The death at the age of 68 has been announced of Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC (Peter Fraser) who was Scotland’s Lord Advocate at the time of the bringing of charges against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The mentions of Lord Fraser on this blog, extending over the period 14 November 2007 to 14 November 2012, can be accessed here. A statement from the present Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, can be read here; and a sympathetic appreciation on the website of The Telegraph, the house newspaper of Lord Fraser's political party, can be read here.
Peter Fraser was a genial figure who was popular across the political spectrum in Scotland. What he was not, was a great lawyer or a distinguished Lord Advocate. When Alan Rodger QC -- later House of Lords and UK Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger of Earlsferry -- who was a great lawyer, was appointed Peter Fraser's Solicitor General an official photograph was taken which showed Fraser seated at a desk with a massive tome open in front of him and Alan Rodger looking at it over his shoulder. A version of this photograph was posted in the robing room of the Faculty of Advocates with a bubble coming from Fraser's mouth saying, "What's this, Alan?" and a bubble coming from Rodger's mouth saying, "It's a book, Peter." This, I think accurately, if somewhat cruelly, indicates the Bar's assessment of Peter Fraser's legal abilities.
As far as the Lockerbie charges against Megrahi and Fhimah are concerned, it is a widely held view that Fraser allowed himself to be bounced into bringing them by the US Department of Justice, which assured him that it had a credible and reliable eye-witness to the suspects' preparation of the bomb on Malta. Fraser took this on trust: whether or not he sought it, he was not given access to the witness in question. The witness was, of course, the Libyan CIA asset Abdul Majid Giaka who testified at Camp Zeist and whose evidence was dismissed by the judges as totally lacking in credibility, largely on the basis of CIA cables (which the prosecution sought to have excluded from evidence) that showed that his CIA handlers regarded him as a fantasist prepared to say virtually anything to keep his US stipend and to gain asylum in the United States.
Peter Fraser's career as a law officer began in 1982 when Sir Nicholas Fairbairn QC MP was compelled to resign as Solicitor General under Lord Mackay of Clashfern as Lord Advocate. There were at that time two young Tory MPs who were advocates -- Peter Fraser and Alexander Pollock. Neither was a QC, but Fraser had passed advocate in 1969 whereas Pollock was not called to the Bar until four years later in 1973. It was probably for this reason that Fraser was preferred for appointment to the vacant office, assuredly not because of superior legal reputation and ability. He became a QC at the same time. On Lord Mackay's resignation as Lord Advocate in 1984, Kenny John Cameron QC was appointed to replace him, with a seat in the House of Lords as Lord Cameron of Lochbroom. Peter Fraser remained as Solicitor General. He lost his seat in the House of Commons in the 1987 general election (as, incidentally, did Pollock) but was confirmed in office. Lord Cameron resigned as Lord Advocate in January 1989, the month following the Lockerbie disaster. Peter Fraser succeeded him and was immediately given a peerage. When in 1992 he became Minister of State in the Scottish Office, his Solicitor General, Alan Rodger, became Lord Advocate.