Last Friday afternoon the Crown Office issued a statement, which took many by surprise, announcing that the SCCRC would not be prosecuted for publishing its report on Abdelbaset’s case. As professor Bob Black noted on his blog:
For at least two-and-a-half years the issue of publication of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission’s Statement of Reasons in the Megrahi case has been a matter of public and political concern. The Scottish Government first produced a Statutory Instrument The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (Permitted Disclosure of Information) Order 2009 which (so it was said) was intended to facilitate publication. When that, as could have been — and was — widely anticipated, did not have the desired(?) effect, the Scottish Government introduced the Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review)(Scotland) Bill which is currently before the Scottish Parliament. This is also so hedged about with conditions that publication of anything useful under it is in the highest degree unlikely.
But wait! All of this fevered activity was completely unnecessary. All that needed to happen was for the Lord Advocate to grant to the SCCRC immunity from prosecution under section 194J of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, the provision which makes it a criminal offence for the SCCRC to publish its reports. This the Lord Advocate did yesterday. If, as we have been assured from the outset, the Crown Office and the Scottish Government devoutly wished the Megrahi Statement of Reasons to be published, why was this step not taken long ago?
A good question. But the more immediate question, is why did the Crown Office rush out this statement on a Friday afternoon? The reason is simply that earlier that day the Sunday Herald had informed them that they would be publishing the SCCRC report today. Was the Crown Office looking to encourage the SCCRC to publish immediately, in order to draw the sting from the Sunday Herald’s coverage? And could that also explain the anonymous Crown Office quotes in yesterday’s Daily Record spoiler?