Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Scottish justice must show that it is open to criticism

[This is the headline over an article by Bruce Gardner published in today’s edition of the Scottish Review.  It reads in part:]

Kenneth Roy's articles (2 May and 3 May) on our fatal accident inquiry system raise issues of public concern. This is especially so in relation to a substantial delay over the inquiry into the 2010 death of schoolgirl Natasha Paton, and a failure, to date, of the Scottish court system to deliver an outcome or satisfactorily explain the delay.

We read that Kenneth Roy's legitimate journalistic inquiry was countered on Twitter of all places, using the material that was forbidden to him for publication by one representing the Scottish court system. This is deeply worrying. To present a case by back-channel is a PR game, not respectful engagement. If Twitter be how press scrutiny is to be fielded today, obscurantism and populism become the oddest of bedfellows. (...)

The discourteous resort to social media might be giving a false impression of the justice system and someone may now come forward to apologise for the poor response to date, then do a better job. However, a few things require to be said.

First, the reputation of the Scottish justice system, post-McKie and Al-Megrahi, is shaky. Serious doubts continue to be expressed over the propriety and effectiveness of the whole system, latterly over the issue of corroboration, so that the instinctive pride which we Scots once expressed over our own justice system has lately taken severe knocks. Thus, the way the judiciary handles Kenneth Roy's complaint will be a crucial indicator of how incompetent and arrogant – or, conversely, of how reforming and humble – it currently is.

[A sterling example of this type of incompetence and arrogance is the kneejerk response of the Crown Office to the formal allegations made by Justice for Megrahi of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial.  They were immediately dismissed as “defamatory and entirely unfounded” and “deliberately false and misleading” by the very body to which the police investigating the allegations requires to report and which must decide whether any prosecutions should be brought.]

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