Monday 16 June 2014

Lockerbie lawyer dies

The death has been announced of Lord Macaulay of Bragar QC. 

After charges were brought in November 1991 against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah their Libyan lawyer, Dr Ibrahim Legwell, formed a team of lawyers from countries with an interest in the Lockerbie case, including Scotland and the United States, to advise and assist him. One of the Scottish lawyers on that team was Donald Macaulay QC. At a meeting held in Tripoli in October 1993 (referred to in the media as a "legal summit") this legal team advised Megrahi and Fhimah not to surrender themselves for trial in Scotland. It was in response to this decision (which came as a considerable shock to the Libyan Government) that I formulated a scheme for a non-jury Scottish court to sit in the Netherlands. The story is told in more detail here

I remain of the view that the advice given by the international legal team to Megrahi and Fhimah was unfortunate.  I am convinced that if the pair had been tried by an ordinary Scottish jury conscientiously following the standard instructions that juries are given about how to approach their decision-making and the assessment of the evidence led before them (including burden and standard of proof), both accused would have been acquitted.

Donald Macaulay was not a brilliant lawyer, but he was a quite magnificent jury advocate. Had I ever been charged with a serious crime, I would have wanted him to defend me. Head and shoulders above all of today's High Court "stars".


  1. there is a stupid prejudice among [too] clever people who think juries are an obstacle to a fair trial [too thick to understand the evidence] and think a defendant has a better chance before educated judges alone.

    A stupid prejudice because the benefit of a jury trial [for a defendant] is it is harder to nobble a jury than a judge, partly due to numbers and because a dutiful judge [being clever] knows what side their breads buttered!

    This is why the ‘team of international lawyers’ must have been too clever by half to advise Megrahi and Fhimah not to surrender themselves to a jury trial in Scotland in favour of a non-jury trial in Zeist.

    Who advised the advisors?

  2. Were they actually advising Megrahi and Fhimah or the Libyan State i.e.Gaddafi. Professor Black has said he got involved on behalf of some businessman who found sanctions an inconvenience.

    The pawn Megrahi was compelled to stand trial for mass murder before a Tribunal created to provide Gaddafi with the fig-leaf of a political victory and I am sure the Judges had strong if private views about presiding over a Scottish murder trial in The Hague. While I am also sure Professor Black would not recognise it Megrahi was precluded from giving evidence on his own behalf.