Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Police appoint independent QC to oversee investigation into alleged wrongdoing by Lockerbie prosecutors

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of The Herald. It reads as follows:]

Police Scotland is close to ending a two-year probe in to allegations of criminality by Lockerbie investigators and prosecutors.

In an unusual move, the national force has has appointed an independent QC to advise it on the inquiry because it could not ask Crown lawyers to assess evidence of alleged wrongdoing against the Crown.

Detectives are investigating nine allegations made by the Justice for Megrahi or JFM group, who believe that the only man ever convicted of the 1988 bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Megrahi died in his native Libya in 2012 protesting his innocence despite his 2001 conviction at a specially convened Scottish court in the Netherlands.

Crown officials have stressed that the Lockerbie case remains live and that they have not ruled out further prosecutions.

Police Scotland has been looking in to the JFM allegations since February 2014 under Operation Sandwood. The campaign group has been lobbying for an independent prosecutor to investigate. The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, has previously said he will appoint a QC to deal with any report from the police. This person would not be the same person as the senior advocate advising the police. [RB: A media conference organised by Justice for Megrahi to be held in Edinburgh today will consider the Lord Advocate’s proposal for dealing with the Operation Sandwood report.]

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has now written to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament confirming progress.

He said the allegations were "diverse in nature, resulting in a protracted inquiry".

Mr Livingstone added: "It has required a detailed and methodical approach, to ensure the necessary rigour to investigate the matter of complexity and sensitivity raised.

"As a result the investigation has taken longer than initially assessed.

"I can nevertheless confirm that the investigation has entered its final phase. A detailed report will be submitted by the senior investigating officer to me within the next two months.

"To ensure the critical requirement of demonstrating independence from the Crown, the report will be scrutinised by the independent Queen's Council appointed by Police Scotland."

Detective Superintendent Stuart Johnstone, Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Sandwood, said:

"The Operation Sandwood enquiry into nine allegations by the Justice for Megrahi group is still ongoing; it started in February 2014.

"The operation is reaching its final stages and is being dealt with as a major investigation by Police Scotland.

"A draft report is in the progress of being compiled, drawing on the findings and conclusions of two years of detailed examination and investigation.

"To ensure the critical requirement of demonstrating independence form the Crown, the report and its findings will be scrutinised and assessed by the independent Queen’s Counsel appointed by Police Scotland to provide independent direction and advice."

5 comments:

  1. Excellent news.

    "Crown officials have stressed that the Lockerbie case remains live and that they have not ruled out further prosecutions."

    Nice to be able to agree with the crown for once.

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    1. Ha ha. The only "further prosecutions" they'll contemplate are of Libyans they imagine were involved in levitating the invisible suitcase on to KM180 at Malta.

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  2. When Gauci appeared for an ID Parade with photot of Megrahi in his pocket the Parade should have been abandoned.
    Harry Bell knew this because he took the photo from Gauci.
    Just wondering if the defence were made aware of this at the time of trial.
    This could of course have allowed then to discredit the identification which might have been detrimental to the judges decisions.
    Non disclosure has been very convincing for some appeals including Nat Fraser V HMA at the UKSC.
    I feel the judges might not have placed any reliance upon Guaci's identification had they been aware of this fact.
    Perhaps an opinion from Someone Like Professor Tim valentine might be useful in regards to this matter.
    I am fully aware he gave an opinion previously which was before SCCRC but I am not sure this matter was addressed.

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    1. That's not quite how it happened. The magazine with the photo of Megrahi was taken from Tony by a Maltese policeman about four days before the identity parade. Nevertheless your basic point is sound. The defence dropped their rifles very badly when dealing with Tony Gauci (as with other areas of the evidence such as the Frankfurt transfer baggage). There are three separate independent reports about the eyewitness identification all saying much the same thing, but of course the appeal they were produced for was abandoned.

      The defence missed countless opportunities to prove their clients innocent. I don't know whether this was because they thought the case was so thin the judges couldn't convict anyway, or because they preferred to go for doubt and uncertainty (which their clients should have been given the benefit of) over clarity, or because they actually thought they were defending guilty men.

      It's an absolute shocker though. One wonders who recommended the lead defence advocates to the accused. One who seemed to be a very dim bulb and was missing tricks right left and centre, and the other who was anything but dim, but expended his energies on legal technicalities and peripheral, irrelevant point-scoring.

      Look where he is now, mind you.

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    2. The trial result was preordained hence the dim bulb and his accomplace trying to make it look good. Who recommended the accused advocates should be interesting. Clearly they knew what they had to do. Asyou say a real shocker.
      It will be a bigger shocker if JFM ever gets to the truth about Lockerbie and who the REAL culprits were.

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