Wednesday 27 October 2010

Len Murray speaks out in support of Megrahi petition

[Len Murray, one of the most distinguished of Scotland's criminal court solicitors and a signatory of the Justice for Megrahi petition, has authorised me to publish the following statement:]

When I retired I was senior partner in the firm of Levy & McRae. I am a graduate of Glasgow University and I am a member of the Society of Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. I specialised in Litigation, both civil and criminal, and in media law. I was appointed the first ever media spokesman for the Law Society of Scotland in the late 60’s and some years later I became legal adviser news and current affairs for ITN and the Independent Television companies in Scotland, namely Scottish Television, Grampian Television and Borders Television.

I was a Justice of the Peace for the then districts of Bearsden and Milngavie and I was Vice-Chairman of the JP Advisory Committee for the district. Our function was to recommend appointments as Justices to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

I served on many of the bodies involved in the conduct and running of my profession, including Glasgow Bar Association, the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow and the Law Society of Scotland. Indeed, latterly I was Vice-Chairman of the Central Committee of the Law Society. My practice was very extensive and I think I might claim to have been one of the more experienced Court solicitors in the country.

I represented members of the Joint Branch Boards of the Scottish Police Federation in Strathclyde, Lothian & Borders, Tayside and Northen Constabulary in civil, criminal and Police disciplinary matters. This gave me a rather unique insight into the investigation and reporting of crime in Scotland. I also had experience as a Prosecutor, as a Temporary Sheriff and as a Chairman of Employment Tribunals.

I followed the trial as far as it was reported in the press at the time and I well remember thinking that the accused would not be convicted. I was not surprised that Al-Amin Khalifi Fhima was acquitted but equally I was surprised that Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi was.

I have had the benefit of reading Professor Black's lengthy submissions and I agree entirely with what he has written. Personally, I could not understand a number of things about the outcome of the case. Let me illustrate what I mean:

1. I could not and still cannot understand how the Court could hold, on the evidence of Gauci, that Megrahi made the purchase of the clothing. Without Gauci's evidence, which at its height was that Megrahi resembled the purchaser, there was no case.
2. Their finding that the purchase was made on 7 December bordered upon the perverse.
3. Their finding about the unaccompanied baggage fell within the same category.

Let me quote from Dickson on The Law of Evidence at Section 98. In speaking of inferences to be drawn in cases of circumstantial evidence he says: "It is not enough that his guilt [the accused] be a rational and probable inference as well as the most probable of several inferences from the circumstances. It must also be the only rational hypothesis which they will bear."

If that is still the law then how on earth could the Court have drawn so many adverse inferences against the accused when there were other explanations and explanations that were just as likely?

Megrahi was convicted on circumstantial evidence. That is frequently the strongest evidence that a court can hear. It may be likened to a chain - the more strands there are, the stronger is the chain. But just like a chain, if any link is broken, then that is the end of the matter. It seems to me that there were many broken links in that chain of evidnce upon which the Crown relied.

The other aspect relates to the Appeal. With the greatest respect to learned Senior Counsel who conducted the Appeal on behalf of Megrahi, in my respectful opinion two crucial errors were made, namely (i) a concession that there was sufficient evidence to convict; and (ii) a failure to argue s106(3)(b) of the Act. I would have thought that the outstanding ground of appeal was that based upon the Statutory provision to which I have just referred. Had I been the instructing solicitor then those would have been my instructions to Counsel.

It is fairly trite to say that the verdict of the Appeal Court did not "back up" the verdict of the Court of first instance. The appeal was taken on the wrong points and the refusal of the appeal came as little surprise. Had it been taken on the correct grounds then I would have expected a quite different result.

Apart from all these points, it respectfully seems to me that an enquiry is called for to investigate other matters. Was Gauci paid a huge sum of money by the CIA? Why? What was their interest? What was the evidence about the break in at Heathrow? To whom was that known? Why was that withheld from the defence and on whose instructions? The total impartiality of our prosecutors is fundamental to our system of prosecution and their duty to make available all the evidence is crucial.

Perhaps I should add that I know Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord MacLean. Indeed I worked with each of them while they were at the Bar and I have the highest regard for them all. The point, however, must be made that while they all have considerable experience of presiding over trials and directing juries, they have never had to determine guilt or innocence of an accused person in the course of their careers.


  1. Bravo to Len Murray.

    Where are the rest of the Scottish lawyers who have not made their views known?

    And those of other countries for that matter?

  2. RBQC: The Cadder ruling on detention highlights (to the uninformed in legal matters - ie myself) that the Supreme Court will consider devolved matters for Scotland where Scots Law may contravene ECHR. Is it possible therefore, using these powers, to bring a case of Megrahi vs HMA (or whoever) specifically to rule on whether his rights under the ECHR were infringed - e.g. asking for the court to retrospectively rule that the trial judges were not competent to determine a verdict by way of their inexperience in these matters? (I'm developing this idea based on your previous criticism highlighted by Mr Murray above)