[What follows is the text of a report by Justice for Megrahi’s secretary Robert Forrester to JFM signatory members, following yesterday’s meeting with the police officers appointed to investigate JFM’s allegations of criminal misconduct by persons involved in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial.]
As you will all be very much aware, representatives of the Justice for Megrahi Committee yesterday met with members of the police team leading the investigation into the eight JFM allegations of criminality levelled at forensic, legal and police officials involved in the Lockerbie investigation and subsequent Zeist trial. Although JFM had requested that these complaints be studied by a body independent of Lockerbie/Zeist, Justice Secretary MacAskill left us with no alternative but to submit them to the Scottish police and Crown Office; members of both groups bodies are, of course, accused of perverting the course of justice by us. These allegations were handed over to the then Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, Patrick Shearer, in November 2012, an addendum being added in March 2013. Yesterday's meeting was the first face to face contact JFM has had with the police investigating team.
For the purpose of providing context, I [refer to] the explanatory outline document covering the allegations, which we put together at the end of last year to provide assistance to journalists and others. The document may be accessed via this link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/117745379/Allegations-Outline-for-Press-1. I also [give a link to] a summary of the addendum to the allegations, entitled 'Fundamental Error'. The JFM Committee is, for obvious legal reasons, unable to publish the full allegations document and, moreover, as the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee has yet to publish the redacted version of this document, we have no intention of releasing it in advance of its appearance on the parliamentary website. Finally, I [give a link to] the JFM briefing paper used as a reference by us during the meeting. Copies of this were provided to the officers present.
The JFM delegation for yesterday's meeting consisted of Superintendent of Police (Rtd) Iain McKie and myself. Those representing the police investigators were the head of the investigating team, Deputy Chief Constable Patrick Shearer, and Chief Inspector William Sturgeon (Complaints). Mr Shearer was, prior to the amalgamation of the eight Scottish police forces on 1st April, the Chief Constable of Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.
The meeting was both positive and very constructive, albeit within the confines of a highly fraught situation. In the brief initial stage, both parties approached each other with caution but very soon a relaxed atmosphere was established in which Iain and I felt able to express ourselves freely, frankly and openly. In short, we did not mince our words on the subject of the independence of the investigation into our allegations, and the fact that we were highly pessimistic about its prospects given that the matter ultimately has the shadow of Crown Office cast over it. We made our position clear that we bore nothing personal against DCC Shearer, his team and the integrity of his investigation since he has never given us cause to distrust him, and until such takes place, we put our faith in him to do his job without fear, favour and prejudice. However, we roundly pilloried Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland for the manner in which he has comported himself by vilifying JFM via 'the court of public opinion': particularly in The Scotsman on 24th September 2012 and The Times (Scotland Edition) on 21st December 2012 (as per outlined in our briefing paper - see attached). We additionally condemned the Lord Advocate for bringing disrepute upon his office due to his irresponsible conduct, and failing to reach the standards of conduct expected of prosecutors as laid down by the The International Association of Prosecutors' Standard of Professional Responsibility and Statement of the Essential Duties and Rights of Prosecutors.
Furthermore, we made it plain that we were particularly disappointed in Justice Secretary MacAskill's failure to exercise his powers under sections 1 and 28 of the 2005 Inquiries Act, which enable him to appoint a body independent of Lockerbie/Zeist to investigate our allegations. In brief, DCC Shearer could not have left yesterday's encounter with any uncertainties about our message and its sentiment (as expressed in the briefing paper). It should be pointed out in passing that, because of the way the meeting developed, we did not deliver it in one continuous 'sermon' but more in an organic but focussed manner as the discussion took form.
At the start of the meeting, DCC Shearer came over as being rather apprehensive regarding how he thought we had been intending to deal with the arrangements for the interviews to be held on the specific allegations. If I understood correctly, he seemed to have been given the impression that he was going to have to be dealing with the entire JFM Committee every time an interview on an individual allegation took place. However, once we had managed to allay his fears and explained our plans (see briefing paper), he was noticeably more relaxed. Nonetheless, he maintained an understandably cautious but very friendly reserve throughout. From a practical standpoint, he seems happy with our plans to have our five chosen witnesses speaking to the eight allegations, for our legal [adviser], to be present at the interviews and for them to be recorded.
In respect of the process, he stated that he was performing an initial document search before interviewing JFM, and following that, he will move on to interviewing the accused. He also made the important point that it would facilitate the investigation if we had any other documents we wished to add to the two already in his possession that we do so sooner rather than later. It was very encouraging and perfectly clear for us to see that in a rather busy period for him, what with the amalgamation of the forces to deal with, DCC Shearer has done a considerable amount of background work on the allegations since they were submitted. On other matters, he also said he would be providing us with updates on the basis of any significant developments taking place in the investigation. Moreover, he emphasised that he wanted to see consistency and continuity in terms of the staffing and other aspects of the investigations, which is a positive sign. The impression was given of someone who is interested in the task and will be committed, thorough and keen that everything be done strictly by the book. Although DCC Shearer will be retiring in October, he gave us strong grounds for believing that there would be seamless consistency in standards and approach despite this.
Chief Inspector William Sturgeon wrote up a provisional report of the meeting and I have now supplied him with further material on our group to assist him in completing it. Once he has typed it up, we will have complete editorial control over its content.
DCC Shearer impressed us as someone with whom we found it easy to develop a positive rapport, even on the basis of this brief initial encounter. The massive difficulty we all have, not just JFM but the police too in my view, is the spectre of Chambers Street (The Crown Office - to whom DCC Shearer ultimately has to report his findings).
We conducted interviews afterwards with ITV Border News journalist Matthew Taylor. In them we covered a range of elements relating to JFM, the call for an inquiry and our allegations, however, the actual piece which was broadcast is extremely brief. Having said that, it is accurate, and considerably better than no media attention at all. Follow the link below to see the piece:
It is noteworthy that the Crown's comment on this meeting, as elicited by Matthew Taylor, was: "The allegations made by Justice for Megrahi are being considered by DCC Shearer in accordance with due process and it would be inappropriate to offer comment at this stage". We find this new found reserve a welcome departure from the excesses we have become accustomed to emanating from the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office, perhaps reflecting the fact that some of the allegations may be posing one or two complications for Chambers Street.
I apologise for the volume of material contained in this mail. You will appreciate, however, that after almost six months of apparently little or no activity evident at our end, this meeting carries some significance for our group.
We will be sending a report on this meeting to the Justice Committee.