Wednesday, 25 July 2012

More on Maggie Scott QC's elevation

[What follows is taken from a report published yesterday on the Scottish Law Reporter website:]

Maggie Scott QC, well known as a criminal defence specialist and for her role in the appeal of the late Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the man who most agree was unjustly convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, has been appointed as a judge to Scotland’s Court of Session. She is expected to take up the post later in the year.

An announcement of Ms Scott’s appointment to the Court of Session, reported as far back as April of this year by The Herald’s Lucy Adams, was expected to have been made in early June, at the same time as the announcement of Scotland’s new Lord President, Lord Gill and the appointments of Lord Colin Boyd QC, Michael Jones QC, and David Burns QC as Senators of the College of Justice (...).

There is no ‘official’ explanation for the delay in announcing Ms Scott’s elevation to the bench, however the delay did enable the famous QC to give a robust defence for the retention of corroboration in Scots Law in the printed media and on television.


  1. When you are a humble pawn in the great game and do not have any say on events, you hope that those appointed to assist you, have your best interests at heart and are not just acting the part in their own interests.

    This is why if they have the wit to do so, pawns should represent themselves in the court room.

    This is described as ‘a man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client’, but in a political show trial the fool can ask the questions their appointed Crown QCs will not.

    If Megrahi had defended himself at Zeist he could have asked the elementary question, whether there would have been any identifiable remains of a shirt allegedly wrapped around a ‘bomb’ that was capable of destroying a Boeing 747 in 3 seconds?

    I doubt the question would have altered the show trial verdict, but why was it not asked? I fear because his defence team were acting the part.

    And that is a question you have left hanging about Maggie Scott QC, because she must be fully aware of Megrahi’s innocence.

    Did she protest about the long delays in the appeal process and has she spoken of Megrahi’s innocence, or has she been elevated as reward for acting her part in the great game?

  2. Considering that multiple re-stagings of the alleged bomb explosion have repeatedly shown fragments of shirts and so on remaining exactly as described, then I don't think the answer to that question would have been particularly helpful.

    For Megrahi to have represented himself at trial would have been insanity of the highest order. The advice to him not to go into the witness box may or may not have been wise. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    His defence team seem to have been in a bit of a dilemma, of a type that occurs from time to time. The prosecution cherry-picked the evidence it wanted to try to demonstrate guilt. There was other evidence there, in the prosecution files, that contradicted specific aspects of their case. The defence have to decide, do they call this evidence on their own behalf to try to undermine the prosecution case, or not? The dilemma is, this can backfire. It can lead to witnesses saying things they don't expect them to say. You're going into uncharted territory, and you may end up somewhere you didn't want to go.

    The other course is to rely on showing that the prosecution have not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt. That was the case here, and it was a strategy that should have worked. I think the defence didn't handle that as well as they could have, but again hindsight is a wonderful thing. Even granted that the defence team wasn't as stellar as it might have been, it would have been successful but for the fact that the judges behaved as if they were batting for the prosecution.

    Lack of competence is not the same as throwing away the case.

    And the insinuation that Maggie Scott was promoted because she was complicit in delaying Megrahi's appeal is just shameful.

  3. Even if a ‘400g Semtex IED’ was sufficient to destroy the plane in 3 seconds and fragments of clothing remained, would they be identifiable?

    “Yes beyond reasonable doubt this burnt and blackened bit of collar is the remains of a pristine shirt I sold Customer X from my tourist shop a few years ago”.

    In a political show trial the defence team can be sincere but they too will be intimidated, just like the Judges and fearful for themselves.

    That’s why the defence team questioned the prosecution’s evidence, but did not produce their own, as above.

    And Maggie Scott QC who is aware of Megrahi’s innocence has been elevated by Alex Salmond who is convinced of his guilt!

    And I never said she was complicit in delaying the appeal, only whether the delay got the public and professional criticism it deserved.

  4. “Yes beyond reasonable doubt this burnt and blackened bit of collar is the remains of a pristine shirt I sold Customer X from my tourist shop a few years ago”.

    Of course, if anyone had ever actually said that, or anything remotely similar, you might have a point. But since nobody did, you don't. Maybe some time you'd like to have a look at the actual evidence in the case, and which bits were strong and which bits weren't, rather than making up ridiculous fluff so you can mock your own inventions?

