A miscarriage of justice may have occurred in the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the Lockerbie bombing, a review has found.
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) has referred his case to the High Court, paving the way for a posthumous appeal.
It ruled the review of Megrahi’s conviction met two statutory tests for referral – it may have been a miscarriage of justice and it is in the interests of justice to refer it back to the court.
The application to the SCCRC was made by lawyer Aamer Anwar on behalf of Megrahi’s family and was supported by some families of those who died in the 1988 disaster.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York four days before Christmas in 1988, killed 259 people on board.
A further 11 people in the Dumfries and Galloway town died when the plane crashed into their homes in Britain’s largest terrorist atrocity.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Megrahi was the only person convicted of the bombing, having been found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years.
The SCCRC said it now believes a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in Megrahi’s case on two of the six grounds considered in the review, these being unreasonable verdict and non-disclosure.
On the issue of unreasonable verdict, the commission said a miscarriage of justice may have occurred because no reasonable trial court, relying on the evidence led at trial, could have held the case against Megrahi was proved beyond reasonable doubt.
On the issue of non-disclosure, it said the Crown ought to have disclosed certain information to the defence and also its failure to disclose information about reward money bolsters the conclusion he was denied a fair trial.
Bill Matthews, chairman of the SCCRC, said: “This is the second time that the commission has carried out what I believe has been a rigorous and independent review of this particular conviction, and we note that since our last review further information has become available, including within the public domain, which the commission has now been able to consider and assess.
“As the chair of the SCCRC in 2007 said when the case was originally referred, our function is not to decide upon the guilt or innocence of an applicant.
“Our function is to examine the grounds of review identified and to decide whether any of the grounds meet the statutory test for a potential miscarriage.”
Megrahi died in 2012 after being released from prison early on compassionate grounds.
Mr Anwar said he was instructed by the family of Megrahi and also supported by Dr Jim Swire, father of Flora Swire – who was aged 23 when she died in the bombing – along with Rev John Mosey whose daughter Helga Mosey, 19, also died on the flight.
Megrahi’s first appeal against his conviction was refused by the High Court in 2002.
His case was referred back to the High Court in 2007 for a new appeal, following a review by the SCCRC.
He abandoned this appeal in 2009, shortly before his release from prison.
In 2014, a new application to the SCCRC was made on Megrahi’s behalf but the following year the commission decided it was not in the interests of justice to proceed with a review of Megrahi’s conviction, citing difficulties accessing defence documents.
The latest application to the SCCRC was lodged in 2017.