Sunday, 23 August 2015

Willie Macrae: Calum Retires

 I've decided that I'm retiring from active service.

 It's time for a different approach with newer participants.

 I've been thinking about this for some time but I decided yesterday.

 

I realised that I was writing for headlines.  I pride myself on my neutrality.  I couldn’t continue like this.  It's better I opt out now rather than battling this drift. Had I continued I would simply have been putting off the necessary decision.

 I have enjoyed my investigations, enjoyed the time - massive time - I've spent immersed in this, but I've done my bit.

 So, I walk away
 .... sad that there is so much to be done;
 .... delighted I've made a contribution;
 .... and delighted again that there is a team moving forward towards justice.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Willie McRae Part 35: FOI Criminal Offence Committed?


A few days ago, in Part 34, I considered the possibility that public bodies might, in their handling of FOI requests, commit a criminal offence by deliberately not releasing all the relevant information to which the applicant is entitled.

I have come across an example so apparently blatant a breach of the law that I am incredulous that no offence was committed.

How can this be?

Let me backtrack to my last post,

In Part 33 I wrote about Paul Delamore’s victory in having the Scottish Information Commissioner decide that Police Scotland should release the information he had requested.


My analysis was incomplete.  I had ignored a key part of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 – FOISA.  I hadn’t even read the relevant section.  I must also say that I didn’t recognise my omission: a friend had to point this out to me.
The crucial part is Section 65




Basically this says that if an applicant is not given all the information to which he or she is entitled then, if the act is deliberate, the person responsible is guilty of a criminal offence.  The highlighted paragraph lists ways in which a person may prevent full release:

alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals
The penalty for conviction?  A fine not exceeding £5000!


My reading of this section was that if relevant information, which was known by the public body to exist, was deliberately withheld from the applicant then a crime was committed.


I suspect the actual meaning is that if a person, for example, deliberately conceals information so that it cannot be found by another public body official who is fulfilling an FOI request then a crime has been committed. 

If this were the correct interpretation then, shockingly, a person who deliberately concealed the existence of information from the applicant would be guilty of no offence.

Let me tell you about Northern Constabulary deliberately concealing the existence of information from an applicant and, as far as I can see, no crime was committed.

You will not be surprised that this case involved Willie Macrae and you’ll be pleased that we don’t have to delve into many details.

David Leslie and the Chief Constable of Northern Constabulary
Death of William MacRae [Source]


David Leslie, a journalist, took his request in 2007 to the Scottish Information Commissioner because he was dissatisfied with the response from Northern  Constabulary.


He lost on every important point, winning only the small victory of Northern Constabulary having to show him their collection of press cuttings of the case!

Mr Leslie’s request was simple but very wide-ranging,

Mr David Leslie emailed Northern Constabulary requesting all documents, reports and relevant material concerning any investigations by Northern Constabulary into the death in April 1985 of William MacRae.

My reading of this is that Mr Leslie wanted to see the entire Macrae file.

Northern Constabulary’s first response was,
Northern Constabulary responded, advising Mr Leslie that the information was otherwise accessible via the Northern Constabulary Publication Scheme, citing section 25(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
In 2005, Northern Constabulary released limited information – here - about which this blog is replete.  They tell Mr Leslie that the released information is the entirety of the information they hold which is relevant to Mr Leslie’s request.  To anyone familiar with the released information this is clearly nonsensical.

Mr Leslie, as he was due, asked Northern Constabulary to carry out an internal review.  They then responded,
Northern Constabulary contacted Mr Leslie again and elaborated on the earlier response. This advised that not all the information relating to Mr Leslie's request had been disclosed and concluded by citing various exemptions to justify not releasing that information.

What was this additional information?
Northern Constabulary advised that, in addition to the information already published on the website, the following items had not yet been released:
1) Book of photographs of deceased;
2) List of thirty four witnesses and thirty two witness statements;
3) Post Mortem report;
4) Newspaper cuttings;
5) Six documents relating to the investigation.
In their first response, Northern Constabulary concealed the existence of all this information from Mr Leslie.  That this was corrected during the internal review should be irrelevant: the initial concealment must have been deliberate, surely?


A crime was committed, surely?

Apparently not! The Commissioner wrote,

I find that the Chief Constable of Northern Constabulary generally complied with Part 1 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in responding [sic] the information request made by Mr Leslie.


No crime despite information being concealed initially!

How can this be?

There are two possible reasons. 

One I gave earlier

I suspect the actual meaning is that if a person, for example, deliberately conceals information so that it cannot be found by another public body official who is fulfilling an FOI request then a crime has been committed.  

If this were the correct interpretation then, shockingly, a person who deliberately concealed the existence of information from the applicant would be guilty of no offence.


