[This is the headline over a report in today’s edition of The Scotsman. It reads as follows:]
Campaigners for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing have raised “serious concerns” about the Crown Office’s ability to examine their case.
The group Justice For Megrahi (JFM) said it had no faith in Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, citing the recent failed prosecution of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and the “hasty” decision not to take action against the driver of the bin lorry which crashed, killing six people in Glasgow last year.
Police Scotland is currently investigating allegations made by the group against the Crown, police and forensic officials leading up to the prosecution of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi at Camp Zeist in 2001.
The allegations range from perverting of the course of justice to perjury.
Megrahi, who died in 2012 after being controversially released from prison three years earlier, is the only man to have been convicted over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Campaigners want a special independent prosecutor to examine the results of the ongoing police investigation, which is known as Operation Sandwood. Police expect to send a report to prosecutors by the end of year.
In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee, the campaign group said: “Over past years a number of serious questions have been raised about the office of the Lord Advocate, the Crown Office and the Scottish justice system in general.
“The collapse of the Andy Coulson trial, the hasty decision to take no proceedings in relation to the bin lorry accident are but two examples.”
In a letter to the convener of the justice committee earlier this year, the Lord Advocate said arrangements had been put in place for “independent Crown counsel who has not been involved in Lockerbie case” to deal with the police report, should the need arise.
But in its submission, JFM said the Lord Advocate’s solution was unacceptable.
“This latest attempt by the Lord Advocate not to surrender his control, despite irrefutable evidence that he should, only serves to provide further focus to these concerns and throw serious doubt on the Crown’s internal decision-making processes,” the submission said.
“We feel it is important to emphasise that while we have highlighted the actions of the current Lord Advocate and Crown Office, this only serves to highlight a much more central concern about the general constitutional and political position of the office of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office.”
Robert Forrester, secretary of JFM, said campaigners hoped the police report could be passed to an overseas prosecutor. He said: “It’s the Lord Advocate’s position that he wants to hand it over to an advocate depute who works for the Crown Office.
“Clearly that doesn’t fall into any concept of independence from our point of view, given that the Crown is implicated in our allegations. We’re lobbying for a constitutional change whereby an independent appointer appoints an independent prosecutor for circumstances as exceptional as this.”
Asked about whether a prosecutor could come from the Crown Prosecution Service in England, he said: “That wouldn’t really cut it for us because England has had a role to play in the whole Lockerbie affair.
“It would have to be from a locale that has had no association with the affair.”
A spokesman for the Crown Office said a prosecutor independent of Crown counsel had already been appointed to handle the case. He said: “The Lord Advocate can confirm that he has had no involvement in the appointment of counsel undertaking this work. The independent counsel who is undertaking this work is not under the direction of the Lord Advocate.”
[RB: A leader in the same newspaper is headed New Lockerbie inquiry musn’t be pre-judged.
JFM’s reason for seeking the appointment of a prosecutor entirely independent of, and with no present or prior connection with, the Crown Office, is not the quality of recent Crown Office decision-making but the fact that Crown Office sources, just after JFM’s criminality allegations were made and before the police investigation had got properly off the ground, stated that these allegations were “defamatory” and “without foundation”. In these circumstances there can be no public confidence in an assessment of Police Scotland’s forthcoming report that involves in any capacity whatsoever the Crown Office.]