Saturday, 24 November 2012

Yet more from the archive

On 24 November 2003, the High Court of Justiciary, sitting in Glasgow, determined that Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, convicted on 31 January 2001 in the Scottish Court in The Netherlands for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, should serve 27 years in prison before becoming eligible for release on licence from his life sentence. The trial judges' original recommendation that he serve at least twenty years of the life sentence before being considered for release, required to be reconsidered following changes in Scots penal law following the incorporation into domestic law of the European Convention on Human Rights. The "punishment part" of 27 years now imposed (by the same three judges as had imposed the original sentence) was backdated to April 1999, when Megrahi was remanded in custody to await trial. Both the Crown and the defence have appealed the 27-year punishment part, but it is unlikely that these appeals will be heard unless and until Megrahi's new appeal is dismissed.

[First published here on 25 November 2007.]


  1. This is perhaps another point that should have been made at the time of Megrahi's compassionate release. He was 47 when he began that prison sentence. Originally, the intention was that he should be released when he was 67. Even with the extended recommendation of 27 years, it was anticipated that he be released when he was 74. Life expectancy is a chancy thing, but in modern terms it might have been reasonable to expect that he would have had a number of years back at home with his family, and possibly quite hale and hearty years.

    As it happened he had less than three years, and he was very sick during that time. I wonder if all those people baying for him to die in jail thought about that? In the end, although he served less than 11 years, his sentence was harsher than the court had intended.

    And he was innocent. I sometimes wonder how some people can live with themselves.

  2. Following Megrahi’s ‘conviction’ I’m sure most people thought “hang him” or “lock him up and throw away the key”.

    And yet not deterred by popular opinion the Crown appealed his 27 year sentence!

    This ‘leniency’ makes it look as if the Crown is being impartial and following due process - and not part of the cover-up!

    But the Crown’s appeal against Megrahi’s sentence could not be heard until after the Crown had allowed Megrahi’s appeal against his ‘conviction’ to be heard.

    Something they were determined to avoid.

  3. I don't think most people thought "hang him" at all, seeing as Scotland hasn't had the death penalty for murder since the 1960s.

  4. Dave, the Crown's appeal was for a longer sentence.

  5. Oops, well spotted Pete.

  6. Conversely, the Crown’s appeal for a longer sentence makes the Zeist guilty verdict look legitimate.

    Because they wouldn’t call for a tougher sentence unless they were totally convinced of his guilt, would they?

    But if the Crown considered 27 years ‘unduly lenient’ then it means they really wanted to ‘lock him up and throw away the key’!

    And yet they dropped their appeal against his ‘unduly lenient’ sentence to facilitate his release after studying ‘medical reports’ that said he only had 3 months to live?

    But presumably if the Crown genuinely considered him guilty, they would have insisted on ‘second and third opinion reports’ before agreeing to the release of someone they had wanted to die in jail?

    Remarkably all the reports proved wrong. No wonder they have not been published?

  7. The medical reports weren't wrong at all. They said he had advenced, terminal prostate cancer. Which he had. They estimated that three months might be a realistic prognosis if he had remained banged up in Greenock jail in a cold foreign land a thousand miles from home and family. Which was very probably about right.

  8. Dear Rolfe, I am not convinced that a prognosis about the impact of poor prison conditions, persuaded the Crown to support the compassionate release of a ‘mass-murderer’ they had wanted to serve over 27 years in jail.

    But, if true, it does offer the hope of compassionate release for prisoners who feel suicidal at having to spend all day in a small cell?

    However in truth, compassionate release was the State’s noble deceit to avoid hearing Megrahi’s appeal.

  9. It was no doubt very convenient. There is however no evidence that the medical reports were dishonest or falsified.

  10. Dear Rolfe, you say “there is no evidence however that the medical reports were dishonest or falsified”!

    Are you basing this on an absence of evidence because the reports have not been published and therefore cannot be checked for accuracy?

    Or are you saying the prognosis was really just an ‘honest guess’ that something may happen unless something else is done – resulting in there being nothing to falsify or disprove?

  11. Quite sufficient has been published to allow the medical opinions to be evaluated. The only things that have not been published are matters of patient confidentiality.