The other possible?  No crime was committed because the initial concealment was reversed by the internal review.

If either of these reasons is correct then FOISA is NOT fit for purpose …..

….. BUT that is the system we have and we’ll use it to our fullest ability.


We will not be deflected.



_______________________________________________________________
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
_______________________________________________________________
COPYRIGHT
Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.
Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.
If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Willie McRae Part 34: FOI Risk of Criminal Offence


In Part 33 I wrote about Paul Delamore’s victory in having the Scottish Information Commissioner decide that Police Scotland should release the information he had requested.

My analysis was incomplete.  I had ignored a key part of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 – FOISA.  I hadn’t even read the relevant section.  I must also say that I didn’t recognise my omission: a friend had to point this out to me.

The crucial part is Section 65
FOISA S65
Basically this says that if an applicant is not given all the information to which he/she is entitled then, if the act is deliberate, the person responsible is guilty of a criminal offence.  The highlighted paragraph lists ways in which a person may prevent full release:
alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals”
The penalty for conviction?  A fine not exceeding £5000!

Now how MIGHT this apply to Delamore’s case?  I am being very careful here.  I allege no wrong-doing. All I do is to highlight what hypothetically might have happened.

In Part 33, I said that I did not believe that Police Scotland would tell a lie to Delamore but I said that I could imagine the whole truth not being revealed.  If my reading of Section 65 is correct then a person who did not reveal the entirety of the relevant part(s) of the police records would be guilty of a criminal offence.

Now let’s look again at the two questions I considered in Part 33.

Delamore’s Question 5
P33 I1
In the response there is no mention of what, if anything, happened on 7 April. 
Section 65 makes a huge potential difference here.
Imagine that the car was removed on 7 April as well as on 6 April and this fact was in the police records.  Under these circumstances, the person responsible for not revealing the details of the 7th would be guilty of a criminal offence.

Delamore’s Question 4
P33 I1
Delamore’s interest was to find out if the photographs were taken on the 7th.  If they were, then the car must have been returned to the scene.  All that is said in response is that the photographs were NOT taken before 1.50pm on 6 April.  There is no end time or date.  There is nothing about whether they were taken on the Saturday or Sunday or even, ridiculously, if they were taken in 2000.
Now imagine that, within the police files, there was information which indicated an end date or time.  Under these circumstances, the person responsible for not revealing the details of the 7th would be guilty of a criminal offence.

Has a criminal offence been committed?
I have no evidence of any crime and I hope none has been committed because the reputation of our justice system would be in tatters.  If lies could be told about a 30-year-old case what might be happening elsewhere?

I do hope, though, that Delamore will challenge the release of information to him if he hasn’t already done so.

Delamore’s victory has created a new situation in which Police Scotland and the Crown Office can no longer rely (automatically) on their claimed exemptions being upheld.  The door has been opened and I and others are trying to pour through. 

That same door brings Section 65 into play. 

I hope that none fall foul of it and all that should be revealed is.

Time will tell.

Interesting times!

_______________________________________________________________
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
_______________________________________________________________
COPYRIGHT
Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.
Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.
If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom

Friday, 7 August 2015

Willie McRae Part 33: Delamore’s FOI Victory ….


….  shatters the credibility of Police Scotland! poses important questions for Police Scotland.

Perhaps not.  It is Police Scotland’s response to the victory, rather than the victory itself, which shatters their own credibility asks the questions. 

I have quite deliberately left my original words visible because I am finding it very difficult to maintain the neutral stance which is crucial if I am to make the most of the evidence available.
__________________________________________________
Before I go further, I must thank and congratulate Paul Delamore for the work he has put into this subject but especially for making the FOI case to the Information Commissioner which led her to decide that Police Scotland was to release the information which he had requested.

I must also point out that Paul has written about Police Scotland’s response here and it is from the information in his post that I write today.

Well done and thanks, Paul!

__________________________________________________

I wrote about the background to this victory here.

Firstly, let’s look at Paul’s questions and Police Scotland’s response and then I’ll focus on two questions and their respective responses.

It is worth remembering that twice Police Scotland refused to release any information to Paul and it is only because Paul won his appeal to the Information Commissioner that Police Scotland were forced to release the necessary information.

P33 I1
[Paul’s questions in black and Police Scotland’s responses in blue]

You can read Paul’s thoughts on all 6 responses but I want to focus on only two: questions 5 and 4.

Delamore’s Question 5
P33 I1
Let me explain why I believe Paul asked this particular question but first I need to give a little background. Apologies if you know this already.

