Friday, 7 December 2012

Justice Committee papers relating to Megrahi petition

[The papers pertaining to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee’s forthcoming consideration of Justice for Megrahi’s petition (PE1307) at its meeting on 11 December 2012 in Holyrood’s Committee Room 2 (note change of venue) can be read here (agenda item 4).  JFM’s written submission to the Justice Committee reads as follows:]

At PE1370’s last consideration before the Justice Committee, on 25th September 2012, committee members resolved to maintain its ‘open’ status pending further information regarding allegations of criminality submitted to Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill against police officers, forensic investigators and legal officials involved the Lockerbie inquiry and the 2000-01 trial at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

This submission and its attachments provide an update for members on these matters.

Allegations of criminality
On 13th September 2012, in a letter (see appendix A) marked ‘private and confidential’, Justice for Megrahi (JFM) wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr Kenny MacAskill, specifying a series of six allegations (now eight) of serious criminal wrongdoing, ranging from perjury to perverting the course of justice. The allegations were against a number of named individuals in relation to their involvement in the investigation into the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie on 21st December 1988, and the subsequent trial of Messrs Fhimah and al-Megrahi.  

The letter requested that Mr MacAskill appoint an individual or body independent of the original investigation and trial to examine our allegations fully. We made it clear that, given the history of the case, the seriousness of the allegations and because certain of them involved the Crown Office and Scottish Police service, we believed their involvement in any independent investigation of our allegations would be inappropriate.  

We also informed the Justice Secretary that we shared the current concern being expressed about the ‘perceived lack of independence in Scotland between the Lord Advocate and the Scottish Government’ and requested, ‘that your response to this letter will be free from Crown Office influence of any kind.’

Finally, we placed a self-imposed media embargo on the letter’s contents of 30 days in order to permit the Justice Secretary sufficient time to deal with the request without intrusion from the growing media interest.

A reply dated 8th October (see appendix B) was received from Mr Neil Rennick, the Deputy Director of Criminal Law and Licensing at the Justice Directorate, on behalf of Mr MacAskill in which he stated among other things:

‘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.’

Moreover, we were informed that if we wished to take the allegations further we should refer them to two of the organisations cited in the allegations, namely, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the Crown Office.
In our response dated 17th October (see appendix C) we expressed our disappointment at Mr MacAskill’s response which we maintained, ‘distorts and utterly misrepresents our request to you’.

We pointed out that we had not requested that the Justice Secretary, or any other member of the executive, investigate our allegations but that, because the Scottish Police and Crown Office were among those complained of, the allegations should be independently investigated.

‘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.’

We also expressed our considerable surprise that our confidential letter of 13th September, which contained allegations against the Crown Office, had not only been passed on to them but that the Crown Office had clearly been authorised to act as respondent via the medium of the press. They did so in a confrontational manner by accusing JFM of:
1. ‘making deliberately false and misleading allegations’, when the Crown Office had obviously not had sight of the supporting evidence;
2. suggesting that ‘police officers’ and ‘officials fabricated evidence’, when JFM had done no such thing;
3. making  ‘defamatory and entirely unfoundedallegations’, when, again, the Crown Office had not had sight of the supporting evidence, and it is clearly a self evident truism that when making an allegation against an individual, one will inevitably impugn that person’s reputation.

We considered it to be highly improper for the Crown Office to respond, and, furthermore, to respond inaccurately, to a private and confidential letter to the Justice Secretary, which had contained criminal allegations against that very organisation, via the media and without any recourse to us.
In the event and under protest, because we were left with no alternative, we have since reported our allegations to Chief Constable Patrick Shearer of Dumfries and Galloway Police and on 9th November supplied him with a 41 page paper detailing evidence in support of our allegations. We await a response on how he intends to proceed.

In order to avoid unnecessary repetition, the redacted correspondence between JFM and the Justice Directorate may be viewed by committee members by referring to the appendices [RB: to be found at pages 8 to 15 of the agenda item 4 papers] to this submission:
A. JFM’s 13th September 2012 letter
B. Justice Directorate’s 8th October 2012 letter
C. JFM’s 17th October 2012 letter  

It is clear from the above that we are extremely concerned at the way the Secretary for Justice and Crown Office are handling the serious allegations we have made. Our initial pleas for a confidential and independent examination of our allegations have been summarily dismissed and we have been forced to report matters to a police force intimately involved in the Lockerbie tragedy since day one. It seems almost inevitable given the seriousness of these allegations that the matter will require to be passed back to the Crown Office for advice, and, yet again, an accused organisation will be acting as judge and jury in its own cause.

