A twentieth anniversary

On 21 December 2008 it was twenty years since PanAm Flight 103 from London to New York fell to earth at Lockerbie, killing 259 passengers and crew as well as 11 people on the ground.

Scots Law News has chosen not to report in detail and as they happen the intensifying twists and turns of the legal proceedings during the run-up to the twentieth anniversary.  In part this has been because we prefer to discuss the overall picture once it is reasonably clear, and as yet the outcome of the reference to the High Court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission remains deeply uncertain.  Although the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled on 15 October 2008 that all the issues raised by Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in his appeal would be considered, no final decision has yet been taken on the claim of public interest immunity from disclosure of certain documents apparently relevant to the appeal.  Scots Law News understands from the BBC News website and other sources that the Court has appointed a “special defender” to review the documents in question and report on which, if any, of them should be released; but that process has yet to be completed so far as we know.  Then there is the further complication that Megrahi is suffering from prostate cancer said to be terminal, although Scots Law News is not aware of any authoritative statement about his life expectancy.  An attempt to procure his release from Greenock Prison on compassionate grounds was rejected by the Court on 14 November, and there the matter rests for the moment. 

The debate about the Lockerbie proceedings has, sadly, been deeply polarised for many years.  All the protagonists have in common is a passionate belief in justice: one side for the 270 whose lives were taken suddenly and with violence in 1988, the other for a man who may just possibly be serving a prison sentence for a crime he did not commit.  Both things should be intolerable in a decent society, and we can be certain that this is also the genuine belief of all those who have taken part in the court proceedings on this matter over the last decade.  At the very least, therefore, let the extreme improbability that the bombing of PanAm Flight 103 was the work of one man working alone be admitted on all sides.  Perhaps then we will see in 2009 some final resolution of this terrible affair that will allow us all to think that, although the heavens fell, justice was served so far as humans could do it.