Monday, 3 January 2011

Money has no place in Scots justice

This is the headline over an article by Ian Hamilton QC about payments made to witnesses in the Tommy Sheridan perjury trial which is published today on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. One paragraph reads as follows:

"Never in the history of Scots law has the crown adduced witnesses who have been paid, or promised payment, by a third party in connection with their evidence. Why were they adduced in this case? The Lord Advocate must explain why."

Of course, it now appears that such witnesses were adduced by the Crown ten years ago in the trial of Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah in the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist. This formed the subject of paragraph 3.1.7 of Megrahi's Grounds of Appeal in the appeal that was abandoned in August 2009. Ian Hamilton recognises this in his article when he states:

"Purchase of witnesses has no place in Scots law. Indeed payment by the Americans of witnesses in the Megrahi case is one of the things that make many people think the conviction is unsafe."

[My own understanding of the present state of Scottish criminal procedure is that there is no bar on, or necessary impropriety in, the Crown's leading the evidence of a witness who has been paid, or has been promised payment, by a third party. What is grossly improper -- and is alleged to have happened in the Lockerbie case -- is concealing from the defence and the court the fact that such payment has been made or promised, since it is a factor highly relevant to the court's assessment of the witness's credibility.]


  1. I've noticed that many who become Privy Counsellors appear to serve the interests of the Establishment rather than that of justice or the interests of Scotland. This not only includes Elish Angiolini but the Lockerbie judges, two of whom, were made Privy Counsellors one month before the trial. Alex Salmond was invited by Blair to become a counsellor just after Blair had set up the Memorandum of Understanding on prisoner exchange.

    I strongly suspect that a part of the Privy Council has a far more powerful role and that rather than being given advice by the Cabinet, it actually controls Cabinet decisions in particular areas.

    The remark made by Andrew Mackinlay, a Labour backbencher, denouncing the decision of Jack Straw to stop the publication of the Cabinet minutes of their decision to attack Iraq is very interesting indeed.

    "It really is appalling and also it is a bad day for Parliament when you get the synthetic anger from the Opposition, cosying up, the Privy Council Club closing down debate and discussion on things which must be revealed"

  2. Ruth: Your paranoia knob goes all the way round to '11' - just like that guitarist's amp in Spinal Tap (I do hope I'm educating people in modern analogies by choosing contemporary idioms)...or you're right, maybe.
    Haven't decided which, yet.

  3. Ruth, what is certain is that corruption thrives in places where it should not be given houseroom. Seeing it so plainly when it comes to the lengths successive governments, and the Scottish Justiciary, went to conceal the truth about Lockerbie, and to thwart justice, is a great shock to the honest onlooker. I guess they mock us for our naivete in expecting better of them.

  4. Another load of typical self-righteous nonsense. Right you are, Mr. Hamilton, of course! Money has no place in Scots justice, its proper place is in Scots pockets, like those of the insatiable Swire and Company, who have the audacity to reject the ruling as a miscarriage of justice but accept the loot that flowed from it. Where that kind of conduct is widely confused with "dignity," who the hell knows what "justice" means!

  5. blogistan,
    Why do you demean what I said by using the words, 'Your paranoia knob..'? My argument is perfectly logical with evidence to support it.

  6. Moreover, blogistan, I'm not the only one who believes that our democracy is a sham. Read what Gerald James says on the subject,
    'The other area which is key to overall secret control outside Parliament is the Privy Council. It is important to note that all main members of the Cabinet become members of the Privy Council as do leaders and sometimes the deputy leaders of the opposition parties.

    The Privy Council oath which all members take means they cannot freely discuss any matter they are informed of or told of “Under Privy Council terms”. This means that the Cabinet and opposition leaders cannot discuss freely in Parliament or elsewhere any matter told to them on “Privy Council terms”. This means in practice that the key MPs cannot discharge their democratic duties. It is in effect a gagging system like Public Interest Immunity Certificates dispensed by Judges on application of Government and its agencies. All senior Judges and Appeal Judges are Privy Councillors as is the Lord Chancellor, The Attorney and Solicitor General and other invited and key persons. This secret unelected body has a wide range of powers. On the surface other permanent secretaries, sometimes the Cabinet Secretary and certain members of the established aristocracy are Privy Councillors.' and
    'The Privy Council allied with the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) and the Cabinet and Cabinet Intelligence Unit which is the real control over the security and intelligence services are part of the secret permanent unaccountable Government.'

  7. Relheri, wow, that is quite a post. In the light of the contents it would appear that democracy is indeed a sham. Along with justice.

    Would you agree however that the failure of too many of us to actively participate has led us to this point? For when the people accept such things how can anything be changed?

    The most depressing thing to me today is that so many fill their days, their lives and their heads with rubbish. We have a media where celebrity watching is the main pastime and where the really important things barely register on the radar. Those really important things range from injustice in cases like this to equally distressing things like the circumstances in which some children have to live their miserable, hopeless lives out. I says a lot about us all doesn't it?