Friday, 5 December 2014

The Zeist judges' unreasonable evidential finding

[On this date in 2000 the defence opened its case in the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist. One of the witnesses examined was Major Joseph Mifsud who, between 1979 and 1988, was chief meteorologist at the meteorological office at Luqa Airport in Malta. His evidence can be read here. I have summarised elsewhere his evidence and the background showing its relevance and importance as follows:

“By reference to the dates on which international football matches were broadcast on television on Malta, Tony Gauci was able to narrow down the date of purchase of the items in question [ie the items that accompanied the bomb in the Samsonite suitcase] to either 23 November or 7 December [1988]. [RB: The evidence established that Megrahi had been on Malta on 7 December.] In an attempt to establish just which, the weather conditions in Sliema on these two days were explored. Gauci’s evidence was that when the purchaser left his shop it was raining to such an extent that his customer thought it advisable to buy an umbrella to protect himself while he went in search of a taxi. The unchallenged meteorological evidence led by the defence established that while it had rained on 23 November at the relevant time, it was unlikely that it had rained at all on 7 December; and if there had been any rain, it would have been at most a few drops, insufficient to wet the ground. On this material, the judges found in fact that the clothes were purchased on 7 December.”

[RB: In June 2007, after a three-year investigation, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission came to the conclusion that Megrahi's conviction may have constituted a miscarriage of justice. One of its six reasons for so finding (and by far the most important one, though this went largely unappreciated in the media) was that in respect of absolutely crucial findings in fact by the trial court (the date of purchase of the clothing that surrounded the bomb and, hence, the identity of the purchaser) no reasonable tribunal could have reached the conclusion that the evidence established that it was Megrahi.]

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