It seems the Crown Office are a wee bit desperate to justify their stance, or maybe 'distance themselves' from the forthcoming Appeal Court hearing this week where the Advocate General, will seek to have the court spectacularly switch the defence team of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi for one of their own.
A letter appearing in Friday's Herald newspaper from the Deputy Crown Agent John A Dunn seeks to 'allay' the concerns of readers & the public in Scotland ...
"It wisnae me" comes to mind ? .... and perish the thought the Lord Advocate or Crown Office would ever consider using such a power if granted later on ... !
The Herald reports :
I am concerned your readers may have been misled as to the position of the Crown in a matter of considerable public importance (Bid to ban lawyers in secret hearings, and accompanying editorial, May 22).
The Appeal Court has set three days aside next week to hear proposals from the Advocate General, representing the United Kingdom Government, the Crown and the representatives of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, on the procedure the court should follow when hearing arguments on the issue of Public Interest Immunity (PII) which has arisen in the appeal.
The claim of PII in the Lockerbie appeal has been taken by the UK Government, not by the Lord Advocate. The UK Government is represented by the Advocate General.
The court hearings next week will take place in public and it will be entirely a matter for the court to determine whether any future hearings in private are required.
The Lord Advocate, as public prosecutor, has a responsibility to ensure that all criminal proceedings in Scotland, including appeals, are conducted fairly.
It is the UK Government, and not the Crown, that has raised the issue of PII. Next week's hearing will enable the court to decide what further procedure is necessary, but there is no question of the Crown seeking to have next week's hearing in private, far less excluding the appellant's legal team from participating, as suggested in your editorial.
The purpose and nature of next week's court hearing had already been discussed in open court, with journalists present, in February 2008.
John A Dunn, Deputy Crown Agent, Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh.