Sunday, 9 June 2013

JFM secretary's report on Justice Committee consideration of Megrahi petition

[What follows is the report by Justice for Megrahi’s secretary, Robert Forrester, on the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee’s consideration of JFM’s petition on 4 June:]

Most of you will already be aware of Tuesday's result, however, for those who do not, I enclose here various links to the event to put you in the picture. In brief, again, the Justice Committee is to be thanked for maintaining the status of our petition, PE 1370, as open. Moreover, they are also to be thanked for agreeing to write to both the Justice Directorate and the Crown Office on our behalf in order to establish a variety of factual information relating to the allegations we have lodged with Police Scotland. I will not go into the details of this here since it is all contained in our submissions to the Justice Committee and is self evident in the Committee's official report.

Clearly this is a positive result, however, and if not too late, the JFM Committee would like to enquire of the Justice Committee whether or not the letter to the Justice Directorate could be made a little more specific. Our feeling is that the form of the question is somewhat open in that it does not specify the laws that we have quoted as being the ones which provide the government with the power to farm out our allegations to an independent investigator: this being of particular relevance here where Mr MacAskill has, by offering us no alternative but to lodge our allegations with Police Scotland, created extraordinary and highly dubious circumstances in which the Crown Office and Police Scotland have become investigator, judge, jury and accused all rolled into one. Whilst there is a directness and simplicity to the from of words chosen by the Justice Committee in the letter, Mr MacAskill has a record of saying 'I 'beg to differ with JFM' in the interpretation of law. This occurred when we gave evidence on the Punishment and Review Act (shortly before the publication of the Statement of Reasons for Mr Megrahi's second appeal in The Herald). The fact is that his interpretation of the law was wrong then because the Scotland Act superseded the Data Protection Act, and Westminster had not seen fit to include the Data Protection Act in the Scotland Act as a reserved issue, therefore, the issue of its being raised at all with Westminster was indeed a red herring, as we said at the time. Nonetheless, and despite the fact that The Herald's actions rendered the whole business redundant, he got away with it on the day. We will be writing to the Justice Committee to see if it is possible to modify this current letter to the Justice Directorate, and I will inform you of the result as soon as I know it.

In the meantime, see here below the relevant links covering the Justice Committee's consideration of PE 1370. I have also included a link to an interview given by James Robertson immediately after the hearing. James's most recent novel, The Professor of Truth was launched in Edinburgh on Thursday to a packed house, and has been receiving enthusiastic and very well-deserved reviews. James has been extremely courageous with this work: a book which, whilst it stands firmly on its own two feet without the references to actual events, quite obviously poses a significant challenge for the author simply because it does have these associations. I strongly recommend it to you all.

The committee wishes to thank both Tessa Ransford and James for joining us at the hearing on Tuesday, and to all of you for your constant support. 

Parliament PE 1370 general references page:

Parliament TV broadcast of 4th June JC consideration of PE 1370:

James Robertson BBC interview immediately subsequent to 4th June JC consideration of PE 1370:


  1. The argument over the Data Protection Act (DPA) was a double red herring because as I understand it, anyone throughout the UK can release information under the DPA as long as it is for lawful purposes.

    This is because the DPA is meant to protect information from misuse, rather than turn it into a state secret.

    In other words the DPA does not obstruct a public document from being published in the public interest, as the Herald’s actions showed.

    The purpose of the red herring was to delay publication hoping the problem will go away.

    For example, the adoption of PE1370 by the Justice Committee is impressive, but what happens after the next elections, when the committee’s membership changes?

  2. There's stuff happening before the next election, you know. The next election is THREE YEARS from now.

  3. That's encouraging, thanks Rolfe.

  4. I'm not sure you have correctly interpreted my comment.