Thursday, 25 August 2011

Should Mr Al-Megrahi be sent back to prison? Newsnight and the curious thoughts of Geoffrey Robertson QC

[This is the heading over a long article published today by Paul McConville on his blog Random Thoughts Re Scots (and Other) Law. It deals with last night's Newsnight Scotland segment on the issue of the fate of Abdelbaset Megrahi, featuring English QC Geoffrey Robertson and Scottish QC Gordon Jackson. After a detailed dissection of Robertson's contribution, the author concludes as follows:]

There is clearly great public interest in this issue. Mr Al-Megrahi stands convicted of a heinous crime and it appears that there are people looking for him to remove him from Libya.

However this debate was not helped by one of the contributors having no knowledge at all, it seemed, of the relevant legal rules applicable to the matter at hand. This could be contrasted with the later appearance on the programme of Lord Foulkes to discuss the differing university tuition fees charged in Scotland depending on the domicile of the student. His Lordship, notwithstanding a distinguished career in the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament, is not a lawyer. Legal niceties might understandably escape him.

Mr Robertson however does not have that excuse. His failure to acknowledge the “rule of law” in this matter is surprising given his very public stance regarding that doctrine over the years, and the rights people have to protect them from the vagaries or abuses of State power. I suspect John Cooke would not be demanding Mr Al-Megrahi’s return to Scottish imprisonment were he here today. [RB: Geoffrey Robertson is the author of a biography of Cooke and has recently written about him in The Guardian.]

Perhaps next time Newsnight Scotland considers having a lawyer on as a guest, they should ask if the person actually knows about what the topic under discussion is.

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