‘Orkney Four’ will not have to pay MP’s legal expenses

Four Orkney constituents, who challenged the election of Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, will not have to pay his legal fees.

Legal arguments from both sides were heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today, after which Lady Paton said: “In all the circumstances, exercising our discretion, we consider this to be in effect a case with divided success.

“Accordingly, we find no expenses due to or by any party.”

The constituents — Timothy Morrison, Cary Welling, Fiona Grahame and Euphemia Matheson — sought to overturn the result of the May 2015 General Election, claiming Mr Carmichael had breached the Representation of the People Act 1983, by misleading voters over a leaked memo before the election.

This followed Mr Carmichael’s admission, after a Cabinet Office inquiry, that he was responsible for the leak, which led to The Daily Telegraph claiming that Nicola Sturgeon told a French Diplomat that she wanted David Cameron to remain in power.

In September, Lord Matthews and Lady Paton determined that a politician could break the law by making a false statement about their own personal conduct, as well as making attacks on their opponents.

They went on to find that Mr Carmichael had told a “blatant lie”, when, in the course of a Channel 4 interview on Sunday, April 5, 2015, he claimed that he only became aware of the leaked memo when contacted by a journalist.

This lie, they ruled, was told in order to affect the election result.

However, on the matter of whether the lie could properly be characterised as a false statement of fact in relation to Mr Carmichael’s “personal character or conduct”, the judges were left with a reasonable doubt that he had committed an “illegal practice”.

It was on these grounds that the petition was dismissed.