Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Boyd stands on the burning deck…

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm. It reads as follows:]

Former Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, now a consultant at Dundas and Wilson, has publicly defended the “robust” conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and claimed that he, his predecessors and successors in office were all “satisfied that there was either sufficient credible evidence to prosecute or, in my case, and Elish’s, that the conviction on that evidence was sound.”

Boyd also rejected a suggestion published yesterday in The Times from Professor Robert Black QC that the three Camp Zeist trial judges may have “subconsciously” been unwilling to undermine the Lord Advocate’s judgement in bringing the Pan Am 103 case to trial, by returning not guilty or not proven verdicts.

“It’s a frankly pretty ludicrous allegation - a slur on the reputation of judges who are all very senior and experienced,” Boyd said.

“I had been in office for all of three months when the trial took place, so I could not possibly have been responsible for their appointment. Had I been, there is no question of my having a hand in influencing them. This is not the culture of the Scottish judiciary. I utterly reject the suggestion.”

“Every Lord Advocate from Peter Fraser to Elish Angiolini has examined the evidence at one time or another - six in total.

“All were satisfied that there was either sufficient credible evidence to prosecute or, in my case, and Elish’s, that the conviction on that evidence was sound. Not one of us would have prosecuted or defended the conviction if we considered that there was any doubt. The process was robust and the conviction sound.”

Professor Black’s suggestion was originally published some four years ago, and reiterated at a Q&A session following a public performance of David Benson’s one-man stage show [Lockerbie: Unfinished Business] at the Edinburgh Fringe on Monday afternoon. In 2007, Black said:

“It has been suggested to me, very often by Libyans, that political pressure was placed upon the judges. I don’t think for a minute that political pressure of that nature was placed on the judges.

“What happened, I think, was that it was internal politics in Scotland. Prosecutions in Scotland are brought by the Lord Advocate. Until just a few years ago, one of the other functions of the Lord Advocate in Scotland was that he appointed all Scottish judges.

“I think what influenced these judges was that they thought that if both of the Libyans accused are found not guilty, this will be the most fiendish embarrassment to the Lord Advocate."

In response to Boyd’s comments, Black said this morning that Boyd has overlooked that: “one of the six grounds upon which, after a three-year investigation, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found that Megrahi's conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice, was that, on the evidence led at Camp Zeist, no reasonable court could have reached the conclusion that Megrahi was the purchaser on Malta of the clothes that surrounded the bomb.

“Without that finding in fact, Megrahi could not have been convicted,” he added.

Lord Maclean, one of the three trial judges who acted uniquely as jurors in this case for the first time in their careers, in his only interview on the subject given to The Firm’s Editor Steven Raeburn in 2005, gave a carefully qualified and hedged defence of the unanimous split verdicts in the case.

“I have no doubt, on the evidence we heard, that the judgments we made and the verdicts we reached were correct," he said.

In February this year the Scottish Parliament was urged to undertake an investigation into the legal advice provided by the former Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, in her role as legal adviser to the Scottish Government over the Pan Am 103 debacle.

The committee highlighted errors in her legal assessment of the Megrahi case, and challenged “the quality and accuracy of the advice and information being given to the Scottish Government by Scotland’s senior Law Officer.”

In June this year Lord [Peter] Fraser was challenged by Dr Jim Swire to explain his position after he told an Al Jazeera documentary film crew that he accepted a key witness in the Pan Am 103 trial had been bribed by Scottish Police.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee will consider whether an inquiry into the affair is to be constituted in the new Parliamentary session.

[The glorious aptness of The Firm's brilliant headline can be gauged by reading the dreadful poem from which it is taken.]


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2011 (google translation german/english):

    Lord Boyd of Duncansby QC, the Lord Advocate at the time very likely has itself not informed on the latest facts about false and manipulated evidence- material, which was used in the trial in Kamp van Zeist against Libya and the libyan official Abdulbaset Al Megrahi..
    Even into the embezzlement of the "Document of National Security" (PII) for the court (exculpatory for Libya) Lord Boyd does not want to remember...

    see: Manipulated Evidence in the "Lockerbie-Case on URL:

    in german language:

    Lord Boyd of Duncansby QC, der Lord Advocate (damals am Gericht) hat sich sehr wahrscheinlich nicht informiert über die neusten Tatsachen, dass falsches und manipuliertes Beweismaterial bei der Gerichtsverhandlung in Kamp van Zeist, gegenüber Libyen und dem libyschen Offiziellen Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, verwendet wurde.
    Auch die Unterschlagung des Dokuments unter "National Security" (PII) am Gericht, welches Libyen entlastet hätte, wird von Lord Boyd verschwiegen...

