Monday, 12 May 2014

JFM's allegations of criminal misconduct: a "progress" report

[The two documents reproduced below are (1) a history of the official response to Justice for Megrahi’s allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial; and (2) an account of a meeting held on 2 April between representatives of Justice for Megrahi and Police Scotland.]

1.  Chronology of events, from 13th September 2012 to 20th February 2014, covering the police investigation of the Justice for Megrahi allegations levelled at Crown, police and forensic officials

  1. On 13 September 2012, JFM submitted a private and confidential letter to Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill in which we lodged 6 outline allegations against Crown, police and forensic officials involved in the Lockerbie investigation and the Zeist trial of Mr al-Megrahi for the downing of Pan Am 103. We added that he give ‘serious thought to the independence of any investigating authority that’ he appoint, and that any such authority should be someone from ‘outwith Scotland who [had] no previous direct or indirect association with Lockerbie or its ramifications’. Furthermore, we stated that a document detailing the evidence to support our allegations would be supplied to whomsoever was appointed as investigator.
  1. On 25 September 2012, before any reply had been forthcoming from the Justice Directorate to our private and confidential letter to Mr MacAskill, The Scotsman newspaper published a response from the Crown Office in which we were pilloried for having made “defamatory and entirely unfounded … deliberately false and misleading allegations” and suggested that we had accused “police officers [and] officials [of fabricating] evidence”. At no time have we accused anyone involved in the Lockerbie investigation or any subsequent legal process of fabricating any evidence.
  1. On 8 October 2012, Mr Neil Rennick, Deputy Director of the Criminal Law and Licensing Division of the Justice Directorate, responded to our letter on behalf of Mr MacAskill. This response afforded us one choice, namely: to submit our allegations to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and, by dint of that, to COPFS for investigation. In other words, to two of the bodies that our allegations were being levelled against.
  1. On 9 November 2012, we handed over our detailed evidence for the, by then 8, allegations to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary for the attention of Chief Constable Patrick Shearer, SIO for the case.
  1. Accompanying a letter dated 19 March 2013, an updated and expanded addendum to the allegations, which covered luggage positioning in container AVE4041, was received by Mr Shearer.
  1. On 21 December 2012, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland gave an interview with Mr Magnus Linklater in The Times (Scotland edition) in which he reiterated the COPFS criticisms of JFM published in The Scotsman (25 September 2012) adding that we had levelled criminal accusations against the Judges and/or the Lord Advocate involved in the Zeist process. It is plain from both our submission to Mr MacAskill and our subsequent detailed evidence that we had done no such thing.
  1. It took until 16th April 2013, 5 months later, before we were invited to a preliminary meeting with Mr Shearer (DCC of Police Scotland by then). This meeting went no further than outlining the basic procedures that would be involved in the course of the investigation, ie: reading the evidence presented by JFM, information gathering, interviews etc. DCC Shearer also stated that we would not be privy to any report submitted by him to COPFS. For ourselves, we made it clear that whilst we would cooperate at all times with his investigation, we would be doing so under protest since we did not feel that the Police Scotland could be seen as a disinterested and independent authority in this matter. Moreover, we requested that we be supplied with regular updates on the progress of the investigation.
  1. It took a further 4 months, with no intervening updates, before we received a second invitation to attend Cornwall Mount from DCC Shearer. The purpose on this occasion was to interview those of our membership who spoke to the individual allegations. These interviews were conducted on 16 and 19 August 2013. On 16 August, DCC Shearer told us that having identified a possible conflict between our allegations 5, 6 and 7 and the Crown's 'live and on-going' investigation, he had consulted the Crown Office on the matter and received authorisation to drop them from our investigation for the time being. When we asked him what the apparent conflict was, he refused to provide this information. He was then asked who the SIO for the Crown's investigation was: he also refused to provide an answer to this question. JFM provided him with answers to the questions he posed regarding the evidence for our other 5 allegations.
  1. In a letter to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament, dated 24 September 2013, for a Justice Committee being convened to consider JFM Petition PE1370 held on the same date, DCC Shearer stated that he was “confident that the deferment [of JFM allegations 5, 6 and 7] [would] only be a matter of weeks as [he then understood] that the point of conflict with the live investigation [would] then be resolved”. 
  1. In early October 2013, DCC Shearer retired from Police Scotland.
  1. On 4 November 2013, DCC Richardson informed the Justice Committee: “I have to advise you that the Senior Investigating Officer has confirmed to me that the conflict between the two investigations still exists and whilst no definite date can be provided when that situation will change, it is assessed as still being in weeks rather than months. The only undertaking that I can provide at this time therefore is to update you accordingly as and when that conflict has been resolved.”
  1. From the date of Mr Shearer’s retirement until 14 January 2014, when JFM telephoned Chief Inspector Sturgeon of the Professional Standards Department of Police Scotland to ascertain who had been appointed as Mr Shearer’s replacement as SIO, we received no updates from Police Scotland. At the time of the phone call, Mr Sturgeon was unable to confirm who had been appointed and that a meeting was due to take place the following day, 15 January, to discuss such an appointment.
  1. On 31 January, Chief Inspector Sturgeon received a ninth allegation and an addendum for allegation 8.
  1. On 17 February 2014, JFM received notification from Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone that he had been appointed SIO of the JFM allegations. This he also submitted to the Justice Committee for the consideration of PE1370 to be held the following day, 18 January 2014. In his communication, he stated: “With regards to your [JFM’s] question as to whether there has been any change in relation to allegations 5, 6 and 7, I can advise that recent developments in the live investigation have resulted in the conflict previously highlighted by former Deputy Chief Constable Shearer remaining unresolved for longer than expected. It is currently anticipated the conflict will be resolved before the end of March.” Detective Superintendent Johnstone was also unable to supply any information regarding how many officers were currently working on the case or what stage the investigation was at. Nor was he confident of being able to provide us with definitive updates on these questions in the near future since these matters were under review.
  1. In a letter to the Justice Committee from Chief Constable of Police Scotland Sir Stephen House dated 20 February 2014, Sir Stephen stressed that the current estimate for a resolution of the conflict between allegations 5, 6 and 7 and the live investigation was “still an estimate based on current information and may be impacted on depending on what further developments emerge in the case.” He also stated that, in relation to how many officers [had] been working on the allegations since Mr Shearer retired “the reality is that no further investigation could take place because of the conflict with the live investigation.”

