There are more twists and turns in the Rangers liquidation case than in a hotly contested title race.
A clear admission of a malicious prosecution was made by former Lord Advocate James Wolffe. That’s in the record books along with past title results and it stands.
It also follows that there’s a price to be paid as no one should have to endure that and, when it happens, full recompense must be made to those who’ve suffered. But two factors arise leading to the need, not for a VAR review, but an independent inquiry. For both how the circumstances arose and how the payments made were quantified require investigation. Between £30 million and £40 million of taxpayers’ money has already been paid out in out-of-court settlements after the admission by Mr Wolffe in relation to the prosecutions which were launched under his predecessor. But just recently another claim related to the same events was rejected by the court. In his judgement in the David Grier case, Lord Tyre said: “I am satisfied that all of the individuals concerned in the prosecution of the pursuer were subjectively of the view that there was reasonable and probable cause to indict the pursuer for the offences with which he was charged and, separately, that their actings were not motivated by any purpose other than the pursuit of the interests of justice.”
Now what’s done is done with regard to the other cases and I do not challenge that. But I am entitled, along with others, to question the Crown’s actions. Indeed His Lordship appeared to do likewise stating: “I do not regard it as appropriate to attempt to identify reasons of why admissions of liability were made in these cases but no finding of liability is made in this.” He went on to say the admissions of liability were a Crown decision “in the light of the factual circumstances as they were perceived”. I think we’re all entitled to an insight into the Crown’s perception, as it’s our cash they’re using. And the sums paid out are extraordinary. Any victim of crime in receipt of a paltry criminal injuries compensation award will testify to that. Even in civil cases, any Scottish victim of an industrial accident, medical negligence case or even defamation can only look with envy. Scottish court awards have historically been much lower than in England. But a bit of research by myself and the House of Commons Library shows that the sums paid out by the Crown are table-topping in the UK, not just in Scotland. It seems, according to English case law, that there’s no real tariff for malicious prosecutions. But a recent case there resulted in a payment in the region of £135,000. Indeed, the Crown Prosecution Service advised that the annual “special payments”, which are those paid in respect of all civil proceedings against them, including malicious prosecutions and other miscarriages of justice, were: 2015-2016: £1,645,000. 2016-2017: £1,631,000. 2017-2018: £243,000. 2018-2019: £1,340,000. 2019-2020: £630,000. 2020-2021: £447,000
So the Rangers cases have seen Scotland pay out about six times what the CPS in England has in every case since 2015. The Crown and Mr Wolffe have a case to answer.