Saturday, 26 May 2012

Blind justice

[This is the heading over a letter from Thomas Crooks published in today’s edition of The Scotsman.  It reads as follows:]

Brian Wilson’s robust defence of the Scottish legal system in the context of the Lockerbie verdict reflects a heady mixture of novel, curious and ultimately untenable theories as to why the verdict is “unassailable”:

Firstly he posits the “Universal Respect and Emulation” theory of justice. Fortunately, many people do not share Mr Wilson’s swooning admiration for our legal system. If they were still around, I’m sure Oscar Slater and Paddy Meehan would be among them.

Furthermore, a perceived “respect and emulation” for the Scottish legal system does not mean that the judiciary is always optimally impartial, or that its assessment of the evidence is infallible, or that their assessment of the credibility of the witnesses is unassailable. And it does not mean that their judgments cannot be questioned.

Secondly, Mr Wilson proposes what I would style the arithmetical theory of justice.

He argues that those who argue for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s innocence allege “the Scottish legal system messed up on every available count”. This he says it would have to have done twice, involving nine judges, five Lord Advocates, and umpteen prosecutors, forensic scientists, policemen etc.

Clearly his disbelief derives from the headcount (and the eminence) of those involved. The logic implicit in Mr Wilson’s reliance on the “umpteen” composition of the Scottish legal posse involved suggest that miscarriages of justice are technically impossible.

I regret to say the Peter Cadder case involved more than nine eminent judges, more than a few prosecutors and at least “umpteen” policemen.

Thirdly, he argues what I would term the blind faith theory of justice.

Mr Wilson, perhaps aware of the weaknesses in the headcount approach, takes a leap of faith regarding his belief in the integrity of the conviction of Megrahi: “I don’t believe it” he declares. Perhaps he would believe it if he carefully studied the Cadder case and in particular, the Supreme Court’s dissection of it.

Finally he offers the “I Know my Place” theory of justice.

He simply does not believe that the courts could have got it wrong because, he writes: “I feel utterly unqualified to disparage the judges who heard the evidence in the High Court of Justiciary in Camp Zeist”.

If everyone followed the “I know my place” approach, the Birmingham six, the Guildford four, the Maguire three, Barry George and many others, would still be squirming in the squalor of a British jail vainly protesting their innocence.

Despite the novelty of Mr Wilson’s theories, and the quality of his admiration for the Scottish legal system, the Megrahi conviction remains where it has always been – deep in the depths of justified doubt.


  1. Brian Wilson, splenetic critic of all things SNP, defending an SNP position. If you didn't smell a rat before...

  2. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2012. (google translation, german/english):

    The Scottish Jurisdiction must reset the Judgement "Guilty" of the deceased,
    Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, in the Status of Innocentness.
    Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is to favour of the Libyan people an involuntary Hero.
    Justice for Al-Megrahi's name. الله أكبر Allah Akbar

    Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  3. I went to see Falkirk Tryst Theatre’s production, “The Lockerbie Bomber” last night (27th May). This was the premier of a script by Kenneth Ross, pseudonym of Alan Clark, a member of the theatre company. The audience of around one hundred in Falkirk Town Hall included Dr Jim Swire, who briefly addressed the audience after the performance. I don’t know what opportunity there will be for others to see this play, but see it if you can. The atmosphere is intense, and at no stage did I feel I was watching amateur players.
    The play examines the events and aftermath of the bombing through the eyes of a couple who lost a young child in the disaster, a pair of investigative journalists, and two spooks – one British, one CIA.
    Scottish art from the fifteenth century makars up to Irvine Welsh has tended to look at the world through more unflinching eyes than our southern neighbours, and Ross’s play follows in that tradition. The stage set is a litter of aeroplane wreckage which the actors continuously wander through, adopting as furniture for the scene in progress so that all action takes place among this debris of disaster.
    Ross seems to have worked on the assumption that the audience knows nothing of the detail of the Camp Zeist trial – a defensible assumption, but it leads to some lengthy exposition in dialogue. However as journalist Maggie McInnes, played with fine conviction by Rhona Law, sits down to write her exposé, dark forces are already at work and the dramatic pace rises. When an attempt by the British intelligence officer to silence the journalists by leaking a little of the truth fails, the CIA agent resorts to more traditional methods. Maggie is abducted and tortured, in one of the most chilling pieces of theatre I have seen, and I go to a lot of theatre. Of course in the real world it is quite unnecessary to torture journalists in order to have them ‘toe the line’ – their willing self-censorship is almost as horrifying as the breaking of fingers.
    As the journalists and the bereaved family try to piece together what has happened, the secret agents meet in the background and arrange events and outcomes as they are instructed. The CIA man is a straightforward thug who enjoys his work, while the British agent recognises the human damage they are doing but wearily accepts the ‘realpolitik’. He expresses the only note of optimism in the play: he expects that the Scottish government, for its own survival, must at some point cut its support for the Crown Service and allow the truth to emerge. The play ends with the cast all on stage, simply standing and staring in silence at the audience for a long moment. There are no bows or curtain calls - Lockerbie is unfinished business.