Monday, 26 March 2012

A clear signal ...

[The following opinion piece is published today on the website of Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm. It comes from the pen of the magazine’s editor, Steven Raeburn.]

The publication of the SCCRC’s report into the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi (the redundant term ‘Lockerbie bomber’ is clung onto now only by the vanishingly few) sheds valuable and useful light on few corners of the Pan Am 103 debacle. However, more revealing than the contents themselves are the manoeuvrings surrounding its release, and what they reveal about the tainted, corrupted justice system that stood in the way of its publication for five long, unnecessary and criminally culpable years. 

The calibre of the Crown Office and its personnel can be judged fairly by the equally odious Shirley McKie fingerprint case, in which the entire coordinated monolith of the police, Crown Office and Law Officers held the moral low ground over a sustained fourteen year period, until an inquiry forced apologies to be issued earlier this year. The Pan Am 103 case is depressingly similar. 

The Crown Office persistently and desperately clings to the manufactured fantasy of Megrahi’s guilt, a fabrication specifically designed to implicate Libya as a matter of geopolitical convenience. It has steadfastly opposed every opportunity to undertake its duty and apply justice in this case. The Crown has been conducting an elaborate charade almost from the outset, with the explicit, curiously coordinated support of the Scottish Government, and tacit consent of the Westminster Government, whose own malfeasance from Thatcher downwards is transparent and warrants investigation.

The UN appointed special observer to the Zeist proceedings, Hans Kochler, concluded that "the falsification of evidence, selective presentation of evidence, manipulation of reports, interference into the conduct of judicial proceedings by intelligence services," he observed at Megrahi’s trial were "criminal offences in any country." The Crown and Government efforts to suppress the SCCRC report between 2007 and now have sustained that criminality with disturbing consistency. 

Responsibility can be laid directly at the door of successive Lords Advocate from Fraser on. Elish Angiolini, who received the SCCRC report upon publication, was retained and inducted into Alex Salmond’s cabinet, voiding any possibility of judicial independence, creating a toxic blend in a case that - above all others - exemplifies the need for a separation of powers, a principle sadly lost in post-devolution Scotland. Under her watch, Crown Agent Norman McFadyen was reported to the police by MSP Christine Grahame, now head of the Justice Committee, for allegedly tampering with crucial evidence in this case. The machinery of justice was frozen into suspicious paralysis in response. 

A petition currently sits before Grahame’s Justice Committee calling for a wide ranging Pan Am 103 inquiry. In the second of his hurriedly released statements yesterday, Alex Salmond said the publication of the SCCRC report was “in many ways [..] far more comprehensive than any inquiry could ever hope to be,” sending as clear a signal as could be telegraphed to Scotland’s close-knit judicial coven not to initiate one.
By publishing the SCCRC report, journalism has stepped in where Scotland’s justice system - poorly led and manifestly unfit for purpose - continues to fail. Pens need to continue to be mightier than the current limp judicial swords.

1 comment:

  1. This is a big issue for me and I would imagine many others. The heart of a community is the rule of law, if we cannot trust the law, who holds it to account ? I know this case started off during a labour admin but surely if the SNP were to confirm their transparency claim then they should have been all over this, but they in this case have by their inaction and agreement of the verdict cast doubt in my mind if they can be so wrong in this case how can I trust them with indy.

    I am not sure whether there are political strings being pulled in the background as a mitigating reason, but if there was they should come out and say, because no cause is a reason to allow this kind of travesty to take place.