[David Ben-Aryeah, was one of the first journalists into Lockerbie on the night of the disaster. He has received several major international media awards for his work on Lockerbie and was unpaid advisor to the UK relatives group from 1989 to 2001. He has acted as consultant to many investigative programs on Lockerbie. What follows are his views on the Lockerbie aspects of the SCCRC’s recent annual report.]
For the first time in its relatively short history, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) annual report and accounts for 2007-2008 contains not only substantial reference in the Chairman’s remarks (the Very Revd Dr Graham Forbes CBE) in the foreword of the document but also a two page summary of the Administration of the Lockerbie Review by the Chief Executive, Gerard Sinclair, into the Commission’s role enquiring into the submission of the defence in the Lockerbie case.
(1) The foreword (Pages 2-3):
Dr. Forbes states: ‘In June (2007) we issued our decision to refer the case of Mr. Adbelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi back to the High Court. This has been the most difficult and complex case we have had to review.
'The Commission’s enquiry team worked tirelessly over three years. Some of what we discovered may imply innocence; some of what we discovered may imply guilt. However, such matters are for a court to decide. The Commission formed the view, based on our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we found and other evidence that was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.
'Our role in “Lockerbie” is now complete. Our Parliament can be reassured that we carried out our investigations without fear or favour; we travelled where we needed to go, including Malta and Libya; we sought and obtained the documents we believed we needed to reach our decision; the Scottish Government, as did the previous administration, funded us to do what we believed we needed to do. It is a sign of a mature democracy and of our country’s commitment to justice that the State gives the Commission such powers and such access. I gladly pay tribute to the commitment of our Lockerbie team (Senior Legal Officer Robin Johnston, and Legal Officers Andrew Beadsworth, Gordon Newall and Michael Walker, supported by our Chief Executive and administration staff) and to my fellow Board Members who oversaw the investigation from start to finish, scrutinised, challenged, argued and decided.’
[The Board was composed of The Very Reverend Dr. Graham Forbes CBE, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral Edinburgh (Chairman), Sir Gerald Gordon QC, CBE (author of a major text book on Scots Law), Mr. David Belfall, Mr. Graham Bell QC, Professor Brian Caddy*, Mr. Stewart Campbell* and Mr. Gerard McClay*.
*Appointed 1 July 2007 to replace Sheriff Anderson QC and Professor Peter Duff who resigned due to competing commitments in July 2007 and Mr. Robert Anthony QC who resigned following his appointment as a Sheriff.]
It is important to remember that in the written reasons for the referral of the case for a second appeal, the Commission made mention of six reasons or grounds, though its press release gave details of only four.
(2) Administration of the Lockerbie Review (Pages 16 – 18):
Mr. Graham Sinclair (Chief Executive) provides more detail than was previously available in the 28th June 2007 written reasons for referral back for a second appeal, particularly the following:
‘The Outcome: The Commission referred the applicant’s case to the High Court on 28 June 2007. The reference was based on six grounds mainly relating to evidence which, for one reason or another, was not heard at the trial and which indicated that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. Of the six grounds of reference, four were the result of the Commission’s own enquiries rather than the submissions made on behalf of the applicant. The Applicant’s appeal against conviction is ongoing.’
Mr. Sinclair goes on to furnish confirmed expenditure on the case from 2003-4 to 2007-8 as totalling £1,195,827.
The Commission report refers to
a. the fact that Board members ‘scrutinised, challenged, argued and decided’ (1: The Foreword).
b. the grounds of referral ‘relating to evidence which, for one reason or another was not heard at the trial’.
This gives grounds to conclude that the enquiry went well beyond the original 16 volumes of submissions (and at least five subsequent ones). Coupled with the fact that as late as 19th August the Appeal Court granted defence petitions for (1) documents and photographs relevant to the (alleged) identification of Megrahi by the Maltese shopkeeper, Mr Tony Gauci, to be allowed to be shown to an expert psychologist and (2) for access to documents and productions used at the Scottish Court sitting in the Netherlands, and for permission to subject them to forensic scientific examination, there must be serious concerns not only as to the range and scope of evidence that was (or rather was not) presented to the court at the time; and, given the averment that the SCCRC found four additional ground for referral, there could be concerns as to the standard of conduct of the original defence. Taken against the historical demands of the UK relatives for a ‘full, independent enquiry’ into events before, during and after the bombing of Pan Am 103, the pending appeal may well shed light in some very dark corners and go a small way into answering the disturbing spectrum of questions raised during the original trial and appeal.
The appointment of Professor Brian Caddy to the Board of the Commission (albeit it came after he date of the reference of the case back to the Appeal Court) may not be without significance: Professor Caddy is pre-eminent and much respected in the field of forensic science and has research interests concerning firearms discharge residue, trace explosives analysis and has a deep interest in raising and maintaining standards of forensic science practice. His appointment may be not insignificant considering continuing concerns in respect of the qualification and standards of the forensic science practices so far revealed during the investigation (both in the UK and USA) and the trial.