Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Security-vetted advocates abomination

[What follows is excerpted from an article headlined Lockerbie ruling on disclosure may see Scots stripped of their lawyers in controversial court cases that was published on Peter Cherbi’s website A Diary of Injustice in Scotland on this date in 2008:]

Yesterday in The Herald newspaper, there was a report of an alarming development in the Lockerbie case, where the Lord Advocate will go to Court to have special "security vetted' advocates represent Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi in the hearing to decide if confidential documents are to be made public which may have a significant bearing on Mr Megrahi's conviction for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

From The Herald story :

"The Crown Office will ask judges to bypass the defence team of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and appoint special security-vetted advocates to represent him in a court hearing to decide whether a previously confidential document should be made public.

If the bid for a closed-door session is successful, it would be the first time in Scotland that such a step has been taken in a criminal case."

Such a move does indeed appear to be a first in Scots Law ... but all things being equal these days, such a power granted to the Crown to remove an accused's legal representation in favour of one it feels 'comfortable with' could so easily be used at will in attempts to stall or simply close down cases which involve serious injustice.

It boils down to this - If the Lord Advocate gains the power to strip a defendant's lawyers in favour of Crown "vetted" or appointed legal agents, any defendant in a case subsequently before the court in a criminal matter could face the possibility to lose their legal team simply on the basis that issues contained in their case are not in the public or Crown's interest to be examined with any regard to a person's right to a fair hearing and once that power is granted, it is there to be used any time, as the Lord Advocate feels applicable.

So ... Crown doesn't like your lawyer, but you might stand a chance of winning a case or perhaps an appeal against a wrongful conviction, showing the Crown case up or proving evidence is withheld ... Crown applies the procedure to you, you lose your own lawyer and one, perhaps less willing to push your case, is appointed.

[RB: The article in The Herald can be read here. The court eventually decided -- quite wrongly, in my view -- that a special security-vetted advocate should be appointed.]

1 comment:

  1. It is fundamental that a defendent are allowed to manage his own defense and that the material brought against him is of manageable character and volume.

    This right of management also includes that the defendent freely can choose the people wants to work with.

    Of course it raises a security issue, but a standard Scottish lawyer should be plenty secure enough?
    If not, then it must be a case against specific chosen lawyers with reasons given, e.g. "We can not trust lawyer N in this case...", similar to the way members of a jury can be deselected by both parties.

    Not just "We bypass all of them and select our own people".