[The Official Report of the session of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on 11 December 2012 at which Justice for Megrahi’s petition (PE1370) was considered is now available. The relevant section reads as follows:]
The Convener (Christine Grahame): I do not use the bing-bong button
very often, but I used it there. I will not name names, but members have
had 10 minutes. Agenda item 4 is petition PE1370, from the Justice
for Megrahi campaign. Members have a paper from the clerk, which sets
out the background for our consideration of the petition and
includes a submission from the petitioners. Members will note that
paragraph 7 of the clerk’s paper says that the petitioners have asked
that the committee keep the petition open while Dumfries and
Galloway Constabulary considers their allegations. I declare that I am a member of the Justice for Megrahi
campaign.Do members have any comments?
John Finnie: I hope that the committee agrees to keep
the petition open. The papers that we have from the Justice for Megrahi
committee mention significant issues.We should draw a distinction
between complaints about service delivery by organisations such
as the Crown Office and the police service, and serious accusations
against individuals who work for those organisations. There are issues
for others to speak about relating to confidential covers that
are put on letters and what the expectations about them are from all sides. I certainly
understand why the Justice for Megrahi people feel aggrieved about the
manner in which the issue came into the public domain. I refer to the end of the first paragraph under
the heading “Discussion” on page 5 of paper 3. It seems to me
that there is a classic catch-22 situation. There is understandable
frustration where there are serious allegations for the Crown Office,
which may be expected to act in the roles of judge, jury and accused.There
are a number of unresolved issues. For that reason, I sincerely hope
that committee members will agree to keep the petition open. That would
certainly be the public expectation.
Roderick Campbell: It remains the case that the
Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission can consider a previously
abandoned appeal. I think that Mr Megrahi died in May. That is not that long
a period of time for his family, for example, to have reached a full
view on the matter, particularly given the current position in Libya.
Therefore, it would be inappropriate to take any formal step and,
given the position and the on-going Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary
investigation, it seems inappropriate to take a final view on the matter. We
should therefore keep the petition open for the time being.
Colin Keir: I agree.
David McLetchie: I concur with what John Finnie and
Roderick Campbell have said. We should keep the petition open until we
get information back from Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary in
response to the complaint.There is one thing that I query. As I
understood the legislation that we passed in the Parliament earlier
this year, it is open to a family member of one of the bereaved to
trigger a process. In light of the political background, I understand
why that might be difficult for Mr Megrahi’s family who are based
in Libya, but I do not quite see why a family member of one of the
Lockerbie victims cannot institute that process. We would then be on our
The Convener: You may remember that there must be title
and interest in pursuing a case. It would probably be a matter for the
court to decide whether there was a close enough association, although
I am not saying that a bereaved family member could not do that.
Therefore, I think that it is not mandatory. I fully agree with
keeping the matter open, but I would separate the possible appellate procedure—the resuscitation of it or somebody stepping into
the appellant’s shoes—from allegations that are made about the way in which the case was
handled. Those matters may collide at some point, but they are distinct from each other at the
moment. I agree with John Finnie that, with both of those aspects still
alive, there is a public interest issue, and people would expect the committee
to allow this petition to continue to breathe oxygen.
Jenny Marra: I think that the petition should be kept open,
for all the reasons that have been rehearsed, but particularly because there
seem to be unanswered questions with regard to Dumfries and Galloway
Constabulary. I would like to see the conclusion of that investigation.
Sandra White: I concur.
Alison McInnes: I also concur.
Graeme Pearson: So do I.
The Convener: It is unanimous.
John Finnie: It would be appropriate for the committee
to keep a watching brief on the issue of the complaint against the Crown
Office, which could have implications beyond this specific case. We would need
to understand the position ofsomeone tendering such a complaint and how that
would be responded to. I would hope, at the very least, that we would maintain an interest in the issue, even if we donot inquire further.
The Convener: Can we think about what we might do in
that regard on another occasion, rather than today? Rather than being
proactive, we are keeping the petition open and allowing it to take its own
course. The issue that you raise could be dealt with in more detail at another
John Finnie: Yes.
The Convener: Thank you. We will keep the petition
open, pro tem.