Saturday, 10 November 2012

A welcome, albeit grudging, change of tune

[On Tuesday, 6 November the following item appeared on this blog:]

In the (redacted) version of Justice for Megrahi’s letter alleging criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation and prosecution that was released to the press on 23 October 2012, allegation no 1 reads as follows:

“1.  On 22 August 2000 the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, communicated to the judges of the Scottish Court in the Netherlands information about the contents of CIA cables relating to the Crown witness Abdul Majid Giaka that was known to members of the prosecution team [A B and C D] who had scrutinised the cables, to be false. The Lord Advocate did so after consulting these members of the prosecution team. It is submitted that this constituted an attempt to pervert the course of justice.”

A number of journalists have interpreted this paragraph as embodying an allegation that Colin Boyd attempted to pervert the course of justice. The latest of these is Kenneth Roy in an article in today's edition the Scottish Review headlined A High Court judge and an allegation of criminality.  This raises concerns about the standard of English comprehension amongst journalists, because the paragraph makes no such allegation -- indeed was very carefully drafted in order to avoid it. What the paragraph alleges is that two members of the prosecution team, A B and C D,  supplied to Colin Boyd information about the CIA cables which A B and C D knew to be false (because they had scrutinised the cables) and which they knew he was going to, and did, communicate to the court.  That is the perversion of the course of justice that is alleged.

I am disappointed when journalists attempt to explain or excuse their flagrant misinterpretation of a text by reference to its -- non-existent -- ambiguity. The paragraph quite simply does not say that Colin Boyd perverted the course of justice. To represent that it does is an error on the part of the reader, not the writer.

[In today’s edition of the Scottish Review Kenneth Roy’s article There is a greater tragedy this weekend than the disgrace of the BBC contains the following:]

Most recently, here in Scotland, we have had an allegation, published by the BBC, of criminal wrongdoing against a High Court judge; although the source of the allegation has assured this magazine that it did not intend to make any such allegation, and that it was based on a misunderstanding, we have seen no correction or clarification of it by BBC Scotland. How fruitily ironic that the man drafted in by George Entwistle to investigate the goings-on at Newsnight is none other than the director of BBC Scotland, who seems to be unaware of the need to correct an injustice on his own doorstep.


  1. The BBC has been denounced by ‘right-wing’ opinion for a ‘left-wing’ bias that does not represent the views of British and Scottish people.

    I’m sure ‘left-wing’ opinion thinks the opposite.

    The fact is the BBC is not ‘left or right’ but the state broadcaster that represents the Establishment as represented by frontbench opinion in Parliament.

    And in Parliament there has been a consensus on the big issues. When the BBC challenged this consensus over Iraq it was shot down in flames.

    And this is why the BBC looks the other way on Lockerbie because there has been a consensus in Westminster and now Holyrood to avoid offending Washington on this issue.

    If ‘left or right’ want a more representative and courageous BBC they must support a more representative and courageous Parliament, through voting reform.

  2. I wonder if Robert really has to spend all the time on this. Is a libel-suit just around the corner?

    It is a school-example on how a focus on a case can be turned.

    - - -

    Giaka's statements, if believed, would have decided the case.

    The prosecution had access to material that clearly showed numerous problems regarding Giaka's credibility.

    Not only access. The prosecution stated that they had inspected the material, thereby putting extra weight behind their statement.

    But they delivered exactly the opposite of the truth to the court.

    Given the importance of the matter, this is as serious as can be.

    Colin Boyd and Co may of course claim only extreme sloppiness, and/or having forgotten to actually read the telegrams properly and/or misunderstanding each other and/or that somebody by mistake typed "not incriminating" instead of "highly incriminating" or God knows what.

    Thereby denying intentional dishonesty, but in return setting new standards for incompetence.

    Not even an explanation has Colin Boyd and Co found it necessary to give.

    Far from. Instead claim after claim from Colin Boyd, denying any failure or wrongdoing.

    To use the words of the trial judges": "We do not accept his denial".

    In JfMs terms it becomes "An attempt to pervert the course of justice".

    - - -

    And Colin Boyd will have to choose.

    Either he is a liar (which I personally find the only reasonable conclusion), or he was the head of of a severely incompetent team, delivering flatly wrong statements upon inspections of material that should leave no doubt.

    In any case he is a disgrace for the trusted post he was given.

    - - -

    But is this now the topic of discussion?

    Oh no, it seems that the focus is instead of whether JfM statement on the matter could be interpreted as directly implying that Colin Boyd intentionally misled the court.

    Very interesting. Maybe we should call in a team of professors in English and have a report?

    Or a public hearing of that matter, instead of one about the Lockerbie case.

    - - -

    There are many more details on the Colin Boyd matter on

  3. "But they delivered exactly the opposite of the truth to the court."

    Indeed SM, and what was delivered came from the mouth of the Lord Advocate. And, when witnesses are discovered telling the "opposite of the truth" in a court of law we usually call it perjury.