JFM firmly believes it has sound and compelling evidence to back up its allegations, and that this evidence submitted to support them (contained in its 41 page paper) is not susceptible to the customary type of blanket dismissal by the Crown Office, namely, that the matter has already been attended to by the courts, or by that normally employed by the Scottish Government, namely, that it has no doubt as to the safety of Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction.  

We also believe that the Crown’s suggestion that the only course of action is for the al-Megrahi family to lodge an appeal is not a viable one given the rampant political factionalism in today’s Libya that must be placing the family under extreme pressure not to do so. 

Additionally, for the bereaved to step into the breach would no doubt result in their efforts falling foul of the double standards and conflict of interest embodied in section 7 of the Criminal Procedure (Legal Assistance, Detention and Appeals) (Scotland) Act 2010. Ultimately, should it not be the responsibility of the Crown to serve the interests of justice in Scotland rather than that of an embattled and isolated Libyan family or the Lockerbie bereaved?

We believe that the official response to our allegations clearly demonstrates:

1. An abrogation of his responsibilities by the Secretary for Justice.
2. A cynical placing of the Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary in the invidious and unenviable position of either having to investigate his own force or refer the matter to the Crown Office against whom some of the allegations are made (this aspect of the matter is of course compounded by the fact that Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary is working together with the Crown on the ‘live’ investigation which is attempting to seek out Libyans whom they believe may have been co-conspirators in Lockerbie).  3. A blatant disregard for the public interest which clearly demands that after nearly 25 years the biggest terrorist outrage ever perpetrated within the UK is fully investigated and those responsible held to account.
4. A failure to exercise the power to appoint an independent body invested in the Justice Secretary by the electorate.
5. Evidence of an unhealthy and unconstitutional relationship between the Secretary for Justice and the Crown Office.

The allegations and PE1370
As referred to above we firmly believe our allegations to be both compelling and immune to the usual blanket rebuffs so commonly presented by the Crown. JFM took the decision to lodge its allegations in order to break the logjam which is currently blocking its request for an inquiry into Lockerbie/Zeist. 

Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the Crown Office insist that their enquiry is still ‘live’. In 11 years they have interviewed Mr Moussa Koussa in London, visited Tripoli to persuade the new Libyan Government to produce concrete evidence, and conducted in camera hearings on Malta in an effort to locate others responsible for the downing of PA103, and yet, all this has produced is a succession of ‘no comments’ and a feeling of extreme frustration among the Lockerbie relatives and others committed to the truth being revealed.

Meanwhile, in the space of two months, JFM has assembled a total of now eight allegations of criminality against employees, former or otherwise, of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, other police forces, the Crown Office and forensic investigators backed up with copious evidence, all of which points in an entirely different direction to the Zeist conviction and the Crown’s current quest.

It is extremely important that this matter remains a ‘live’ issue within the Scottish Parliament so that it cannot be arbitrarily closed down by the very people we believe might have culpability in the matter. It is vital that clear and unambiguous answers are forthcoming from the appropriate authorities.

In light of the integral relationship between PE1370 and the allegations we have lodged with Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, we would request that the Justice Committee maintain the status of PE1370 as ‘open’ whilst decisions are made in respect of these allegations. It is obvious that we have raised many important questions that the ongoing Crown Office/police enquiry has failed to answer.

The case for an independent public enquiry into the whole Lockerbie/Zeist affair, as petitioned for, is growing and we hope that the Justice Committee will do all that it can to ensure that all the relevant questions are answered and that the actions of the government and their officials are carefully scrutinised. Justice must be done and as importantly be seen to be done by those directly involved in the Lockerbie tragedy and the Scottish people in whose name the government is acting.

The detailed evidence recently presented to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary is not being released at this time to maintain the integrity of the whole enquiry.

Please do not hesitate to contact Justice for Megrahi should further information be required.

1 comment:

  1. The open secret about Lockerbie is that the truth has not been told.

    But the dilemma facing the Justice Committee is how to deliver justice when the political establishment do not want the truth to be told!

    If the committee recommends a public enquiry to resolve the issue, it will be rejected and that would end the matter!

    But can the committee allow that to happen and drop a justice issue that remains an indelible stain on the Scottish justice system - and could they bear that legacy?

    The solution is to avoid closure by seeking further information to keep the issue alive.

    And this idea reminds me of the Act of Union when the Scottish Parliament was suspended rather than dissolved – only to be revived when the time was right.