Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit

Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit

The Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit was established within the School of Law of the University of Glasgow in the autumn of 1998 to provide a resource for those with an active interest in the trial of the two Libyan suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988. The School of Law determined that it should apply its expertise to assisting those with a professional or personal interest in the trial to understand its legal dimensions. This was, after all, destined to be the international trial of the decade and the Scottish trial of the century. The trial was regularly attended by members of the unit.

The Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit is independent of any governmental or public organisation and was set up to give impartial guidance to those who wish to know about the law and procedure surrounding the trial.

The academic contact for the LTB Unit is:

Professor Jim Murdoch, Professor of Public Law. Email:

Current Updates

The Second Appeal

28 April 2009

The Appeal started in Edinburgh. Mr Megrhi’s team of lawyers, led by Miss Scott, QC, argued that the guilty verdict delivered by the Trial Court, was unreasonable. This submission was based on s.106(3)(b) of the Criminal procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. This submissions generally used in respect of jury verdicts, namely that no reasonable jury, properly instructed, could have delivered the verdict they did. This submission was available historically in Scotland from 1926 until 1980 and then re-introduced by the 1995 Act. The legal framework of s.106 provides that the Appeal Court can review the reasonableness of a verdict even where there is a technical sufficiency of evidence (King v HM Advocate 1999 JC 226). The provisions of  s.106 have been successfully employed in the cases of AJE v HM Advocate 2002 JC 215 and Rooney v HM Advocate 2007 SCCR 49.

Whilst it has been difficult to convince the Appeal Court to overturn a jury verdict in cases to date, Mr Megrahi is seeking to overcome a much greater hurdle. This arises from the fact that there was no jury in his case but instead a panel of 3 judges, who saw and heard all of the evidence and delivered a verdict. Miss Scott did argue that High Court judges are not experienced in the role of jurors. The issue before the court is whether NO reasonable jury could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the appellant’s guilt. If the court accepts this, they must overturn the verdict of the court. Their analysis considers whether a jury could be satisfied by the evidence that was heard at trial rather than whether the Appeal Judges themselves are satisfied by that evidence i.e. the Appeal Court does not attempt to substitute its own view of the evidence.

It is important to note that the issue of the verdict being unreasonable was not raised at the first appeal where the appellant’s legal team indicated that they accepted there was sufficient evidence. Miss Scott has stated that she does not accept that there was sufficient evidence. She made reference to the fact that the trial was unique in that the judges gave their reasons for reaching the verdict that they did. This does not normally happen in a jury trial. It is therefore known which evidence was relied upon by the trial judges and which evidence was rejected. Miss Scott argued that if one knows how a verdict was reached, then one can consider defects in that verdict and whether it was reasonable. The bench suggested that this was not sufficient to set aside the verdict. Miss Scott suggested otherwise on the basis that if a flaw in the evidence was material to the verdict, then no reasonable jury could return that verdict. Miss Scott further argued that a verdict can not be reasonable if it is made to rest on findings of fact that are demonstrably incompatible with evidence accepted or rejected by the court.

The first day of the appeal focused on the provisions of s.106 and reviewed the approach adopted in other jurisdictions to overturning jury verdicts. The Appeal continues.

Clare Connelly
Director, Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit

29 April 2009

Prisoner Transfer Agreement

The Prisoner Transfer Agreement signed by the UK and Libya on 17 November 2008, has been ratified by both countries. This allows Libyan prisoners to apply for transfer where the offence involved would constitute a criminal offence in the other jurisdiction; where the judgement is final; and where the person concerned has at least six months of the sentence left to serve. A transfer requires the consent of both states.

Whilst all judicial proceedings in relation to that individual require to be exhausted before a transfer can take place, it appears that it is possible to apply for transfer even when judicial proceedings may be ongoing. Given the recent diplomatic activity between the Scottish, UK and Libyan Governments, an application for transfer by Mr Megrahi would not be surprising.

Details of Transfer of Prisoners Agreement can be found at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office web site.

Clare Connnelly
Director, Lockerbie Trial Briefing Unit

6 May 2009

 The Libyan Government have applied for Mr Megrahi to be transferred to Libya under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement that was ratified last week. The Prisoner Transfer Agreement allows for either of the governments to apply for the transfer without a prisoner’s consent. In this case, however, as Mr Megrahi has ongoing judicial proceedings in the form of his second appeal, he can not be transferred unless he chooses to abandon that appeal. The ratification of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement has been preceded by diplomatic activity which indicated that an application for transfer was pending. If and when Mr Megrahi will choose to abandon his appeal is as yet unknown.