Monday, December 31, 2007

Lockerbie - Hardie Amiss

At the original trial at Camp Zeist, three Judges were appointed - all Lords. In the chair was Lord Sutherland, 68, a Queens Counsel since 1969. The others were Lord Coulsfield, 66, QC since 1973, and Lord McLean, 61.

The prosecution was originally to have been led by the Blairite Peer Lord Hardie, the new Labour Scottish Advocate. Not long before the trial started, Lord Hardie applied to become a High Court Judge and dropped out as chief Lockerbie prosecutor.

Private Eye magazine reported in May 2000 : "Hardie had been a pivotal figure in the authorities' handling of the Lockerbie disaster. During the last Conservative administration he served as deputy Crown spokesman at the 1990-91 fatal accident inquiry into the disaster. His abrupt decision to cut off all connection with the trial with only two months before it was due to begin was greeted with consternation by the relatives.

On 18th February Pamela Dix secretary of UK Families 103, whose brother died at Lockerbie, wrote to Lord Hardie to express the families' 'great surprise and indeed shock' at his decision. 'I would be grateful', she continued, 'if you could clarify whether the decision was yours alone.' So disturbed was the noble Lord by this anxious letter that he did not bother to reply."

Lord Hardie was replaced as Lord Advocate by his successor Colin Boyd QC and his Advocate Depute Alistair Campbell QC. They were supported by yet another QC, Alan Turnbull and two official of the the US Justice department, who sat with them.

Megrahi was represented by William Taylor QC, 56, a former Edinburgh Labour councillor and a Parliamentary Labour candidate. Fhimah's QC was Richard Kenn, 46.

The key solicitor for the defense, who represented Megrahi, was Alistair Duff, a criminal lawyer from Edinburgh, who had been associated with the case since first approached in 1993. Mr Duff has a reputation in Scotland for believing in and fighting for his clients : a reputation powerfully vindicated throughout the Camp Zeist trial.

The trial opened on May 3rd 2000 and dragged through numerous postponements and delays until judgement day on 31st January 2001.

From the outset it was clear that the trial would take so long and it's proceedings were so insufferably boring that few journalists would last the pace. The point was made graphically by the BBC's crime correspondent Joshua Rozenberg.

Rosenberg was, and is, a firm believer in British justice. He had recently published a rather flattering analysis of British judges. He was however horrified by what he found at Camp Zeist.

Writing in the Guardian on 5th June 2000 : Who Brought Down The Lockerbie Trial? Why Is The Most Important Trial In The World Being Ignored By The Media?

The entire proceedings seemed to him to be plunged into chaos and impossible to follow. Facilities for journalists, though lavish, were absolutely useless when it came to finding out basic information. Even the list of witnesses was withheld from the media.

The lawyers were separated from the journalists, public and relatives by screens. The reporters had nothing more to go on than the formal indictment issued nine years previously.

The Lord Advocate Colin Boyd didn't like questions, and found it hard to explain why "officials from the United States Justice Department are sit next to prosecution lawyers in court" ; or what the official told the victims' families at briefings every evening ; or why the prosecution again and again ran out of witnesses, forcing unnecessary adjournments.

The whole trial seems deliberately bunged up with issues that would never have arisen in an ordinary criminal case, and hours wasted on what seemed to be quite uncontroversial evidence.

No wonder, thought Rosenberg as he headed for home, so many journalists were giving the trial up for lost, and so little even the bare bones of the proceedings were appearing in the media. "Justice will be the loser", he grimly predicted, and he was right.

(c) Paul Foot/ Private Eye 2001

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