  4. I don't think it's technically perjury if the person saying it is not in the witness box under oath.

    For an example of that, at Camp Zeist, look to the statements about the material composition of the PCB fragment known as PT/35b. (Well, to be strictly correct, the material composition that was actually lied about in the witness box was that of the control Thuring-made PCB designated DP/347a.)

  5. Rolfe, I suggest you re-read my post.

    If anyone in Scotland should know what a court of law is and what it means for any person making what is claimed to be a statement of fact there which is later shown to be false then it is surely the Lord Advocate?

    Why should witnesses who mislead or lie to a court potentially face perjury charges while the top guy in Scots Law can mislead so many judges and get away with it? He lied in court. I don't care if he blames his minions. The buck stopped at Boyd and he made the statement. If he made the statement without checking properly then he was an idiot. (But I don't think anyone in their right mind would believe that when we know what we now know about the evidence in the hands of the Crown Office at that time which was withheld at the trial.) Boyd, the Lord Advocate, therefore misled/lied to judges and that, in anyone's book, is a very serious matter. So let's be done with your "technicalities"!

  6. Jo, I did read your post. Perjury is a specific offence which, just as you said, applies to witnesses who are discovered to be lying. The Lord Advocate was not a witness under oath, and neither were the other two unnamed lawyers in the discussion, so the fact remains that they cannot possibly be guilty of the offence of perjury.

    Communicating false information to the court with the intent of misleading the court comes under a different offence, which is attempt to pervert the course of justice. That is what the unnamed lawyers have been accused of.

    The question as far as Colin Boyd is concerned is, did he know that information was false when he communicated it to the court? He might (in fact no doubt will) claim that in consulting a senior colleague he was "checking properly". If that excuse can be made to stand up, then it is the unnamed colleague who is in hock for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

    While only a very few select members of the prosecution team actually saw the unredacted cables (and presumably Boyd was not among these people), there is the point about how widely-known the detail of their contents was among the team. I think there's a good case to be made that it was widely known. Especially if it's true that one of that team was so horrified he actually went to a member of the defence team and tipped him the wink. That being so, it is scarcely credible that Boyd didn't know.

    Hence my point in the other thread about "plausible deniability". The way Boyd specifically and audibly consults with his colleague at that point in the proceedings is very striking. One might be forgiven for thinking he did it like that precisely in order to get it written into the court transcript that the false assurance did not emanate from him personally, but rather he was only passing on something someone else told him.

    I'm afraid that is exactly what I do think. Proving it might be a different matter though.

  7. Dear Jo

    I can hardly imagine that Rolfe has a more relaxed attitude towards lying/misleading the court than you and I. I read his post as saying that "a perjury-charge was legally never an option".

    Did Colin Boyd get away with it, then?

    What is "punishment"?

    As they say "you can fool some of the people all the time", but is this good enough for him?

    Maybe it is. I don't have qualifications to understand the mind of a man who assumes a task in the name of justice but instead uses it to protect the bad apples within the legal system.

    With the death of 270 people, the Lockerbie case alone would have been plenty, but there was also a McKie case, where Colin Boyd took no action against 4 officers that the James Mackay report accused of 'collective manipulation and collective collusion' in court, their intention being to have a fellow policewoman falsely convicted.

    I would think that being despised by even a minority of people could be bad enough, even for a man with his psychological constitution, especially when he knows that it it justified?

  8. I have to say, SM, I believe people who behave in the way Boyd appears to behave generally seem to have the hide of a rhinocerous. I very much doubt that the opprobrium of the small number of people who both understand what he appears to have done and who despise him for it would keep him awake for five minutes. People who behave like this usually have a strong framework of self-justification in place, and usually move in circles where such justification is seen as perfectly reasonable, even laudable.

    If he did knowingly lie to the Zeist court, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see him brought to justice for that. However, we have to be realistic. First, there's no point in talking about "perjury" when that isn't the offence that may have been committed. One has to get the right charges. The offence in this case is "attempting to pervert the course of justice".

    Second, one has to be realistic about what might be achieved. It seems clear that the two unnamed lawyers did indeed knowlingly pass on information they knew would be communicated to the court and that they knew to be false. That is what the JFM letter alleges. It is not clear that Boyd, who actually communicated the information to the court, knew it to be false. That is why the JFM letter did not allege anything specific against him.

    He may have known it to be false, but that would be something for a proper investigation to establish. He has at the very least given himself plausible deniability by taking care to get the fact that he consulted a senior colleague written into the court transcript. Knowing the Teflon coating acquired by those in high office (that's on top of the rhinocerous hide), I'd be very surprised if any wrongdoing was formally laid at his door.

  9. No, Rolfe, you absolutely did NOT read my original post. Nowhere there did I accuse the Lord Advocate of perjury, nor did I suggest he should be charged with perjury. Read it again.

    I said
    "And, when witnesses are discovered telling the "opposite of the truth" in a court of law we usually call it perjury."

    You responded:

    "I don't think it's technically perjury if the person saying it is not in the witness box under oath."

