Monday, 7 November 2022

 With much thanks to Emeritus Professor Robert Black QC,

Louis Theroux firm to produce Lockerbie documentary

[This is the headline over a report published in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Louis Theroux’s production company is to make a three-part documentary on the Lockerbie disaster.

Sky has commissioned the acclaimed filmmaker’s company to examine Britain’s deadliest terrorist atrocity and its aftermath.

Titled Lockerbie, it will tell the story of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, when 270 people died on the night of December 21, 1988. The documentary will speak to individuals closely linked to the disaster and the years-long investigation that followed.

With access to victims’ families, investigators, intelligence officers and other key figures who have not spoken until now, Sky said the series will “examine unanswered questions to provide a definitive account of the bombing and its aftermath and, ultimately, who was responsible.”

Theroux will not present the series but it is being made by his production company Mindhouse, which he founded with his wife (...)

Lockerbie was “exactly the sort of project I wanted us to get involved with when we set up”, Theroux, 52, said.

“Our values are about storytelling and being audience-friendly, and I’m not ashamed to say we want to reach a really wide audience.” John Dower, who will direct the series, said: “I vividly remember Lockerbie from my teenage years of growing up in a Scottish household, but revisiting the event over 30 years later realised how little I knew about the actual event and the way it continues to reverberate down the years.”

Sky announced this year that it is making a separate drama on the 1988 bombing, based on the fight for justice by Dr Jim Swire, whose 23-year-old daughter Flora died in the disaster.

Swire has never wavered in his belief in the innocence of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan (...) convicted of the bombing.

Poppy Dixon, director of documentaries and factual for Sky, said: “The rigorous and thoughtful approach that John and the team are taking leaves me in no doubt this series will do justice to this complex story.”

Monday, 28 March 2022

 The following report is from an announcement by Sky Studios and Peacock Streaming Services.

Sky and Peacock announce new drama based on Lockerbie disaster

Thursday 24 February 2022

Inspired by true-life story of Dr Jim Swire and his wife Jane, the series will be written by Academy Award-nominees Jim & Kirsten Sheridan

Five-part series is a co-production between UCP and Sky Studios, produced with Universal International Studios’ Carnival Films

Sky and Peacock today announce LOCKERBIE, a new mini-series that will be based on the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the search for justice by Dr Jim Swire and his wife Jane who lost their beloved daughter, Flora, in the air disaster in 1988.

The five-part series will be written by Academy Award nominees Jim Sheridan (In The Name of The Father, My Left Foot) and Kirsten Sheridan (In America, Dollhouse).

All 259 passengers and crew were killed when the bomb exploded over Lockerbie 38 minutes after take-off, with a further 11 residents losing their life as the plane came down over the quiet, Scottish town. Thirteen years later, in 2001, Libyan national Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of the crime and later released on compassionate grounds in 2009.

Shortly after the Lockerbie bombing, one of the worst terrorist attacks in history, some families of the victims joined together to launch a campaign for truth and justice. Among them was Dr Jim Swire whose campaign has taken him to the sand dunes of Libya to meet face-to-face with Colonel Gaddafi, to 10 Downing Street to meet with successive Prime Ministers and to the corridors of power in the US where he worked with the American victims’ groups to mount pressure on Washington for tighter airport security, well before 9/11.

The moving series will explore events from 1988 to the present day, while providing an intimate account of a man, a husband, and a father who pushes his marriage, his health, and his sanity to the edge.

Jim and Kirsten Sheridan, said: “The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was one of the world’s deadliest terror attacks that continues to have widespread implications for the meaning of justice in the US, Scotland and Libya. Over 30 years on, this series takes an intimate and very personal look at the aftermath of the disaster, and we are grateful to all of those, particularly Jim and Jane, who have entrusted us to tell their story, and the story of their loved ones, on screen.”

