Tuesday 29 September 2009

Justice Committee inquiry into Megrahi release process

The Holyrood inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber will not consider whether the Scottish government was right to free him. (...)

The parliament's justice committee said it would focus on the process followed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. (...)

Announcing its remit into the inquiry, the justice committee said it would look into the application for Megrahi's release from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds, as well as a request to send him home under a prisoner transfer agreement - which was rejected by Scottish ministers.

The cross-party committee said it "will not consider the question of whether the cabinet secretary was right to conclude that compassionate release was justified in the circumstances".

MSPs are likely to look into the timing of Mr MacAskill's decision, the advice he took and the circumstances surrounding Megrahi's much-criticised jubilant homecoming reception in Tripoli.

The committee will also question Mr MacAskill and a series of officials.

[The above are excerpts from a report on the BBC News website.]


  1. Surely there are some things the members of this committee could find to do with their time which are less expensive and more productive!

  2. I welcome this inquiry and hope the gentlemen will leave no stone unturned. Nothing will come out of it, I am sure.
    But at the end of this work it is so much more absurd if the same people deny an inquiry into the much more crucial question of the flawed judgement at Camp Zeist and accordingly the decision of the SCCRC to reopen the case.

  3. William and Adam have said just about all there is to say about the Justice Committee inquiry into Megrahi release process.

    One crucial word omitted by them was PATHETIC !

  4. MISSION LOCKERBIE: In development...

    Mr. Abdelbaset al Megrahi was cheated!

    The dropping of the successful promising "Lockerbie appeal is invalid and must be set back to the status from 19/20 August, 2009!

    After Scottish right it is "for so-called; compassionate release" not necessarily that a condemnation withdraws its appointment.
    Was Mr. Megrahi by its present lawyer Tony Kelly , at the "dropping" of the Appeals, not protected?

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd., Switzerland

  5. I'd imagine that for the legal options Dr. Black has already done his considerations. Like, re-submitting the appeal, case in-absentia by proxy etc.
    I would surprise me if there were any open doors here.

  6. Since the Parliament is the representative of the real souvereign - the people - it is able and should be a duty to start any inquiry into any essential matter.

  7. The references in the Committee’s announcement to “timescale” and “timing” as potential areas of inquiry may be significant. It could be argued that Mr MacAskill’s delays, as documented, contributed to pressure on Mr Megrahi to abandon his appeal.

    My brother died in the crash. In July, UK relatives met Mr MacAskill. We told him the overwhelming wish of UK Families Flight 103 members was for the appeal to continue.

    In reply to Jim Swire saying why he thought it should continue, Mr MacAskill, according to the Justice Department note of the meeting, “spoke of the importance of the separation of powers and that the Scottish Ministers cannot interfere in judicial matters”.

    I find that answer a bit unsubstantial. No-one there needed telling about the separation of powers, or that Ministers have no authority to tell appellants what to do. He was talking to people who had been intimately involved with the criminal justice system for twenty years.

    Perhaps it was not obvious to him that we were talking about something else. We had been invited there to talk with Mr MacAskill about his consideration of the transfer application. In that process, Mr MacAskill and the Department did clearly in practice have the potential to influence the prisoner’s decision about the appeal. Such influence did not need any overt pressure or hints, but could be indirect or involuntary. One way it might happen is if he dragged out his decision. He did drag out his decision, and the appeal would have been still live if he had made a decision in the 90 days. His stated reasons for delay seem to be linked to the length of time he took to take relevant actions in the first place, such as contacting the FCO and the relatives.

    He also told relatives at the meeting that he would not give hints to the prisoner about transfer. I subsequently attempted to explain to his adviser, and to Mr MacAskill in a long email and a second meeting, the following:

    “The current situation - the decision being in your hands with no indication of your thinking - could act as a kind of inducement for the prisoner to drop the appeal.”

    “Communicating either i) a decision-in-principle or ii) what you are minded to do
    to the Libyan Government and Mr al-Megrahi, or the public, could be legitimate, honourable, and consistent with the principle of separating justice from politics.”

    Given Mr MacAskill’s approach at the time, if he was minded to refuse, the prisoner might still drop the appeal in a desperate and unsuccessful gamble. The Scottish Government had itself expressed a preference for the judicial proceedings to continue without the prisoner transfer option interrupting those proceedings.

    It is not clear that the prisoner did not drop his appeal in a desperate and uninformed gamble, or that the Minister could not reasonably have foreseen such a temptation given what the Department did.

    On Monday this week I raised a question with the Justice Committee on whether Mr MacAskill’s delays in carrying out specific actions, and/or the nature of information he provided to the prisoner, constituted a lack of care to ensure the Department’s actions would not sway the prisoner’s decision whether to continue the appeal.

    The detail in the documents published by the Justice Department seemed to confirm my perception that Mr MacAskill’s actions did not indicate he was taking seriously the risk of abandonment.

    I made some observations to the Committee about what seems to have been said and not said in the prison, and the appropriateness of Mr MacAskill’s decisions about that.

    I also listed various, though not all, sources of previous delay in the legal process which could have combined with any delay by Mr MacAskill and possibly problematic information from Mr MacAskill to produce frustration and desperation on the part of the prisoner.

    The letter to the Committee is at www.mattberkley.com/scotjustcom.htm .

  8. As long as the Justice Committee inquiry into Megrahi release process focuses on all of the important issues raised by Matt Berkley, then - contrary to my earlier comment - it could turn out to be a very worthwhile exercise indeed.

    I fear, however, that the Committee's inquiry is likely to degenerate into a Labour/LibDem/Tory point-scoring jamboree at the expense of the SNP, culminating in a ritual condemnation of the "hero's welcome" given to Mr Megrahi at the airport in Tripoli.