    I responded:

    "Why should witnesses who mislead or lie to a court potentially face perjury charges while the top guy in Scots Law can mislead so many judges and get away with it?"

    And you came back with another lecture which really wasn't necessary because you missed the whole point. Which was, if ordinary witnesses can be charged with perjury for misleading a court of law how much worse is it if the holder of the top post in Scots Law has misled, even lied, to a court?

    I would also say that anyone in the position of Lord Advocate at THAT particular trial, if he did not know everything that was held by the Crown Office, was an idiot. I don't think Boyd is an idiot. But I DO absolutely think he is a liar.

    Please, no more lectures on my earlier posts. I did NOT anywhere accuse him of perjury or suggest he should be tried for perjury. Not anywhere. And I really do wish you would read other peoples' posts before you launch into an unnecessary lecture simply because you missed the original point.

  10. I did read your post. I wasn't contradicting you, originally. I was clarifying and underlining what you had said. But if you like it up there on your high horse, please don't let me stop you.

    My personal belief is also that Colin Boyd knew very well that these cables destroyed Giaka's credibility, but was smart enough to ask someone else to confirm that point to him and get that in the court transcript. Thus passing the buck and landing the other guy right in it.

    I very much doubt that it will be possible to prove that though, or even that an investigation would want to prove it, given how gentle these things seem to be on people in positions of power.

  11. Perjury, schmerjury - calm down, guys. Doesn't matter what name we give it, we know what it is.

    I'd like to hear from Mr Black what the next phase is. Is there a next phase? Can it be taken to the ICC? Or is it just going to be one of those things like JFK or 9/11: everybody knows what happened but nobody gives a shit? Life goes on, draw a line under, etc..

  12. JFM's allegations, along with supporting documentation, are in the hands of Dumfries and Galloway Police. What JFM does next depends on the outcome of the investigation.

  13. I have to say it worries me a bit when anyone speaks of this endeavour in the same breath as 9/11 or the Kennedy murder. Unless of course you mean that a bunch of Saudi terrorists hijacked four airliners while the US security services were asleep at the wheel and managed to fly three of them into iconic buildings. And that Oswald singlehandedly shot Kennedy from the window of the book depository. Throwing around accusations of "conspiracy theory!" and coupling Lockerbie with popular nonsense-theories is a popular ploy among officialdom for discrediting JFM.

    I actually came to the Lockerbie affair after having spent some time debating with 9/11 "truthers", and a madder bunch of lunatics I don't think exists. The pet talking points are nonsense and their "evidence" long discredited. The sheer range of alternative theories is entertaining, but it's all absolute lunacy. The Kennedy thing isn't much better.

    I began to wonder, I keep reading articles saying the Lockerbie trial convicted the wrong man, and various stories about blue Babygros and suitcases full of white powder. Are these things just as much hot air as "9/11 was an inside jobbie-job"? So I started trying to get my head round it.

    It was an odd dichotomy. The judgement itself was obviously a crock of nonsense. There was no way in hell there was evidence "beyond reasonable doubt" that Megrahi had been involved in that crime, and his conviction was a howling scandal. But.

    The "but" was that this conclusion was something quite separate from all the bits of conspiracy theorising I'd come across. The reason Megrahi had nothing to do with it was that there was no evidence at all that the bomb had gone on board on Malta, a lot of evidence that it hadn't, and a (different) lot of evidence that it had gone on board at Heathrow.

    I don't know where the conspiracy theorising about Lockerbie fits into any of that. Some of it probably does, somehow. Some of it probably doesn't. You have to dig through a mountain of allegations about the bomb going on at Frankfurt and being swapped for a suitcase of drugs, and about evidence being fabricated that really couldn't have been fabricated, and a second explosion, and important passengers getting a private warning and cancelling their bookings, and a lot more, none of which has evidence to support it. But the bomb still went on board at Heathrow.

    Our opponents like nothing better than to brand us "conspiracy theorists" like the 9/11 truthers, and dismiss us by association. We need to stick rigorously to the evidence and what can be proven, and show we're a horse of an entirely different colour.

  14. " I was clarifying and underlining ...."

    Rolfe, I don't need you to "clarify" what I said. I did NOT say Boyd should be charged with perjury. You implied otherwise. I did not say that at any point.

    And I wasn't "on my high horse", you were on yours, correcting me, as you do. It wasn't necessary. I was simply pointing out what we do to witnesses who lie in court and observing that here we had a Lord Advocate in the top job in Scot's Law, misleading/lying to a court without anything being done about it.

  15. I wouldn't give the ICC houseroom personally Vronsky. They said, of Saif Gaddafi, that it didn't much matter whether he got a fair trial in Libya or not.

  16. Well then, we're in agreement. If that upsets you, suit yourself.

  17. No Rolfe, we aren't.

    What irritated me was that you misunderstood my post and then used that misunderstanding on your part to deliver a lecture on perjury. I know what perjury is and I was not suggesting Colin Boyd should be charged with the offence. I felt it was appropriate to clarify that.

  18. So, you've clarified my clarification. We're all clear then.