John McLellan: Edinburgh council leader's shocking sense of justice

Under our system of justice, an accused person is innocent until proved guilty, but according to council leader Adam McVey this should no longer apply to people facing allegations of sexual harassment.

Thursday, 1st March 2018, 6:00 am
Lewis Ritchie has admitted to having a problem with alcohol but denied claims of sexual harassment

Writing in the Evening News, he said: “In a situation where the victim and the perpetrator emerge, all involved are not equal. The overwhelming priority must always be the women affected.”

No-one would argue that perpetrators of sexual harassment deserve all they get, but the flaw here is the absence of the word “alleged” because until something has been proved, they are alleged victims and alleged perpetrators. Even when the police believe they have a cast-iron case against a suspect, that person is still a suspect and not a convict until a court has decided this on the basis of the evidence.

Cllr McVey was referring to the case of Cllr Lewis Ritchie, who has resigned from the SNP amid allegations of assault and sexual harassment and last week admitted to the Evening News that he had a problem with alcohol, while denying the harassment claims.

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I have no knowledge of the harassment allegations beyond what the SNP supplied to the Evening News and therefore can have no view about Cllr Ritchie’s innocence or guilt, but the claims should be properly and independently investigated.

What is extraordinary is that someone in a position of such responsibility as council leader should seek to circumvent due process to publicly convict a former colleague who, let’s remember, was reselected by the SNP and given a very senior role as planning chief by Cllr McVey’s administration after the election. It’s also quite something to criticise the paper for reporting what Cllr Ritchie had to say when the upshot of it all is to have his alcohol problems splashed across the front page.

One way or another, the man’s reputation is in tatters and having resigned from the SNP the honourable thing for Cllr Ritchie to do is give up his seat so a by-election can be held. Then at least he can seek help for his self-confessed problems away from the public spotlight.