    The prognosis was perfectly reasonable at the time it was given. Laymen seem to imagine that doctors can give an exact answer to the question, "how long have I got?" but this is not so. There's a big variation either side of the figure quoted - many people die sooner, and many survive longer. In particular, a radical change in the circumstances of the patient (which included treatment with a not-yet-licensed drug which wasn't factored into the original estimates) which was not considered in the original delibertions will throw everything into the melting pot.

  12. And yet despite the large margin for error, 'all the experts' gave a 'no more than 3 months' prognosis?

  13. No, that's not what they said at all. Do keep up! Making stuff up just isn't helpful.

  14. Medical prognosis isn't an exact science. I have a chronic health condition. I asked my specialist how long I might have. "Don't know", he said, "we're shit at predictions" (I quote verbatim). That was six years ago.

  15. So he was released because he might only have 3 months to live?

  16. "A three-month prognosis appears realistic at this time."

    So yes. Might being the operative word, and also bearing in mind that the doctors were assessing the patient in the situation he was in, that is, banged up in Greenock jail. They were not asked, nor could they have been expected to speculate, what might happen if he was sent home to his family and then Gaddafi sourced cutting-edge pharmaceuticals from the USA for his treatment.

    The fact is, both the Scottish and the Westminster governments were shit-scared at the time that he might die in jail, because the expected repercussions of that for middle-east relations were not positive. So the mood music was quite clearly, if you can in all conscience sign up to three months as a realistic prognosis, we won't be unhappy with that. But they would hardly have been as worried as they were if they hadn't honestly believed he might drop off his perch any minute.

    Megrahi did have aggressive, terminal prostate cancer. He died of the disease, just talking a bit longer about it than he might have done if he hadn't been released when he was. That's medicine, with a little dash of politics. It's not some grand conspiracy.

  17. So the medical experts were not asked to provide any advice of how Megrahi’s condition may be improved – and were unaware of a new cutting-edge drug that could assist?

  18. Do you always make things up as you go along, to suit your own agenda?

    Oh, silly me, of course you do.

  19. Dear Rolfe, you misunderstood a question for a statement.

    I was asking a question about whether the doctors who examined him, were asked for or offered any advice to the prison authorities and others, about how Megrahi’s health could be improved, which you are welcome to answer to assist other readers of this blog.

  20. Why would they be asked that? Nobody involved in that episode wanted to keep Megrahi in prison. You seem to be imagining the politicos should have been scraping around for reasons not to release him, but it wasn't like that at all. As I said, they were all, Scots and English alike, shit-scared that he would die in jail, and that Gaddafi would then unleash terrorist attacks on British nationals/interests in retaliation.

    So if the doctors said that a three-month prognosis was reasonable, then that was what everyone wanted to hear. Why start quibbling about hypotheticals like possible new drugs, in that situation? No reason. Get him on the plane.

    Also, bear in mind that the improved prognosis we're talking about would only apply if he were released. The NHS wasn't going to give him abitrarenone (or whatever the bloody stuff is called). Or provide an equivalent environment to home and family. He might well have died before Christmas 2009 if he hadn't been released. Then what do you say? "Sorry but he had to die in jail because if we'd released him he could have made it longer than three months?" It doesn't work like that, even for ordinary non-political prisoners. Consider Ronnie Biggs, released under similar circumstances before Megrahi, and still alive. It would have been insane to have treated Megrahi's case like that, and possibly called down Gaddafi's revenge on the country.

  21. This statement by Karol Sikora is interesting:

  22. Dear Rolfe, another question. So the Libyans who denied responsibility for Lockerbie, were threatening a ‘Lockerbie’ if Megrahi died in jail?

  23. Why don't you look it up? It's all in the public domain.

    Karol Sikora is a self-aggrandising hired gun who will say whatever the party who is paying him wants him to say. And I didn't even look at the link. The man has form.

  24. Dear Rolfe, don’t be coy, I and the readers of this blog would prefer to hear it from you.

    Are you saying Megrahi was released because Libya threatened a ‘Lockerbie’ if he died in jail?

