Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Lockerbie families upset by SNP's 'crass' timing

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Times about the legal powers that have been granted to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to put into the public domain material relating to Abdelbaset Megrahi's successful application to it. It is worth noting that not a single Lockerbie relative is quoted in the article complaining about the timing of the announcement. The only such complaint comes from the Scottish Conservatives' legal rent-a-quote, Paul McBride QC.

The article reads in part:]

The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC), which investigates alleged miscarriages of justice, had referred his case back to the courts in June 2007 after ruling that his conviction could have been unsafe.

Al-Megrahi claims that he was the victim of miscarriage of justice and has already published details of his appeal, including reports questioning the credibility of a key prosecution witness and suggestions that other witnesses were paid.

There had been pressure on the government to release the commission’s own documents relating to the appeal and yesterday Mr MacAskill announced that the SNP had passed an order allowing the commission to publish the documents in February. “The order laid today allows the SCCRC to disclose information it holds and it is now for them to decide what, if anything, they release.”

However, it is believed that the commission will not be able to reveal much detail, since those who submitted information must give consent to its release. Gerard Sinclair, the commission’s chief executive, indicated that human rights laws and data protection legislation could also prove a barrier to full disclosure.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was one of the 270 people who died when the flight 108 exploded over Lockerbie, welcomed the decision to release the appeal documents but was concerned about how much information would be published, and warned against a “drip feed” approach.

“I just find it immensely frustrating to have to sit here in the middle and not know,” she said.

She was also disappointed that the Scottish government had failed to contact her and the families of the other victims before making the announcement.

“I would have preferred to have heard from the Scottish government instead of the media,” she said. (...)

Robert Brown, the justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: “The last thing we want is for this to turn into a trial by media. If possible, a way must be found whereby the information held by the SCCRC, and the issues raised by them for the Appeal Court, can be properly and judicially tested.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government defended the decision, saying: “It is to everyone’s benefit to know if information can be put into the public domain regardless of their views, this was done as soon as practically possible.”

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