Friday, 19 February 2016

Dewar acts to calm anger as Lockerbie prosecutor quits

Circumstances precluded my posting on this blog yesterday (Thursday, 18 February 2016). What follows is what I would have posted had it been possible.

[This is the headline over a report by Gerard Seenan in The Guardian on this date in 2000. It reads as follows:]

Scotland's first minister, Donald Dewar, yesterday moved to allay fears that the prosecution of the Lockerbie bomb suspects was in disarray by quickly nominating a replacement for the man who had been due to lead the prosecution team.

In less than six weeks, Lord Hardie, the lord advocate, Scotland's senior law officer, was supposed to lead the prosecution against the two Libyan suspects at Kamp van Zeist, in the Netherlands. But he quit late on Wednesday - and appointed himself a judge.

The move prompted accusations that Lord Hardie had left the families of the Lockerbie victims in the lurch, and led opposition politicians to call for an immediate review of the way judges are appointed, particularly the notion of self-appointment.

During an angry exchange at first minister's questions, the Scottish National party leader, Alex Salmond, accused Lord Hardie of letting Scotland down in the eyes of the world. Mr Dewar dismissed this as "over-dramatic".

By yesterday morning there was growing concern north of the border that Lord Hardie's decision would leave a vacuum at the heart of the case against the Libyan suspects.

The Scottish executive denied the departure would affect the trial and Mr Dewar announced he was recommending to the Queen that Colin Boyd, the solicitor general for Scotland, should become the new lord advocate.

Mr Boyd has played a prominent role in the Lockerbie case, appearing in person for the prosecution at some of the pre-trial hearings in Edinburgh and the Netherlands.

Roseanna Cunningham, the shadow justice minister, said many people felt let down by Lord Hardie's departure. "He has been responsible for key decisions in the Lockerbie prosecution, and the least he could have done was see this very important trial through to a close," she said.

Families of those who lost their lives in the Lockerbie bombing said they were appalled by Lord Hardie's decision. Susan Cohen, from New Jersey, in the US, who lost her daughter Theodora, said: "I am appalled and amazed at a moment like this, that the lord advocate just decides to leave."

Lord Hardie recently came under fire over his role in the appointment of Scottish judges after a high court ruling that using temporary sheriffs was in breach of the European convention on human rights.

After the SNP claimed Lord Hardie had mishandled the incorporation of the convention into Scots law, the Scottish justice minister, Jim Wallace, gave Lord Hardie his backing.


  1. And a few days later Neil MacKay had a piece in the Sunday Herald, which went a long way to explaining Hardie's resignation.

    1. Been through the paper, can't see it.

    2. Oh sorry, I meant I had been through this week's paper. No, I really can't find an article that old unless you link me to it.

    3. Here's a link to the report that I think Ewan is referring to:

  2. I still wonder why Andrew Hardie quit. He had promised the relatives he would see it through with them. A successful prosecution would have been a big feather in his cap. He only had to keep going for a year and he could have jumped upstairs then with a Lockerbie victory on his CV. But he quit, apparently of his own volition.

    This seems to have been around three or four months after it dawned on the procurators fiscal that the Bedford case was the bomb, or at least very probably the bomb, and they realised they were going to have to fudge it. I wonder if Hardie jumping ship had anything to do with that. It's quite a time gap, but then it would take time to confirm that the prosecution really was up shit creek with the Heathrow evidence, and then decide what to do, and then do it.

    1. Here's Scotland on Sunday's take at the time:

    2. Ta muchly. This is somewhat parallel to my own thinking. He anticipated possibly/probably losing the trial and decided to bale out while the going was good.

      I merely add in the apparent realisation on the part of the team preparing the prosecution case, in about November 1999, that they had a serious and possibly fatally unsurmountable problem with the Bedford case, as a possibly contributing factor.

      Andrew Hardie was lead advocate for the Crown at the FAI. He knew damn well the police case was that the bomb was on the second layer of luggage and the Bedford case was directly underneath it. He would have been expecting to go with the same argument. But if you do that, and it plays out like a game of chess, you end up having to concede that the bomb was in the Bedford case. They realised this in November, I think.

      Colin Boyd didn't have the same intimate knowledge of the investigation as Hardie had. Maybe he accepted the revised scenario without questioning it.