[This is the headline over a letter from Justice for Megrahi committee member Jock Thomson QC published today on the website of Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]
Following the monumental mess made of the trial for the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, Lord Hardie (then Lord Advocate) and the trial Judge (Lord McCluskey) engaged in a highly publicised spat - gloves and jackets off - it was to figure in the subsequent appeal.
Crown Office at the time, to the great fury of the Lord Advocate and the then First Minster (Donald Dewar), was described as being "institutionally racist". The Lord Advocate was told to do something about it - you must understand, there was a separation of powers in those days which Jack McConnell was about to change dramatically by appointing a career prosecutor/civil servant, Elish Angiolini, Procurator Fiscal, as Solicitor General - and Lord Hardie promptly declared Crown Office squeaky clean and attempted (pathetically) to point elsewhere to explain the alleged racism. At least he demonstrated publicly that the Office of the Lord Advocate was answerable and accountable, to the Executive and to the public.
Now we are told that Crown Office is "institutionally corrupt" (Scottish Law Reporter 17 October). What response from Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill or the Lord Advocate has there been to that extraordinary claim? In a word, NONE.
What are we to make of the deafening silence?
And yet, when all of Scotland's Judges, Lord Justice-Clerk Carloway apart, disagree with the Justice Secretary's proposals to get rid of corroboration, we are told that "Crown Office is angry and its spin doctors have lodged personal attacks on some of the Judges." (Scottish Law Reporter).
Who are these "spin doctors? Are we paying them to attack our judges? Are they civil servant members of Crown Office? Do the Law Officers have any control over what that say? Do they speak on behalf of the Law Officers, Crown Office or COPFS? Are they part of the MacAskill/Crown apparatchik? How dare they attack any judge? Which judges? Why not all the dissenting judges?
These questions,and many more, demand answers...
...but I won't be holding my breath.
We should all be very afraid. Our system of criminal justice is rapidly going to hell in a handcart.
[These faults within the Crown Office are also, of course, amply demonstrated in its handling of the Lockerbie case and in its intemperate response to Justice for Megrahi’s allegations of serious criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation and prosecution.]