Stuart Gair who was jailed in 1989 for murder died on Tuesday in Edinburgh just months before he was to receive compensation after the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction last year, citing yet another disclosure failure by the Crown Office, who failed to hand over witness statements to the late Mr Gair's solicitors.
The Scotsman reports :
TANYA THOMPSON AND EAMONN O'NEILL
THE victim of one of Scotland's most shocking miscarriages of justice has died, months before he was to receive £1 million in compensation.
Stuart Gair, who was jailed in 1989 for murder, died yesterday at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary following a heart attack.
Mr Gair, 44, who spent 17 years protesting his innocence, was last year cleared by appeal judges who attacked a failure to disclose witness statements to his lawyers.
Jailed for life, he served 12 years but protested his innocence from day one. He was released in 2000 pending an appeal, but it took a further six years before his conviction was quashed at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh in July last year. He insisted he had been the victim of a police frame-up.
Mr Gair, originally from Alloa, was cleared after it was ruled he had suffered a miscarriage of justice. In the judgment delivered by the Appeal Court, Lord Abernethy said it meant "the defence were deprived of a powerful argument on the crucial issue of identification".
John McManus, co-ordinator for Glasgow-based Mojo, the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, said he was with Mr Gair when he died.
He added: "This is a tragedy. Stuart had been waiting for compensation and the whole thing had put him under a lot of strain. He had suffered dreadfully, and had only just started to get some counselling."
In 1989 after a five-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Mr Gair was found guilty of murdering Peter Smith, a former soldier, who was stabbed in Glasgow city centre.
Mr Gair denied murder and put forward a defence of alibi, insisting he was in another part of Glasgow at the time. But he was convicted on a majority verdict.
He protested his innocence and campaigners rallied to his cause. Eventually, his case was sent to the Appeal Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Mr Gair had petitioned the Scottish Secretary over his case and was freed on bail in 2000. Identification was the key issue at the trial and lawyers acting for Mr Gair argued that, crucially, the Crown failed to disclose important information to his defence.
During the trial, a witness, Brian Morrison, who was 19 at the time, identified Mr Gair as a man he saw come out of public toilets and go in the direction of North Court Lane, where the attack happened.
In an initial statement, he said he would definitely be able to identify the two men he had seen and that one of them had threatened him.
But later, he told officers: "A lot of what I have already told the police is not the truth. I made up some of it to attract attention."
Mr Gair's defence counsel, Gordon Jackson, QC, argued that if this information had been available to his lawyers Mr Morrison could have been cross-examined in such a way as to show the jury they could not trust a word he said.
A note had been attached to Crown papers for the trial which said that at one point Mr Morrison had signed himself into a psychiatric hospital. It went on: "Morrison and his vivid imagination certainly set the police off on the trail of a red herring initially."
In the Appeal Court judgment, Lord Abernethy concluded: "In these circumstances, we have come to the conclusion that the non-disclosure of these police statements and other information resulted in a miscarriage of justice."
Sources close to Mr Gair said that, had he lived, he would have received about £1 million in compensation.