Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scottish Conservative's Holyrood Justice Committee boss Bill Aitken resigns over prostitute rape comments after furore reaches Parliament

BilL Aitken MSPScots Tory Bill Aitken MSP comments over prostitutes & rape have led to his resignation as Convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee. BILL AITKEN MSP, the Scottish Conservative’s shadow Community Safety Minister and Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has resigned his position after a furore over comments he made last week regarding a rape case in Glasgow, where he suggested the victim may have been a prostitute. Mr Aitken was left with no alternative other than to resign his Justice Committee position after MSP Patrick Harvie of the Green Party lodged a motion calling for him to quit.

Scotland’s Green Party issued a Press Release giving notice they intended to lodge a Holyrood motion calling for Aitken's resignation, severely criticising Justice Committee Convenor Bill Aitken for comments he made about rape in a recent interview, and calling for his resignation.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: "Bill Aitken's comments are way beyond the standards any party in Parliament should find acceptable from any MSP, but they make it entirely unacceptable for him to continue in post as Convenor of the Justice Committee. No-one who thinks we should blame rape victims should ever be allowed to hold that role in this country.”

Mr Harvie continued : "If he does not resign, the Tory leadership should force his hand. If they do not, Parliament must act to remove him, and act quickly. The alternative would a serious loss of confidence in Parliament as an institution, and the Justice Committee in particular."

The draft motion in the name of Patrick Harvie was intended to read as follows: Unacceptable comments by the Convenor of Justice Committee - That the Parliament condemns the attitude shown by Bill Aitken MSP on the subject of rape during a recent interview with the Sunday Herald newspaper; considers that Mr Aitken’s comments during this interview betray a disregard for the seriousness of rape, and imply support for the view that a victim can be held responsible for this most vicious crime; believes that this view, though disturbingly widespread, is rooted in misogyny and ignorance; considers these comments to be incompatible with the role of Justice Committee Convenor; believes that the Parliament’s credibility to deal proactively with issues of sexual violence would be undermined if the proximity of dissolution resulted in failure to hold Mr Aitken to account for these odious and shocking comments; and calls for Mr Aitken’s immediate resignation.

Mr Aitken inevitably resigned his position before the motion was heard.

Mr Aitken’s comments over the rape case which occurred in the centre of Glasgow, were reported in the Sunday Herald newspaper last weekend HERE and our report on the controversy can be read HERE

Peter Cherbi’s “Diary of Injustice in Scotland” law blog also covers the story of Mr Aitken’s resignation HERE and rather shockingly reveals Mr Aitken was potentially in line for a post on a Law Society of Scotland Committee upon his retirement from the Scottish Parliament.

Report from The Herald follows :

Aitken steps down over rape remarks

Brian currie political editor

22 Feb 2011

THE Scottish Parliament’s long-serving Justice Committee convener, Bill Aitken, has quit the role after suggesting a rape victim in Glasgow may have been a prostitute.

Glasgow’s only Tory MSP has been at the centre of growing pressure from women’s groups and other politicians to quit since he made the comments last week, although he claimed his views had been misrepresented.

Mr Aitken, who announced some months ago he would not be standing again for Holyrood, said: “However unfairly, an impression has been created that I hold certain views about rape. So, for the record, let me repeat – rape, in every case and for every victim is an abhorrent, vile violation. Every case and every victim must be treated equally.

“The circumstances of any case are only pertinent to the lines of inquiry that the police would follow.”

Mr Aitken, the Tory spokesman on community safety, sparked outrage after telling our sister paper the Sunday Herald last week that the attack in a city-centre lane had taken place in a location “where a lot of hookers take their clients”.

He expressed remorse for any hurt he had caused to rape victims and their families and referred to a recent speech he made at Holyrood in which he said “no-one would take a more serious view of violence against any woman than I would”.

He added: “That was my view then. It is my view today and it will always be my view.”

Mr Aitken’s resignation came as Green MSP Patrick Harvie tabled a Holyrood motion, backed by Labour deputy leader Johann Lamont, calling for him to leave. Despite Mr Aitken’s apology, Mr Harvie said his statement was “graceless, and suggests he still does not understand the offence he has caused”.

He added: “This kind of attitude is unacceptable wherever it comes from, and is fortunately dying out, but it has been particularly shocking to hear it from the convenor of the Justice Committee.”

Ms Lamont said the resignation was a public acknowledgement that the comments were unacceptable and Mr Aitken had “done the right thing”.

“This was a horrific crime and he should never have suggested that the victim was in some way to blame for what happened.”

A protest outside Holyrood today to coincide with a meeting of the Justice Committee was called off after the announcement. An NUS Scotland spokesman said it “welcomed” Mr Aitken’s resignation.

Stewart Maxwell, an SNP member of the Justice Committee, said it was the right decision after “disappointing and out of character comments”.

Mr Maxwell said Mr Aitken had served the Justice Committee well as convener over the last four years and it was an unfortunate end to his time at Holyrood

LibDem justice spokesman Robert Brown said: “It’s highly unfortunate that Bill Aitken’s distinguished political career should end in this way as a result of badly chosen and ill-advised comments.

“However, it is important that no rape victim feels in any way that their rights would not be fully and totally upheld and defended by the Parliament and parliamentarians.”

Sandy Brindley, national co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “I do think it is inappropriate for somebody with responsibility for formulating our laws to hold such views on rape.”

Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie said: “Bill Aitken is a man of principle and honour. He was not prepared to let any issue compromise the work of the Justice Committee and he has shown his respect both for the committee and the party.”

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