    Why did the defence not present a case, as opposed to showing the prosecution hadn't proved theirs? Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Unwillingness to present hostages to fortune was probably a large part of it. That, and dare I suggest a bit of laziness in that the prosecution case was so full of holes maybe they thought the job was money for old rope? There's no evidence to suggest they were intimidated, and quite a lot suggesting they weren't. For example they way they went after Giaka.

    And you know what? It's even possible the FM doesn't think about Megrahi every minute of every day, and might have other reasons in his mind when considering judicial appointments.

    It would be nice if you studied a bit about the case before making so free with your pronouncements about "that's what happened".

  5. Dear Rolfe I know it wasn’t said, that the point, it should have been Megrahi’s defence to question the idea that any identifiable clothing would have survived.

    Because the clothing was the first link in the chain of non-evidence on which he was convicted.

    And I’m not convinced this defence wasn’t used because ‘of the risks of doing so, or because of laziness’!

    Because the Judges themselves admitted to the great pressure they were under to convict and this pressure would have applied to the prosecution and defence teams too.

    How can Alex Salmond say he is convinced that Megrahi is guilty and then appoint a High Court Judge who knows he is innocent or has Maggie Scott agreed never to mention the subject again?

  6. That would have been a pretty stupid defence, when it was absolutely clear that identifiable clothing survived every time anyone ran a simulation of the proposed suitcase IED.

    That defence wasn't used because of "the risks of doing so, or laziness." It wasn't used because it wasn't the case, and it demonstrably wasn't the case.

    "Oh sir, I can't have been speeding, because my car can't go that fast!"

    Policeman gets into your car and drives it at the speed you've been accused of doing.


    Whether or not the judges were under pressure to convict, they have never admitted any such thing. On the contrary, the only one who has spoken out to my knowledge has stated categorically that they were never under any pressure to bring in any particular verdict. Now you may choose to disbelieve that, and if you did I wouldn't blame you, but please stop posting blatant lies.

    Obviously the prosecution were working their little backsides off to get a conviction. We know that. There is no evidence at all to substantiate the allegation that the defence weren't trying.

    You seem to be under the delusion that the FM can't appoint someone as a judge if they represented someone he believes to be guilty. A moment's thought should demonstrate how preposterous that suggestion is.

    Really, Dave, I know there's a lot to take in, but you really should go and find out some actual facts about this case, and stop posting whatever spurious rubbish just happens to come into your head.

  7. Dear Rolfe, unless the shirt had some markings unique to the Maltese tourist shop (was it sold loose or wrapped?) which remained identifiable, it would be difficult to say beyond reasonable doubt that it came from that shop, even if intact.

    Also the shopkeeper was only prepared to say Megrahi resembled the purchaser of the shirt, but the defence did not challenge his testimony that the remains of the shirt definitely came from his summer range.

    Or are you saying the remains did come from the shop and remained identifiable after being blown to bits by a powerful ‘Semtex IED’.

    And yes sorry your right, the Judges have not verbally admitted to being under pressure to convict, but their decision to convict on no evidence would indicate the contrary.

    And this pressure would have been felt by everyone in such a high profile case and inhibited their actions.

    For example you say no evidence to suggest the defence team weren’t intimidated, but have already posted they took a cautious and perhaps lazy approach.

    My point about Alex Salmond is that if he appointed a high Court Judge who knows Megrahi is innocent, would an intelligent person remain convinced of his guilt, or would they have doubts?

  8. Dave, please stop embarrassing yourself. Tony Gauci never at any point identified the grey Slalom shirt as coming from his shop. His initial statement was that he definitely didn't sell the man any shirts. Later, he changed his mind and decided he did sell the man two shirts. Not a grey one though. The assertion that the grey shirt came from Tony's shop (which was no more than a possibility) was never central to the case.

    There was no "testimony that the remains of the shirt definitely came from his summer range." Never. It didn't happen. You are making stuff up again.

    There was another item, not a shirt, which was definitely shown to have been supplied to Tony's shop, and the remains of it were definitely found in a burned condition on the ground in Scotland. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you don't know anything about the case. I think maybe you need to find out.

    Please don't think you can put me right, because you're going to make a fool of yourself again. None of the judges has ever said publicly that they were under pressure to convict. I'll make it easy for you. A certain Dirk Vandewalle once said that one of the judges had told him privately that there was enormous pressure to convict. When the judges heard about this they issued a statement saying that not only was this nonsense, but that to the best of their knowledge none of them had ever met Mr. Vandewalle.

    Try this link for the details.

