Thursday, 27 November 2014

Double jeopardy and Lamin Fhimah

What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date three years ago:

Fhimah retrial speculation on abolition of double jeopardy rule

[The following are excerpts from a report in today's edition of Scotland on Sunday:]

Prosecutors are examining whether to reopen a series of “double jeopardy” cases which could lead to some of Scotland’s most notorious unsolved murders being brought back to court.

The 800-year-old law of double jeopardy will be radically overhauled tomorrow, ending the rule which prevents an accused being tried twice for the same crime. (...)

Officials declined to specify which cases could be among those coming back to court, but they are likely to include the so-called World’s End” murders of Christine Eadie and Helen Scott from 1977. [RB: This case was re-indicted and on 14 November 2014 Angus Sinclair was convicted.] Other cases believed to be at the top of the list include the prosecution and acquittal of Libyan al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah for the Lockerbie bombing (...)

The reform could also trigger fresh developments in the Lockerbie case, which remains active, amid speculation that Fhimah, who was found innocent of the atrocity, could be prosecuted once again. (...)

[T]he reforms, which come into force tomorrow, will ensure that a second trial can take place where “compelling new evidence emerges to substantially strengthen the case against the accused”. A second trial may also be allowed to proceed where there is evidence that the first trial was “tainted”. An example might be where a witness was found to have been intimidated into supporting the accused.

Furthermore, if after acquittal the accused admits having committed the offence, the Crown Office will be permitted to have a second trial. (...)

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: “The Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, has been asked by the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, to review and prioritise cases which may be prosecuted anew under the Double Jeopardy (Scotland) Bill.”

She added: “It is too early to say which cases would be considered, nor would we speculate on how any particular cases will be dealt with under the change to the law of double jeopardy in Scotland.”

[I would be astounded if prosecutors sought to re-indict Lamin Fhimah.  The Crown Office is just as aware as the rest of us are that the astonishing thing about the Zeist trial was not the acquittal of Fhimah but the conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi.  Any "new evidence" that has emerged since 2001 points clearly towards the innocence of the accused Libyans rather than their guilt, as the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission amongst others has pointed out.]

Three years later, I see no reason to modify in any way the view expressed immediately above.

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