Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 20 August 2009

Scotland sends a convicted murderer home "to die"

(Please see UPDATE at end)

I watched poor Kenny MacAskill MSP (Scottish Justice Secretary in the SNP Scottish Executive) stand up today and spend a tediously long period trying to justify the unjustifiable. I have to say that whilst watching him read out his statement I had a sneaking admiration for his even delivery and stamina - as if he thought that D..R..A..G..G..I..N..G out his statement for so long would confuse the issue.

If the verdict of guilty against Megrahi is unsafe, as some seem to believe, then the evidence against him needs to be re-examined carefully and dispassionately - and this could have been done many years ago if there was any substance to it; indeed two appeals have taken place already and been rejected. If his conviction was not unsafe, in other words if he was correctly convicted, then I think his sentence of life imprisonment should have meant just that. Until his conviction is overturned, for me he is guilty - and for Kenny MacAskill, too, on the basis of what he took so long to say today.

So, according to Mr MacAskill we in Scotland let people out of prison because they're going to die imminently, out of 'compassion'. I wrote my views about that here, when I made a passing reference to the Megrahi case. They are no different today now that the Megrahi case has hit the headlines. What about the people who were killed when that aeroplane blew up over Lockerbie - they didn't get to go home to die with their families! Nor for that matter, I expect, do other convicted criminals who happen to die of old age, or a heart attack, or a stroke, whilst in prison. We are all going to die some day - it's part of human existence, indeed of every living creature. The fact that someone happens to be dying of some incurable disease in prison does not make them any more deserving of 'compassion' than any other criminal serving a prison sentence who happens to be going to die there.

MacAskill waffled on for ages trying to confuse the issue by dragging out his decision not to grant release under the Prisoner Transfer Scheme with Libya agreed by the UK government, when the Scottish Executive (aka 'Government') had sought an exemption for Scotland for any Lockerbie convictee (i.e. Megrahi), when that decision had no bearing - apart from trying to make yet another tedious political propaganda point in the SNP's campaign to sow dissent wiith the UK government - on the decision he took to release Megrahi on grounds of 'compassion', saying it was in a noble Scottish tradition. It's not one I've ever heard of. My analysis of this is that it is yet another example of the SNP Scottish Executive playing yet another cyncial game to try and wrong-foot the UK Government by strutting its devolved power before the world. Mind you it's no different than the cackeyed reasons Jack Straw, UK Justice Secretary, gave for releasing Biggs 'to die'. I'd rather MacAskill and Straw excercised compassion in their own time, not on my behalf. Pass the sick bag, Alice!

And we have, as any fool could have predicted, this criminal being given a hero's welcome back in Libya and using our Scottish Saltire as part of a crude propaganda exercise. Well done Mr MacAskill! I'll need that sick bag again, Alice!

PS/ To me, just to be clear, it's completely irrelevant that the US government objected vociferously to the prospect of Megrahi being sent back to Libya. We have our legal system and they have their's and they have done many things in recent years which have been found by many in this country to be revolting or merely unjust in recent years, and precious little notice have they taken of the views and sensibilities of what is supposed to be their closest ally in the world. The fact that there is a different Administration in the US today has not changed the fact that Guantanamo remains open and that the US is, many believe, still consigning people they capture to treatment that wouldn't be tolerated on US soil. I am very pro-American, but rank hypocrisy makes me heave!

UPDATE: (Sunday 23AUG09 14.10 BST) One of the other Nairn bloggers, Graisg, kindly wrote a brief article in his blog to alert his readers to my article; he expressed no view about what I had written. I placed a comment in his comment for that article to thank him for high-lighting my blog (obviously it has increased 'hits' here, specially from local people, although most of the 'hits' seem anyway to have come from the US). However, a number of the comments there were, ahem, somewhat uncomplimentary about me and I planned to post my own further comment there - however Graisg had closed off comments because of the nature of some of the earlier comments (I think) so I have written a new article here, which includes word-for-word what would have been in my comment.


  1. Oh Bill, why did you have to resort to slagging off the SNP? If it had been a tory or libdem government in Holyrood they would have said exactly the same.

    The whole business is the result of Blair signing the PTA.

    You didn't mention MacAskill behaving like the Rev Jolly on a good day - so I will!

  2. Hi Subrosa

    Oh Bill, why did you have to resort to slagging off the SNP?

    Why? Because it resonates with my view of this sad (for Scotland) episode. I may not be an SNP supporter, but I like our Scottish Saltire and it pains me to see it being used in a triumphalist state-sponsored rally in Libya for a criminal who has been released on 'compassionate' grounds. Anyone could have foreseen this happening.

    I do not agree with the whole concept of releasing a criminal purely on grounds of 'compassion'. My view in the Biggs case was precisely the same.

    Having listened to both Mr MacAskill yesterday and Mr Salmond today (on the radio) I will say this, though: it was a very difficult decision and would have been unpopular in some quarters whatever choice had been made. This is clear. It really all boiled down to whom one wished to upset and whose views one wished to favour.

