- Part of:
- Law and order
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE SCOTTISH CRIMINAL CASES REVIEW COMMISSION
The Commission issued a news release on 5 November 2015 regarding its refusal of the application submitted on behalf of Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. A comprehensive statement of reasons was issued to the applicants fully explaining the Commission's approach to the investigation and the basis for its decision.
Since the issue of the press release it has become apparent that aspects of the Commission's approach to the review of the application have been either misunderstood or misrepresented. Unfortunately the Commission is not at liberty to make public its statement of reasons which it believes would address any misunderstanding or misrepresentation.
However, in accordance with the Commission's strategic aims of promoting both public understanding of its role and of enhancing public confidence in the justice system's ability to correct miscarriages of justice, the Commission has decided to issue an update to the original news release which is hoped will, in general terms, provide added clarity on how the Commission investigates cases.
From the outset, in respect of this application, the Commission was clear on what aspects of the case would need to be addressed as part of the stage 1 review, including the need to establish the specific reasons why Mr Megrahi abandoned his previous appeal. The Commission's news release of 6 May 2014 set out its intended approach to investigation prior to the receipt of the application and this approach was communicated last year to all relevant parties, including Messrs Taylor and Kelly.
As set out within our news release yesterday, to appropriately investigate the reasons for abandonment it was considered necessary to obtain the original defence appeal papers. The normal source of these papers for any investigation would be the applicant's appeal solicitors on the basis that they should hold a full and accurate set and under the assurance that they would be covered by Law Society requirements regarding both the content and preservation of such papers.
In any review carried out by the Commission, when an application is received it is expected that the applicant (or in the case of a deceased applicant – his family) will fully cooperate with any review. This will include instructing the voluntary release of any defence papers to the Commission. The Commission does not require to exercise any statutory power to request these papers. If the applicant (or his representatives) fails to cooperate then the Commission may decide that "it is not in the interests of justice" to continue with a review.
At an early stage in this review the Commission required to consider the ability or willingness of the applicant`s family to take forward an appeal if the case was to be referred by the Commission. As set out in within yesterday's press release, after continuous delays, the view was ultimately formed by the Commission that the Megrahi family were not currently in a position to fully support the application, furnish the Commission with the required materials or take forward any subsequent appeal if there was to be a referral. From the press comments made yesterday by Messrs Aamer Anwar and Co, it would appear that the Commission`s view on this matter has been confirmed.
As was stated yesterday, it remains open in the future for this matter to be considered again by the Commission, but it is unlikely that any future application will be accepted for review unless it is accompanied with the requested defence papers. This will require the cooperation of the late Mr Megrahi's solicitors and his family.
The Commission does not intend to make any further comment.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission was established as an independent body on 1 April 1999 to review alleged miscarriages of justice in Scottish convictions and/or sentences. Under section 194A-L of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, as inserted by section 25 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997, the Commission may refer a case to the High Court if it believes that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred and that it is in the interests of justice that a reference should be made. Once the Commission refers a case to the High Court, the case will proceed as a normal appeal.
Mr Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the murder of the 259 passengers and crew on board Pan American World Airways flight PA 103 from London to New York, and 11 residents of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. He subsequently appealed his conviction and his appeal was refused by the High Court in 2002.
Mr Megrahi previously applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission for a review of his conviction in 2003, and his case was referred by the Commission to the High Court for a new appeal in 2007. Mr Megrahi subsequently abandoned his second appeal in 2009. Mr Megrahi died in 2012.
Where a convicted person has died, court rules allow the High Court to consider an appeal where it considers the person taking the appeal has "legitimate interests" in the case. The determination of whether a person has a "legitimate interest" is a decision for the High Court to make.
The Commission petitioned the High Court, in terms of s194D(3) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, to establish whether Dr Jim Swire or another member of the victim`s families might be classed as a person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal on behalf of Mr Al-Megrahi in the event that the Commission was to refer the case back to the High Court. On 3 July 2015, the court issued its opinion on the matter. A copy of the opinion can be accessed here: (Opinion of the Court).
In light of this opinion the Commission required to address whether it was "in the interests of justice" to accept the conviction of Mr Megrahi for a full further review, taking account of the statutory requirement for "finality and certainty" in criminal proceedings under s194C(2) of the 1995 Act. In considering this matter the Commission required to address the fact that Mr Megrahi had abandoned his appeal in 2009 after a referral from the Commission and that neither he nor any
member of his family had lodged an application for a further review of his conviction prior to his death in May 2012.
The Commission has written to the late Mr Megrahi`s solicitors and to his family requesting access to the defence papers in order to allow it to consider the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of Mr Megrahi's second appeal. No papers were forthcoming despite repeated requests.
The hyperlinks marked above can be accessed via the electronic version of this press release on the Commission's website (www.sccrc.org.uk).
The Commission does not normally issue a press release in relation to applications where there has been no reference made but has decided to do so in this case due to the extensive national and international interest.
For any further general information about the Commission, please contact Mr. Chris Reddick, Director of Corporate Services, SCCRC, 5th Floor, Portland House, 17 Renfield Street, Glasgow; telephone: 0141 270 7030; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the Commission's website at www.sccrc.org.uk