  25. I'm saying there are plenty news reports about that period, which you can easily look up for yourself.

    I'm tired of your habit of making false statements phrased as a question, and then challenging me to correct you. Do your own bloody research for once.

  26. Dear Rolfe, NO you made it up, would suffice.

  27. "Karol Sikora is a self-aggrandising hired gun who will say whatever the party who is paying him wants him to say."

    Dear Rolfe,

    It is not because I have any particular opinion about Karol Sikora's work or character. But friends of JfM do not want to be regarded as people who (without having done significant research to back it up, and which we are willing to publish) throw strong accusations around.

    As we don't, right?

  28. Dave, if you can't read a few newspaper articles, that's not my problem.

    SM, that's my opinion of Karol Sikora, based on his conduct in entirely unrelated matters, including the Lisa Norris tragedy, the University of Buckingham and its "Faculty of Integrated Medicine", his intervention into far-right US politics with the group "Conservatives for Patients' Rights", and CancerPartnersUK". It's not hard to find the details.

  29. Thank you for the references. I looked at it all, including your page on 'Caustic Logic's blog:

    It does not allow me to draw any conclusions. Certain people are likely to draw flak, not the least doctors gone commercial.

    For the Lisa Norris case, from the above link.

    "After further inquiry the professor [Sikora] revised his report to say it was a possibility, not a probability."

    You write:
    "That is absolutely classic 'hired gun' behaviour".

    Maybe, but it can also be the behavior of an honest man who realize that the wording of things he is uncertain about can have unwanted decisive importance, when lawyers grab a single sentence.

    58% "too much" radiation is a 'probable' cause or just a 'possible' cause? In a world where the correct dose is still an uncertain and individual matter? You will have an extremely hard time finding one medicine where a 60% overdose would be a probable cause of death.

    In this case, people would be accused for the being the 'probable' cause of the death of a young girl who was diagnosed with another potentially deadly disease.

    I find it completely plausible that Sikora, after further consideration, would feel that nobody in the world would be entitled to draw this conclusion.

    You must have the opposite opinion.

    However, as a part of an argument allowing you to call a man a "hired gun who will say whatever the party who is paying him wants him to say" it is absolutely worthless, unless you have further evidence to bring in this particular case.

    - - -

    Karol Sikora does not interest me.

    But this blog exists because of three judges making far going conclusions without basis. Let's not make the same mistake.

  30. You're free to form your own opinion. of course. As I see it, Lisa's parents were encouraged to pursue a court case because of Dr. Sikora's original report, which stated the required level of certainty for the judgement to have been in their favour. If he had said "maybe" at the time, there would have been no case.

    He was the only person who was of that opinion. In the end there was a meeting between him and the medical experts from the other side, in which his judgement was severely questioned. After that meeting he changed his report and Lisa's parents had to abandon their case.

    I've been an expert witness in medical cases often enough to recognise the symptoms, I'm afraid. It's far commoner than it should be.

    But you're right, this is way off topic.

  31. Dear Rolfe, so to be clear, you are saying the Libyans who denied responsibility for Lockerbie and sacrificed Megrahi to get sanctions lifted, would then inflict a ‘Lockerbie’ and get sanctions restored, if Megrahi died in jail?

    Did you read it in the Daily Sport?

  32. Dave, why don;t you just look it up, then you can tell us all why the UK authorities were shit-scared that Megrahi might die in prison.

  33. So they were fearful that Libya would exact revenge if Megrahi died in jail.

    But not worried that Libya would exact revenge for the destruction of their country?

  34. Well, if you look up the references, for once in your life, then you'll know, won't you.

  35. Any media reports that said the American and British Governments were ‘shit-scared’ of Libyan reprisals if Megrahi died in jail are not credible.

    Why would they fear retribution for the death of one man, when their foreign policy had killed so many thousands more?

    More likely they would welcome a reprisal as an excuse to invade another country. Which they did!

    This is why reports saying they were ‘shit-scared’ are part of the official smokescreen around Megrahi's release that Rolfe repeats.

  36. Thanks Pete, try 'Darling denies lockerbie bomber was freed due to reprisal fears'. There are others.