Friday, 15 January 2016

Megrahi legal success leads to change in law

[On this date in 2008 the Evening Standard published a report headlined Legal victory for Lockerbie bomber. It reads as follows:]

Judges ruled that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's appeal could have a wide-ranging focus, looking beyond the issues raised by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) when it suggested he might have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

The decision came after the Libyan's lawyers lodged full grounds of appeal earlier this year and argued that the full appeal should include all the points pertinent to the case.

The Crown had opposed the move, arguing that it would be "absurd", "illogical" and incompetent in law for Al Megrahi to be granted a hearing with such a broad focus.

Three judges at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh have now rejected the Crown's position.

Lord Hamilton, sitting with Lords Kingarth and Eassie, said the court "holds that the appellant (Al Megrahi) is entitled to have his stated grounds of appeal decided by the court on their respective merits".

Al Megrahi's lawyer welcomed the "important victory" for his client.

Solicitor Tony Kelly said afterwards: "It is a complete victory for the appellant's position before the court and a complete rejection of the Crown's argument.

"The Crown employed lots of resources to try to restrict the court and they have been stopped in their tracks. It is an important victory for Mr Al Megrahi."

Al Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, is serving a minimum of 27 years in prison after being convicted of bombing Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, killing 270 people. He lost an appeal in 2002, but was given a fresh chance to clear his name in June last year when the SCCRC referred his case back to appeal judges for a second time.

[RB: The Crown does not take such judicial defeats lying down. Less than three years later the Scottish Government’s Justice Department induced the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation restricting any future SCCRC appeals to the reasons specified by the Commission in its report into an alleged miscarriage of justice (unless leave to argue additional grounds is granted by the court): see Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, section 194D (4A) and (4B), as inserted by Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 (asp 13), s. 83.]

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