Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Defamation, anyone?

[The following are excerpts from the report on The Telegraph website of Foreign Secretary William Hague's press conference comments following the television pictures of Abdelbaset Megrahi at a Tripoli rally yesterday:]

"The Prime Minister and I, when we were in opposition, both strongly disagreed with that position by Scottish ministers", said Mr Hague at a press conference in London when he announced the expulsion of Libyan diplomats loyal to Gaddafi.

"We disagreed with what has subsequently been revealed about the facilitation by the previous Labour government at Westminster of moves towards the release of al-Megrahi."

He added: "This was absolutely the wrong thing to do. It shows the medical advice it was based on was pretty much worthless." (...)

The Scottish Government stood by its decision to release al-Megrahi on Wednesday and defended the medical advice that led to it.

“Al-Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds based on the recommendations of the Parole Board, the prison governor and the medical report of the Scottish Prison Service’s most senior health professional,” a spokesman from the Scottish government said.

“This material is all in the public domain – including the medical report – and it all vindicates the Scottish Government’s position.”

"Indeed, it is clear that only the Scottish Government played with a straight bat on this matter, while the UK Government said one thing in public and another in private," the spokesman insisted.

“The Scottish Parliament Justice Committee examined all relevant aspects of this issue, and concluded that the decision was taken ‘in good faith’.

“Instead of criticising a senior health professional, Mr Hague should understand that the medical advice to the Justice Secretary came from Dr Andrew Fraser, Director of Health and Care of the Scottish Prison Service, a professional of impeccable integrity."

[To accuse a senior doctor of supplying medical advice which was "pretty much worthless" is grossly defamatory. Mr Hague was speaking at a press conference, not in Parliament. His comments are accordingly not subject to absolute privilege. Dr Fraser should consider suing for defamation.

In this and the previous post, I should not, of course, have disseminated the defamatory imputation. But since The Independent, The Telegraph and countless other organs of the media have done so, I'm prepared to live (just a little) dangerously.]

1 comment:

  1. The Libyan government might also consider taking proceedings against the British government:

    William Hague actually estimated Tripoli assets in the UK at £12bn on 24 March, when he set out the size of the frozen assets. The Agoco released funds to the rebels (£91m) are a drop in the Med by comparison. That's why the Attorney General’s strict refusal to sanction any other asset release has been a source of frustration to PM David Cameron.