Sunday, 21 December 2014

Mulholland tries to re-write history

Scottish Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC yesterday welcomed the opportunity to speak to the BBC, following a well publicised Times article by Magnus Linklater. 

Mulholland speaks to a public many of whom were not born at the time of the Lockerbie bombing, which took place on this day twenty six years ago. 

Journalists too are, many of them,unaware of the complexities of the case, and accept without challenge statements designed to sweep away the truth.

Mulholland stated, without challenge, that there is no doubt whatever about the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi.

But he knows full well that there are serious doubts, spoken and written by many in the legal establishment in Scotland and elsewhere. 

To these doubts must be added the six reasons given by the Scottish Criminal Review Commission, who spent three years scrupulously examining the evidence supplied by the Scottish Crown Office, of which Mulholland is now the controlling officer. 

Those six reasons led the Commission to conclude that "there may well have been a miscarriage of justice."

We reproduce below an article from Professor Robert Black's blogsite THE LOCKERBIE CASE. 

The four elephants in the room which suggest the Lord Advocate is wrong

[This is the headline over an article by John Ashton published in today’s edition of the Sunday Herald. It reads as follows:]

The Crown Office has used the 26th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing to proclaim the safety of the conviction of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the only man so far convicted of the bombing.

The department briefed yesterday that a review of the case had "confirmed beyond doubt" the Libyan's guilt, while today its head, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, has personally reaffirmed that guilt.

Mulholland has been unusually vigorous in denouncing Megrahi's supporters, who include relatives of the Lockerbie dead, branding them "conspiracy theorists" two years ago. It is hard to imagine his opposite number in England and Wales, the director of public prosecutions, taking to the media to defend a conviction and take on critics. But while this strident tone has raised eyebrows, Mulholland's statements are more notable for ignoring four large elephants in the middle of his legal chambers.

The first is the ongoing review of the case by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), the statutory body that has the power to refer convictions to the appeal court. As Mulholland well knows, a previous review by the commission referred the case on no fewer than six grounds. The terminally ill Megrahi abandoned the resulting appeal to improve his chances of being granted compassionate release, but was confident that his name would one day be cleared. Remarkably, one of the six grounds was that the three Scottish law lords who convicted him had made a fundamental error of judgment when they found that the clothes incriminating Megrahi had been bought on December 7. In doing so, the commission, in the eyes of some, came as close as it legally could to saying that the guilty verdict was itself wrong.

More seriously for the Crown Office, four of the other grounds concerned its failure to disclose important evidence to Megrahi's defence team. This included evidence that the Crown's star witness, Maltese shopkeeper Tony Gauci, had expressed an interest in receiving a substantial reward and was under the strong influence of his brother Paul, who regularly nagged the police about being rewarded. The SCCRC discovered Gauci was later secretly paid $2 million by the US Department of Justice, and his brother Paul $1m.

When, in 2012, this ­newspaper published a leaked copy of the SCCRC's 800-page review, the Crown Office went into panic mode, anonymously briefing a Scottish tabloid that Megrahi's case had "more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese" then issuing a press statement that significantly downplayed the commission's findings.

The second elephant is the two-year-old police investigation, led by Police Scotland's Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, into criminal allegations made against some of those originally involved in the inquiry by the committee of the Justice for Megrahi group.

When the allegations were first made to the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, the Crown Office immediately denounced them as groundless, despite not having seen the detailed dossier of evidence assembled by the committee. Many were shocked by the intervention, believing it might compromise the police inquiry and that it raised serious questions about Mulholland's independence as the chief public prosecutor.
Unfortunately for the Crown Office, the police clearly do not share its contempt for the allegations. If the investigation concludes there was no criminal misconduct, the Crown Office still has to explain why it failed to disclose so much important evidence. In the view of its critics, notably Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the bombing, the matter must be addressed in a public inquiry - something successive Scottish governments have been reluctant to grant.

The third elephant is forensic evidence concerning a small fragment of electronic circuit board, recovered from an item of clothing that was supposedly in the same suitcase as the bomb. According to the prosecution, it matched boards in timers supplied to Libya by a Swiss firm called Mebo, which shared offices with a Libyan company part-owned by Megrahi.

Evidence uncovered prior to Megrahi's abandoned appeal demonstrated that the fragment could not have originated from one of the Libyan timer boards. The discovery has fuelled claims the fragment was a plant, which has in turn encouraged the Crown Office to call its opponents conspiracy theorists. However, as Mulholland must be aware, the breaking of the link between the fragment and the Libyan timers leaves the prosecution case in shreds, regardless of whether it was planted.