2.  Tulliallan meeting between JFM representatives and Police Scotland.

In September 2012 JFM made eight criminal allegations to Dumfries and Galloway Police and on 1 April 2013 Police Scotland took over responsibility for their investigation. In January 2014 they were in receipt of a ninth allegation.

At various times over the 18 month period since the original report JFM has expressed dissatisfaction at the apparent lack of progress by the police in carrying out the investigation and the lack of feedback from them.

Police explanation for the delay indicated that certain of the allegations were in ‘conflict’ with an ongoing Crown Office/Police enquiry seeking evidence against Abdelbaset al Megrahi and possible others in relation to the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie. Unfulfilled promises that these difficulties would shortly be resolved were made at various times to JFM and the Justice Committee at the Scottish Parliament in relation to their ongoing consideration of a JFM petition for a public Lockerbie inquiry.

A meeting to examine JFM’s concerns and facilitate better liaison was held at Tulliallan Police College on 2 April 2014 between a JFM Liaison Group consisting of Len Murray, James Robertson and Iain McKie and Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone and Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone.

In a full and frank discussion JFM expressed concern at the lack of progress of the investigation into their allegations and stated that they had no faith in the Crown Office to ensure an open and effective investigation. If mutual confidence was to be restored and maintained then there should be the opportunity for regular liaison. JFM undertook to be available as required to assist the ongoing investigation.

Police Scotland underlined the Chief Constable’s commitment to the investigation. Although there had been a hiatus in the enquiry they had taken the decision to establish major incident procedures with immediate effect. An enquiry team of selected officers is being appointed under Detective Superintendent Johnstone, whose full-time remit and responsibility is now the investigation into the allegations. Procedures, independent of the police, are in place to monitor, advise and validate procedures as the investigation proceeds. Close liaison would be maintained with the ongoing Crown Office/Police murder enquiry in relation to the downing of Pan Am 103 and it was anticipated that this co-ordination would increase. While the police would ultimately report to them, the Crown Office was neither party to nor being kept informed about the progress of the investigations which would be conducted robustly, in good faith and in an open and accountable way.

The JFM Liaison Group agreed to a Police Scotland proposal for a series of regular meetings where there would be an opportunity to meet and review. While offering their full co-operation JFM made it clear that as an organisation with a specific aim (ie ‘justice for Megrahi’) it reserved the right to challenge the police if it deemed this ongoing liaison to be obstructive rather than constructive, and that given the length of time that had already passed further unexplained or unreasonable delays in the investigation would not be acceptable.

The Liaison Group will provide updates for members as and when available.


  1. I think it should be stressed that following the intervention of Sir Stephen House, DCC Livingstone and Detective Superintendent Johnstone, progress regarding the allegations has been very promising and the relationship between JFM and Police Scotland has been considerably improved.

  2. "...and the relationship between JFM and Police Scotland has been considerably improved."

    I think this is the first statement ever that does not depict a complete darkness.
    Allowing the Lockerbie case scandal to be rolled up is unthinkable.
    That is the price of foul play: the more you cover up, the more an unearthing of matters will harm you and the more you will have to fight it.
    So forgive me for thinking: 'What are they up to now?'

  3. The thing is, many of the people who actually screwed up or misdirected the original investigation are now retired. It's been 25 years after all. The people responsible for the foul-up were the more senior ones, who were probably over about 40 at the time it all happened.

    At what point does it become possible for new eyes to look at this and figure it out? Could we have got to that stage?

    It's not just time, it's improvements in policing methods. Half the stuff that went on in 1989-90 wouldn't and couldn't happen now, and for very good reasons. There would have been nobody in the room with Tony Gauci who knew which picture in the photospread was the suspect's. The whole process would have been recorded or even videotaped. And that's just for starters. Modern policemen, looking at what happened, must at some level realise that it wasn't right.

    I'm not getting my hopes up just yet, but if JFM is doing anything, it's leaving a paper trail. It's getting the evidence of what went wrong in front of the authorities and into the records, where it will remain.

    If they cover it up once again, in 2014, that's just one more layer of rottenness to be peeled back by the eventual inquiry which will reveal what a horrible disaster this has been. Of course, maybe they'll wait till everyone involved is safely dead before they allow a genuinely independent inquiry, who knows?

  4. All,

    I wholeheartedly agree with Rolfe.

    As I said to Patrick Shearer: "I trust folk until I can't." Unfortunately, he blotted his copy book with us. That's history now, but, the same will always apply. Personally speaking, I like the way that House, Livingstone and Johnstone are dealing with matters right now

    For the first time since 13th September 2012, an authority in Scotland seems to be taking us seriously.

    Forgive the tint of my glasses but we, finally, have excellent lines of communication and appear to be facing people who have come across Descartes.


  5. For my records what was the 9th allegation?

    I note a former Hungarian politburo member has recently been imprisoned for his role in suppressing the 1956 uprising. That was 32 years before Lockerbie.

  6. So this 9th allegation is a secret then?