Limits on justice
The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, is trying to limit the grounds Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's defence team can argue at the coming Lockerbie appeal.
At a preliminary hearing the Crown will be seeking to persuade five judges that the grounds of appeal should be limited to those accepted by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC).
If these allegations are true, they have serious implications for everyone fighting for justice in Scotland.
That the terms of an appeal should be limited to those identified by the SCCRC would create an extremely dangerous precedent, in itself creating the possibility of a miscarriage of justice.
The SCCRC is an extremely important organisation – in many ways the last hope for justice in our fallible system. However, it has been shown over the years that its decisions can be fallible and almost impossible to appeal.
Fallibility does not, I believe, lay in any internal or external conspiracy or personal flaws in SCCRC members or management, but in the culture, structure, decision-making processes and financing of the organisation.
When the SCCRC identifies a potential miscarriage of justice it is not coming to some immutable decision, but stating that a miscarriage is a possibility.
What the SCCRC has done in the past, having highlighted such a possibility, is to leave it to the established appeal procedures to resolve the issue.
Once a potential miscarriage has been identified it makes no sense to impose strictly defined limits on the case examination. The defence should have the freedom to bring forward related issues the SCCRC might have failed to identify.
A short time ago the Lord Advocate was content to put responsibility for taking out a public interest immunity certificate to prevent Lockerbie documents being released on the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Now she seeks to limit the grounds of appeal.
Consistent? I don't think so.
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