The series, which is due to begin production later this year, is a co-production between UCP and Sky Studios, produced with Universal International Studios’ Carnival Films for Sky and Peacock. Both Universal International Studios and UCP are divisions of Universal Studio Group. It is the first scripted co-commission from Sky and sister company Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service.

The series is written by Jim and Kirsten Sheridan, with Naomi Sheridan guest writing an episode. Nigel Marchant and Gareth Neame are Executive Producers for Carnival, with Samantha Hoyle as Executive Producer for Sky Studios. Oskar Slingerland also serves as Executive Producer. The series was commissioned by Gabriel Silver, Director of Commissioning for Drama at Sky Studios for Zai Bennett, Managing Director of Content at Sky UK. It will be produced with support from Screen Scotland’s Screen Commission.

The series is expected to air in 2023 on Sky in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy. It will stream on Peacock in the US. NBCUniversal Global Distribution will be handling international sales.

The drama is based on the book The Lockerbie Bombing: A Father’s Search for Justice by Jim Swire and Peter Biddulph, along with multiple other sources.

Press Contacts

About Sky

Sky is Europe’s leading media and entertainment company and is proud to be part of Comcast Corporation, a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. Across six countries, Sky connects 23 million customers to the best entertainment, sports, news, arts and to our own award-winning original content. 

Following the launch of Sky Glass, we now offer customers our strongest ever line-up of products and services. As well as the new streaming TV with Sky inside and everything integrated, customers can enjoy the award-winning Sky Q with all your favourite channels and apps in one place, and with Sky Go you can now access an even better experience on your devices. Sky TV has new channels, new shows and new deals with Peacock, Paramount+ and more. Sky Mobile was voted Best Pay Monthly and Best Value Pay Monthly network by Uswitch, and with Sky Broadband we’re offering our fastest speeds yet.

Building on the success of Sky Originals like Chernobyl, Gangs of London and Brassic, we are doubling our investment in original content by 2024 through Sky Studios. Our new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, is expected to create over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in the UK over the first five years alone. Sky News provides impartial and trustworthy journalism for free, Sky Arts is the UK’s only dedicated free-to-air arts channel making the arts accessible for everyone and Sky Sports, our leading sports broadcasting service, brings customers some of the biggest and best global sporting events from the Premier League to Formula 1 and everything in-between. Sky Cinema is the home of Sky Original films with brand new films launching every month alongside an unrivalled range of the latest cinema releases and on demand library.

We believe that we can be a force for good in the communities in which we operate. We’re committed to being Europe’s first net zero carbon entertainment company by 2030 and we’re proud to be a Principal Partner and Media Partner of COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference. We take pride in our approach to diversity and inclusion: we’ve been recognised by The Times and Stonewall for our commitment to diversity, and we’ve set ambitious 2025 targets to continue to increase diversity and representation.  We’re also committed to investing £30million across our markets over the next three years to improve our approach to diversity and inclusion, and to tackle racial injustice.

About Sky Studios

Sky Studios is Sky’s original programming arm across Europe, responsible for the development, production and commissioning of drama and scripted comedy, while also delivering Sky Original documentary to Sky’s 23m customers and beyond.

Building on the success of critically acclaimed Sky Originals including Emmy-winning Chernobyl, Bafta-winning Patrick Melrose and international hits Das Boot, Gomorrah and Gangs of London, Sky Studios is the creative home of new Sky Originals, such as Blocco 181, The Rising and The Fear Index.

We’re an agile Studio, seeking out the best untold stories from new voices while working in creative partnership with today’s best writers, producers and on-screen talent to bring viewers stories they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

About Peacock

Peacock is NBCUniversal’s streaming service. Peacock delivers a world-class slate of exclusive originals, on-demand libraries of hit TV shows, plus critically acclaimed films from the vaults of Universal Pictures, Focus Features, DreamWorks Animation, Illumination, and Hollywood’s biggest studios. In addition, Peacock taps into NBCUniversal’s unmatched ability to deliver a broad range of compelling topical content across news, sports, late-night, Spanish-language, and reality. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

