Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From Birmingham to Lockerbie?

[This is the headline over an item posted today on, the website of Dr Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph:]

Jim Swire and relatives of some of the Lockerbie victims are pursuing a posthumous third appeal on behalf of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. They believe that he suffered a miscarriage of justice.

In June 2014 - almost one year ago - they requested that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) ask the Scottish appeal court to rule on whether it is authorised to continue an investigation into the trial findings. The SCCRC requires a ruling on whether the relatives have “a legitimate interest”.

While in prison Al-Megrahi was visited by many well-wishers. In John Ashton's 2012 book Megrahi: You are my Jury Al-Megrahi tells of visits by Paddy Joe Hill, one of the "Birmingham Six" wrongly convicted for the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings. He says of Hill, "He was the visitor who best understood my plight".

Megrahi explains: "Hill knew better than anyone the innate reluctance of the criminal justice system to right its wrongs. Following their first unsuccessful appeal, the Six attempted to press charges against the West Midlands Police. The case eventually reached the High Court and was rejected by a panel of three judges led by England's most senior civil judge, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning.

"In one of the most notorious judgements of recent times he opined: 'Just consider the course of events if their [the Six's] action were to proceed to trial... If they failed it would mean that much time, money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose.'

"'If they won ... [it would mean] that the convictions were eroneous. That would mean that the Home Secretary would either have to recommend that they be pardoned or to remit the case to the Court of Appeal. That [would be] such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say "It cannot be right that these actions should go any further."'"

Baset Al-Megrahi continues: "By the time I was convicted 21 years later, no judge would dare so nakedly place the reputation of the justice system before the interests of justice. But the common ancestry of judicial myopia was all too obvious."

Let us hope that Mr Al-Megrahi is correct and that the sentiments expressed by Lord Denning will never be allowed to influence the current application for a third, posthumous appeal.

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