[This is the headline over an exclusive report on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. it reads as follows:]
The three judges who convicted Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi were under “undue pressure” during the Lockerbie trial it is claimed, despite protestations from the High Court Information Officer Elizabeth Cutting, published today in the New York Times .
The New York Times published a letter from Cutting following earlier reports that had claimed the judges – who had never before been tasked with determining guilt or innocence in their judicial careers, had been placed under pressure to return a guilty verdict.
“I remember talking to one of the judges from the panel that convicted him. He said there was enormous pressure put on the court to get a conviction,” Professor Diedrik Vanderwalle was reported to have said by the New York Times. Today, Cutting’s letter on behalf of the judges attempted to undermine that claim.
“I’m authorized to say that to the best of their knowledge the three deciding judges on the panel — Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean — have never met Mr. Vandewalle,” she said.
“Moreover, they assert that none of them has ever said what Mr Vandewalle reports one of them to have said. They were never under any pressure to return any particular verdict.”
However the Firm has been told exclusively by sources close to Professor Vanderwalle that the crucial information had been passed to him by a member of the Scottish judiciary, not one of the three trial judges, at a conference in London organised by the Royal Institution of International Affairs after the Zeist trial, but before the appeal.
The source told the Firm that “a Scottish judge thought that some of the people involved – not necessarily the three judges in the court itself -- felt there had been a lot of pressure to get this case over and done with.”
The “Scottish judge” said he thought undue pressure was being put on people connected to the trial, and that if it went to appeal “his impression was that there would be some irregularities [revealed] that people would not want to come to light,” the source said.
The identity of the Scottish judge referred to was not disclosed.
Professor Robert Black QC has said publicly that he also believed subtle pressure had been present in the judges’ minds.
"I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges,” Black said in 2007.
“I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the Lord Advocate."