Wednesday, 29 February 2012

We should beware forensic evidence to secure convictions

[This is the headline over an article by Dr John Cameron, physicist and former Church of Scotland minister, in today’s edition of the Scottish Review.  It reads as follows:]

I first became involved in the Lockerbie case when Nelson Mandela asked the Church of Scotland to support his efforts to have Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's conviction overturned. 

As an experienced lawyer, Mandela studied the transcripts and decided there had been a miscarriage of justice, pointing especially to serious problems with the forensic evidence. I was the only research physicist among the clergy and was the obvious person to review the evidence to produce a technical report which might be understood by the Kirk.

Scientists always select the competing hypothesis that makes the fewest assumptions to eliminate complicated constructions and keep theories grounded in the laws of science. This is 'Occam's razor' and from the outset the theory that the bomb entered the system in Malta as unaccompanied baggage and rattled around Europe seemed quite mad. I contacted everyone I knew in aviation and they all were of the opinion it was placed on board at the notoriously insecure Heathrow and that the trigger had to be barometric.

The Maltese link is so tenuous, complex and full of assumptions it depends almost totally upon the integrity of the three forensic scientists involved – and that was a big problem. Megrahi is the only person convicted on their evidence whose conviction was not reversed on appeal.

One of the UK's foremost criminal lawyers, Michael Mansfield, has long warned against our judiciary's gross over-reliance on forensic evidence to secure convictions. He said: 'Forensic science is not immutable and the biggest mistake anyone can make is to believe its practioners are somehow beyond reproach. Some of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history have come from cases in which the forensic science was later shown to have been grossly misleading.'

There is, in fact, a kind of 'canteen culture' in forensic science which encourages officers to see themselves as part of the prosecuting team rather than seekers after truth. The scientific evidence points to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [-General Command] whose chief bomb-maker, Marwen Khreesat, was arrested in Frankfurt in December 1988.

In the boot of his car was a Toshiba cassette recorder identical to the one found later at Lockerbie with Semtex moulded inside it, a simple time delay and a barometric switch.

[In the same issue there is a contribution by David Hill which reads in part:]

With John Ashton's book blowing to smithereens any shred of credibilty left clinging to the guilty verdict on Al Megrahi (despite the BBC's selective and timid account of it) [The Herald]  led today [Tuesday 28 February] with a minor distraction about how or why the appeal was abandoned.

I know no sensible or well-informed person who believes the 'evidence' presented at the travesty at Camp Zeist would have got through a sheriff court.
I know no sensible or well-informed person who is now confident that Al Megrahi was guilty. And I recognise a growing conviction on the part of most of these preople that the sentence passed on Al Megrahi was the result of a pre-ordained and absolutely disgusting stitch between the US and the UK governments and the government of Libya to send, for whatever reasons, an innocent man to jail.

As the revelations have trickled out over the years it has become more and more probable that some in authority in Scotland were involved and I remain puzzled as to why the present Scottish Government, not in power at the the time of the trial, is dragging its feet.

I have assumed for some time that the UK, the US and particularly the Libyans have had every reason to fear an inquiry, whether a public inquiry or an Al Megrahi appeal, but once our newspapers see it as their obligation to cover up for those in power these newspapers are beyond any respect.

1 comment:

  1. The Zeist panel's reasoning in support of their findings that, firstly, the Lockerbie bomb was loaded on flight KM180 and that, secondly, Megrahi was the purchaser of the clothes packed around it, is illogical and inexplicable unless one assumes a predetermination to convict. And this is most likely due to that bloody timer fragment and the undue reverence paid to forensic evidence. Their Lordships referred to it as an "item which
    turned out to be of major significance to this enquiry despite its miniscule size..."