Cleared journalist set to sue Crown prosecutors

Mark Hirst.Mark Hirst.
Mark Hirst.
A Borders journalist who was cleared last month of threatening witnesses in the Alex Salmond trial is to sue the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

Mark Hirst, 51, has accused the Crown Office of bringing a "malicious prosecution" against him, and has launched a crowd-funder campaign this week to cover legal costs, already raising more than £12,200.

Mr Hirst told the Southern: “This is a very important and potentially historic legal action against the Crown Office.

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“I would not be taking this action if my legal team and senior counsel did not believe I had a very good prospect of success.

"There are growing concerns over certain prosecutions instigated by Scotland's prosecuting authority. The Court of Session has already ruled that the Crown Office has acted with malice in bringing criminal cases against the administrators involved in the Rangers Football Club takeover."

Last month, Mr Hirst faced trial at Jedburgh Sheriff Court, accused of making a “threatening” video in the wake of the criminal trial against former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Hirst had stated in the video that those involved in an alleged plot against Salmond would “reap a whirlwind.”

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But the prosecution case was thrown out after Sheriff Peter Paterson ruled there was no case to answer, adding: “I do not accept [the comments made in the video] would cause a reasonable person fear and alarm.”

Hirst has received backing from his professional body and trade union, The Chartered Institute of Journalists.

Institute president, Professor Tim Crook, said: “Mark Hirst is a respected professional journalist and a member of our Institute. Freedom of expression in the UK means that he has the right to exercise his skills with political activism in the media.”

Professor Crook added: "Prosecuting authorities must be very careful to avoid over-deploying their powers of arrest, charge and prosecution in respect of journalistic and political communications.

"A sledgehammer has been picked up here when it should have been left in the toolbox."