[What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2011:]
Government is criticised over delay in reply to Megrahi queries
[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Herald. It reads in part:]
Campaigners calling for an inquiry into the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing have criticised the Scottish Government for a delay in responding to a request for information from one of Holyrood’s own committees.
The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee wrote to the Government in November after hearing evidence from the Justice for Megrahi group, which submitted a petition bearing the signatures of 1646 people backing an independent inquiry.
Ministers were asked to respond by December 10, but the committee only received a response to its questions last night, a month after the deadline.
In it, the Government restates its position that any inquiry would be beyond the jurisdiction of Scots law and its own remit.
Robert Forrester, secretary of Justice for Megrahi, who stressed that he was speaking personally because the committee had yet to convene to discuss the response, said it was “inadequate.”
He said: “Clearly it has taken an extremely long time for them to put together, so far as I can see, a rather inadequate response. The Government has been saying repeatedly that they don’t have the power to open an inqury by saying it is beyond the power and remit of the Scottish Parliament.
“I personally don’t see why an inquiry cannot be opened.” (...)
The committee, led by convener Rhona Brankin, asked the Government whether it would open an independent inquiry or if it would provide detailed reasons for not doing so, including citing any legislation that prevents the Scottish Government from holding an inquiry.
The Petitions Committee has also received submissions from Professor Robert Black QC, the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands, which suggest there are previous examples of inquiries into judicial decisions. (...)
AL Kennedy, James Robertson, Len Murray and Ian Hamilton QC signed the petition calling for an inquiry into the conviction of Megrahi, who was found guilty of causing the deaths of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in December 1988. A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Following the announcement last month that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has been unable to secure the necessary consents to release its statement of reasons in the Megrahi case due to the constraints of the current legislation, we are now considering legislation to overcome the problems presented by the current consent provisions.”
[The Scottish Government does not and cannot contend that it lacks the powers to set up an inquiry into the Lockerbie invesigation and prosecution and Abdelbaset Megrahi's conviction. These are all matters within devolved jurisdiction. What it says is this:
"The Inquiries Act 2005 provides that, to the extent that the matters dealt with are devolved, and criminal justice is devolved, the Scottish Government would have the power to conduct an inquiry. However, the wide ranging and international nature of the issues involved (even if the inquiry is confined to the trial and does not concern itself with wider matters) means that there is every likelihood of issues arising which are not devolved, which would require either a joint inquiry with or a separate inquiry by the UK government."
This is nothing more that a wafer-thin pretext for inaction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has no jurisdiction and powers outwith Scotland. Yet it managed to conduct an investigation into the Megrahi conviction that enabled it to reach the conclusion that, on six separate grounds, that conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice. There is no conceivable reason why a Scottish inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 should have less success in obtaining and uncovering evidence.]