[Note: you will notice throughout this post that I am not definite about Delamore’s thinking or motives. Although he replied helpfully to my first two emails in April, he has neither replied nor acknowledged any email since, even when an email were congratulatory. I work within that constraint.]

Macrae and his car were found off-road during the morning of Saturday 6 April 1985.  He was taken to hospital, in Inverness and then in Aberdeen. His car was removed from the site and was in the West End garage in Fort Augustus at 3.30pm on the Saturday afternoon.  That time is confirmed by a signed, dated and timed police document.  Delamore knows of this timing. From information revealed under Question 1 we know that the car was removed to the garage before there was any knowledge that Macrae had been shot. 

For many years there have been rumours that, having been removed, the car was returned to the crash site, possibly so that the car could be photographed in situ.  As far as I am aware this rumour has never been confirmed or denied by the authorities.  Delamore and Semple in their recent, April 2015, Scotland on Sunday article claim to have three witnesses who state that the car was at the crash site on Sunday 7 April.

I think that Delamore, already knowing that the car was removed on the Saturday, strongly believed that the car was returned to the crash site on Sunday 7 April.  Therefore, I believe Delamore carefully and deliberately asked when the car was removed on Sunday 7 April.  I am convinced that Police Scotland would know the thinking behind Delamore’s question BUT Police Scotland ignored his question and answered a different one.

Note again how Police Scotland responded,
Records indicate that the car was moved some time between 2.00pm and 3.30 pm on 6 April 1985.
There is no mention of Sunday 7 April.  We already knew the car was removed on Saturday.  What we wanted to know was about the Sunday.  A straightforward response would have addressed Delamore’s question directly.

If, once the car was removed on the Saturday afternoon, it was never returned to the site Police Scotland could have said,
The car was not at the site on Sunday 7 April and, therefore, could not have been removed on that day.  Records indicate that the car was moved some time between 2.00pm and 3.30 pm on 6 April 1985..
Would this not have been a normal way to answer if the original premise [once the car was removed on the Saturday afternoon, it was never returned to the site]  were correct? 

BUT they didn’t.

Their answer leaves unaddressed totally the issue in which Delamore was interested.

Why would Police Scotland do this?

Even if the original premise were incorrect might we not have expected Police Scotland to have replied as I suggest a few lines above up?

No!

A public body might omit the whole truth in an answer; they may avoid answering a particular question but I believe that telling an outright lie is far too big a risk for any to take.

Therefore, if Police Scotland knew that the car was returned to the site and then removed again on Sunday 7 April they could NOT say otherwise.

Therefore, their only two options were to tell the truth or to side-step the question.

Police Scotland side-stepped Delamore’s question BUT this does not mean that the car was on site on Sunday and was removed later that day.  We might think this, believe this, be certain of this but we do not know why they avoided the simple question.

That Police Scotland chose to answer in the way they did reflects very poorly on them.  They have allowed doubts over the investigation and the openness of the authorities to grow when a simple answer would have helped their public image.

Delamore’s Question 4
P33 I1
Again, I can’t know Delamore’s exact reasoning for asking this question but I would imagine that it is aimed at uncovering whether or not the car was returned to the site.  We know the car was in Fort Augustus by 3.30pm on Saturday, 6 April.  Therefore, if the photographs were taken of the car in its original unmoved position then they must have been taken BEFORE 3.30pm.

If, however, the photographs were taken after 3.30pm on the Saturday, whether it be the Saturday, Sunday or other day, then the car was returned to the site.

When I read that Delamore had won his appeal to the Information Commissioner, I believed that we would know for certain if the car had ever been returned to the site but still we await clarity.

For his other questions Police Scotland has given either a specific time or a range of times between which an event occurred …. but not here. 

Police Scotland’s response is mind-boggling in its ambiguity!
Records indicate that the photographs were taken some time after 1.50pm on 6 April 1985.

What might their answer mean?

Is there confirmation that the photographs were taken on Saturday 6 April?  No!

We know they were NOT taken BEFORE 1.50pm on Saturday.  That is all we can say with certainty.  Noting else is ruled out. 

There is no certainty about the day.  Any time on Sunday or Monday, 7 and 8 April respectively, fit with the answer given.

There is no certainty about the month nor ridiculously about even the year.

The photographs were published in 2005 and so we know they were taken before then but the answer doesn’t rule out 2015 or even 2085.  This is obviously not credible.

Are Police Scotland really saying that there is nothing in their files which gives a latest possible date and time for the photographs?

Perhaps their answer is simply badly constructed and they meant that the photographs were taken on the Saturday at some time after 1.50pm.  That is possible but we can’t put that meaning into their answer.  We can’t put specificity into a vague reply.

