I am today publishing, in conjunction with the Sunday Herald, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s report on Mr Megrahi’s conviction. It will be available for download here at midday and can already be viewed on the Herald’s website.
Mr Megrahi wishes it to be published because he believes the public has a right to know what the commission uncovered during its four-year investigation. Publication also gives the lie to the claim that he is blocking the report’s release.
The report makes shocking reading. The commission concluded that Mr Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice on no fewer than six grounds (the six grounds are summarised here). One of these is that the guilty verdict was, in the report’s words, ‘at least arguably one which no reasonable court, properly directed, could have returned’. By any measure, this was a remarkable rebuke to the three senior law lords who heard the case.
However, it is the Crown who will be most embarrassed by publication. This is because four of the six grounds concern its failure to disclose important evidence to Mr Megrahi’s lawyers. There were seven such documents, which are described, in chapters 23 to 25. Those chapters and chapter 26 describe numerous other significant undisclosed documents.
Three of the seven concern reward payments to two key Crown witnesses, Tony and Paul Gauci. The commission established that after Mr Megrahi’s conviction each were ‘paid sums of money under the “Rewards for Justice” programme administered by the US Department of State.’ Police correspondence reveals that the Crown was prevented by its own rules from seeking this reward, yet did not stop the police from doing so.
The Crown’s failure to disclosure of all this evidence is a disgrace, for which it must be held to account.
I am sending a copy of the report to the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who has acknowledged that he has not seen it. When he has read it, he will no longer be able to cling to the fiction, which continues to be promoted by his government colleague the Lord Advocate, that Mr Megrahi’s conviction is safe.
The only redactions we have made are to protect the identity of certain people and the privacy of Mr Megrahi’s family and his co-accused, Lamin Fhimah. Mr Megrahi does not agree with all of the report’s conclusions, some of which are not favourable to him, however, he has nothing to fear from their publication.
Now that the report is published, the focus of public debate on Lockerbie should shift away from the rights and wrongs of Mr Megrahi’s release to the scandal of his conviction.