Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Crown Office internal inquiry underway on World's End murder trial collapse

The Crown Office have launched their own internal inquiry into the collapse of the World's End murder trial, amid claims from just about all quarters they mishanded the case.

The Herald reports ...

Inquiry under way over World’s End fiasco


An internal inquiry is under way at the Crown Office following the collapse of the World's End murder trial amid allegations that the prosecution mishandled the case.

Angus Sinclair, a serial sex killer, was cleared of the rape and murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott after the trial judge ruled on Monday there was insufficient evidence against him.

Although acquitted of the murders, which took place in October 1977, Sinclair, 62, was returned to Peterhead Prison, where he is serving life sentences for the murder of Mary Gallacher, 17, in 1978 and for a series of rapes and sexual assaults against young girls in the early 1980s.

Serious concerns have been raised over the Crown's handling of the case, particularly its decision to lead so little of the available evidence.

Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate, was called to the cabinet yesterday where the case was discussed by ministers.

She will make a statement to the Scottish Parliament tomorrow afternoon "setting out the position and approach of the Crown in this case".

A spokesman for the Scottish Government later said she wanted "to pull together the fullest information, and would prefer time to do it".

There are few precedents for a Lord Advocate facing parliamentary scrutiny over the controversial failure of a prosecution, though it happened after the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in 1998 and the £750,000 compensation paid without public explanation to former policewoman Shirley McKie after she was acquitted of perjury.

Ms Angiolini is likely to be asked about allegations that the Crown threw away the opportunity of holding Sinclair to account for the murders of four other young women in 1977.

Sinclair is the chief suspect in at least three other murders which took place over the same period in 1977 as the World's End deaths and may be responsible for a fourth, that of Frances Barker, despite the fact a man was convicted of her killing 30 years ago.

Meanwhile, police ended their search for the senior prosecutor in the trial as officers said they were "satisfied" about his wellbeing.

Alan Mackay, 45, was reported missing after failing to turn up at court on Monday to hear Lord Clarke throw out the charges against Sinclair. He rang his wife later in the day from an unknown location, telling her he was safe but that he "needed some time".

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said yesterday: "He is no longer being treated as a missing person."

The announcement the Lord Advocate will make a statement tomorrow was welcomed by politicians of every party.

Margaret Curran, Labour's justice spokeswoman, said: "Questions need to be asked about the evidence that was and was not presented in court."

Bill Aitken, Tory justice spokesman, said: "The Lord Advocate, as a first step, must be seen to take charge and must be given the chance to tell parliament how she proposes to deal with this unfortunate and potentially damaging affair."

Margo Macdonald, Independent Lothian MSP, said: "People must have trust in their legal system and I think the trust at the moment is on hold until there is an explanation for all this."

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