Monday, March 26, 2012

Crown Office ‘misled court’ : SCCRC statement on Lockerbie Trial reveals possible miscarriage of justice over conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi

SCCRC Statement of Reasons casts doubt over conviction of Lockerbie bomber. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s ‘Statement of Reasons’ in the case of the conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi over the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 has been published by the Sunday Herald newspaper been published by the Sunday Herald newspaper, beating all ‘official’ moves by the Scottish Government, Crown Office & even the SCCRC itself to publish the report in full, which indicates there may well have been a miscarriage of justice in the conviction of Mr Al Megrahi in 2001 at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. The SCCRC’s report can be read here : SCCRC Statement of Reasons - Lockerbie Trial & Conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi

The Sunday Herald’s publication of the SCCRC report follows a media release from the Crown Office on Friday, indicating the SCCRC would not face criminal prosecution if they chose to publish the report. The Crown Office move only came about as a result of being told the Sunday Herald would be publishing the report in it’s next edition.

The Crown Office statement on Friday : SCCRC WILL NOT BE PROSECUTED FOR PUBLISHING MEGRAHI STATEMENT OF REASONS said : The Crown Office today confirmed that no current member or employee of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) would be prosecuted if its Statement of Reasons in the case of Abdelbaset al Megrahi is formally published. Whilst it is currently an offence for the Commission to disclose information obtained in its investigations, the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, considers it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, given the selective publication of the Statement of Reasons in the media. The Crown Office has today written to the SCCRC to clarify the position.

A Crown Office spokesperson said : “The Crown has repeatedly made it clear that it has no objection in principle to the publication of the SCCRC Statement of Reasons in the Megrahi case. Following the recent selective and misleading reporting of the Statement of Reasons - which would have been properly argued in Court had Megrahi not chosen to abandon his second appeal - the Lord Advocate wishes to ensure that there are no perceived barriers to publication, beyond the proper legal requirements which the Commission must take into account in publishing the document.

“Accordingly, the Lord Advocate has today confirmed that it would not be in the public interest for current members and employees of the Commission to be prosecuted in terms of the offence of disclosure in section 194J of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 in relation to any official publication of the Statement of Reasons.”

However, after the Sunday Herald’s publication of the SCCRC statement of reasons, the Crown Office issued a further statement (not yet published on the Crown Office website), attacking the media’s ‘intrusion’ into the debate and the Sunday Herald’s publication of the SCCRC report, stating : "The Commission was working to facilitate the publication with appropriate protection for all of the persons named in it taking account of their human rights [articles 2 and 8] and issues of confidentiality. The unauthorised publication by the Sunday Herald today does not deal with any of these issues which rightly constrain all public authorities by law.

"We have become very concerned at the drip feeding of selective leaks and partial reporting from parts of the statement of reasons over the last few weeks in an attempt to sensationalise aspects of the contents out of context.

"Persons referred to in the statement of reasons have been asked to respond to these reports without having access to the statement of reasons and this is to be deplored. Further allegations of serious misconduct have been made in the media against a number of individuals for which the Commission found no evidence. This is also to be deplored. In fact the Commission found no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies."

Meanwhile First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the Sunday Herald’s publication on 25 March of the SCCRC statement of reasons, releasing the following statement yesterday (Sunday) : Lockerbie case

Commenting following the online publication by the Sunday Herald of the full statement of reasons by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission in the Megrahi case, First minister Alex Salmond said: "I welcome the publication in full of this report, which is something that the Scottish Government has been doing everything in our powers to facilitate. I especially welcome the fact that it offers a full account of the SCCRC’s deliberations rather than the partial accounts which have appeared in the media in recent weeks.”

Mr Salmond continued : "While the report shows that there were six grounds on which it believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, it also rejected 45 of the 48 grounds submitted by Megrahi, and in particular it upheld the forensic basis of the case leading to Malta and to Libyan involvement. This report provides valuable information, from an independent body acting without fear or favour, and while we can not expect it to resolve all the issues in the Lockerbie case, it does however lay the basis for narrowing the areas of dispute and in many ways is far more comprehensive than any inquiry could ever hope to be. The Lockerbie case of course remains an open criminal investigation, and while the only place to determine guilt or innocence is in a court of law, the SCCRC is a valuable body which is itself part of the Scottish criminal justice system."

Christine Grahame MSP, the Chair of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has now called for an inquiry into the Crown Office, amid allegations a former Lord Advocate misled the court which convicted Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

More analysis of the Lockerbie case and recent developments can be found on Professor Robert Black’s blog The Lockerbie Case


Anonymous said...

I doubt if the SCCRC ever had the remotest intention of publishing the 'Statement of Reasons'.

This latest farce is just another example of Edinburgh incompetents, and worse, attempting to cover their backs after the publication in the Sunday Herald.

Anonymous said...

It should be obvious to everyone the Lord Advocate & Salmon's thinly veiled hostility directed towards the press as they continue to attempt to cling to the belief that they can micro-manage the Public's perception of the real issue at hand.

It is completely disingenuous of them to continue with the 'party line' that the Scottish Judicial System was not involved in one of the biggest miscarriages of justice the world has ever seen.

Get on with the open & transparent (non judicial) public enquiry into this scandal so that Scotland can rid itself of these moral vampires in her midst.