or court, the High Court said. Finding that Anwar’s comments had been inaccurate and ‘misleading’ – falling below the standards expected of a solicitor – they did not amount to contempt.

This was the first contempt case brought in relation to post conviction comments in the UK.