About UCP

Universal Content Productions (UCP), a division of Universal Studio Group, is a best-in-class content studio that leverages the power and scale of NBCUniversal while collaborating with visionary storytellers. The studio is responsible for commercially successful and critically acclaimed scripted and unscripted docuseries programming, including “The Umbrella Academy,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Mr. Robot,” “The Act,” “Monk,” “Dr. Death,” “Homecoming,” “The Sinner,” “Suits,” “Dirty John” and “Psych.”  Upcoming titles include “Gaslit” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn as well as “JOE vs CAROLE” with Kate McKinnon and Kyle MacLachlan.

About Carnival Films

Carnival Films is a London-based television and feature film production company, part of Universal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Led by executive chairman and producer Gareth Neame, the company is one of the UK’s leading drama producers, having produced hundreds of hours of compelling content viewed around the world.

Carnival Films produced all six seasons of the award-winning and beloved TV phenomenon Downton Abbey, which aired in over 250 territories worldwide and set a Guinness World Record for being the most critically well-received show in the world. The company produced the hit feature film of the same name, which earned more than $193 million at the worldwide box office in 2019, making it the highest grossing film of all time for distributor Focus Features. The movie sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era is set to be released in the UK on April 29 and in the US on May 20 this year. Other Carnival Films productions include hit series The Last Kingdom for Netflix, which is also being produced as a movie, plus Belgravia for ITV and EPIX, and Jamestown for Sky One.

Having received more than 200 international awards and honours including Primetime Emmys, Golden Globes and BAFTAs, Carnival has also produced landmark series such as Poirot, Hotel Babylon, Whitechapel and Dracula, as well as award-winning mini-series Traffik, Any Human Heart, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies and The Hollow Crown anthology.

For more information, please visit

Sunday, 26 December 2021


Today's sad news about the death of Former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu holds a feature common to much of the media in the UK and USA. 

The selective amnesia of certain media editors is clear: Effusively praise those issues in which Tutu agrees with your agenda, and ignore those in which he opposes.

And so it is, once again, with the campaign for an inquiry into the factors surrounding the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and subsequent trial.

On the 15th March 2015 we reported that a petition had been submitted to the Scottish Parliament by the Justice for Megrahi group of bereaved relatives. That petition was rapidly and publicly supported by prominent personalities around the world. The petition, even after six years, still runs current on the Scottish Parliament's agenda.

Among those signing in support of the petition was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He proved to be a strong supporter of the imprisoned Baset al-Megrahi and a South African colleague Nelson Mandela.  Mandela's support for al-Megrahi, too, remains ignored by the main British and US media. 

On 15th March 2015 we published the following post: [Names in alphabetical order].

Campaign for the acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi and an official inquiry into Lockerbie

A petition requesting that the Scottish authorities undertake a comprehensive inquiry into Lockerbie is supported and signed by the following world renowned personalities. All support the campaign for acquittal of Baset Al-Megrahi, who was in 2000 convicted for the murder of 270 people on Pan Am 103.

Kate Adie was chief news correspondent for the BBC, covering several war zones on risky assignments. Currently hosts the BBC Radio 4 programme From Our Own Correspondent.

Professor Noam Chomsky has spent most of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is currently Professor Emeritus, and has authored over 100 books. In a 2005 poll was voted the "world's top public intellectual".

Tam Dalyell, former Member of British Parliament and Father of the House. An eminent speaker who throughout his career refused to be prevented from speaking the truth to powerful administrations. 

Ms Christine Grahame, member of the Scottish Parliament. Determined advocate of the Lockerbie campaign and courageous supporter of Dr Jim Swire.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye Magazine. A man never afraid to speak truth to power, repeatedly mocking the hypocrisy prevalent in certain sections of British society.

Father Pat Keegans, Lockerbie catholic parish priest. Was one of the first on the scene following the Lockerbie bombing and crash of Pan Am 103 in December 1988. A strong supporter of the need for an inquiry into the many disturbing aspects of the Lockerbie event and subsequent investigation and trial of two Libyan suspects.

