THE SNP challenger to Alistair Carmichael in May’s general election has responded to the news that a legal case against him will proceed to the next stage by saying his opponent “will be a more worried person today than he was yesterday”.
Danus Skene, who finished 817 votes behind Carmichael in the Northern Isles and is seeking to win election to Holyrood in Shetland next year, said he continued to believe the “least dishonourable option” open to the MP was to resign and submit himself to a re-run.
On Tuesday the two Election Court judges in the case rejected a plea from Carmichael’s QC to throw out the petition from four Orcadian constituents. Instead they said more evidence needed to be heard before they could deliver a legal opinion.
That could result in Carmichael being asked to give evidence in court, and it is expected proceedings will again be broadcast live.
Skene said the judges would still have to decide whether, in lying about his involvement in leaking a memo about Nicola Sturgeon, Carmichael’s intention in “being deceitful about his own behaviour” was to affect the election in his favour.
He said: “While there undoubtedly are electors who voted for Carmichael who would not have done so if they had known he had lied to cover up his own responsibility, we will never know how many such people there might be. Would a majority of 817 have been overturned?”
Skene continued: “The judges have decided to dismiss Alistair Carmichael’s contention that the Orcadians’ case is irrelevant because the law does not cover a candidate lying about himself. They have ruled that it does.
“In ordering a further hearing, they are moving directly to the question of what Carmichael’s intention was in denying his responsibility for the memo leak.
“The Orcadian voters who brought the case should be pleased with today’s developments. Their case has steered past the distraction of whether the letter of the law is relevant to the case. The Election Court can now address the question of justice that they raised.
“The Lib Dem party chose not to distance itself from Carmichael. What integrity is left to a party associated with electoral dirty tricks of this nature?”
Carmichael’s office has not responded to a request for comment.
But a Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “Alistair Carmichael will continue to play a full role in the new stages of the legal process that are ongoing, confident of a positive outcome.
“Alistair’s focus will remain working hard for his constituents and doing his job as MP for Orkney and Shetland.”
Meanwhile, on a visit to Shetland on Wednesday, his Scotland Office successor David Mundell – who served under Carmichael in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition – said he did not want to comment in detail on the Northern Isles MP’s current predicament.
“There’s nothing more for me to say than I’ve already said in relation to this matter,” he said. “There’s been a cabinet office inquiry which clearly set out what happened. It would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on an ongoing legal case.”
Asked whether he had known about the leaked memo prior to its publication, he responded: “The position, as set out in the Cabinet Office report, which clearly sets out clearly where responsibility lay for the leaking of that memo.”
And was he unaware of it until it was published by the Daily Telegraph? “The position is set out in the Cabinet Office report.”
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