Leader comment: A long wait but justice is delivered

Supporters of murdered waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar following the conviction of Ronnie Coulter for the 1998 murder
Supporters of murdered waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar following the conviction of Ronnie Coulter for the 1998 murder
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There’s a saying that justice delayed is justice denied, but that’s a sentiment unlikely to be shared by the family of Surjit Singh Chhokar.

Yesterday they were in court to see Ronnie Coulter found guilty of the murder of their relative in Overtown, North Lanarkshire, 17 years ago. The verdict is a validation of Scotland’s double jeopardy laws which allow acquittals to be set aside when fresh evidence comes to light.

But it is a sad indictment of the system that it took so long for the Chhokars to get justice.

Coulter, 48, was initially cleared of stabbing Mr Chhokar following a trial in 1999.

And that would have been that had the law on double jeopardy not been changed.

Following the original trial an official report made allegations of “institutional racism” against the police and the Crown Office. In 2001, the then lord advocate, Colin Boyd, said the Chhokar family had been failed by the police and prosecution services.

Outside the High Court in Glasgow yesterday after the verdict, lawyer Aamer Anwar said the campaign for justice had taken a “devastating toll” on the Chhokar family.

Mr Anwar, who once accused the justice system of acting like a “gentleman’s colonial club” over the issue, said Police Scotland and the Crown Office now deserved credit for an “unwavering commitment to justice”.

But it is the Chhokar family themselves who were the driving force behind the conviction.

Sadly, Mr Chhokar’s father, Darshan Singh Chhokar, died last year before he could see his son’s killer brought to justice. He, along with his family, fought with stoicism and dignity.

Finally their long fight is at an end.