    The only grounds, and overwhelmingly strong grounds they would have been, for releasing him should have been if Megrahi had won an appeal against his conviction, a route which had already been tried on his behalf and failed.

  3. It must be nice to be a really controversial criminal. You get all these special perks. But if you just happen to be a lowly drug dealer or thief, then nobody cares if you rot in prison.

    It makes a mockery of our justice system. One rule for one, the "visible" criminals, and one rule for another, the mediocre criminal.

    The only way someone should get out of prison is through serving their time, the probation system or by a judicial review (i.e. a successful appeal proving their innocence). If we are to release them on compassionate grounds then our prisons are pretty pointless.

    And you know my feelings on the SNP. ;)

  4. The most disgraceful part of his disgraceful preformance over the past few weeks was, when asked if he sympathized with American opposition, he said summat along the lines of "we have different values".

    That alone should be enough to call for his resignation. The reason Americans were against this was that they lost *hundreds* of friends and relatives. But, it wasn't an aeroplane load of human beings blown-up at 31,000 feet - many regaining consciousness during the fall - it was just Americans.

    Subrosa, maybe this was a hot potato passed by Blair, but that's the bummer about political responsibility which the pygmies in the SNP Administration seem to think they can separate from influence.

    There was no requirement to release al-Megrahi. He lost his right to die with his family when he was convicted of murdering 270 people. He received compassion when he was not executed. He received compassion when he was not tortured or thrown into a rat-infested cell, as happened with those HIV doctors/nurses in Libya. He received compassion when he received medical care. He received compassion when his family was allowed to visit.

    As if I could not detest the petty-minded bigotry which the Snuppies tap into, and their appropriation of the Saltire, I was repulsed by the sight of its being flown at the hero's welcome he received in Tripoli.

    Funnily, Macaskill doesn't think he should meet with the family of Kevin McLeod, almost certainly murdered in 1997 at Wick and which the Police botched in their investigation.

    A few years back, a previously respected buisnessman it the Highlands received a diagnosis of rapid-onset terminal cancer and went on a spree, molesting local kids in street. Perhaps Macaskill would have argued for a non-custodial sentance.

    He's a failed politican and a failed human being. He should resign.

  5. This will all have a small sequel in the Scottish Parliament on Monday. I predict the opposition will make a mess of it, the First Minister is simply too smart for the lot of them.
    Attack the SNP if you like but look how the media are showing pictures of Blair and Brown, smiling and shaking hands with Gadaffi!

  6. Hi Graisg

    Oh, I'm sure you're correct, no-one should ever underestimate Salmond; he's a clever man and an astute politician. MacAskill on the other hand - well probably I'll keep my counsel on that as I already indicated my sentiments in my article. It will be victory in the SP on Monday, almost certainly, for them - if 'victory' in such a situation is entirely savoury.

    However, I think any Scottish minister, or the First Minister, trying to arrange an official visit to Washington and wanting top-level meetings will probably be given a rather brutal brush-off for a while. I didn't like the American attempt to interfere in our justice system either, even though I disagree strongly with the decision made, but it was our's to make. But I think it inevitable that the Americans will extract some kind of 'veangeance' in due course.

  7. Just watched some skynews Bill. They are getting very excited about 'Son of Gadaffi' and some comment he seems to have made about the release being part of a trade deal. Skillful spin into an already febrile environment?

  8. What do you say to the contention, Bill, not put by me, incidentally but by my guest blogger, that the bomber may have had a miscarriage of justice?

  9. Hello James

    In many criminal cases the evidence is circumstantial and is open to question.

    I do not presume to know what the outcome of the trial might have been had the trial taken place before a jury, rather than before a panel of judges - I think because of the special circumstances of the trial having to take place on specially-designated 'Scottish soil' (courtesy of the Dutch government) in the Netherlands, rather in Scotland itself. However, that was the mechanism that was laboriously agreed with the Libyan authorities before they agreed to exradite Mr al-Megrahi to Scottish custody and trial under Scots Law.

    I wrote my view of the circumstances you alluded to in the second paragraph of my article. It is a fact that al-Megrahi withdrew his most recent appeal (previous appeals had proved unsuccessful), apparently because of his terminal illness. It is a horrible situation, I totally agree.

    Are all convicted criminals who are unfortunate enough to contract a terminal illness to be released from incareceration to 'die with their families'? That seems to be the implication of your view as I recall it in the Ronnie Biggs case. Should all very elderly convicts, even if not terminally ill, be released late in life? Why should the fact of a convict having contracted a dreadful disease give them special privileges which criminals who have also committed heinous crimes, but who will in the normal course of events expect to die in prison?

    None of these questions is easy. Perhaps we should consider some form of release for all elderly and infirm convicts who could in all probability not do anyone any harm in the future?

    Pending such a general change I don't see why people like al-Megrahi and Biggs should be treated differently than any other convict.


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