 Mr Andrew Killgore, former US Ambassador to Qatar. Widely experienced in Middle Eastern politics. Knows first hand the political and intelligence background to the campaign to vilify and eventually destroy the Libyan regime. Runs the influential Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs and founded The American Educational Trust.

John Pilger, former war correspondent, now a campaigning journalist and film maker. Wide experience in the brutality caused by war and uninformed foreign policies of the West and other nations.

Dr Jim Swire.

Sir Teddy Taylor MP, a British Conservative Party politician, was a Member of Parliament from 1964 to 1979. He was a leading member and Vice-President of the Conservative Monday Club.

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of South Africa. A dedicated human rights activist. Received many awards including the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr Terry Waite. In the 1980s, as an envoy for the church of England, travelled to Lebanon to try to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. He was himself kidnapped and held captive from 1987 to 1991. President of Y Care International, patron of AbleChildAfrica and Habitat for Humanity Great Britain, president of Emmaus UK, a charity for formerly homeless people.

Ms Kate Adie (Former Chief News Correspondent for BBC News).
Mr John Ashton (Author of ‘Megrahi: You are my Jury’ and co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Mr David Benson (Actor/author of the play ‘Lockerbie: Unfinished Business’).
Mrs Jean Berkley (Mother of Alistair Berkley: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Peter Biddulph (Lockerbie tragedy researcher).
Mr Benedict Birnberg (Retired senior partner of Birnberg Peirce & Partners).
Professor Robert Black QC (‘Architect’ of the Kamp van Zeist Trial).
Mr Paul Bull (Close friend of Bill Cadman: killed on Pan Am 103).
Professor Noam Chomsky (Human rights, social and political commentator).
Mr Tam Dalyell (UK MP: 1962-2005. Father of the House: 2001-2005).
Mr Ian Ferguson (Co-author of ‘Cover Up of Convenience’).
Dr David Fieldhouse (Police surgeon present at the Pan Am 103 crash site).
Mr Robert Forrester (Secretary of Justice for Megrahi).
Ms Christine Grahame MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament).
Mr Ian Hamilton QC (Advocate, author and former university rector).
Mr Ian Hislop (Editor of ‘Private Eye’).
Fr Pat Keegans (Lockerbie parish priest on 21st December 1988).
Ms A L Kennedy (Author).
Dr Morag Kerr (Secretary Depute of Justice for Megrahi).
Mr Andrew Killgore (Former US Ambassador to Qatar).
Mr Moses Kungu (Lockerbie councillor on the 21st of December 1988).
Mr Adam Larson (Editor and proprietor of ‘The Lockerbie Divide’).
Mr Aonghas MacNeacail (Poet and journalist).
Mr Eddie McDaid (Lockerbie commentator).
Mr Rik McHarg (Communications hub coordinator: Lockerbie crash sites).
Mr Iain McKie (Retired Superintendent of Police).
Mr Marcello Mega (Journalist covering the Lockerbie incident).
Ms Heather Mills (Reporter for ‘Private Eye’).
Rev’d John F Mosey (Father of Helga Mosey: victim of Pan Am 103).
Mr Len Murray (Retired solicitor).
Cardinal Keith O’Brien (Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church).
Mr Denis Phipps (Aviation security expert).
Mr John Pilger (Campaigning human rights journalist).
Mr Steven Raeburn (Editor of ‘The Firm’).
Dr Tessa Ransford OBE  (Poetry Practitioner and Adviser).
Mr James Robertson (Author).
Mr Kenneth Roy (Editor of ‘The Scottish Review’).
Dr David Stevenson (Retired medical specialist and Lockerbie commentator).
Dr Jim Swire (Father of Flora Swire: victim of Pan Am 103).
Sir Teddy Taylor (UK MP: 1964-2005. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland).
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Nobel Peace Prize Winner).
Mr Terry Waite CBE (Former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury and hostage negotiator).

