Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Non-Disclosure of Evidence.

The Firm Magazine has recently carried reports indicating that Lothian and Borders Police Criminal Investigation Department are examining claims by MSP Christine Grahame relating to the conduct of Crown Agent Norman McFadyen in the Lockerbie case. Whether this relates to Mr McFadyen's conduct during the first trial at Zeist or specifically to the current long running appeal of the 'convicted' Lockerbie bomber Al-Megrahi, or indeed both, is unclear.

It has been reported by the Herald newspaper in Scotland that during the trial at Zeist one of the leading members of the prosecution team and now Crown Agent, Mr McFadyen, had viewed evidence in the possession of the US government and the CIA, and had signed a non-disclosure agreement on June 1, 2000, thus withholding known evidence from the court or the defence team. This was not the first occasion that the representative to the Crown had been accused of such impropriety.

In 2005, the political commentator and activist Mark Thomas wrote, "On 12 October 2005, a court began hearing the appeals of two Scottish men, Billy Allison and Steven Johnston, who were convicted of the murder of Andrew Forsyth in a frenzied attack in November 1995. During the trial the jury was told that "to bring home a conviction against Steven Johnston, the deceased would require to have died on Friday 3 November".

Forsyth's body was found on 9 November, and in 1996 Johnston was banged up for life for the killing. So was Allison.

However, evidence has come to light that Forsyth did not die on 3 November 1995. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission found four witness statements by people who claimed they had seen Forsyth alive days after the date police said he had died. This is crucial. If Forsyth was alive after that date, why did the court convict Johnston of killing him?"

The eyewitnesses who gave statements included a newsagent, who claimed Forsyth came into his shop for a paper on 4 November. Another man saw Forsyth drinking in a bar on 8 November, five days after he is supposed to have died."

Crucially, the police did not disclose these statements to the defence team. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the former Lord Advocate, said that "at best this is unacceptable bumbling incompetence, and at its worst . . . it may be criminal".

Equally alarming is that the Scottish Crown Office knew the police had withheld the crucial witness statements back in February 1997.

Having previously claimed that "all statements taken by the police in this case" had been handed to the Procurator Fiscal, Deputy Crown Agent Norman McFadyen wrote on 3 February 1997: "It is now clear that the information which I had previously conveyed to you in my letter . . . was inaccurate and misleading in relation to the retention of the results of the enquiries of the police and the taking of statements."

If the authorities knew of the missing witness statements in 1997 why have these men waited until 2005 to get an appeal? This is not the first time police have withheld or "lost" evidence in criminal trials.

Perhaps the most notorious case was that of John Kamara, wrongly jailed for the murder of a Liverpool bookmaker. Kamara served 19 years in prison before being freed on appeal, when the police found a flabbergasting 201 witness statements proving that he could not have committed the murder. These 201 statements had not been released to the court."

It would seem that together with many of the prosecution teams discredited and contradictory witnesses presented at Zeist and Lord Frasers's comments regarding the previous conduct of the deputy crown agent were taken so seriously that promotion was the reward for such actions. It is little wonder that The Firm magazine now reports that a 'veil of secrecy' has been thrown over the current investigation into the allegation made by Ms Grahame's on the Crown agents conduct in the Lockerbie case.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home