Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Justice Committee votes to keep Megrahi petition open

[The following account of this morning's discussion of the Justice for Megrahi petition (PE 1370) in the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee comes from Patrick Haseldine:]

On 8 November 2011, the Justice Committee decided by six votes in favour [SNP and Lib-Dem] and three against [Labour and Conservative] to keep open the Justice for Megrahi petition (PE 1370), which calls upon the Scottish Government to institute an inquiry into Abdelbaset Megrahi's conviction for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

James Kelly MSP [Labour, deputy convener], brother of Megrahi's former solicitor Tony Kelly, argued strongly that the court is the correct route for testing the soundness of criminal convictions. He could see no role for the Justice Committee to consider the JFM petition further.

However, Justice Committee convener, Christine Grahame MSP [Scottish National Party], said the petition should be kept open until all the parts of the legislative jigsaw come together: there was unfinished business in relation to the Lockerbie trial; the conclusions of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission's unpublished report remain untested; the SCCRC's power to refer cases back to the Appeal Court is being restricted; and Lord Carloway, who is currently reviewing law and practice of criminal investigations, is due to publish his report on 17 November 2011.

[The report just published by The Press Association news agency reads as follows:]

MSPs have voted to continue a petition calling for an independent inquiry into the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for his role in the Lockerbie bombing.

Holyrood's Justice Committee met to consider the petition by the Justice for Megrahi campaign, a group calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to open an independent inquiry into the 2001 conviction of Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988 which killed 270 people.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame, the committee's convenor and a member of the Justice for Megrahi group, went head-to-head with Labour's James Kelly, vice-convenor and brother of Scottish lawyer Tony Kelly, who has acted for Megrahi, over whether the petition should continue.

He added: "Obviously it's an ongoing situation, particularly after recent events, and new information is continuing to come to the fore. I think the relevant place for that information to be considered is by the Scottish police and Scottish prosecutors, and as such I don't think there's a role for this committee to consider this petition further."

Ms Grahame declared her membership of Justice For Megrahi and her "particularly high profile in arguing that his conviction is unsound".

She said: "The Justice Committee is not being asked to conduct a public inquiry via the committee. We're being asked whether or not there should be a public inquiry. I think the committee will agree that this is unfinished business. We had the abandonment of the second part of the appeal, with the SCCRC report untested, in extraordinary circumstances."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government would welcome a wide-ranging inquiry into the circumstances of the Lockerbie atrocity and we stand ready to assist in any way we can.

"However, given the international dimensions to this issue, the scope of any such inquiry goes well beyond the restricted remit and responsibilities of the Scottish Government or Scottish Parliament, and would therefore have to be convened by those with the required powers. Scottish authorities would co-operate in full in any such inquiry.

"Scotland's justice system has been dealing with the Lockerbie atrocity for nearly 23 years, and in every regard the due process of Scots Law has been followed - in terms of the investigation, prosecution, imprisonment, rejection of the prisoner transfer application and granting of compassionate release.

"We believe that the SCCRC Statement of Reasons should be in the public domain and that is precisely why we are introducing a Bill later this year to facilitate publication. The Bill is necessary in order to overcome objections by interested parties preventing any publication."

[The report in the edition of The Herald for Wednesday, 9 November can be read here; that in The Scotsman can be read here.]


  1. James Kelly's desperation to bury this petition was evident but the case he put was, frankly, absurd. The courts were the right route, he declared. I could not agree more however he surely cannot be ignorant of the conduct of Scottish Courts in the matter of Megrahi?

    The Courts ignored their own independent overseer (the SCCRC) in the matter of his conviction and deliberately delayed the second appeal. They indulged in conduct which, according to Hans Koechler, was tantamount to the obstruction of justice.

    Kelly KNOWS that route was tried so to hold it up as the way forward was, frankly, insulting as it suggested he believes those of us out here have the IQ of a cardboard box! Romantic tho, to see Kelly and his Tory colleagues being together on this one.

    Christine Grahame played a blinder in defeating Kelly's attempts to get the petition and the calls for an Inquiry buried. She also highlighted the pitfalls of that "emergency" legislation rushed through by MacAskill which removed vital powers from the SCCRC. Again, Kelly wasn't remotely concerned about this. Worrying that such people have a place in a Scottish Parliament and especially on anything which dares to call itself a "justice" committee! Kelly made it clear today that justice doesn't enter into his equation.