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. URL:

  2. "Every Lord Advocate from Peter Fraser to Elish Angiolini has examined the evidence at one time or another - six in total."

    How was it examined then?

    Was anything said, written, published, emailed... regarding this examination?

    Or was bedside reading of the verdict the preferred method, by each of these six Lords?

    Well, with the impressive amount of circular inferences we can maybe respect each of them as a Lord of the Rings. But I'd much rather be able to respect them for their ability to do they job they'd claim to do: working for truth and justice.

    It would be quite an easy task, actually.

    Discuss the evidence of foul play and incompetence that's towering up.

    Of course it does not work that way. Directly commenting on any of the damning pieces of evidence that has surfaced - no, the Lords do not do that.

    This is nothing new, of course.

    400 years ago Galieo saw disturbing things in his telescope.

    Moons clearly orbiting Jupiter, not the Earth. The phases of Venus, impossible to explain, unless Venus orbited the sun, not the Earth.

    Wham, there goes the geocentric model of the universe?

    Oh, no! The Lord Astronomers of the time resorted to exactly the same escape as our Lords Advocates of today.

    I can say it no better than Galileo did in a letter to fellow astronomer Kepler:

    "What do you have to say about the principal philosophers of this academy who are filled with the stubbornness of an asp and do not want to look at either the planets, the moon or the telescope, even though I have freely and deliberately offered them the opportunity a thousand times?

    Truly, just as the asp stops its ears, so do these philosophers shut their eyes to the light of truth."

  3. So here once again are those two pesky questions for Lord Boyd of Duncansby QC to answer:

    1. Thomas Thurman of the FBI claimed to have been the forensic scientist who first identified the MEBO timer fragment. Why did you not call Mr Thurman as a prosecution witness at the Lockerbie trial?

    2. Tony Gauci was paid $2m for the identification evidence he gave at Camp Zeist. His brother Paul was paid $1m. When did you become aware that the brothers had been bribed?

  4. I don't know which is worse. The possibility that Colin Boyd really believes the case against Megrahi is "robust", which means that he's as dumb as a bag of hammers, or that he's bright enough to realise the judgement deserves a fail grade, but is trying to deny reality with all the power his public position confers on him.

  5. It was of course Lord Fraser's Deputy & successor Andrew Hardie QC who made submissions to the Fatal Accident Inquiry that the primary suitcase arrived at Heathrow on flight PA103A from Frankfurt based on the dubious deductions of the Police, deductions that were repudiated by the Trial Judges. (see my article "Lockerbie - The Heathrow Evidence" or David Wolchover's "Lockerbie Exploded.")

    I don't think political pressure was exerted on the Trial Judges or that their deliberations were "subconsciously" affected.

    I think they were determined that the defendant(s) would not profit by negotiating the form of tribunal before which he would consent to appear and that never again would a Scottish Criminal trial take place on the territory of another state. (see my article "Perils and Pitfalls of a Designer Trial" on the Caustic Logic website.)

  6. It was the UK Government (before devolution) that set up the Zeist process. If the judges had really wanted to send a message that such special arrangements must never again be contemplated, wouldn't the way to do it have been to acquit both accused? That would in no uncertain fashion have shown governments (who alone have the power to do so) that they mustn't tinker with legal traditions for short-term political reasons.

  7. UK Government (before devolution) that set up the Zeist process...that such special arrangements must never again be contemplated
    As a matter of interest, as 'architect of the Lockerbie trial', at which point did you withdraw your support? Were you duped into facilitating the process that arrived at the given format?

  8. I always thought that a trial under ordinary Scottish procedure was the best solution. I convinced the Libyan Government of that, I'm pretty convinced. But the defence team headed by Ibrahim Legwell (and containing two very highly-regarded Scottish lawyers) came to the conclusion that (because of pre-trial publicity, etc) a fair trial could not be achieved under ordinary Scottish solemn procedure and advised their two clients not to surrender for trial under it.

    These were the circumstances in which in January 1994 I formulated my proposal to resolve the impasse. It was always, in my view, a second-best option. But regrettably necessary in order for there to be a trial at all. What I certainly never anticipated was such an abysmally weak judicial performance.