Wednesday, 22 December 2021


Declassified documents: US and UK governments finally exposed: Megrahi accusations based on unreliable witnesses and evidence.

We are grateful to Professor Robert Black QC and Times journalists for exposing the truth behind the Lockerbie investigation and trial. If you have or had any doubts about the truthfulness of our blog posts, you owe it to Britain's reputation in the world to continue reading...

Doubts over witness led to fears the Lockerbie trial would collapse.

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Prosecutors in Edinburgh and Washington feared the case against the Lockerbie bomber would collapse if their concerns over the integrity of the star witness were made public, declassified documents have revealed.

The papers show that senior Scottish and US officials privately raised doubts over his reliability and are set to trigger fresh claims of a miscarriage of justice.

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was sentenced to 27 years by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands after being found guilty of masterminding the 1988 atrocity in which 270 people were killed.

The testimony of Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who claimed he sold clothing — believed to have been wrapped around the bomb — to a man resembling al-Megrahi, proved pivotal to securing his conviction in 2001. However, concerns were raised about the “soundness of Gauci’s identification” and the UK and US feared the case would founder if this became known.

The new information, disclosed last night, on the 33rd anniversary of the terrorist attack, has renewed calls for an appeal against al-Megrahi’s conviction.

Hans Koechler, who served as the UN’s independent observer at his trial, said: “I am even more convinced that a miscarriage of justice occurred.”

A report of a meeting between Alan Rodger, then Scotland’s lord advocate, and Robert Mueller, US assistant attorney-general, in Washington in 1992, states: “If it became known we or the US were sending people to check on the soundness of Gauci’s identification that would signal that we did not have a case on which we could confidently go to trial. The US Department of Justice maintained that they could not go to trial on the present identification.”

Gauci was the sole witness to link al-Megrahi directly to the bombing of Pan Am 103, over the town of Lockerbie.

In 2000 he told a panel of judges that al-Megrahi “resembled a lot” a man who bought clothes from his shop. But in 1992 a letter from the Crown Office to Mueller raised doubt. “Further inquiries concerning the identification made by the shopkeeper Gauci could be seized upon by those in Malta, Libya and elsewhere hostile to the conclusions of the investigation.” In 2007 it emerged that the US had paid $2 million to Gauci.

Robert Black, professor emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University, who masterminded the trial, said: “It is now more obvious than ever that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. An independent inquiry should be instituted into the case by the Scottish government, the UK government or both.”

The Crown Office said it would be inappropriate to comment further while leave to appeal (by al-Megrahi’s son Ali) is being considered by the UK Supreme Court. Police Scotland have confirmed that their investigation remains live. (...)

The confidential documents also show that British officials threatened to veto Malta’s application to join the EU if they did not back their demands over the Lockerbie bombing.

The UK and US insisted that the bomb which exploded over Scotland 33 years ago was loaded on to Air Malta flight KM-180, which left the island for Frankfurt on December 21. They contended it was then taken to London and transferred to Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie with the loss of 270 lives. The Maltese authorities strongly disputed this version of events, insisting it was technically impossible.

Their stance provoked considerable anxiety. A March 1992 memo to the Foreign Office from diplomatic staff in New York states: “We understand that the Maltese government is considering stating publicly that the allegation that the bomb was planted in Malta was not proven and instructed their ambassador to the UN to explain this to non-aligned members of the Security Council. We hope the Maltese government will think carefully on this and reconsider its position. The US embassy here have told us that their embassy in Valletta has been instructed to take action at the highest level.”

The Maltese were then told the UK would not support their attempt to join the European Community (EC), the precursor to the EU. (...)

The following month British officials noted with satisfaction: “Malta will now comply with mandatory sanctions, while not agreeing with them.”

Guido de Marco, Malta’s justice minister at the time of the bombing, wrote in 2010 shortly before his death that there had been “so much room for error” in the British version of events.

