Thursday, 17 March 2016

The issue is public confidence in the administration of criminal justice

[Yesterday’s Justice for Megrahi press conference gets extensive coverage in the media today. Here are two samples:]

Campaigners who believe Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 have said Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and the Crown Office should play no part in considering a Police Scotland report into criminal allegations they have made over the case.
And Len Murray, a leading figure in Scottish legal circles, said Mulholland’s position was “untenable”, although any question of resignation was a matter for him. (...)
JfM made nine allegations of criminality in September 2012 against police, Crown Office officials and forensic scientists involved in the original investigation into the bombing and the subsequent trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. They included perjury and perverting the course of justice.
However, JfM said the Lord Advocate and Crown Office personnel subsequently described them as “conspiracy theorists” and dismissed the allegations as “defamatory and entirely unfounded”.
“We feel very strongly that in the light of the sometimes scandalous outbursts that have come from Crown Office and the office of the Lord Advocate, they have disqualified themselves from considering the report which Police Scotland will be making following their inquiry into the nine allegations,” said Murray.
“It is perfectly obvious from these outbursts… that both the Lord Advocate and Crown Office have already taken a view on the matter, and therefore there is no prospect of that police report being considered fairly and impartially.”
[Brian] McConnachie [QC], a former principal advocate depute, said: “We know that Crown Office and the Lord Advocate have expressed what would appear to be a concluded view about the matter and that perhaps is simply symptomatic of the fact that Crown Office these days seem to consider as part of their job to pronounce in relation to pretty much any case or any profile at all.
“But the difficulty here is that if the Lord Advocate has expressed what would appear to be a concluded view about a matter, it is very difficult to see any way in which justice can be done or be seen to be done if the person who is deciding whether or not there are to be proceedings is the person who has already told us that the allegations are defamatory, unfounded and false.”
[John] Finnie [MSP] added: “Justice for Megrahi have posed a series of questions about how the police inquiry will be responded to by Crown Office – eight entirely reasonable questions, and I suspect had there been replies to these questions that you wouldn’t be sitting here today.
“What we maybe should do is tear the top of the paper off that says Justice for Megrahi and say ‘what does this mean for the ordinary citizen who makes serious and significant allegations against very senior people who are involved in our criminal justice system?’”
[Professor Alan] Page said the issue was about public confidence in the administration of criminal justice and that the allegations made by JfM had been dismissed “out of hand as unfounded, false and misleading”.
“This calls into question whether or not the Crown Office is capable of approaching them with the open mind that the administration of criminal justice, which in my view and I think in everyone else’s view, requires.”
Lord Advocate of Scotland Frank Mulholland, the country’s most senior state prosecutor, will be deemed "unfit to hold office" if he does not pass a report into alleged criminality involving his office’s personnel to an independent prosecutor, spokesman for a justice campaign group considering the case told Sputnik on Wednesday.

After a three-year criminal investigation, Police Scotland are now set to pass a report to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Scotland’s prosecution service. It follows allegations that senior prosecutors, police officers and prosecution witnesses acted with criminal intent during the trial of Libyan Abdelbaset Megrahi who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The claims against prosecutor's office include perversion of the course of justice and perjury.

It is vital that Mulholland avoids a conflict of interest between himself and his duty to the Scottish public, Robert Black of the Justice for Megrahi committee said.

"If the Lord Advocate and COPFS do not recognize and appreciate this, then the Lord Advocate is unfit to hold office and COPFS has lost its moral compass," Black said.

No comments:

Post a Comment