Two Rangers FC administrators have been awarded £600,000 after Crown lawyers admitted much of the prosecution against them was “malicious” and conducted without “probable cause”.
Judge Lord Tyre ordered an interim payment of £350,000 to David Whitehouse and £250,000 to Paul Clark.
The order was made at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark, who worked for Duff & Phelps, are seeking a total of £14m in damages.
They allege the Crown Office and Police Scotland subjected them to wrongful detention, arrest and prosecution.
The men were appointed administrators of Rangers in February 2012. The club was liquidated in October 2012 and both Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark left their positions.
Both men were arrested and charged, but the charges against them were later dropped.
Lawyers for the Lord Advocate have now admitted that prosecutors acted unlawfully for a significant amount of time in the prosecution of the two men.
They admitted that the human rights of both Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark – who were cleared of all wrongdoing – had been breached at times during the investigation.
The Lord Advocate had previously denied any wrongdoing.
But on Wednesday, the Lord Advocate’s lawyer Gerry Moynihan QC told Lord Tyre that the prosecution beyond their initial court appearance was “malicious” and conducted without “probable cause.”
The case is still continuing.
Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark’s lawyers say they have not been provided with documentation that could help their case.
The court heard that the businessmen’s legal teams have been supplied with papers which show senior Crown Office lawyers speaking about the “need to nail the Duff & Phelps people”.
But Mr Clark’s lawyer, Iain Ferguson QC, told the court that he knew meetings were chaired by the then Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC in which “strategic” decisions were taken about the case.
Mr Ferguson said that no minutes of these meetings appeared to exist. This means he is unable to discover what was discussed.
Mr Ferguson told the court that his client had spent £1,030,000 in legal expenses. Earlier, Mr Whitehouse’s lawyer Roddy Dunlop QC said his client had spent the “eye watering” amount of £1.8m on lawyer’s fees.
Mr Ferguson said: “It is nothing short of a disgrace that the government has chosen to act in this fashion towards two private citizens.”
Mr Whitehouse, of Cheshire, has brought a damages claim against the Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC and Police Scotland for £9m.
Surrey-based Mr Clark is suing for £5m.
The Lord Advocate’s lawyer, Gerry Moynihan QC, told the court that the Crown were now admitting liability for wrongdoing in parts of the prosecution.
Mr Moynihan said his clients accepted that the two men’s rights under article five of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated during the prosecution.
The violation referred to how they were detained in custody following their arrest in advance for their first appearance in court.
Article five of the ECHR relates to the right to liberty and security.
Mr Moynihan said the two men’s right to a private life had been breached in relation to a press release which had been sent out in February 2016.
Mr Moynihan also said the Crown admitted that it acted unlawfully in its prosecution beyond the two men’s first appearance in court.
He added: “There is a minute of amendment which admits liability for the malicious prosecution for everything, all bar the first petition appearance.
“The prosecution was conducted with a lack of probable cause.”
Mr Moynihan also told the court that prosecutors continued to deny there was an “ulterior motive” with regards to some aspects of the prosecution.
He told the court that the Lord Advocate was open to going into a mediation process with the two men in order to resolve the case.
Alastair Duncan QC, the advocate for Police Scotland, told the court that he was unable to say much about Mr Moynihan’s submissions.
However, he did say that it was “possible” in the light of Mr Moynihan’s submissions that the matter could proceed against only his clients.
Lord Tyre continued the matter for a further procedural hearing next month. A full hearing in the matter is scheduled to take place in January 2021.