    You are at liberty to disbelieve the denial if you like. You are not at liberty to make stuff up. Or not without being corrected on it, anyway.

    Once again you are insinuating that the defence team was trying to get Megrahi convicted. There is no evidence of that at all. They took the view that the Crown had not proved its case, and that was what they had to show. Could they have done more? Could they have done better? Hindsight is by its very nature perfect. If they had known the line the judges were going to take, I imagine they would have done some things differently. That is not the same as deliberately trying to throw their case. Apart from anything else, if they had won, their careers and reputations would have been stellar. (Richard Keen won, and look where he is now.)

    Alex Salmond appointed Maggie Scott to the judiciary because she was recommended to him for the appointment by the people who actually decide these things. I don't imagine her personal views on Megrahi's factual guilt or innocence even crossed his mind. If he actually knows what her personal views are, which is doubtful.

  9. Dear Rolfe, if as you say the clothing sold to Megrahi was not central to the case against him, then yes I have been embarrassing myself, because I thought it was.

    And you are right to say my words regarding identification of the clothing were not said in court.

    They are the points you would have expected the defence team to make in the court room, if identification of the clothing was important.

    I agree the Judges have not officially admitted to being pressured to convict, for obvious reasons. That too must await death bed confessions!

    And I agree the defence team did not throw the case away, but I thought they should have made more of the clothing identification.

    But again, if as you say this was not central to the case I can understand this omission.

    The Scottish Government’s position is they believe Megrahi’s conviction to be safe. Perhaps Alex Salmond should be invited to meet Maggie Scott to discuss the matter!

  10. Please stop twisting my words. You were dementing on about a shirt, and claiming that Tony Gauci identified a particular shirt as one he sold to the mystery shopper. I pointed out that that did not happen, and the case did not turn on any particular shirt being sold.

    I pointed out to you that there was another item, not a shirt, which was definitely proved to have been supplied to Gauci's shop, and the same item was definitely found on the grass at Lockerbie, in a burned condition. You seem to be entirely unfamiliar with the provenance of this item, which was indeed crucial to the case against Megrahi, as I indicated in my previous post.

    How you can interpret that as my saying that the clothing sale was not important, I can't imagine. Do you have reading comprehension problems?

    As you don't seem to have any idea about the specifics of the evidence in relation to the clothing, it is perhaps no surprise at all to realise that you have no idea how that might have been countered in court. I would suggest you make an effort to find out what that evidence actually was, before you start pontificating about what you think the defence ought to have done about it.

    Your last paragraph seems completely irrelevant. Maggie Scott has defended many accused persons. Some have been convicted, some not. Like any good advocate, Miss Scott does not make public pronouncements about her own personal beliefs as to the factual guilt or innocence of any of her clients. This is not a matter which even arises when the Great and the Good of the Scottish legal establishment are deciding whom to recommend for judicial appointments.

    Or to put it more succinctly, grow up, why don't you?

  11. Dear Rolfe, no clothing wrapped around a powerful ‘bomb’ would survive and remain identifiable beyond reasonable doubt and this should have been central to Megrahi’s defence.

    I was not quoting from the trial, but was illustrating this point by referring to a shirt, but the point applies irrespective of whether the clothing was a shirt, jacket or trousers etc.

    Therefore to focus on what item of clothing was involved is to miss the point.

    You say an item of clothing was central to the case, but did this involve a cross examination of Gauci’s identification of Megrahi as the customer, or Gauci’s identification of the clothing?

  12. Dear Rolfe, no clothing wrapped around a powerful ‘bomb’ would survive and remain identifiable beyond reasonable doubt and this should have been central to Megrahi’s defence.

    Experiments have demostrated that it does survive.

    The item in question was traced, via its manufacturer, to Mary's House. This was how Tony Gauci became a witness. He remembered serving a customer whose behaviour was unusual, and recalled selling him certain items. When compared with the list of blast-damaged items recovered from the scene, Tony's list was a close match. Hence no-one disputes that the items wrapped around the IED were bought from Mary's House, or that the mysterious customer was involved in some way with the bombing.

  13. To address your last question first, why are you asking me? You have been posting as if you knew exactly what the evidence was and how the defence should have dealt with it and didn't.

    I do know exactly what Tony Gauci was asked about in court and by whom. You clearly do not. I think you should try to find out before expressing an opinion on the matter.

