News In Focus
Crown criticises "sensationalised" reporting of Megrahi case
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.