System too rigid for Lockerbie justice

Predictably, three of Scotland’s judges rejected the contention of the families of the Lockerbie victims that they should be allowed to appeal the conviction of Abdelbaset al Megrahi (your report, 4 July).

Understandably, the legal establishment bristles with discomfort at the prospect of the conviction being exposed to further scrutiny, if the Scottish Cases Criminal Review Commission (SCCRC) refers the case back to the Court of Appeal. Given the murderous chaos that is tearing Libya apart, the SCCRC may not get the necessary instructions regarding an appeal from Megrahi’s family – hence the contention of the families of the victims that they should be allowed to appeal on behalf of Megrahi.

At stake here is the very concept of justice. Megrahi’s conviction is pervasively flawed.

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The Crown’s “star” witness, the Maltese shopkeeper, was made aware of the “Reward for Justice” programme, created by the American Justice Department to elicit information that would lead to a conviction.

The “star” witness knew that evidence that would exonerate Megrahi would not yield a “reward”.

That fact alone is enough to shred his credibility as a witness and therefore the credibility of the Crown’s case against Megrahi.

Lord Carloway, one of the judges who ruled that the families could not pursue an appeal, explained the court’s decision: the law “was not designed to give relatives of victims a right to proceed in an appeal for their own or the public interest”.

In mature, sophisticated jurisdictions, “the law is designed” to facilitate 

If the “design” has the effect of impeding that objective, a mature judiciary would modify the “design” to accommodate justice. In bowing to the “design” of the law by declaring that the families should not be allowed to appeal on Megrahi’s behalf, Scotland’s judges displayed an immature capacity for rigid inflexibility – and thereby ensured that any further exposure of the “merits” of the Crown’s case was conveniently, and perhaps permanently, delayed.

Thomas Crooks

Dundas Street