  2. Dear God - Megrahi's lawyer was a Labour MP? Another piece of the jigsaw thuds into place.

  3. No, Megrahi's solicitor's brother is a Labour MP.

    I still don't like it though. I saw him (the solicitor) on TV when the appeal was dropped, and he seemed very relaxed about it, even talking down its prospects of success. I thought at the time he had an agenda, and it wasn't his client's best interests.

  4. Hello Rolfe, was wondering how you were. Nice to see you!

  5. Vronsky, don't criticise Labour alone on this one.

    The SNP worked hand in glove with London to get the appeal dropped and Megrahi out of the country without that appeal being heard. They, more than anyone, have denied us justice on Lockerbie and that is a fact. Salmond and MacAskill are still publicly declaring the original verdict sound!

    They came to power just as the SCCRC declared its findings and did NOTHING as the Scottish Judiciary delayed the appeal for more than two years. Salmond could have taken them all on and, yet, bottled it. So don't you crow because the SNP, on this one, have nothing to be proud of when it comes to the principle of jutice and especially justice over Lockerbie!

    MacAskill in particular has sent the SCCRC to the dentist to have all its teeth removed. Once it could refer cases straight to the appeal court, now a judge needs to give it the nod. All while declaring he wishes to restore "integrity" to the Scottish Justice System. Clearly MacAskill has changed the dictionary definition of integrity considerably. In doing so, make no mistake, the SNP has gone further than any other Party, in ensuring the truth about Lockerbie never emerges. That should shock all of us.

  6. Rolfe, its perhaps not suprising that Megrahi's solictor wasn't hopeful. Look at the Fraser case. TWO Scottish Appeal Courts chose to overlook proof that the PF's office had withheld evidence from the original trial. The evidence involved precognition statements by Police Officers in the investigation. With Appeal Courts seemingly determined never to admit any Scottish Court could ever make a mistake maybe he was right to be pessimistic.

    And look at MacAskill (and Salmond) when the Supreme Court was unable to ignore the evidence in the Fraser case. They were outraged. They went with the, "This is Scotland and no one can challenge a court decision!" line. What, exactly, is just about such a position? And MacAskill dares utter the word integrity? He let a lot of people down on Lockerbie as did Salmond. The SNP were the only Party who came to this issue with clean hands. I've said that before on this site. Now their hands are utterly toxic.

  7. "Vronsky, don't criticise Labour alone on this one."

    I don't. If you look at my history of posts here they are most usually an expression of bewilderment that the SNP seems unwilling or incapable of dealing with this and I speak as an active member of the party. It worries me terribly that whatever it was that corrupted and destroyed the Labour Party might soon do the same to the SNP.

    Still, a Labour connection with anything is worth mentioning - nowadays it's synonymous with skullduggery of some sort.
    Thank you for the correction.

  8. Vronsky, I think you should bury your bewilderment and start to publicly challenge the SNP on this issue.

    Salmond could have taken everyone on and beaten them on this issue because had he done it the right way he would have taken all of Scotland behind him. Why did he not do it? He has lost people in going his chosen path. Maybe they don't matter to him but to some of us Lockerbie was a huge issue.

    When I hear a Justice Minister, SNP or otherwise, speak of justice, I want him or her to know the true definition of the word. MacAskill, so far, doesn't appear to follow. That is bad news for the SNP and for Scotland. If we can't trust him on justice over Lockerbie, how can we trust him on anything. Salmond has the powers to go for broke on this, even now, and he should, in the interests of justice.

    He has such pride in "Scots Law". What pride we would all have if only he had the guts to take the Lockerbie issue by the throat and demand the truth and use his considerable powers to lead us to that very thing!

    As for "skullduggery" the SNP government are up to their armpits in the stuff when it comes to Lockerbie and Megrahi. If you are an active member of their Party I implore you to challenge them on their conduct. I am not a member of the Party but once upon a time I believed that Salmond would take the whole Lockerbie issue apart and get to the truth and throw aside anyone who got in his way. He didn't, alas, do any of those things. I still can't understand why.