Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Police, Crown Office accused in widespread perversion of the course of justice over Pan Am 103

[A news report has just been published on the website of Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm, following today’s Justice for Megrahi press conference.  It reads as follows:]

The Pan Am 103 debacle has taken a significant new twist as the entire criminal justice framework came under fire for a sustained and coordinated perversion of the course of justice in the handling of the Pan Am 103 investigation, trial and subsequent political cover up.

An extraordinary series of claims have been made today by the Committee of the Justice for Megrahi campaign group, who lodged a series of complaints with Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill last month.

The Minister's perceived failure to address the issues have led to the group going public with their concerns.

Former Lord Advocate Colin Boyd (...) is accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by submitting false information to the Zeist trial court. [RB: Lord Boyd is accused of communicating to the Zeist Court information which members of the prosecution team, whom he consulted, knew to be false.  He may himself have been an unwitting conduit of false information.]

Members of the prosecution team are accused by the group of presenting a scenario to the trail court  "which was known to be false".

The group accuse Dumfries and Galloway Police of concealing a witness statement in relation to an airside break-in at Heathrow airport earlier on 21 December 1988.

"It is submitted that the concealment of this witness statement, which was or ought to have been known to Dumfries and Galloway Police and the Crown Office to be of the highest possible significance to the defence, constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice," the group said.

The letter outlining the grounds include further allegations claiming witness statements given at the Zeist trial were false, and that individuals associated with the investigation, in particular a named police officer, failed to make relevant inquiries and attempted to pervert the course of justice.

The letter represents a significant change of tactic for the Justice for Megrahi group, moving from challenging the soundness of the conviction against Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, to naming those they believe may be responsible for independent criminal acts of their own, resulting in the conviction of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi.

In 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission concluded that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place.

"You above all will realise the seriousness of these allegations which strike at the very heart of the Lockerbie investigation past and present," the group said in their letter to MacAskill.

"Effectively, we are complaining about the actions of Crown Office officials, the prosecution and investigating authorities including the police, and certain other agencies and individuals. Given the controversy surrounding this whole affair we request that you give serious thought to the independence of any investigating authority you appoint. As a group we believe that you should appoint someone outwith Scotland who has no previous direct or indirect association with Lockerbie or its ramifications."

The group had pledged to "keep these matters private and confidential for a period of thirty days," and have now publicised their concerns following the receipt of a response from Neil Rennick, the Deputy Director of Criminal Law and Licensing at the Justice Directorate, on Mr MacAskill's behalf.

The response did not propose the appointment of an internationally independent investigator as proposed by the group.

"It is not the function of the Scottish Government to investigate allegations that criminal offences have been committed. This is the responsibility of the Lord Advocate who operates independently of the Scottish Government in such matters and your letter acknowledges the importance of this separation of duties within Scotland’s justice system," Mr Rennick said.

The Justice for Megrahi group said the response "distorts and utterly misrepresents our request to you."

"We did not request that you as Justice Secretary, or any other member of the executive, investigate our allegations," the group said.

"As Secretary for Justice you have a clear duty to make sure that our justice system is administered in a way that instils public confidence in that system. We will leave it to you to decide if, by failing to facilitate a full and independent enquiry into our allegations, you have abrogated that responsibility to the people of Scotland."

The Pan Am 103 investigation has previously been challenged on the basis of the perceived politicisation of the judicial process, as well as the emergence of testimony claiming fabrication of evidence, non disclosure of material evidence to the defence, bribery of witnesses, tampering of evidence and manipuation of the trial process by government intelligence operatives.

In 2005 UN observer Hans Koechler said "the falsification of evidence, selective presentation of evidence, manipulation of reports, interference into the conduct of judicial proceedings by intelligence services, etc. are criminal offences in any country."

Former Crown Agent Norman MacFadyen was reported to the police in 2009 in relation to allegations of evidence tampering, but no charges were ever brought.

The group's letter to MacAskill can be read here.

[A commentary in The Firm by criminal lawyer Nicholas Scullion can be read here.]


  1. From the BBC report on the subject:
    Mr Rennick told JFM it should provide evidence of its allegations to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary which carried out the Lockerbie investigation.

    Ha bloody ha.

    But the Crown Office said it considered the allegations to be defamatory.

    It added: "These allegations have been addressed and rejected in a combination of court hearings, an inquiry by Lothian and Borders police and the investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).

    Since the trial evidence has emerged piecemeal which has progressively undermined the Crown's case. There's little doubt that, had all of this material been disclosed by the Crown at trial, Megrahi's team could have mounted a much more robust defence which would have shredded the case against him.

    "The SCCRC was satisfied after full and proper investigation that there was no basis for concluding that evidence in the case was fabricated by the police, the Crown, forensic scientists or any other representatives of official bodies or government agencies."

    The Crown office is being typically disingenuous here. They aren't accused of fabricating evidence, they're accused of concealing evidence which undermined their case.

  2. I like this approach; I expect it will be difficult to ignore substantive criminal complaints in the manner in which other approaches have been deflected