South Scotland

'No prosecution' if Lockerbie bomber review published

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi
Image caption Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison suffering from cancer

Members of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission would not be charged for publishing its report into the Lockerbie bomber's conviction, Scotland's chief prosecutor has said.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was found guilty of carrying out the 1988 bombing.

His conviction had been referred to the Appeal Court but was dropped when he was given compassionate release.

The publication of a SCCRC report where the appeal of an accused person has not been upheld is forbidden by law.

However, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland said that while it was an offence for the commission to disclose information obtained in its investigations, he considered "it would not be in the public interest to prosecute, given the selective publication" in the media.

Libyan Megrahi, 59, was convicted in January 2001 of carrying out the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people.

Statement of reasons

The SCCRC took four years to consider the Lockerbie bomber's case.

It produced an 821-page document which referred Megrahi's conviction back to the Appeal Court for the second time.

The document - called a statement of reasons - has never been published even though Megrahi abandoned his appeal shortly before he was allowed to return home to Libya in August 2009 because he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is still alive.

The SCCRC's report identified six areas of Megrahi's case where it believed there may have been a miscarriage of justice.

The Scottish government said it wanted to publish the SCCRC report but was being prevented by data protection rules.

The UK government's Home Office said data protection was a matter reserved to Westminster.

A Crown Office spokesperson said: "The Crown has repeatedly made it clear that it has no objection in principle to the publication of the SCCRC Statement of Reasons in the Megrahi case.

"Following the recent selective and misleading reporting of the Statement of Reasons - which would have been properly argued in court had Megrahi not chosen to abandon his second appeal - the lord advocate wishes to ensure that there are no perceived barriers to publication, beyond the proper legal requirements which the commission must take into account in publishing the document."

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill welcome the move.

He said: "The lord advocate's letter is a very good development, and hopefully a significant step forward in achieving publication of the SCCRC report - we are doing everything we can to enable publication of the report, as it is the Scottish government's aim that the Statement of Reasons is in the public domain as soon as possible.

"Recent media reports based on selective sections of the Statement of Reasons make it imperative that everyone is in a position to see the report in full."

Mr MacAskill said he hoped the data protection issues would not be a barrier to publication.

He said: "Scottish ministers are clear that we want this report in the public domain."

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