Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Laidback, lethargic and over-confident in their own infallibility

[A report in today’s edition of The Herald contains the following:]

The controversy over the Lockerbie bombing and the conviction of former Libyan spy Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is set to be raised significantly later this year when relatives hold a 25th anniversary memorial service at Westminster Abbey.

Jim Swire, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Flora in Britain's worst terrorist atrocity, is one of the relatives behind the move, which could see several hundred people paying their respects to the 270 victims of the tragedy at the service on December 21 in London.

The 76-year-old GP, who has been at the forefront of the relatives' campaign for justice, signalled that after 25 years he would be handing the leading role in the relatives' campaign for justice to someone else.

He did not elaborate, but said: "If the authorities can't get their heads around the fact that we require the truth after 25 years, then they have had long enough. I intend to take more of a backseat role."

Dr Swire said there would be other significant supporters of the families' campaign for justice, who would take the lead and "expose the fact that the evidence against Megrahi was nonsense".

He pointed to two pieces in particular which made the case against the late Libyan spy invalid – a fake circuit board used at the trial and information about a break-in at Heathrow the day before the terrorist atrocity.

Allegations, which include claims that prosecutors passed false information to the court and key statements were deliberately buried, are now being investigated by Patrick Shearer, the former Dumfries and Galloway Chief Constable.

Dr Swire accused the Crown Office of being "too laidback, lethargic and over-confident in their own infallibility", saying the implications of someone planting fake evidence were "terrible; I feel most angry about it".

He explained: "After 25 years, we wanted to have another memorial event. It's not about the Crown Office or Scottish justice, although they will have to justify things sooner or later. This is not just an issue for the relatives, but for the people of Scotland."

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: "We have no comment to make on Dr Swire's personal views. The evidence gathered by the police and prosecutors was rigorously tested at the trial and two appeals against conviction. At the end of this lengthy process the conviction still stands.

"The investigation into the others who acted with Megrahi in the bombing of Pan Am 103 remains live.

"Given recent events in Libya and the change in regime, there is the possibility of future criminal proceedings."


  1. A wonderful opportunity to publicise Lockerbie to all and sundry!

  2. Dear commentators,

    How apposite the Crown Office's statement at the end given Jim Swire's comment on the attitude of these servants.

    Grammatically of course 'justice' is an abstract noun. In Chambers Street however, it is taken on to a plane that even a Dadaist might struggle to define. Scottish criminal justice has now become a state of mind that both divides and unites the lay person. On the one hand, we all have our diverse interpretations of precisely what it is, whilst on the other, we are bound together by the hope that, sooner rather than later, it will dawn on these intransigent Crown officials that they exist to serve justice rather than their own self interest.

    That, due to the conduct of the authorities, it has taken a quarter of a century still not to arrive at a just outcome in this case would be a joke if the circumstances were not so tragic.

    Robert Forrester.

  3. ‘One day it will dawn on these intransigent Crown officials that they exist to serve justice rather than their own self-interest’.

    Alas that day will never come, because they do not exist to serve justice or their own self-interest!

    They exist to serve the Monarch and swear an oath of allegiance when taking office and will only serve justice if directed to do so by Her Majesty’s government in Parliament.

    But then again, according to Douglas Hurd the Crown Office is a law unto itself, presumably because its oath to the Queen trumps its duty to her government!

  4. Please don't just make things up, Dave. The Crown Office is the department headed by the Lord Advocate. The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland are members of the Scottish Government, not the UK Government. The staff of the Crown Office are Scottish, not UK, civil servants. "Her Majesty's Government in Parliament" can give no directions whatsoever to the Crown Office or its staff. It is the Scottish Government and Parliament to whom they are answerable, not the UK Government.

  5. I never mentioned the UK government. The same arrangement at Holyrood applies at Westminster.

    The Crown Office in Scotland (or England) and the Lord Advocate (or Attorney General) and Her Majesty’s Government at Holyrood (or Westminster) swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

    Therefore as I said, the Crown Office will not deliver justice unless directed to do so by Her Majesty’s Government at Holyrood or Westminster and maybe not even then if Douglas Hurd is right!

  6. You said "Her Majesty's Government in Parliament". In law, that means, and can only mean, the UK Government. Neither the Queen nor the UK Government can issue instructions to the Scottish civil servants who staff the Crown Office.

