Monday, 13 July 2015

The most spectacular miscarriage of justice in British legal history

[What follows is the text of a report headlined Jack Straw disappoints Lockerbie relatives on inquiry published in The Herald on this date in 2002:]

A full-blown public inquiry into the Lockerbie tragedy has been all but ruled out by Jack Straw.
The foreign secretary told MPs during a Commons debate: ''I explained to the families of the Lockerbie relatives that I did not see a case for a public inquiry into what had happened but I was going to look into whether other arrangements for scrutiny could be established.''

Last night Jim Swire, a spokesman for the victims' relatives, said Mr Straw's remarks ''do not appear to be in line with what he told us before''.

Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora was among the Lockerbie victims, told The Herald: ''It sounds abysmal. It looks as if we are not going to get a comprehensive independent inquiry. This raises all sorts of issues.''

The effective ruling out of a public inquiry is likely to be one of the key issues raised by the relatives when they meet Nelson Mandela in London tomorrow.

Last month the former South African president, who spent 27 years in jail, called for a new appeal after visiting Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of the bombing, at Barlinnie jail in Glasgow. He said the Libyan was effectively being kept in solitary confinement and branded his conditions as ''psychological persecution''.

Tam Dalyell MP, the leading Lockerbie campaigner, whose question during the Commons debate prompted Mr Straw's rejection of a public inquiry, said that the questions surrounding Britain's worst terrorist atrocity ''have got to be answered''.

During the debate, the Labour MP for Linlithgow described the conviction and jailing of Megrahi as ''the most spectacular miscarriage of justice in not only Scottish but British legal history''.

He told MPs: ''There ought to be a public inquiry because, in this instance, adversarial court procedures were wholly inappropriate to the objective of finding the truth.''

Last night a Foreign Office source pointed out that it was not Mr Straw's decision alone on whether or not there should be a full public inquiry; it would be a cabinet decision. However, he accepted Mr Straw's remarks all but ruled out the prospect.

''Some form of scrutiny has not been ruled out. He will be saying more about this in due course,'' said the source, who declined to be more specific.

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