[What follows is the text of a report by Robert Forrester, the secretary of Justice for Megrahi, sent yesterday to JFM’s members and supporters:]
It is a prerequisite in this kind of business to have a well honed sense of humour, I am sure you will agree. Therefore, as the end of the year approaches and all entries are in, it gives me great pleasure to announce that The JFM Comedy Classic Award 2013 for the Schizophrenic Act Category goes to The Justice Directorate of the Scottish Government for its most recent missive to the Committee of JFM.
To appreciate the new benchmark level of hilarity set by The Justice Directorate, one must read the full exchange between the Committee of JFM and The Justice Directorate. Thus, I provide you all with a pdf of our letter sent on 11th October to Cabinet Secretary for Justice of The Scottish Government Mr MacAskill, and two jpg images [here and here] covering the response I received from The Justice Directorate on Saturday 9th November on my return from Malta.
To be brief, and not to spoil your enjoyment of the exchange too much, I will provide you here with a brief summary.
Our letter lays before Mr MacAskill the 'novel' proposal that he, as the elected representative responsible for overseeing affairs pertaining to justice in Scotland, may like to consider making a referral to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for a third appeal against the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi on behalf of the electorate of Scotland. We made this suggestion on the basis that he has both the power and resources to do so, and, as an elected figurehead of the people of Scotland, there could be no suggestion of transgression relating to the sacred separation of powers: particularly given that the SCCRC would have first shout on whether or not the minister had sufficient locus for his application to be accepted or not.
As you will see from the response, Mr MacAskill did not deign to answer personally but handed responsibility over to the long suffering Mr Neil Rennick of The Criminal Law and Licencing Division of The Justice Directorate. The key passage in Mr Rennick's reply is the penultimate paragraph. Here Mr Rennick states that "One of the explicit aims of establishing the SCCRC ..., was to ensure that decisions about possible miscarriages of justice were taken independent of ministers. I do not consider, therefore, that it would be compatible with the principle underlying the legislation establishing the SCCRC to seek a role in any individual case seeking a referral to the Court of Appeal ..."
You see my point about schizophrenia, I am sure. On the one hand, if one of the principal reasons for the establishment of the SCCRC was to distance ministers from possible accusations of interference in judicial matters, ministers are automatically protected from such accusations since, as the final (assuming Cadder section 7 is repealed) and independent arbiter on the matter of whether the applicant has sufficient locus in a referral, the SCCRC has the power to accept or reject any given applications whether from ministers or any other individuals or groups. Therefore, the argument offered by The Justice Directorate holds no water and is entirely contradictory and evasive, obstructive and obfuscatory. Alternatively, it is simply mad. Or, since the season of goodwill is nigh, perhaps we ought to be generous and just view it as yet another example of The Justice Directorate's sense of humour - certainly, it made me laugh until I cried when first I read it!
Unfortunately, this type of response also brings into question the role of an elected executive especially in circumstances where failsafes, such as the SCCRC, are in place. Regrettably, the reply from The Justice Directorate reflects the continued intransigence displayed by both UK and Scottish Governments of all hues since the conclusion of the Kamp van Zeist trial of Mr al-Megrahi in 2001.
So, my friends, I leave you to savour and enjoy the attachments. Your comments would be most appreciated as always.
I feel sure that I shall be getting back to you before Yuletide proper, we haven't run out of bright ideas quite yet.