Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Megrahi haircut saga

[What follows is the text of a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001:]

Scottish Justice Minister Jim Wallace has demanded an explanation after a prison officer was flown to the Netherlands to cut the Lockerbie bomber's hair.

Mr Wallace has questioned whether flying the female officer to Camp Zeist to cut the hair of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was the "best use of resources".

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has defended the move saying it was based on security considerations.

The SPS said the female officer travelled to Camp Zeist on Monday after Al Megrahi asked for a haircut.

It also confirmed that the former hairdresser, who is based at Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirling, has cut the Libyan's hair on a previous occasion when she was on placement at Camp Zeist.

An SPS spokeswoman said: "He (Al Megraghi) is a category A prisoner and we wanted a member of our own staff to cut his hair for security reasons.

"We don't want to put national security at risk and in all our prisons nobody would come in from outside to cut a prisoner's hair."

On the cost of the exercise, she added: "He (Al Megraghi) wanted his haircut and arrangements were made.

"The officer flew to Camp Zeist on Monday on a chartered flight with prison officers and police who were starting a placement in Holland.

"She returned on Tuesday, again on a chartered flight, with staff who were flying home after completing a stint at Camp Zeist.

"In both cases there were spare seats on the plane and therefore there was no additional expense to the taxpayer."

The spokeswoman said that the officer did miss one shift at Cornton Vale on Monday to make the trip, while Tuesday was her day off.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said: "This is an operational matter for the Scottish Prison Service (SPS).

"However the Justice Minister Jim Wallace is asking the SPS for a break down of expenses incurred and whether this has been the best use of resources."

Al Megrahi was found guilty in January of the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, which resulted in the deaths of 270 people.

He was jailed for life with a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years.

Al Megrahi lodged an appeal against his conviction last month.

A judge sitting in chambers will decide if the grounds warrant an appeal against conviction.

Assuming Al Megrahi's appeal goes ahead, the hearing will take place before five judges at Camp Zeist.

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