Monday, 22 December 2014

SCCRC petitions court for advice on whether victims' relatives have legitimate interest

[What follows is the text of a press release issued today by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:]

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has confirmed that it has lodged a Petition at the High Court in Edinburgh, under s194D(3) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, seeking the opinion of the High Court in relation to a matter arising from the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi.

On 5 June 2014, the Commission received an application for a further review of Mr Megrahi’s conviction from Messrs Aamer Anwar & Co, solicitors. This application was lodged on behalf of two separate groups, the family members of the deceased victims of the Lockerbie bombing and members of Mr Megrahi’s family.

The aim of the Petition is to seek the advice of the court on the meaning of the phrase “legitimate interest” where it occurs in s303A(4) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.

Gerard Sinclair, the Chief Executive of the SCCRC, said today: “As we indicated in our news release of 6 May 2014 prior to receipt of the current application, there are a number of preliminary matters that the Commission needs to determine before it can decide whether or not to accept the case for a full review. One of these is the need for the Commission to be satisfied that, in the event of a referral, someone with the right to do so will be willing and able to pursue the appeal.

The Commission has, since June, proceeded on the basis that Mr Megrahi’s family are involved in the present application. However, despite the Commission’s repeated requests, the members of the Megrahi family have failed to provide appropriate evidence to support this position.

The Commission has now reached the conclusion that the current application is being actively supported only by the members of the victims’ families, who would no doubt be prepared to pursue an appeal if allowed to do so.

The aim of the Petition is to seek the advice of the court on whether members of the victims` families would be entitled to pursue an appeal on behalf of Mr Megrahi if the Commission ultimately decided to refer the current application, as previous court decisions have restricted this role to executors and the “next of kin” of the convicted person”.

No further comment will be made by the Commission at this time.

[RB: This is extremely disappointing. A document signed by six immediate members of the family of the late Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (including the executor of his estate) indicating that they wished to be conjoined in the SCCRC application along with 24 relatives of victims of the Lockerbie disaster was submitted to the SCCRC in June. The same six family members gave written instructions to Aamer Anwar & Co to represent them in pursuing the application. Apparently this is not good enough for the Commission. Since June, it has proved extremely difficult, given the current situation in Libya, to make contact with the Megrahi family. So now the SCCRC is proposing to treat the application as if it were on behalf of the victims’ relatives alone. The question is (and has always been recognised to be) whether such persons would be regarded by the High Court of Justiciary as having a legitimate interest to conduct any appeal seeking to overturn Megrahi’s conviction.

It is devoutly to be hoped that contact can soon be re-established with the Megrahi family and their wish to participate duly confirmed, whereupon this “legitimate interest” problem should disappear.]

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