Sunday, 1 June 2014

Justice for Megrahi petition again on Justice Committee agenda

[At its meeting on Tuesday, 3 June 2014 the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee will again consider Justice for Megrahi’s petition (PE1370) calling on the Scottish Government to institute an independent inquiry into the prosecution, trial and conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (agenda item 4).  The papers for the meeting can be read here.  Among them (last three pages of the document) is a report from Police Scotland on the meeting held on 2 April 2014 with representatives of Justice for Megrahi to discuss progress on the police investigation into JFM’s allegations of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial. It reads as follows:]

Police Scotland and Justice for Megrahi (JFM) Tulliallan Castle: Wednesday 2nd April 2014.
Police Scotland: Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone; Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone.
Justice for Megrahi (JFM): Iain McKie; Len Murray; James Robertson.
The meeting was held to facilitate liaison between Police Scotland and JFM in
respect of the ongoing police investigation into JFM’s 9 criminal allegations, with
both parties keen to resolve the recent difficulties and use the meeting as a positive
basis to move forward.
In a full and frank discussion, JFM expressed their concern at the progress of the
investigation to date, the lack of feedback in this regard and sought to restore and
maintain mutual confidence through regular liaison. In acknowledgement of the JFM
position, DCC Livingstone reiterated that Sir Stephen House had stated his priority
was an efficient and effective investigation into the allegations and that DCC
Livingstone had been appointed to ensure that this was delivered. Regular liaison
between Police Scotland and JFM was welcomed and would serve to underline this
Police Scotland provided a brief synopsis of the extent of the investigations into the
allegations, to date, with some reassurance through emphasis of the high standard
of work and level of detail applied by Mr Shearer prior to his retirement. This work, in
turn, has been subject to independent scrutiny and review, the opinion of which will
help inform the enquiry as it moves forward. This update and explanation was
welcomed by JFM, and served to dispel some misconceptions that the allegations
were not being effectively investigated.
A robust governance structure is now in place, with the appointment of Detective
Superintendent Johnstone as senior investigating officer, to progress work on the
allegations, as directed by Deputy Chief Constable, Crime and on behalf of the Chief
Constable. The enquiry is now being managed through established major incident
procedures, with immediate effect. This methodology was welcomed by the JFM
Liaison Group, and provided an assurance that the enquiry was being robustly
managed, and following established major enquiry processes. A dedicated enquiry
team of selected officers is being appointed under Detective Superintendent
Johnstone, whose full-time remit and responsibility is now the investigation into the
JFM stated that they could find no justification in the August 2013 decision to delay
enquiry into allegations 5, 6 and 7, and also challenged the implication, in the Chief
Constable’s letter to JFM dated 20th February 2014, that effectively investigation into
all 9 allegations had been temporarily halted because of this ‘conflict’. The delay had
arisen because of a perceived ‘conflict’ with investigations being carried out by the
Crown Office/Police team seeking evidence against Abdelbaset al Megrahi and
possible others in relation to the downing of Pan Am 103 and the murder of 270
persons. JFM could see no good reason why the allegations could not be
investigated in parallel with the other Libyan enquiries. It was highlighted that on two
occasions the Justice Committee had been informed that the ‘conflict’ would shortly
be resolved and investigation would be restarted. This had not happened. JFM
maintained that far from being in conflict a number of their allegations actually had
relevance to the separate Crown enquiry.
Police Scotland noted JFM’s position and stated that following liaison between Mr
Shearer and the Crown Office conflict between the two enquiries had been identified
and thus delays occurred in progressing certain of the allegations. It was not
possible to share the exact detail of that conflict due to operational security. The
current position was that, of now, a full investigation of JFM’s allegations was
resuming and that it was accepted that in some aspects the two separate enquiries
had common threads running through them that would require to be examined.
However, should such conflicts present themselves the live investigation will at all
times take precedent. This will not, however, preclude the full, proper, and timeous
investigation to the JFM allegations.
The need for regular liaison was recognised as being an important factor if mutual
confidence was to be restored and maintained during the investigative process. JFM
undertook to be available as required to assist the ongoing investigation, and
proposed the formation of a ‘Liaison Group’ charged with responsibility for
maintaining close police links. While inviting the JFM representatives to contact the
enquiry team at any time Police Scotland indicated that they welcomed the concept
of a ‘Liaison Group’ whereby trust and mutual confidence could develop. They would
institute a series of regular meetings shortly where there would be an opportunity to
meet and review. JFM agreed to this proposal but made it clear that as an
organisation with a specific aim (i.e. ‘Justice for Megrahi’) it reserved the right to
challenge the police during the ongoing liaison. Given the length of time that had
already passed, JFM stated that further unexplained or unreasonable delays in the
investigation would not be acceptable.
In conclusion, JFM representatives stated that while they had reservations about the
way their allegations had been handled in the past they were confident that today’s
discussions would prove to be an excellent basis for moving the investigation
forward. Police Scotland underlined their total commitment to the investigation and
their determination that these high priority allegations would be effectively
Both parties agreed that the discussions had been open, frank and extremely useful,
and gave a commitment to build on this accord. Police Scotland and JFM agreed
that further liaison meetings will be held in future.

[[A paper by Justice for Megrahi has been submitted explaining its reasons for contending that the Committee should keep the petition open. This paper does not yet appear on the Justice Committee’s webpage.]

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