Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Megrahi case referred back to High Court for further appeal

[What follows is the text of the press release issued this afternoon by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission:]

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (the Commission) has today again referred the case of the late Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi to the High Court of Justiciary for determination.

As a result of the Commission’s decision, Mr Megrahi’s family is now entitled to instruct an appeal against his conviction on 31 January 2001 for the murders of the 243 passengers and the 16 crew on board Pan Am Flight 103 (PA 103) from London to New York, and 11 residents of Lockerbie, on 21 December 1988.

The Commission has sent a statement of reasons for its decision to the High Court. It has sent a copy of the document to Messrs Aamer Anwar & Co (whom the Megrahi family have instructed), the Lord Advocate and the Crown Agent.

The Commission is not, by law, permitted to provide members of the public with copies of its statement of reasons. However, given the continuing worldwide interest in this case, which sits uniquely within the criminal justice system in Scotland, the Commission has decided to provide a fuller news release than normal by setting out a summary of the case history and providing brief details of the application made to it, the trial court’s findings and the Commission’s conclusions.

Announcing the decision today, the Chairman of the Commission, Bill Matthews, said:

‘We recognise that the Commission plays an important role in the Scottish criminal justice
system and has extensive statutory powers to enable it to carry out its duties. This is the second time that the Commission has carried out what I believe has been a rigorous and independent review of this particular conviction, and we note that since our last review further information has become available, including within the public domain, which the Commission has now been able to consider and assess.

As the Chair of the SCCRC in 2007 said when the case was originally referred, our function is not to decide upon the guilt or innocence of an applicant. Our function is to examine the grounds of review identified and to decide whether any of the grounds meet the statutory test for a potential miscarriage.

I am pleased therefore that we are now able to issue a detailed statement of reasons which addresses all of the issues raised. I am satisfied that the matter is now returning to the appropriate forum – the appeal court – to consider fully all of the issues raised in our statement of reasons.’

Gerard Sinclair, the Chief Executive of the Commission, said today:

‘When we referred this case in 2007 I never expected that, over 10 years later, we would be asked not only to revisit our original decision, applying the law as currently stated, but also consider a whole new set of materials which had become available in the intervening years. I’m pleased to report that, after another lengthy investigation and review, we are now in a position to issue our decision in this unique case.

It seems important to note that, this month, an entirely new Board of the Commission from that which considered the matter in 2007 has again decided to refer this case. The 419-page decision issued today, with voluminous appendices, is a testament to the hard work and diligence of our investigating team over the last 3 years, involving us in novel and challenging court procedures along the way, and I pay tribute to them.

The Commission’s involvement in the case is, once again, at an end. It is now a matter for those representing the Crown and the defence to decide how to proceed at any future appeal. Thereafter, it will be for the appeal court to decide whether there has been a miscarriage of justice in this case.’

[RB: The grounds upon which the SCCRC has today concluded that there might have been a miscarriage of justice are set out in an appendix to the press release and are (a) that no reasonable trial court could have held on the evidence led at the trial that the case against Megrahi was proved beyond reasonable doubt; and (b) non-disclosure by the Crown of significant material that might have assisted the defence and weakened the prosecution case, depriving Megrahi of a real chance of acquittal. Regrettably, the Commission did not accept as indicating that there might have been a miscarriage of justice the branches of the application that related (i) to the metallurgical composition of the fragment of circuit board PT35b and (ii) to the evidence of ingestion of the bomb suitcase at Heathrow Airport rather than Luqa Airport in Malta.

The six grounds upon which the Commission in 2007 concluded that Abdelbaset Megrahi's conviction might have amounted to a miscarriage of justice are set out here.

The Justice for Megrahi campaign has issued a press release in the following terms:]

Since its establishment Justice for Megrahi has been committed to achieving justice for the victims of Pan Am 103, their families and friends, as well as for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, whom we regard as having been wrongly accused and convicted.

Concerns that the conviction of Mr Megrahi in 2001 might be a gross miscarriage of justice were reinforced over the years as new information emerged that had not been considered during either the trial or at Megrahi’s first appeal.

Todays decision by the SCCRC to refer Mr Megrahi’s conviction to the Appeal Court is very welcome and gives some hope that the stain that has lingered over the Scottish justice system for so many years will finally be obliterated and that truth will triumph over deceit, self interest and procrastination.

We have always believed that, as the years of denial, uncertainty and doubt constituted an injustice perpetrated the name of Scotland, it should be Scotland’s justice system that should right this wrong.

The question is will the Scottish justice system finally allow the truth about the UK’s worst ever terrorist outrage to be told or will it, as it has for thirty years, continue to frustrate that goal?

We now put our trust in the Scottish Judiciary to allow a light to be shone into the darkness that has surrounded the investigation and trial of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

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