Friday, 26 August 2011

“Spectacular” logic as MacAskill justifies discredited primary legislation argument over Megrahi miscarriage report

[This is the headline over a news item just published on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]

The Secretary of the Justice for Megrahi Committee has dismissed the “spectacular” logic of the Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who has written to the committee repeating that an Act of Parliament is required to facilitate the publication of the report which concluded Abdelbaset Al Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

MacAskill had been asked to explain why such an Act was necessary when a simpler piece of secondary legislation introduced the mechanism which is currently blocking the report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Professor Robert Black QC has previously said that an Act of Parliament is not required.

“As you will be aware, the Scottish Government made the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Permitted Disclosure of Information) Order 2009, which provided that the SCCRC may publish information relating to a case it has referred to the Appeal Court which is subsequently abandoned, providing that persons who have provided information to the Commission have consented to its disclosure,” MacAskill said.

“In December 2010, the SCCRC announced that it had been unsuccessful in obtaining consent from all the relevant parties to the publication of the Statement of Reasons in the Megrahi case. In light of this, primary legislation is needed to provide the flexibility required to ensure that an appropriate legislative framework is put in place.

“The proposed legislation will facilitate the release of a statement of reasons by the Commission in circumstances where an appeal has been abandoned.”

The letter does not address the question put to it by the group, which asked why primary legislation was necessary, rather than secondary legislation.

“Whilst the text may be new, the logic, if that is not being too generous with the term, is spectacular,” JFM Secretary Robert Forrester said.

“This simply states what we already know then provides an answer which leaves us stranded somewhere."

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