Officials ordered to monitor ‘troublesome’ relatives of victims

An independent investigation into the Lockerbie atrocity launched by bereaved family members posed “great potential for trouble” and should be carefully monitored, government officials were told. (...)

In 2018 relatives of the Lockerbie bomb victims told The Times they had been repeatedly bugged by the security services after official documents suggested that they needed “careful watching”.

The Rev John Mosey, a church minister who lost his teenage daughter, Helga, in the bombing, said that after speaking publicly his phone calls were often disrupted and documents relating to the bombing had gone missing from his computer.

Jim Swire, a GP who became the public face of the campaign to secure an independent inquiry into the atrocity, reported similar intrusions and deliberately included false information in private correspondence, only for it to appear in the press days later.

[Note: Peter Biddulph, co-author of Jim Swire's current Book) suffered the same intrusion. Just days after his first interview with Jim Swire late in the year 2000, unknown persons accessed his computer and all his files and notes.]

Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed, said: “I cannot believe that a supposedly decent country could behave in such a way towards grieving people whose only crime was to seek the truth.”

[RB: It is no surprise that those at the top of the Lockerbie prosecution team in both Scotland and the United States were gravely concerned about the quality of the evidence that Tony Gauci would give at Camp Zeist. What is surprising is that the prosecution was prepared to proceed to trial in reliance on that evidence, and that the judges at the trial found that Gauci's evidence amounted to an identification of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and that it was credible and reliable. Had they not done so, there was insufficient evidence in law for Megrahi to be convicted. 

The most rigorous analysis of Gauci's statements before and during the trial has been provided by Dr Kevin Bannon: Here is part of what he found:

"The development of Tony Gauci’s statements from his first police interviews in September 1989 through to his testimony in court, reveal his recollections systematically developing in favour of the Crown narrative, in increasing contradiction of all his freshest recollections.

"... it is not merely the case (as has often been stated) that Gauci’s evidence was contradictory, but that in every aspect, it changed in favour of the Crown narrative, in some instances quite drastically. Gauci’s original, freshest recollections about the appearance of the Libyan purchaser and the time of his visit, would have, and should have, categorically eliminated al-Megrahi from suspicion.

"Gauci’s testimony, the centrepiece of the case against al-Megrahi and, by implication, the principal Libyan connection to the crime, simply has no integrity whatsoever - nevertheless he was given a substantial financial reward for his latter evidence. These discrepancies render the entire case against al-Megrahi invalid."

Had the newly released documents been available before the most recent appeal, it is possible that the Megrahi family's lawyers could have made use of them in their case. But I see no realistic prospect of a further posthumous appeal. It is now more than ever obvious that the Megrahi conviction is built on sand. What should now happen is that an independent inquiry should be instituted into the Lockerbie case by the Scottish Government, the UK Government or both in tandem. There is much evidence now available that has not been considered in any of the Scottish Lockerbie appeals, in part because of the highly restrictive rules governing what material can be made use of in Scottish criminal appeals. Only with an independent inquiry is there a possibility that the false narrative supported by the shameful conviction of Megrahi can be rectified.]

Friday, 9 April 2021


The full programme will be announced shortly, and includes an interview with the BBC's former Chief News Correspondent Kate Adie on the evening of 21st May. 

                                                                                    Photo: Ken Lennox 

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Birlinn Publishing have a range of brilliantly incisive history and current affairs books being published in 2021. Including...

The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 was the largest attack on Britain since World War Two. 259 passengers and 11 townsfolk of Lockerbie were murdered. Libyan Abdelbaset alMegrahi was convicted of the crime. He maintained his innocence until his death in 2012. Among the passengers was Flora, beloved daughter of Dr Jim Swire. Jim accepted American claims that Libya was responsible, but during the Lockerbie Trial he began to distrust key witnesses and supposed firm evidence. Since then it has been revealed that the USA paid millions of dollars to two central identification witnesses, and the only forensic evidence central to the prosecution has been discredited. The book takes us along Dr. Swire’s journey as his initial grief and loss becomes a campaign to uncover the truth behind not only a personal tragedy but one of the modern world’s most shocking events.

