The Herald today runs an article by political editor Brian Currie under the headline Crown’s actions in Megrahi case face scrutiny. Is it too much to hope that the Crown will be fully held to account for its appalling failures to disclose important evidence to Megrahi’s defence team? And is Holyrood slowly waking up to the scandal?
THE Crown Office’s handling of the prosecution of the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is to be raised in the Scottish Parliament.
And the Inspectorate of Prosecution in Scotland has been asked to initiate inquiries into allegations the Crown failed to disclose substantive evidence to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s defence team.
Both moves were instigated by Christine Grahame, an SNP MSP and member of the Justice for Megrahi campaign.
She warned: “While there is a suspicion the Crown Office has not behaved with propriety, this cannot be good for the Scottish justice system.”
Ms Grahame, who is convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, said the Scottish Government did not have the power to institute a far-reaching public inquiry – which would require evidence from former prime ministers, the FBI and others.
But it could, under the 2005 Inquiries Act, hold one into matters which were wholly devolved and the Crown Office would be subject to that.
As revealed in The Herald this week, there is material within the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) report into Megrahi’s conviction for the atrocity, in which 270 people died, to suggest he may have suffered a miscarriage of justice on six different grounds.
Ms Grahame said yesterday: “The Scottish Government already has the power to inquire into the activities and the actions of the Crown Office -and the allegations that evidence that should have been disclosed was not disclosed.”
She claimed an inquiry under the existing legislation on devolved powers or by the Inspectorate of Prosecution could go ahead because it appeared there were “no prohibitions” on the Scottish Government.
She added: “Let’s find out if there is any merit in what is being put into the press and into biographies.”
Tory justice spokesman David McLetchie said an appeal by Megrahi would “have the merit of allowing the case to be determined in a Scottish court of law”. But he added if there was no such appeal then there had to be a judicial public inquiry.
Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “What The Herald’s investigation has exposed is that a number of questions remain unanswered. However, it is our view these matters are best settled in Scotland’s court of law – not a public inquiry.”
Patrick Harvie, of the Scottish Green Party, said: “There have long been doubts about Mr Megrahi’s conviction and the best way to establish the truth is to hold a public inquiry.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill had not seen the SCCRC report as “this would be inappropriate”.
Mr MacAskill has written to UK Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke asking for an exemption under data protection laws to allow the SCCRC document to be made public. But a spokesman for Mr Clarke said last night that any decision on disclosure was for the SCCRC.