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 NEWS 15 Oct 2008 Megrahi appeal to extend beyond 5 grounds of miscarriage referral

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PostSubject: NEWS 15 Oct 2008 Megrahi appeal to extend beyond 5 grounds of miscarriage referral   Thu Oct 16, 2008 1:16 am

At a procedural hearing conducted just minutes ago, the High Court has ruled that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmad Al Megrahi may proceed with his second appeal against conviction on more grounds that those ennumerated by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In 2007 the SCCRC decided that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in his case, citing only 5 reasons for its referral, relating principally to the manner of the identification of Megrahi by one trial witness in Malta.

The SCCRC referral was unusual in that it went to exceptional lengths to make sweeping criticisms of the accumulated investigations into the case undertaken by journalists over almost twenty years, and published accounts of eyewitnesses and individuals who offered testimony not heard by the Zeist trial.

Today's decision allows Megrahi's appeal to consider other grounds beyond those singled out by the SCCRC. Megrahi's present stated grounds of appeal run to 317 pages.

"They include (sometimes reformulated) matters considered by the Commission but not included in its reasons for making the reference; they also include matters not raised with or discussed by the Commission," the court said.

"The appellant is entitled to have his stated grounds of appeal decided by the court on their respective merits."

A summary of the decision can be read below., and the full decision appears here:

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2008HCJAC58.html

Today the Court issued its Opinion in relation to the scope of the appeal and, in particular, whether Mr Megrahi is entitled to include in his grounds of appeal grounds not centred on or giving expression to the reasons given by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in its reference. Following submissions the court has now ruled that the appellant is entitled to have his stated grounds of appeal decided by the court on their respective merits.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred to this court the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed Al Megrahi. The reference document runs to 790 pages. In it detailed consideration is given to a wide range of representations made on behalf of the applicant (the present appellant), as well as to the Commission’s own investigations. Some of these representations found favour with the Commission; others did not. In making the reference the Commission identified five reasons which led it to believe that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred. These reasons are set out in Chapters 21 to 25 inclusive of the reference document.

The appellant has, within the time limit specified by the Act of Adjournal, lodged grounds of appeal. These run to 317 pages. They include (sometimes reformulated) matters considered by the Commission but not included in its reasons for making the reference; they also include matters not raised with or discussed by the Commission.

The Crown contends that the appellant can not, as of right, require the court to entertain the full grounds of appeal lodged by him. While it is accepted that the court may, in the exercise of its discretion, entertain any of the grounds tabled, it is contended that the appellant is not entitled to have entertained grounds going beyond the reasons stated by the Commission in their reference. The debate which we heard was concerned with discussion of that contention.

The court has heard wide-ranging submissions from the Crown and from the appellant’s counsel. The issue is one of statutory construction – in particular, the meaning and effect of section 194B(1) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, as amended by the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997. The arguments advanced by the parties and the court’s discussion of them are fully set out in the Opinion of the Court which is now available. The court’s conclusion is that, for the reasons given, it rejects the statutory construction urged by the Advocate depute and holds that the appellant is entitled to have his stated grounds of appeal decided by the court on their respective merits. The mechanisms which the court will adopt for the purpose of making such an adjudication will require to be considered in due course. Whether it is desirable, having regard to among other things the use of judicial resources, that a reference appellant should have unrestricted scope in what he lays before the court for adjudication is a matter for Parliament; but this court must apply the statute as presently framed.

The court will put the case out for a procedural hearing at which it will consider parties’ proposals for the management of this complex appeal.

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2008HCJAC58.html
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