[Six years ago today, I posted on the blog an item marking the death of Scottish judge Lord Macfadyen. It read as follows:]
Lord Macfadyen, one of the five judges on the bench during the first Lockerbie appeal in 2002, died last week at the age of 62. He will be much missed: he was a good judge and a genuinely nice person.
In an obituary in today’s issue of The Herald, it is said that “His reputation on the bench was enhanced by the Lockerbie appeal of 2002.” This is quite simply not so: none of the Appeal Court judges enhanced his reputation by his participation in the Lockerbie appeal.
The court dismissed the appeal on the technical legal ground that Megrahi’s then legal team had submitted grounds of appeal that were incompetent and had not asked the court to address the correct issues (Was there enough evidence in law to convict him? Was the verdict of guilty one that, on the evidence, no reasonable tribunal could have reached?). In the course of the appeal hearing, a number of the judges, particularly Lords Kirkwood and Osborne, exposed the weaknesses in the Crown’s case against Megrahi at the trial. But, at the end of the day, the court held that it could adjudicate only on the (wrong and misconceived) issues raised by his lawyers. See “Lockerbie: A satisfactory process but a flawed result” section headed “The Appeal”.
The court’s decision, in my view, was a weak one. The final court of appeal in criminal matters in Scotland should decide cases on their substantive merits, not on technicalities or on the performance of the appellant’s legal representatives. None of the judges who concurred in this approach to the Lockerbie appeal enhanced his reputation.
[If, as has been reported, moves are afoot for a further appeal against the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi, five more Scottish judges will have an opportunity to enhance their reputations and to contribute to the much-needed rehabilitation of the reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system.]