The fourth elephant is the lack of evidence from Libya to implicate either Megrahi or the Gaddafi regime in the bombing. During the country's 2011 revolution, senior officials, keen to curry favour with the West, lined up to accuse the regime of sponsoring the attack.

The best known of them, the head of the National Transitional Council and former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil, claimed to have proof that Gaddafi ordered the bombing.

All this must have been music to the Crown Office's ears, but, when pushed to reveal his proof of the regime's guilt, the best Jalil could offer was that it had funded ­Megrahi's legal case.

Sadly, Libya has become too dangerous for the Scottish police to conduct investigations there. Even if it were not, they would likely find the cupboard was bare. In the four years since the revolution, ­nothing has emerged publicly from the ruins of the old regime to affirm Megrahi's guilt, let alone Libya's.

No doubt Mulholland's public declarations will continue to ignore the four elephants in his legal chambers, but he must knows that their ever-fiercer stamping may one day bring Megrahi's conviction crashing around his ears.

John Ashton is the author of the authorised ­biography of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, Megrahi: You are my Jury, (Birlinn, 2012) and Scotland's Shame: Why Lockerbie Still Matters (Birlinn, 2014). From 2006-09, he worked as a researcher with Megrahi's legal team. 

[Here are links to some other reports in the media:

Megrahi was innocent of Lockerbie bombing, insists victim's father
Lockerbie victim's father criticises prosecutor's comments
Lockerbie bombing: Prosecutor's comments about al-Megrahi 'unfortunate'
Remember Lockerbie as crimes of intelligence services are exposed
Lockerbie: Lord Advocate to track down accomplices]

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

How goes Scottish Justice?

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died two and a half years ago on the 20th May 2012. 

Here are extracts from the statement that Justice For Megrahi issued on that occasion:

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has now died without having been able to clear his name of the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 on the 21st of December 1988 during his lifetime. Now all those politicians and Megrahi-guilt apologists who regard compassion as being a weakling's alternative to vengeance, who boast of their skills at remote medical diagnosis, and who persistently refuse to address the uncomfortable facts of the case, will doubtless fall silent. Finally, the ‘evil terrorist’ has been called to account for himself before a “Higher Power”.

The prosecution case against him held water like a sieve. We are expected to believe the fantastic tale of the Luqa-Frankfurt-Heathrow transfer of an invisible, unaccompanied suitcase which miraculously found itself situated in the perfect position in the hold of 103 to create maximum destructive effect having eluded no fewer than three separate security regimes. There is no evidence for any such luggage ever having left the ground in either Malta or Germany, it is mere surmise.
Not only that but we have accusations of the key Crown witness having been bribed for testimony; a multitude of serious question marks over material evidence, including the very real possibility of the crucial fragment of PCB having been fabricated; discredited forensic scientists testifying for the prosecution; and, most worryingly, allegations of the Crown’s non-disclosure of evidence which could have been key to the defence. Added to which, evidence supporting the alternative and infinitely more logical ingestion of the bomb directly at Heathrow was either dismissed at the trial or withheld from the court until after the verdict of guilty had been returned.

 The Crown and successive governments have, for years, acted to obstruct any attempts to investigate how the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi came about. Some in the legal and political establishments may well be breathing a sigh of relief now that Mr al-Megrahi has died. This would be a mistake. Many unfortunates who fell foul of outrageous miscarriages of justice in the past have had their names cleared posthumously.

However long it takes, the campaign seeking to have Mr al-Megrahi’s conviction quashed will continue unabated not only in his name and that of his family, who must still bear the stigma of being related to the ‘Lockerbie Bomber’, but, above all, it will carry on in the name of justice. A justice which is still being sought by and denied to many of the bereaved resultant from the Lockerbie tragedy.

 This case has now become emblematic of an issue which affects each and every one of us and poses some profoundly basic questions which we ignore at our peril, namely: what do we perceive justice to be, what role ought it to play in our society and whom should it exist to serve? Our laws and how we apply them to our society are the most fundamental descriptor of how we function as a cohesive and coherent entity. They are effectively a portrait of our identity as a people. 

If, through complacency, we permit cosy, established authority to dictate the terms and to brush under the carpet concerns over how justice is defined and dispensed for the sake of convenience, expediency and reputation, we will only have ourselves to blame for the consequences.

The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, says that “Scotland's Criminal Justice system is a cornerstone of our society, and it is paramount that there is total public confidence in it.”

Scotland’s independent and professional arbiter in the matter of referrals to the Court of Appeal, the SCCRC, believe that, on no fewer than six grounds, Mr al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice at Zeist.

Whether or not the courts are the right and proper platform to deal with this case, the conviction has been in the hands of the High Court of Justiciary since 2001 producing no resolution whatsoever and, moreover, how amenable are the courts now likely to be towards sanctioning another appeal given that they have been invested with new powers which allow them to reject applications which question their own judgements? Fine words are not enough. Action is required. 

