The appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi against his conviction over the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 has again been brought into the spotlight by the refusal of the Crown Office to hand over vital documents to the defence team.
So much for respecting the laws of disclosure, a problem which is affecting many cases in Scotland, and notably which the legal profession itself is not doing enough to challenge in the courts ...
The Herald reports :
Exclusive by LUCY ADAMS, Chief Reporter
The Crown Office has refused to hand over a secret document vital to unearthing the truth about the Lockerbie bombing.
The defence team of the Libyan convicted of the bombing has now called for a procedural hearing to discuss the Crown's refusal to disclose the document from an unnamed "foreign" country.
At the hearing, in the High Court in Edinburgh on Thursday, the defence will ask the three judges to decide whether the document should be disclosed.
It is understood to be about the MST13 timer which allegedly detonated the bomb over Lockerbie in 1988 which killed 270 people. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is currently serving a 27-year sentence for the bombing.
The document was discovered by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) team, which spent three years investigating his conviction.
Using its enhanced powers, the commission compelled the Crown to show it the document and decided the contents were sufficiently important for a court to have conclude the conviction could have been a miscarriage of justice. Proving the MST13 timer found at the site was purchased by the Libyans was pivotal to the conviction at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.
The SCCRC referred the case back to the Scottish courts in June on six separate grounds, including non-disclosure.
Two months ago, the Crown Office was instructed to pass on the document or provide substantial reasons as to why it could not be given to the defence.
However, The Herald can reveal the Crown has since opposed the petition and suggested it has no duty to disclose. It has refused to reveal, even to the defence, the country from which the document originated, or its full reasons for not sharing the information.
The defence team is understood to be seeking the document which relates to supply of timers and an additional paper.
At a hearing in October the Crown asked the court for more time and agreed to come back with a response within six weeks.
At the time, Ronnie Clancy, QC, the advocate-depute, said the documents were handed to prosecutors on the basis they remained confidential.
He told the court: "The documents were passed on the basis they were regarded as being confidential by the authority that passed them over. That being so, the Crown has taken the position that, if possible, confidentiality should be respected and there are public interest considerations in regard to keeping the confidentiality of information coming from a foreign source."
Legal experts expected the reasons for non-disclosure to centre around the foreign country's refusal to hand over the documents on national security grounds. This does not appear to be the case.
Professor Robert Black, QC, one of the architects of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist, said: "The Crown was given six weeks to provide the document or to produce valid reasons as to why that would not be possible. The fact they are neither providing a detailed explanation nor the document seems a bit fishy to me.
"Ultimately it will be for the court to make up its own mind."
The full grounds for the appeal will be lodged by the defence team by Friday and are expected to include details undermining the reliability of the Crown's key witness and forensics evidence. It will also contain arguments based on the Crown's failure to disclose documents to the defence at the time of the trial.
A spokeswoman for the Crown Office said: "We have lodged our response to the court within the time limit set by the court and this response sets out our position in relation to the material sought by the defence."