Saturday, 9 August 2014

A verdict contrary to the evidence

[On this date three years ago, an item appeared on this blog that contained the following excerpts from an article in The Times:]

One of Scotland’s top legal experts claimed last night that the three judges at the trial of the Lockerbie bomber reached a guilty verdict “contrary to the evidence” because “consciously or subconsciously” they were under pressure to convict from the then Lord Advocate.

Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, added that there was no doubt that the conviction of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi for mass murder had been a miscarriage of justice. (...)

Professor Black dismissed the notion that the trial judges, Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean, had been “nobbled” by politicians, but instead said that they had been influenced by the power of the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s leading legal official. (...)

“The Lockerbie case was the most important criminal case there had ever been in Scotland,” Professor Black said. “For the outcome of that case, after all the publicity about the investigation ... for that investigation, and that prosecution to result in two verdicts of not guilty would have been a slap in the face of the Lord Advocate. Consciously or subconsciously these judges were not willing [to do that].” [RB: It is noteworthy that one of the six reasons given by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for finding that Megrahi's conviction might have been a miscarriage of justice was that no reasonable tribunal could, on the evidence, have made the finding in fact that Megrahi was the purchaser on Malta of the clothes that surrounded the bomb. Without that finding, Megrahi could not in law have been convicted.]

Professor Black was sharing a stage with Jim Swire, 75, the GP whose daughter Flora was among the victims of the bombing, following a production of the play Lockerbie [: Unfinished Business] at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Written and performed by David Benson, it dramatised Dr Swire’s emotional journey, from his first anxiety about his daughter’s safety when news of a terrorist bomb broke in December 1988, through his decades of struggle to establish the identity of the terrorists who had killed her.

[The Lord Advocate at the time of the Zeist trial, Lord Boyd of Duncansby, now a judge of the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary, reacted angrily to my comments.  His response and my rejoinder are recorded on this blog here and here.]

1 comment:

  1. I don't think the Trial Judges, who all volunteered the hear the case!, were under the influence of the Lord Advocate but could they have possibly contradicted their fellow Judge Andrew Hardie's submissions to the Fatal Accident Inquiry?

    I suspect the Judges "Union" took a view about defendants negotiating the form of tribunal before which they would agree to appear and were determined they would not benefit from it. Why else did they bend over backwards to convict.

    Megrahi couldn't have done any worse with a Jury trial rather than this judicial experiment. I believe it was "Camp Zeist" itself that is the central explanation for Megrahi's conviction, contrary of course to what was expected.

    By declining a trial Professor Black and his fellow worthies played right into the hands of the Western Governments who didn't want a trial at all but sanctions against Libya.

    A competent defence team may have noticed that (besides the London origin) key evidence had been fabricated and the trial may have collapsed. Unfortunately none of his defence teams ever did.