Earlier in the week I ploughed through the Guardian website reading articles on Lockerbie. As well as reporting various comments for contempt of court related reasons I stumbled across a fascinating piece by a Geoffrey Robertson QC.
You might have heard Geoffrey Robertson QC on the radio or seen him on TV during the past week. The highly distinguished English human rights lawyer has transmogrified into a Lockerbie expert, his views sought by the London based media because
they can’t be bothered to find the names of good Scottish advocates of his vast and extensive expertise in the Scottish legal system..
Mr Robertson has made a point of approving the original Megrahi decision and condemning the action of Kenny MacAskill in releasing Mr Megrahi. His argument, and Lockerbie expertise, are so persuasive that he won over some commenters to The Guardian website. Clearly a man with such expertise and QC after his name must know what he’s talking about.
So let us examine his extensive knowledge of the Lockerbie case
"I have read the judgment of the Lockerbie court and the two appeal judgments upholding it and al-Megrahi’s guilt seems plain beyond reasonable doubt. "
Well, that seems quite persuasive. An English lawyer – indeed a senior and very well-respected English lawyer has taken the time to read the Lockerbie judgment and the two appeal judgments and is convinced that Megrahi is guilty. My regular reader will know that I have no firm views on megrahi’s guilt. I think there was enough revealed in the judgment to construct a case of guilt, but not being there and hearing the evidence it’s hard to know. But Mr Robertson has read the original court judgment and two appeals and is convinced of Megrahi’s guilt.
Sadly for the learned gentleman there is one problem.
Now, here is where you find the Lockerbie judgment (the court chaired by Lord Sutherland).
And here is where you find the appeal judgment (a five judge bench chaired by the Lord Justice General)
if you’re interested in the background to the Megrahi case read both. They’re very informative.
But where is the second appeal judgment referred to by the learned mr Robertson?
Do you know?
Have you guessed yet? I’ll leave it a few lines for you to think about it.
So, have you worked it out yet? Where does this second appeal judgment exist? Well, my loyal reader, it exists in mr Robertson QC’s head – because there was no second appeal. There have been procedural hearings in the now dropped second appeal – and Professor Black has covered those in his blog. But as for anything that can persuade or dissuade of guilt, well I’m afraid it doesn’t exist.
So, Mr Robertson QC’s Lockerbie expertise is slightly misleading. Now this isn’t to criticise his arguments on international human rights law. That is a far away legal area of which I know little. But surely getting such a fundamental fact relating to the case wrong is something that ought to be drawn to reader attention to allow proper consideration of a piece by a well-regarded and persuasive individual.
Given that the Guardian has a proud record in correcting factual errors I wrote to their readers editor seeking correction. My hugely inflammatory correspondence read as follows:
"In Geoffrey Robertson Qc’s article on Saturday about the release of Mr megrahi by Kenny MacAskill at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/aug/22/lockerbie-bomber-megrahi-release-debate?commentpage=3 he wrongly states that
I received the standard automatic reply (from a do not reply e-mail address) and waited.
It will perhaps surprise you to know that The Guardian have not – on the webpage or in the newspaper - corrected the error. Perhaps it’s too trivial. or is it too embarrassing to point out to a senior English QC that he didn’t know what he was writing about, in commenting on the legal proceedings in a faraway court system of which he (apparently) knows little.
Anyway, I have written again.
Funnily enough there’s been no reply and no correction.
So, why do you think the Guardian won’t correct Geoffrey Robertson QC’s error?
I’d be grateful for any suggestions.