[What follows is the text of an announcement issued today by the Faculty of Advocates:]
The death has been announced of the Rt Hon Lord Kirkwood, who served as a judge from 1987 until his retirement in 2005. He was 84.
Ian Candlish Kirkwood joined the Faculty of Advocates in 1957, after graduating at the universities of Edinburgh and Michigan. He took Silk in 1970. He was also a former international chess player.
Lord Kirkwood was one of five judges, headed by Lord Cullen, then Lord Justice General, who heard and dismissed the appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing.
He had a reputation as a genial, diligent and scrupulously fair judge.
[RB: Here is something that I wrote during Megrahi’s Zeist appeal:]
During the week it has been abundantly clear that the appeal judges have absorbed the submissions made on behalf of the appellant Megrahi and appreciate the force of a number of the criticisms made in them of the reasoning in the written opinion of the trial Court. Their Lordships have not been slow to draw their concerns to the attention of the Advocate-Depute. In particular, Lord Osborne and Lord Kirkwood have asked some very pointed questions indeed and have subjected Advocate-Depute Turnbull and Advocate-Depute Campbell to rigorous cross-examination regarding the Crown's stance in supporting the trial Court's conclusions on certain crucial matters, such as the finding that the bomb was ingested at Luqa Airport in Malta; that Megrahi was the person who purchased the clothes from Mary's House in Sliema; and that the date of purchase was 7 December 1988.
[RB: Why did these serious judicial concerns about the reasoning of the trial court not result in Megrahi’s conviction being overturned? Here is what I wrote shortly after the appeal was dismissed, beginning with a quote from the appeal court’s judgement:]
“When opening the case for the appellant before this court Mr Taylor stated that the appeal was not about sufficiency of evidence: he accepted that there was a sufficiency of evidence. He also stated that he was not seeking to found on section 106(3)(b) of the 1995 Act. His position was that the trial court had misdirected itself in various respects. Accordingly in this appeal we have not required to consider whether the evidence before the trial court, apart from the evidence which it rejected, was sufficient as a matter of law to entitle it to convict the appellant on the basis set out in its judgment. We have not had to consider whether the verdict of guilty was one which no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have returned in the light of that evidence.”
The limitations under which the Appeal Court was thus constrained to operate effectively disabled it from considering the issues of (a) whether there was sufficient evidence in law to justify such absolutely crucial findings-in-fact by the trial court as (i) that the date of purchase in Malta of the clothes surrounding the bomb was 7 December 1988, (ii) that Megrahi was the purchaser and (iii) that the case containing the bomb started its progress from Malta’s Luqa Airport and (b) whether those findings or any of them (on the assumption that there was a legal sufficiency of evidence) were such as no reasonable trial court, properly directing itself, could have made, or been satisfied of beyond reasonable doubt, in the light of (i) justifiable criticisms of the evidence and witnesses supporting them and (ii) ex facie credible contrary evidence.