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Archive for August 20th, 2009

Insite Law free resources project

I am delighted to report that Dr John Birchall, a barrister and experienced academic, will be writing the free text and produce free lectures for Equity & Trusts and Land Law and his new text will start to appear on Insite Law Magazine from the third week in September.  This means that we now have 13 major subject areas covered – an extensive free resource for students and others, including non-lawyers who are interested in law.  I am pleased that students and others are looking at the resources or using them  – some 31,000 pageviews on Contract’s 30 page URLS in the short time it has been up.  Nick Holmes was right – Free Legal Web is an idea worth looking at – free to the user.  I am grateful to all the sponsors who have already got involved.

The free resources will, we hope, not only be helpful to students but also to practitioners in keeping up to date – because we are monitoring all the main House of Lords and Court of Appeal cases in these 13 subject areas, providing links to BAILLI and by doing a short analysis.  The Contract, Intellectual Property and Sale of Goods updaters are already being done… and the others will start to appear as texts, lectures come online on Insite Law from mid-September.

Contract lectures: I have now produced 12 of the 20 lectures to support the Contract materials – so if you would like to listen to a ‘bit of Contract’ while you are on the train… or elsewhere… no problem! See my Contract book.

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The Lockerbie bomber is to be released on compassionate grounds, the Scottish Government has announced.

The BBC reports: Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives in 1988.Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the Libyan, who has terminal prostate cancer, would be allowed to return to his homeland.

Let me explain what my opinion is on this:

1.  Al-Megrahi was convicted by a Scottish court and tried under Scots Law at a specially convened court in the Netherlands.

2.  Dealing firstly with the issue on the premise that he was rightly convicted.  Clearly, it is within the power of the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who admitted the correctness of both conviction and sentence, to order release on compassionate grounds.

3. Al-Megrahi committed an act of international terrorism.  The United States, the United Kingdom and many other forces from the coalition are currently fighting a war in Afghanistan to drive terrorism from our lives.  Men and women are being killed daily; giving their lives so we may be secure. That is the political premise on which the war is being fought – and whether you agree with that war or not, the fact of men and women dying in our name is clear and beyond doubt.  What sort of message does the early release of a convicted terrorist send to the ‘forces of evil’?, to the men and women on the ground in Afghanistan fighting in our name for our long term security?

4.  For my part – I agree with Carl Gardner – whatever the evidence of Al-Megrahi’s terminal condition – he should have served his full sentence in Scottish custody.

On the premise that he was wrongly convicted:

5. There are many who voice concern and discomfort that al-Megrahi may not be the person who committed this atrocity. Certainly, no-one else has been convicted.  This has been well documented and I need not rehearse the matter here

6.  If he was wrongly convicted, the proper process is to appeal.  Perhaps an appeal should have been allowed much earlier?  I cannot comment – I am not familiar with the processes of Scots Criminal Justice. He dropped his appeal earlier this week.

7. There are those who suggest that his release was political.  I agree with Carl Gardner and many others I suspect –  that if there is even a hint of political dealing for trade  here with Libya it would be shameful  – those responsible should be held to account and resign from their posts.  They are not, clearly, fit to govern our nation.

8.  I don’t have much interest in the purely emotive arguments being advanced in newspapers in this country and overseas – although the relatives of those who died, of course, have my sympathy.  This decision is about the rule of law and about nothing else. What value is criminal justice in such an appalling case of atrocity (in contra distinction to the early release of Ronnie Biggs?) when the law, already merciful in the sense that the death penalty has been abolished in our country) and the sentence of a properly constituted court is not carried out?    I don’t always agree with Carl on complex issues – but on this he is dead right – would the Scottish Justice Secretary be releasing al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds if most of those who died in that atrocity had been Scots?  It would be a political disaster for the ruling party in Scotland, I suspect.

9. This man is a proven and convicted killer of 270 people.  He is not a Ronnie Biggs.  I just hope this weakness on the part of the Scottish government – a view I hold and which I am entitled to hold – does not come back to haunt us, whether Scots, English, American, Canadian, European or other nationality.

As ever… your views and thoughts are most welcome in the comments section.

IMPORTANT UPDATE

If you would like to see a serious politicians view on this decision – Tom Harris MP, Labour member for Glasgow South – whatever your politics – please do read this… it is measured and very pertinent.  More particularly written by a Scot – albeit an MP in Westminster not the Scottish parliament. Tom Harris’s view may, I hope, be shared by many.

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UPDATE 21st AUGUST

BBC – Lockerbie Bomber returns.

Here is the BBC Report… I just wonder, in the light of this report,  if  the Scottish Justice Minister still feels that he got it right?  The bomber appears to be being received as a  conquering hero….I could be wrong – but there are a hell of alot of very happy Libyans in the film….

Will the Scots Justice Minister feel quite so pleased with himself when he sees this? Compassionate Justice?  No… political grandstanding?  Beginning to look like it. A pretty shoddy lapse of judgement… well done Scottish Parliament – own goal, I think… but.. what do we mere citizens of the United Kingdom know? …. compared to the all seeing lawyer politician who runs Scotland’s Justice Ministry?  – rather depressing.

I have to say… not that I am a medical man…. that al-Megrahi looks rather well… will he do a Saunders (Guinness fiasco/farrago)? … will he rise like Lazarus from the dead? … to coin a rather old biblical metaphor.

Do read Tom Harris MP’s post – link above –  for a viewpoint from a politician from Scotland – I am not making a political point – I just think it would be worth doing so.

The Scots Justice Minister is a defence lawyer, so, one presumes, has some acquaintance with the law, concepts of justice, the rule of law, – but maybe he just doesn’t understand the appeal process in Scotland?…  the fact that judges should be independent and that politicians should not really meddle in the rule of law (or, indeed, at all) …or  the judicial process….  of course… I may have missed the point entirely, not being attuned to law across the border and that Scots Law can accommodate convenience without in any way being devalued and humiliating themselves on the world juridical stage.

Surely this cannot be about what Libya can do for Scotland? .. or is Alex Salmond  (or even our real UK wide politicians in Westminster – as opposed to what may as well be a local council masquerading as a proud parliament in Edinburgh) about to announce an ‘Arc of prosperity from Edinburgh to Tripoli”?  I  really do hope not

UPDATE 21st August

From blogger Loveandgarbage

A very well argued piece from a Scot about the Scottish Justice Secretary:  MacAskill: still unfit to be Justice Secretary

UPDATE

22nd August I am grateful to @ advoc_8 for this sane and sensible assessment of Lockerbie by Alistair Bonnington
Formerly of Glasgow Uni Law School’s Lockerbie Trial Briefing Team

US FBI Director highly critical read his letter to Scots Justice Secretary

UPDATE

24th August

Jonathan Mitchell QC Megrahi’s release: Kenny MacAskill was right

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