Today sees the publication of Scotland’s Shame: Why Lockerbie Matters.
Author John Ashton is our guest blogger today. Below he talks about why this is such an important book.
Scotland’s Shame argues that Lockerbie is the biggest scandal of the country’s post-devolution era. It sets out the failures, distortions and evasions of both the country’s prosecution service the Crown Office and its government. At the heart of the scandal is a failure by the Crown to abide by basic standards of justice, in particular the principle that all relevant evidence to be disclosed to the defendants in criminal trials. Since the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission completed its review of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction in 2007, it has become clear that the Crown Office failed to disclose numerous items of significant evidence. Indeed, on the basis of what it knew, or should have known, back in 1991, it should never have brought charges against Megrahi and his co-accused, Lamin Fhimah. As a consequence of these failings, the wrong man was convicted, the real killers went free and the Libyan people were made to suffer 7 years of sanctions, which destroyed their economy and threw millions into poverty.
Since the scale of the non-disclosure was revealed, the Crown Office has failed to account for its actions. Instead it has issued misleading public statements and smeared its opponents by calling them conspiracy theorists and de facto liars. Remarkably, the current lord advocate, Frank Mulholland, claims to have studied my last book Megrahi: You are my Jury, and found all its claims to be baseless – this despite the fact that all those claims were founded on the Crown’s own evidence (much of which the Crown Office had failed to disclose to Megrahi’s lawyers pre-trial).
It’s hard to imagine the Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions (who are their equivalents in England and Wales) behaving as the Crown Office and lord advocate have. Their behaviour has gone unchecked because successive Scottish government’s have turned a blind eye. In my view the current government has done so because it fears that public criticism of the criminal justice system would throw spanner in works of its independence project. Put simply, it fears that Scots will not entrust their country to an independent government if they perceive that its long standing and most powerful independent institution is such a mess. This, I believe, is why the government has produced a string of hollow excuses for not ordering an inquiry in to the Crown’s conduct. I also believe that the government’s view is thoroughly misguided: although a proper inquiry would reflect badly on the Crown Office, it would help restore public faith in the government.
To be clear, the book does not allege that police crown and judges were party to a grand conspiracy with the UK and US governments and their intelligence agencies to frame people whom they knew to be innocent. Rather, I argue, they are guilty of failures of judgement. Until those failures are explained and rectified, Lockerbie will remain Scotland’s shame.
Below you can listen to John Ashton and Dr Jim Swire talking at this morning’s press conference.