  7. Yes I agree the phrase ‘Her Majesty’s Government in the Scottish Parliament’ would have been more apposite.

  8. Perhaps more apposite, but just as inaccurate. "Her Majesty's Government" (HMG) is the UK Government. The devolved administration in Scotland is The Scottish Government or The Scottish Executive.

  9. Yes and the Scottish Assembly/Executive awarded itself the title Parliament in anticipation of greater things.

  10. Dave, will you please stop making things up. "The Scottish Parliament" was the name given to that body by the Scotland Act 1998, section 1 -- an Act of the UK Parliament. It was not self-awarded.

  11. Yes sorry I’m getting it wrong over the constitutional position.

    My point is the Scottish Crown Office will only serve justice over Lockerbie when ordered to do so by their masters at Holyrood.

    Except their masters claim it’s a matter for the Crown Office!

  12. Dear Dave,

    Phew, glad we are all singing from the same hymn sheet now. I agree with you, and so does the Committee of JFM, that in the absence of an application for a third appeal being lodged, the Crown Office will hold its ground, and, therefore, the only option is for the Scottish Government to sanction an Inquiry. I take it that that is what you meant.

    My use of the determiner 'the' as opposed to 'these' in the following was intended to indicate that I was including the Scottish Government as being one of the authorities: "That, due to the conduct of the authorities, it has taken a quarter of a century still not to arrive at a just outcome in this case would be a joke if the circumstances were not so tragic." Had I used 'these' it would have limited the statement to the Crown Office alone.

    The justification for an inquiry endorsed by the Scottish Government will, of course, be greatly enhanced should DCC Shearer manage to convince the Crown Office that JFM's eight allegations of criminality are well founded.


  13. "...should DCC Shearer manage to convince the Crown Office that JFM's eight allegations of criminality are well founded..."

    Oh! Well, haha...
    Hold your horses. Let's take a deep breath here, folks.

    Maybe I can provide an important piece of advice in this matter?

    See, my late father was a wise man and he said to me:
    "If some task is sure to be way too hard, then don't go breaking your neck on it right away.

    Practise first, with something totally similar, but much, much easier to do. Then, gradually, increase the level of difficulty."

    This tip has been of the greatest value over time, and so I'd hope that Mr. Shearer would read this.

    Now we need to find something suitable.

    Let me see, hmmm... Yes!

    "Exercise 1:
    Convince the Devil that his torturing demons in Hell should be prosecuted for human rights abuses."

  14. should DCC Shearer manage to convince the Crown Office that JFM's eight allegations of criminality are well founded.

    I've heard nothing yet to indicate that he has been so convinced.

    By all accounts, though, he's a reasonable man, and there's more than enough convincing material in the JfM case to convince any reasonable. person that there were fundamental errors in the investigation and seriously lapses in the Crown's behaviour at trial.

    Personally I don't expect him to decide that there are grounds for prosecution; the most we can hope for is to convince him that the whole thing was FUBB and should be re-investigated.

    But that's where he, and we, come up against the brick wall of the legal determination of the case. The police and the CO are saddled with the findings of the court that Megrahi and Libya were guilty of the bombing, and even that a particular method was used and that certain events took place on certain days. Given this, the police are left scrabbling around in Libya for non-existent accomplices.

    As it seems to me the only way through this road block is the overturning of the verdict by the court of appeal.

    Unless, Robert (Black), you know a way round this?

  15. Dear Pete,

    You are, of course, absolutely right in that, firstly, DCC Shearer must be convinced himself, and as yet we have no indication from him whether he is or not. Clearly, JFM is confident of the substance of its allegations, some of which we regard as case proven short of issuing indictments. As you say too, he seems a reasonable man, and, speaking for myself, he has given me no cause to distrust him.

    With respect to another appeal, JFM is not a body that can either lodge one or become involved in such other than offering our support and services to those who may wish to do so.


  16. Some justice issues are too big and political for the Crown Office and are matters for the Government to decide in the public interest.

    And the Scottish/UK Governments deem the public interest involves supporting the extraordinary miscarriage of justice to avoid upsetting the Americans.

    But to hide this truth, let alone the truth about Lockerbie, Holyrood/Westminster hides behind the Crown Office.

    And both are advised towards inaction by the Queen’s servants in the civil/secret services to avoid the foreign policy complications.

    And this will persist until the American empire retreats and it becomes safe for Parliament to tell the truth without the threat of sanctions, or worse!