Soon to be a major TV series

Also available at: Amazon, Waterstones,  Foyles, W H Smith, GoogleBooks, Bokus, Loot, Wordery, IBS (Italy), Tales (Denmark), Exlibris (Germany), Bol (Nederlands), BooksaMillion (USA), Kristostomus (Greece), Kinokunyia (Japan), Washington Report on Middle Eastern Affairs, and all good bookshops.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

From the blogsite of Professor Robert Black QC. 

Application lodged for leave to appeal to Supreme Court.

On 29 January 2021 the lawyers for the Megrahi family lodged with the High Court of Justiciary an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. They have until 8 February to lodge written submissions supporting these grounds. The Crown and the Advocate General for Scotland (representing the UK Government) then have until 22 February to lodge their responses in writing. The High Court may consider the matter based on written arguments, or it may call for a hearing. If the High Court refuses permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, the appellants can ask the Supreme Court itself to agree to consider the appeal.

In Scottish criminal appeal cases the UK Supreme Court cannot simply overturn a decision of the Scottish court; it only has jurisdiction to decide whether there might have been a breach of the appellant's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. A decision that there had been such a breach would not by itself overturn the conviction but would result in the case being sent back to the Scottish court for it to consider the issue and apply the right test under the European Convention, which might or might not result in a different decision being reached in relation to the conviction. 

Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court will be granted only if the case raises an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered  by the Supreme Court. 

The grounds of appeal which the Megrahi legal team wish the Supreme Court to consider can be summarised as follows: 

1. The decision of the High Court not to allow all of the original grounds of appeal to form part of the appeal for the reasons it gave was in breach of Article 6 of the ECHR, the right to a fair trial. In August 2020 the High Court limited the grounds of appeal to the matters referred by the SCCRC in their 2020 referral (unreasonable verdict and non-disclosure of material relating to rewards and identification evidence) and also allowed in the issue of disclosure of the cables relating to the Crown witness Majid Giaka. The court expressly rejected the ground of appeal which argued that there was a systemic failure by the Crown to disclose material and also the particular instances of non-disclosure which the appellants argued demonstrated this systemic failure. The appellants contend that this is a matter which must be considered by the Supreme Court as it relates to the application of Article 6 and was wrongly decided. 

2. The decision of the High Court not to overturn the Public Interest Immunity Certificate and order disclosure of the Protectively Marked Documents, and not to allow the non-disclosure of the documents to form a ground of appeal, also constituted a breach of Article 6. The appellants submit that these documents related to the special defence of incrimination put forward at trial and so in order for the appellant to receive a fair trial they should have been disclosed, and that this should have formed part of the grounds of appeal the court allowed to be argued.

3. As regards matters which did form part of the appeal and were argued at the full appeal hearing, the appellants' position is that the High Court erred in its decision to refuse Ground of Appeal 2, which related to non-disclosure of rewards material and non-disclosure of documents relating to Crown witness Tony Gauci’s identification evidence. They contend that the court applied the appropriate test wrongly and too narrowly and therefore breached the appellant’s right to a fair trial. In relation to Ground of Appeal 1, unreasonable verdict, they submit that the High Court’s decision to refuse this ground of appeal was also wrong, in that they took into account evidence which the trial court had ruled out, namely the evidence of the former co-accused Fhimah’s diaries. They contend that the High Court erred in substituting its own assessment of whether the diaries were admissible, as this meant they were not considering the case on the same evidence as the trial court did; and by so doing the appeal court has not returned a reasoned judgment on the verdict of the trial court and therefore again the appellant’s article 6 right has been breached.

The Megrahi legal team conclude by submitting that all three points raised are of general public importance and therefore meet the test for an application to appeal to the Supreme Court.