Monday, 30 July 2012

Join the queue, Tommy

[The following are excerpts from an article in today's edition of The Scotsman headlined MP calls for Sheridan trial probe in light of hacking scandal:]

Labour MP Tom Watson, who helped uncover the News of the World phone hacking scandal, is to write to Mr Salmond asking him to order the Scottish Government's law officers to investigate why the case against Mr Sheridan came to court.

Mr Watson said Mr Sheridan's perjury conviction was a "travesty of justice" as he claimed that the allegations about the News of the World's phone-hacking operation cast doubt on the credibility of key trial witnesses from the defunct newspaper who were called to give evidence by the Crown Office.

Bob Bird, former editor of the News of the World's Scottish edition, and former news editor Douglas Wight were both called by the Crown Office as witnesses in Mr Sheridan's trial, which led to the former MSP being handed a three-year jail term. Both men deny being part of any phone-tapping activities. (...)

Mr Watson will argue that the Crown Office was wrong to pursue the case against Mr Sheridan and in particular should not have relied on evidence from News of the World employees.

He said: "It's now absolutely certain that the judgment is unsound and if Alex Salmond had a shred of decency he would use all the power he has to ensure that this is urgently dealt with. (...)" 

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: "The majority of the evidence led by the Crown against Tommy Sheridan was from witnesses who were his former friends and colleagues and who had no relationship whatsoever with the News of the World.

"Any appeal against conviction or sentence would be a matter for Mr Sheridan and his legal team."

The Scottish Government said ministers would not personally intervene over Mr Sheridan's conviction, but added that any concerns about a case could be taken up with the administration's top law officer, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland.

[Much more urgent, of course, is an inquiry into the prosecution and conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi.  The SCCRC found six grounds for concluding that his conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice, one of them being that, on a matter absolutely central to conviction, no reasonable court on the evidence led could have reached the conclusion that the trial court arrived at. Since the SCCRC reported, much more evidence has become available -- much of it relating to misconduct in the conduct of the investigation and the prosecution -- and is set out in detail in John Ashton's Megrahi: You are my Jury and elsewhere.  For the Scottish Government to suggest to concerned citizens that their remedy is to ask the Crown Office to conduct an investigation into misconduct in a criminal investigation and prosecution when the Crown Office is now headed, not by independent lawyers brought in from private practice, but by career civil servants from that very office, is nothing short of risible.
Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm's account of this issue can be seen here.]

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