Sunday, 24 May 2015

"The ingredients that make up the prosecution’s case are rotten"

[What follows is excerpted from an article published in Scottish lawyers’ magazine The Firm on this date in 2011:]

Gareth Peirce, the solicitor who overturned the miscarriage of justice convictions of the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, has backed the call for a full inquiry into the Pan Am 103 debacle, and has directly criticised former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in shoring up “layers and layers of deceit” in the case.

Peirce, whose recently published book Dispatches from the Dark Side contains an essay entitled “The Framing of Al Megrahi” spoke to The Firm exclusively about the Pan Am 103 case and said that her involvement was prompted in part by her learning that the same discredited personnel whose flawed evidence was instrumental in convicting the Guildford and Birmingham convicts were also the providers of the key flawed evidence in the Megrahi case.

She has now criticised Scottish and UK Governments for “passing the parcel” over holding an inquiry, a matter the Scottish Government now concedes it has power to do, despite earlier denials. A petition for such an inquiry will be assessed by the new Petitions Committee.

“Because you have two countries involved, each is passing the parcel to the other,” Peirce told The Firm.

“The letter from the Scottish Government to the petitions committee says that in law, under the Inquiries Act, that Scotland cannot have an inquiry unless it is on a devolved issue, and the criminal justice system would be a devolved issue. But the letter adds that there are international implications, and therefore any inquiry should either be joint with England, or in England.

“There is a lot of truth in that, but as we saw with Megrahi’s return to Libya, Westminster claimed it was all the responsibility of Scotland, leaving Kenny MacAskill out on a limb. Yet, there is Blair busy with Gadaffi, desperately imploring Libya to make an application under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. There are layers and layers of deceit here.”

Peirce says that the construction and maintenance of the discredited case against Megrahi has required active participation from those at all levels of the criminal justice system, with both tacit and overt support from the top of the political hierarchy.

“In the most notorious cases, everyone played their part, absolutely everybody,” she says.

“A big part of the blame lies within those who form the criminal justice system. It looks as if in the prosecution of the Lockerbie case, the defendants met the same fate, even to the extent of the same personnel featuring, in the person of the forensic scientists.”

The principal forensic analyst, Thomas Hayes, employed by the Crown to testify against Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was the same discredited analyst who was proven to have fabricated his evidence in the manufactured case against the Guildford Four.

He and Alan Feraday testified that the key forensic evidence, a fragment of circuit board, survived the explosion of Pan Am 103 and left traces of clothing connected to a shop in Malta. The owners of that shop provided the identification of Megrahi to the court, and were later found to have been paid in millions of dollars for their testimony. (...)

“That was the most shocking revelation to me,” Peirce says.

“Exactly the same forensic scientists who produced the wrongful conviction of Giuseppe Conlon, the Maguire family and of Danny McNamee, and had been stood down for the role they played. Yet here they were. Without them, there wouldn’t have been a prosecution, far less a conviction in Lockerbie.

“What shocked me most was that I thought that all that had been gone through on Guildford and Birmingham, the one thing that had been achieved was that nobody would be convicted again on bad science. But yet in the Lockerbie case, it isn’t just the same bad science, it is the same bad scientists.”

In July 2007 former MEBO employee Ulrich Lumpert swore an affidavit claiming that he had manufactured the crucial circuit board evidence and passed it to named individuals charged with investigating the Pan Am 103 case during 1989.

“All of this is screaming out for an inquiry. The ingredients that make up the prosecution’s case are really so rotten. They can’t and they shouldn’t sustain the weight of a presumed safe finding. You can see that they are utterly contaminated. They have no integrity. The forensic findings lack all the ingredients that should make them safe. The continuity of exhibits is all over the place. The only other pillar on which it is held up is this non-identification. It is just a catastrophe. The whole edifice is rotten, and it is astonishing it was ever stood up in the first place.”

[The long interview with Gareth Peirce in the same magazine can be read here.]

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