  9. A much fuller account than that in the last comment can be found here:

  10. Very interesting fuller account, which prompts me to hypothesise that it was not political pressure, internal politics or saving the Lord Advocate's face that influenced the Judges at Zeist. Rather, it was the UN Security Council:

    1. UNSCR 731 of 21 January 1992 blamed officials from the Government of Libya for the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie and UTA Flight 772 over Niger.

    2. Some of the UN sanctions imposed on Libya were suspended by UNSCR 1192 of 27 August 1998 when Libya agreed to surrender the two Pan Am bombing suspects (Fhimah and Megrahi) for trial.

    3. In 1999, six Libyans were put on trial in the Paris Assize Court for the bombing of UTA Flight 772. Because Gaddafi would not allow their extradition to France, the six were tried 'in absentia' and were convicted.

    4. In May 2000, the two Libyans were put on trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands under Scots Law for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103. George Bush Jr narrowly defeated Democrat Al Gore and was sworn in as US President on 20 January 2001. Eleven days later, the Lockerbie trial verdict was announced: Fhimah found not guilty and released; Megrahi found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland.

    The Scottish Judges knew that without a guilty verdict at Camp Zeist, there would be no compensation from Libya for either PA103 or UT772: simples!

  11. I agree that the UN sanctions played a huge role in many aspects of the trial.

    Giaka played a hand in the US indictment that led to the sanctions, and ultimately the Crown had to vary the indictments because they couldn't prove much that was contained in them. The UN was misled.

    If Megrahi had been found not guilty or the charges against him had been determined to be "not proven", the blow to the reputation of the UN and the accusing countries would have been enormous - the financial implications unmeasurable. The judges definitely knew this and it's very possible they were reluctant to issue verdits with such enormous repercussions. It was simply far safer to do what they did.

  12. It is my view that the object of the indictment was sanctions,(which both succeeded and failed) not a trial and that the trial (and the verdict)were secondary considerations. (see my presciently titled article "Lockerbie - Criminal Justice or War By Other Means.)

    Rolfe recently claimed that Camp Zeist was a "show trial". Perhaps it was intended to be but in the opposite sense. Whatever verdict was returned (and "not proven" may have been the intended verdict) it was to bring the matter to a close as sanctions were starting to crumble.

    Professor Black suggests that if the Judges wanted to "send a message" they would have acquitted. On the contrary while Professor Black had envisaged that Camp Zeist would be a blueprint for the resolution of similar International disputes the verdict ensured that Camp Zeist was a judicial experiment that would never be repeated. The Judges had to demonstrate their independence.

    I was interested in Professor Black's comment on the issue of prejudice as if it was a problem unique to this case. On the eve of the trial Granada broadcast a World in Action documentary directed by Alan Francovich's "deputy." (Curiously Professor Black also used to share a website with Ashton's writing partner Ian Ferguson.)

    In this programme Professor Black was interviewed and offered his opinion that the evidence was insufficient to convict and the defendants would likely be acquitted. (I am not lawyer but I believe that is called contempt of Court.)

    If the Scottish bench were collectively horrified about hearing a Scottish Criminal case in the Netherlands I don't think they would have looked too kindly on Professor Black also offering his opinion they were wasting their time on National TV. I think they were determined to convict if they possibly could.

  13. Baz said: It is my view that the object of the indictment was sanctions, (which both succeeded and failed) not a trial and that the trial (and the verdict) were secondary considerations.

    Too simplistic, baz!

    I agree the indictment was not meant to lead to a trial. Rather, it was the means by which President Bush Senior managed to get the UN Security Council to adopt Resolutions 731 and 748 unanimously in 1992. I'm sure that Bush Snr would have used UNSCR 748 as an authority for bombing Libya, bumping off Gaddafi and taking over Libya's oil and gas assets (just as Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy are doing under the cloak of UNSCR 1973 in 2011). Unfortunately for Bush, those war plans had to be put on hold for the duration of the US presidential election (which he lost to Bill Clinton).

    Although President Clinton went on to tighten the UN sanctions with UNSCR 883 of 11 November 1993, it seems that the US military threat against Gaddafi had receded. The ensuing five-year interlude allowed Professor Black to work his miracle, and bring the two accused Libyans to trial - From Lockerbie to Zeist (via Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo).

    For a fuller account, see CIA 'fitted up' Gaddafi at the UN.

  14. The gall of the man! Boyd who attempted to mislead the judges about the relevance of the contents of those cables between the US Security Services and the Prosecution and whether they would be of interest to the Defence!