THE justice secretary has stepped up his efforts to publish a secret document that is said to cast doubts on the case that resulted in the conviction of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing
Kenny MacAskill has written to the UK government in an attempt to ease the way for the publication of the 821-page dossier produced by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), which looks into potential miscarriages of justice.
The move comes in response to a series of reports claiming the dossier outlines key documents not disclosed to the lawyers defending Megrahi.
Yesterday, it was reported that the SCCRC Statement of Reasons document has upheld six different grounds, which could have constituted a miscarriage of justice.
The report reveals failings by the Crown and shows it delayed the SCCRC by responding slowly to requests for documents. In several cases, the SCCRC was told items had gone missing or there was no record of them.
Three related to payments of almost £2 million made to Tony Gauci, the key Crown witness, by the United States justice department. Mr Gauci’s identification of Megrahi buying clothes from his Maltese shop, which were later found in the suitcase containing the bomb, was crucial.
The Scottish Government has introduced a bill designed to result in the publication of the SCCRC document, but it cannot do so yet because data protection law is reserved to Westminster.
Yesterday, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have shown consistently that we want to be as open and transparent as we can be on all aspects surrounding the al-Megrahi case. That is why we have brought forward the Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) Bill to aid publication of the Statement of Reasons.
“It is in the public interest that the Statement of Reasons is published as soon as possible, and we are doing all that we can for this to happen.
“With virtually every passing day, more and more of the content of the SCCRC’s Statement of Reasons comes into the public domain. Ministers firmly believe that this selective reporting of the information only emphasises the importance of the SCCRC being able to decide to disclose information in the case.”
The spokesman added: “The justice secretary has written again to Ken Clarke to provide an update on how the SCCRC can comply with data protection and make the road clearer for disclosure.”
Those convinced of Megrahi’s innocence claim the document backs up their case.
Last night, a Crown Office spokesman said it had “every confidence” that it would have successfully defended the conviction in the Appeal Court.
“At the end of the SCCRC review, it was accepted that the Crown’s response to the commission’s requests were often detailed and helpful and that the provision of information to the commission helped it greatly in completing its work.”
A UK Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Any decision to disclose these documents is a matter for the SCCRC. We are discussing the effect of the Data Protection Act with them.”