Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond went on trial on Monday accused of a string of sexual offences against 10 women, including an attempted rape at his official residence in 2014.
The 65-year-old Salmond, wearing a dark suit, said nothing to reporters as he arrived at the High Court in Edinburgh for the case, which is expected to last four weeks.
Salmond, who led the devolved government in Edinburgh from 2007 to 2014, faces two counts of indecent assault, 10 of sexual assault, an attempted rape and a sexual assault with intent to rape, according to the indictment.
Salmond has denied the charges, and on Monday his legal team submitted special defences to the court of consent and alibi.
On the first day of the hearing, a jury of nine women and six men were chosen, sworn in and told by judge Leeona Dorrian they had to be impartial during the trial.
She told the jurors the accused was a “very well-known figure” but urged them to decide the case based on the evidence heard in court.
The most serious allegation of attempted rape is said to have happened in June 2014 at the first minister’s official Bute House residence in the Scottish capital.
He is alleged to have repeatedly kissed a woman’s face and neck, groped her, pinned her against a wall, pulled at her clothes and stripped himself naked before trying to rape her.
The woman, who claimed Salmond attacked her at Bute House on two separate occasions in May and June 2014, began giving evidence and said she felt “embarrassed and humiliated” by what happened.
On the first alleged incident, she told the court: “He was putting his hand down my top and kissing my neck, touching my legs. He just groped me, I don’t have another word for it.
“I froze inside, I verbally communicated that I wasn’t happy, I said, ‘What are you doing, you shouldn’t be doing this’, and he found it funny,” she added.
“I was embarrassed and I felt humiliated … I didn’t speak to anybody because I felt that I had done something wrong almost and I didn’t want people to know.”
On the second occasion in June 2014, she alleged Salmond was “physically all over” her, took off his own clothes and tried to do the same to hers.
“He just laid over me. I kept saying to him, ‘What are you doing? Stop,’ and he didn’t,” she said. “I felt like I was being hunted,” she said.
Again, she said she was embarrassed and wanted to get home “as fast as possible”.
“I wish in hindsight I had just screamed or kicked him in the nuts but I was so frozen and just panicking inside,” she added.
Under Scottish law, none of the 10 alleged victims can be identified. Strict media reporting restrictions are in place to prevent information not presented before the jury in court prejudicing the trial.
Salmond himself could be called to give evidence, although he is under no obligation to do so, as the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Unlike in England and Wales, which has a separate legal system, there are three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty and not proven, which has the same status in law as an acquittal.
The jury’s decision does not need to be unanimous. A majority verdict needs only eight of the 15 jurors to agree.
At the end of the prosecution’s evidence, the defence can also argue that there is no case to answer and that the evidence is not strong enough to put before the jury.
Should the judge agree, the accused can be acquitted.
Salmond, who is married and a former economist at the Royal Bank of Scotland, took over the leadership of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 1990.
He led the unsuccessful SNP campaign for Scottish independence in a referendum in 2014, and was replaced by Nicola Sturgeon.