The Scottish taxpayer will have to find upwards of £24m to settle the claims by the two former administrators of Rangers FC relating to their malicious prosecution, the Lord Advocate has confirmed.
In a letter to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, James Wolffe QC revealed that it had been agreed that the pursuers, Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, would each be paid £10.5m in compensation plus their legal expenses.
Interim payments have been made regarding expenses of £1,650,000 to Mr Whitehouse and £1,436,250 to Mr Clark. The final liability will be assessed and confirmed in due course, along with the costs incurred in defending the actions.These covered events between 2014 and 2016, before he himself had been appointed, but "it was and is for me, as the current incumbent of that office, to answer them".
He continued: "As a result of those investigations, I accepted: (i) that, so far as these two pursuers were concerned, the charges against them lacked objective probable cause; and (ii) that, so far as these two pursuers were concerned, certain of the prosecution decisions in this case met the legal test for a malicious prosecution.
"I should make clear that the legal test for a malicious prosecution can, in certain circumstances, be met even though no individual had 'malice' in the ordinary sense of a spiteful motive against the pursuers. The basis upon which I have accepted liability in these case did not depend on any individual having subjective 'malice' in that sense."
Regarding the settlement figures, he explained: "Each of these pursuers was a very high earning individual, and the settlement figure, in each case, reflected the actual loss which the pursuer was able to demonstrate had been caused to him by the wrongful prosecutions."
There would be further costs, as "There are other cases pending against me arising from the same prosecution. As you will appreciate, the question of liability will fall to be addressed separately in respect of each claim. An admission of liability has been made on my behalf in two of those cases but those cases have not yet concluded. I am defending other cases, and in one of those, it is anticipated that a proof (a hearing of evidence) will be required. These cases are, of course, sub judice, and, as a result, I cannot comment on them further at this time."
Mr Wolffe added that arrangements had been made so that the settlement of these claims would not affect the operational effectiveness of COPFS or require to be met from the COPFS resource allocation announced in the Scottish Government budget statement.
The Lord Advocate has previously confirmed that he had not found sufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings against any individual in relation to the prosecutions brought against the claimants.