    To go to your first assertion, where is you evidence that no clothing packed in a suitcase with a Semtex device of the size the Lockerbie device was determined to be would have survived in identifiable form? You are just making that up, as a layman who knows nothing about such explosions, that much is clear.

    The exact nature of the clothing produced in evidence was clearly described in court, together with photographs. Also the distinguishing features on the clothing which in certain cases (one item in particular) were able to identify the item uniquely. I think you need to familiarise yourself with the exact nature of the evidence before shooting off your mouth about what the defence should or should not have done.

    Your amateur opinion about what would or would not survive such a blast counts for precisely nothing against the multiple trial explosions that were carried out by the forensics team, all of which demonstrated that recognisable fragments of clothing survived. This was confirmed quite recently by further trials done on behalf of Megrahi's appeal team, and again recognisable fragments of clothes survived. You can read all about it in John Ashton's book.

  14. Aw, Pete, you're giving him the answers! Where's the fun in that? Let the little blighter look it up for himself, I say!

  15. There may be confusion about what identifiable means. If fragments of clothing survive you could identify it as coming from, for example, a shirt.

    But could you identify beyond reasonable doubt that the burnt fragment came from a particular shirt or a particular shop because there are many shops selling many identical shirts.

    And you would need to prove the identity of the clothing before you could hope to identify beyond reasonable doubt who bought it?

    And even this assumes the test explosions used to show fragments survive, were using large enough ‘semtex IEDs’, because other reports conclude the official size of the ‘bomb’ would have been insufficient to destroy the plane in 3 seconds!

    Presumably the mistaken assumption that the clothing was identifiable beyond reasonable doubt is the reason the defence team did not challenge it in court?

    And dear Rolfe, you are a bit hasty agreeing with Pete’s comment, that “hence no one disputes the items wrapped around the IED was bought from Mary’s House or that the mysterious customer was involved in some way with the bombing”, because this comment implies that Megrahi is guilty!

  16. Dave, if Megrahi was the man who bought these clothes, he was as guilty as hell. I would be the first to acknowledge that.

    He wasn't, though.

    I have to say I'm getting tired of this. The chain of evidence and the detective work which traced one specific, unique item of clothing to its manufacturer and then to an order supplied to Tony Gauci's shop is well known and well publicised. It's not that hard to find the details. Here's a hint. It wasn't a shirt.

    Identifying who bought it, well that's a completely different matter of course.

    It's well understood how the relatively small amount of Semtex caused such catastrophic damage to the plane so quickly. It was a combination of the exact position of the explosive charge, and the height of the aircraft at the time it happened. Your "other reports" are the paranoid fantasies of conspiracy theorists.

    How often do I have to say it? Test detonations carried out both by the forensic investigators and on behalf of Megrahi's defence team all left identifiable fragments of clothing exactly as was found on the ground at Lockerbie. This is simply a fact, and it doesn't go away no matter how often you state the contrary.

    You are actually making a bit of a fool of yourself here. Can I suggest once again that you go off and read up about the facts of the case before coming online and telling the defence team what they ought or ought not to have done? They at least knew the specifics of the evidence they had to counter. You quite clearly do not.

  17. Dear Rolfe you say, “If Megrahi was the man who bought these clothes he was as guilty as hell. I would be the first to acknowledge that”!

    This requires a leap of logic, unless your presumption is that once purchased, the clothes remain in the possession of the customer and are not given away, stolen or mislaid?

  18. Dear Dave. Get a clue, why don't you?

    You were the one who declared that by saying the clothes were bought from Mary's House by someone involved with the bombing, this meant that Megrahi was guilty. Make up your mind, will you?

    Logically, if the Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tripoli, cousin of Senoussi and former Head of Airline Security for LAA, went into a scruffy little shop in Malta and bought a bunch of random clothes that ended up burned on the grass at Lockerbie, he did not do that innocently.

    (He didn't do it at all, though.)

    Your logic isn't any better than your grasp of the facts, on this showing.

  19. Dear Rolfe, you are adamant that the clothing came from Mary’s House and support the Heathrow conspiracy theory?

    Therefore are you saying the person who placed the ‘bomb’ at Heathrow, went shopping in Malta first?

    Or could it be the claim that the clothing came from Mary’s House was a fabrication to complement the other fabrication that the ‘bomb’ case was loaded in Malta?

  20. Have you ever wondered whether the fairies at the bottom of your garden did it?

    Maybe one day you'll take the trouble to find out what the actual evidence is, and then maybe you'll come back and post something sensible.