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Crown will not prosecute if SCCRC publishes Megrahi statement
No current member or employee of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission would be prosecuted if its statement of reasons in the case of Abdelbaset al Megrahi is formally published, Crown Office announced today.
In a statement, Crown Office said that 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".
Crown Office has today written to the Commission 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.”
Welcoming the statement, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "The Lord Advocate’s letter is a very good development, and hopefully a significant step forward in achieving publication of the SCCRC report – we are doing everything we can to enable publication of the report, as it is the Scottish Government’s aim that the statement of reasons is in the public domain as soon as possible. Recent media reports based on selective sections of the statement of reasons make it imperative that everyone is in a position to see the report in full.
Mr MacAskill added that following a "productive" meeting between the Scottish Government, UK Government, the SCCRC and the Information Commissioner, a letter from Westminster Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke this week suggested that the UK Government would not regard the Data Protection Act as being a barrier to publication. He commented: "It is ultimately for the SCCRC to consider and be satisfied that they can comply with data protection legislation and we understand they are now doing so. Scottish ministers are clear that we want this report in the public domain."