Advice Sought On Lockerbie Appeal

22 December 2014, 13:02 | Updated: 22 December 2014, 13:06

A petition has been lodged with the High Court in Edinburgh to determine if an appeal against the Lockerbie bomber's conviction can be taken forward by relatives of some of those killed in the attack.

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) confirmed it is seeking the opinion of judges in relation Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's case.

The Libyan, who protested his innocence until he died in his home country in 2012, remains the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

It exploded over the town in Dumfries and Galloway on December 21 1988, killing all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground.

Megrahi was convicted of their murder and jailed for life in 2001, losing his first appeal against the mass murder conviction the following year.

An investigation by the SCCRC led to a finding in 2007 of six grounds where it is believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, paving the way for a second appeal.

But the Libyan dropped that appeal in 2009 before being released from jail by the Scottish Government on compassionate grounds in light of his terminal prostate cancer.

Previous court decisions have only allowed the executor of a dead person's estate or their next of kin to proceed with such a posthumous application.

The SCCRC now wants to determine if a member of the victims' families - such as Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the bombing - might be classed as a "person with a legitimate interest to pursue an appeal" if the case is referred back to the High Court.

Dr Swire founded the 'Justice for Megrahi' group and has spent many years campaigning to clear the Libyan's name.

The SCCRC received an application to review the conviction from solicitor Aamer Anwar earlier this year.

Chief Executive Gerald Sinclair said that since June it had proceeded on the basis that Megrahi's family are involved in the present application.

But he said: "Despite the Commission's repeated requests, the members of the Megrahi family have failed to provide appropriate evidence to support this position.

"The Commission has now reached the conclusion that the current application is being actively supported only by the members of the victims' families, who would no doubt be prepared to pursue an appeal if allowed to do so.

"The aim of the petition is to seek the advice of the court on whether members of the victims' families would be entitled to pursue an appeal on behalf of Mr Megrahi if the Commission ultimately decided to refer the current application, as previous court decisions have restricted this role to executors and the 'next of kin' of the convicted person."

The SCCRC was set up as an independent body in 1999 to review alleged miscarriages of justice in Scotland, referring cases to the High Court for an appeal if it believes this is the case.

Mr Sinclair said there were "a number of preliminary matters that the Commission needs to determine" before it can decide whether or not to accept Megrahi's case for a full review.

He added: "One of these is the need for the Commission to be satisfied that, in the event of a referral, someone with the right to do so will be willing and able to pursue the appeal."