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Crown criticises "sensationalised" reporting of Megrahi case

26 March 2012

Crown Office has responded to the publication yesterday of the full Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission report into the Lockerbie bombing case by criticising "sensationalised" reporting of the case.

The Sunday Herald put on its website a redacted version of the 800 page statement of reasons submitted to the criminal appeal court by the SCCRC in support of its reference on the ground that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the conviction of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.

The move followed Friday's announcement by the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, that no proceedings would be taken against any member of the SCCRC staff if the Commission published the report, "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".

In a further statement Crown Office said: "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."

Among specific points the statement goes on to make are that the SCCRC report confirms that Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, who identified Megrahi at trial as someone who had bought clothes found to have been in the suitcase carrying the bomb, was paid a reward by US authorities only after the first appeal, and no inducements or promises of reward were prior to his evidence being given, and none made all by the Scottish authorities, though Mr Gauci had also been made an offer “by Libyan Government officials”.

It is also noted that the SCCRC found that Megrahi gave a number of different explanations to his lawyers and the Commission about his presence in Malta and use of a false passport on 21 December 1988, and that the Commission had reservations about the credibility and reliability of both Megrahi and his acquitted co-accused as witnesses.

The Crown said it did not follow from the reference having been made that there had in fact been a miscarriage of justice: "only the appeal court can decide that". It added that the Crown "had every confidence in successfully defending the conviction in the appeal Court for a second time".

As the case was still live, the Crown said it would be making no further comment on the evidence and on the statement of reasons.

  • Also yesterday, Christine Grahame, SNP MSP and convener of the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee, repeated her call for an inquiry into the conduct of the case by Crown Office, in particular the allegations that it withheld evidence crucial to the defence.

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Charles Norrie

Sunday April 1, 2012, 05:19

One can only start by responding to the Crown's position by chanting "tu quoque".

Who leaked all the evidence so comprehensively incriminating Mr Magrahi and Mr Fhimah to the media almost from the start when they were first accused in 1991? The Crown. Where did the material come from to make the C4 film on Lockerbie just before the trial? Again the Crown. Who has done everything to slow up the appeals process so it stuck together like a rusty lock? Again the Crown. Who did everything to prevent the SCCRC report from coming out? The Crown again.

The Crown behaves as if it is above the law, and for the past 23 years treated the serious doubts that have been raised by Lockerbie with contempt, dismissal or downright ignoral? Again the Crown.

Privately, the Crown knows that the Lockerbie process is a load of tosh, but the slavish adherence of it to the dictates of US imperial foreign policy and the fall out of a war in the Republican right have robbed it of the ability to think straight or even at all. If those who think well of Scotland and its institutions can be a success in an independent Scotland they are going to have to root out the wicked casuistical behaviour of its legal profession, judicial bench, courts and the who operation of justice right to the slightest tap root and start again. And we could start by doing a decent investigation of Lockerbie as people like Jim Swire have been calling for almost from the start. I remember attending the UKFF103 meeting where he first used the slogan "The truth must be known", and I fear it's as true today as it was then. I am nothing to do with Lockerbie, as I always say, though a relation of mine was killed by what is called "Libyan terror" in 1989. Please give Jim and the other relatives what they really crave – a decent, honest and thorough investigation and simply not another sifting through of the Lockerbie dustbin.