However, it appears that “withholding evidence” was deemed tenable by the Crown Office until the Supreme Court thought otherwise.
Consequently, there is a possibility that before the Supreme Court’s decision, the Crown Office may have withheld crucial documents from the defence counsel in a number of cases – thereby enhancing the state’s case against the defendants.
In civilised jurisdictions what the Crown Office deemed “tenable” may have been classified as a perversion of the course of justice – and, therefore, a criminal offence. Clearly, there is a possibility that withholding evidence from the defence was “habitual” because it was “tenable”.
It follows, therefore, that prior to the intervention of the Supreme Court, the Scottish legal system reflected an inherent capacity for facilitating multiple miscarriages of justice.
At every opportunity, members of the legal fraternity and blinkered politicians trumpet the merits of the Scottish legal system – in stark contrast to the “badlands” of other jurisdictions.
Consequently, we are entitled to ask them a few questions about their persistent idealisation of our legal system:
When it was “tenable” to do so, did they support the Crown Office’s policy of withholding evidence from the defence?
Did they think that policy facilitated the interests of justice?
Do they (as they so vehemently did in response to the Cadder judgment) disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to render the Crown Office’s policy of withholding evidence as “untenable”?
They regarded the Supreme Court’s decision in the Cadder case as an attack on the “integrity” of Scots law. Do they regard the Supreme Court’s decision pertaining to the Crown Office’s policy of withholding evidence as an “attack” on the integrity of Scots law?
On the face of it, the latest revelations about the Megrahi conviction arguably reveal a legal system that is an affront to justice.
An independent public inquiry should merely be the beginning of a process designed to expose the full implications of the Crown Office’s conduct – particularly its quaint belief that withholding evidence from the defence was absolutely “tenable” – and, therefore, compatible with the fundamental tenets of justice.
Hugh Kerr (Letters, 29 February) calls for a full inquiry into the Lockerbie affair as the “new” Scotland requires a justice system that is above reproach.
I don’t know if Megrahi is guilty or not, but I think the “old” system that tried and convicted him needs closer scrutiny.
The men who tried and convicted Megrahi were the leading lawyers in Scotland. Of the 11 judges who took part in the trial and appeal, seven were members of that august body, The Speculative Society of Edinburgh, as was the Lord Advocate who instigated the trial, and one of Megrahi’s defence counsel.
“The Spec”, as it is known, was founded in 1764 and its members are/were all students of the University of Edinburgh who serve a two-year period as ordinary members before becoming extraordinary members of the “sodality”.
The two-year period of learning involves composing essays and debating them in the old college building on winter Wednesday nights. As The Spec is somewhat secretive, we only have knowledge of it from vanity publications for the members, but these boast of their past membership making up nearly all of the major figures in our legal history. And because membership is by invitation and approval of two thirds of the membership, some members are second and third generation Law Lords.
If I were to assess the quality of Scots law the way a racehorse owner/trainer/gambler would weigh up a yearling I would have no qualms in putting my shirt on the outcome of any trial by Scots judges coming up with the right result.
There is no doubt then that Megrahi was tried by the very best of Scots men from the most impeccable of backgrounds. But did he get the fair trial by his peers that justice demands?