Home > Law > Lockerbie bomber release – WHO should have made decision?

Lockerbie bomber release – WHO should have made decision?


Much of the discussion around the release of the Lockerbie bomber has focused on the questions of “Should he have been released?” and “Why was he released?” – Was there a case for compassionate release? Should we ever release prisoners on compassionate grounds? Did Gordon Brown put pressure on the Scottish Government? Was there some kind of deal with Libya?

I’d like to talk about something else: who made the decision to release Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?

The decision to release al-Megrahi was made by Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice and an elected Member of the Scottish Parliament. A politician. And there’s the rub: as long as a politician is the final decision maker over the liberty or detention of an individual, that decision is politicised. The decision maker is subject to political pressure, and even if they act with absolute integrity, they are subject to political backlash and accusations of political bias.

It is just plain wrong that a politician can decide to release or further detain a prisoner. Such decisions should be made by the judiciary (or in the case of parole, by the parole board).

The decision about whether to release al-Megrahi should have been made by a judge, or a panel of judges.

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  1. Charles Norrie
    Jul 17, 2010 at 11:57

    Look, the courts under Scottish law have no prerogative in this decision. It was that of Mr Macaskill. If there are those who are unsatisfied with the powers of the Scottish courts and members of the Scottish Executive they are entitled to campaign to change that, but unless they happen to have the right to vote in Scotland that can take no part in redefining those powers, and then only by voting in candidates sympathetic to that revision of powers and by legislation at Holyrood. Scotland is a fully functioning democracy, whatever some who blog here may think, and democracy has its own rules; not government by judges or the mob.

    I feel certain that if the decision had been made by the Scottish courts and not Macaskill, the decision would still have been to return the man. It would be a foolish court that did not pay attention to the considered opinion of the prison medical service.

    I suppose US citizens might start a campaign to have Megrahi extradited to the USA. They will get not support from the State Department (whatever the rhetoric) who are eager to continue to cover up their own wrong-doing over Lockerbie.

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