If Scotland wishes to see its criminal justice system reinstated to the position of respect that it once held rather than its languishing as the mangled wreck it has become because of this perverse judgement, it is imperative that its government act by endorsing an independent inquiry into this entire affair. As a nation which aspires to independence, Scotland must have the courage to look itself in the mirror.

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).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gerry Conlon, Ann Maguire, Dr Thomas Hayes and Lockerbie

It is today reported that Gerard Conlon has died.

In 1974 the alleged IRA bomber Paul Hill, three of his colleagues (Gerard Conlon, Patrick Armstrong, Carole Richardson), plus all seven of the family of Ann Maguire were found guilty of the bombing, or association with the bombing, of an army barracks in Guildford. All served fifteen years imprisonment for their crimes.Gerard Conlon's father Guiseppe died in prison.

The public hue and cry for revenge appeared satisfied. Fortunately for the eleven convicted men and women, several public campaigns conducted before and during the trial to bring back hanging proved unsuccessful .

What Britain had experienced was yet another phase of legal history where public prejudice, legal stupidity or laziness, and sleight of hand by the police and their forensic services merged to a "group think" of public hysteria based on uninformed prejudice.

After serving fifteen years in prison, some in solitary confinement, the remaining ten were released on appeal. At the opening of the appeal, the prosecution lawyers were deeply embarrassed to have to admit that their prosecution case at the trial had been totally without foundation. 

Sadly for all eleven convicted, all was too late; their families had been destroyed and lives ruined by a corrupt and inadequate system of justice.

In today's BBC report concerning Gerard Conlon, which can be read here, the BBC says blandly "They were convicted and jailed for handling explosives, based on scientific evidence which was later entirely discredited".  

Few people today are aware that that "scientific" evidence was in part provided by Dr Thomas Hayes, a Higher Scientific Officer at the Royal Armaments and Research Defence Establishment (RARDE). 

Hayes was never disciplined for his actions. Indeed, he was soon to be promoted to head of department. His career would in time merge into the Lockerbie investigation and trial. Here is part of an account of his appearance at Kamp Zeist, alongside his colleague Allan Feraday:

Day 15: June 5th 2000

Dr Thomas Hayes was formerly head of the Forensics explosives laboratory at the British Royal Armaments Research and Defence Establishment (RARDE). He would prove a central figure in the prosecution case.
At the time of the trial he was aged fifty three, having retired from his RARDE post ten years earlier just as the joint Scottish police and FBI investigation into the Lockerbie attack was reaching its climax. 

As a bachelor of science honours in chemistry, a master of science in the faculty of forensic science, a doctor of philosophy in the faculty of forensic science, a chartered chemist, and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry, we might expect an outstanding memory. 

And yet he seemed reluctant to tell the court when he'd resigned in order to commence a radically new career as a chiropodist. When did he start work at Fort Halstead? "In July 1974." And when did he leave? “The exact date of my leaving is a little circumspect, but I believe it was in 1990." 

He actually resigned in 1989, a year that for him may have been circumspect, but was, in relation to the Lockerbie trial, most significant. For he possessed an uncomfortable history in relation to another major terrorist event, namely the alleged IRA bombing involving members of the Maguire family - The Maguire Seven

In that trial Hayes and two of his colleagues were aware of evidence consistent with the innocence of the accused, decided among themselves that this evidence be not declared, and did not mention it during the trial. 

The first of the three was Douglas Higgs, Principal Scientific Officer and head of department; second was Walter Elliott, a Senior Scientific Officer; and the third was Hayes, at that time a Higher Scientific Officer.

During the trial, results of tests for traces of nitro-glycerine on skin and fingernails of the Maguire family were firmly maintained by the three scientists to be positive and decisive. Unknown to the court, however, the three had performed a second set of tests plus a series of experiments. Both tests and experiments indicated a negative result and an innocent means of contamination, and this information was recorded in their forensic notebooks. 

It was only through a Parliamentary inquiry by a senior judge, Sir John May, beginning in September 1989 and concluding in July 1990 that the matter was exposed.  

Sir John discovered that the notebooks of the three scientists had been deliberately concealed from the court, and cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution therefore severely hampered. 

His main conclusions include the statement: "...  the whole scientific basis upon which the prosecution [of Ann Maguire and six members of her family] was founded was in truth so vitiated that on this basis alone the Court of Appeal should be invited to set aside the convictions." [1]  (Wikipedia summary)

[1] Rt Hon. Sir John May, Interim Report on the Maguire Case, 12th July 1990, and Second Report on the Maguire Case, 3rd December 1992.