But even if they meant that the photographs were taken on the Saturday at some time after 1.50pm their answer would be incomplete.  There is evidence which they have ignored.

Remember the reply to Delamore’s 5th question,
Records indicate that the car was moved some time between 2.00pm and 3.30 pm on 6 April 1985.” [Emphasis added]
The car was NOT at the crash site after 3.30pm on Saturday UNLESS it was returned to the scene.

If the car was NOT returned to the scene, the ONLY available slot for the photographs was between 1.50pm and 3.30pm on Saturday.

If the photographs were NOT taken within that slot then the car was returned to the scene

BUT there is no mention of this.

We have vagueness where we should have clarity.

We have doubt where we should have certainty.

That Police Scotland chose to answer in the way they did reflects very poorly on them.  They have allowed doubts over the investigation and the openness of the authorities to grow when a simple answer would have helped their public image.


Finally, let me recap where I believe we are after looking at only two of Delamore’s questions.

We know:
- the car was removed from the site between 2.00pm and 3.30pm on Saturday 6 April
- the photographs were taken some time after 1.50pm on Saturday 7 April
- Police Scotland did not answer Delamore’s 5th question but did answer a question of their own choosing
- Police Scotland left open-ended the timeframe for the photos
- Police Scotland gave specific times or time ranges for other events
- there is an unspecified event in the records which allows the police to state that the photos were taken after 1.50pm on the Saturday
- there is an unspecified event in the records which allows the police to state that the car was removed after 2pm on the Saturday

BUT we do NOT know
- if the car was returned to the scene
- the day on which the photos were taken
- what are the unspecified events (from above)
- why the answer to Delamore’s 4th question is as vague as it is when other evidence is available
- why Police Scotland did not answer Delamore’s 5th question but did answer a question of their own choosing

You may think that
- Police Scotland have answered the questions as fully as they could
- the lack of clarity is unintentional
- Police Scotland will contact Delamore with clarification
- when Police Scotland reply to my FOI they will remove all doubt
- the lack of clarity is deliberate
- Police Scotland did not want to say that the car was returned to the scene and that, therefore, the lack of clarity was necessary
I couldn’t possibly tell you what I think.

I must remain neutral.


_______________________________________________________________
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
_______________________________________________________________
COPYRIGHT
Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.
Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.
If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Willie McRae Part 32: Important FOI Victory!

 

At last, some more information is to be revealed .… but not much and not quite yet!

 Paul Delamore, one of the co-authors of the recent Scotland on Sunday article on Willie’s death, has won his appeal to the Information Commissioner over Police Scotland’s refusal to release information requested under our Freedom of Information Act, FOISA (2002).

 What did Delamore ask?

 Only six questions!

1 At what time on the 6th April 1985 were the police notified of a gunshot wound?
2 And at what time on the 6th April 1985 were the family of Mr Macrae notified about his situation?
3 I see that there is a date (7th April 1985) for the photos of the gun in the request. Could I please also get a time on when these were taken?
4 Following on from this, could I also please get the time/date of when the photographs of the car in the request were taken?
5 Could I also get the time of when the car was removed from the locus on the 7th April 1985?
6 On what date/time was the post-mortem conducted?

We don’t have that information yet but Police Scotland have been given until 4 August to provide it to Delamore,
The Commissioner therefore requires Police Scotland to disclose all of the withheld information to Mr Delamore by 4 August 2015.
I have emailed Police Scotland to find out when and where I will be able to access the information and I will write about this as soon as I am able.

The victory is not so much about the information to be made public but rather it is the reasons the Information Commissioner has given for ordering release which open the door to yet more requests.

BUT I must caution that release is dependent on the particular information requested.  Other cases may fall at the hurdles which Delamore cleared.

I apologise if you know this already but let me outline briefly how FOI works.  All information held by public bodies is available to the public unless it falls into specific categories which are deemed to be exempt from release.  All is not lost if information is exempt because, although some categories are ‘absolute’ (i.e the information CANNOT be released), others are ‘qualified’ which means that a public interest test must be applied.  If it is in the public interest that the information be released then it is released.

In Delamore’s appeal, the Information Commissioner concluded, for one of the exemptions claimed by Police Scotland, that the public interest lay in allowing release.
Commissioner’s considerations on Section 34(1)(b) of FOISA (Investigations by Scottish public authorities and proceedings arising out of such investigations)

31. The Commissioner acknowledges that when individuals provide information to Police Scotland to assist with any investigation (criminal or otherwise) they have an expectation that the information they provide will be held in confidence and will be used only for the purposes of a police investigation. The Commissioner notes that Police Scotland are concerned that if witness statements (or parts of witness statements) are disclosed in this case, this may reduce the public’s willingness to come forward in the future and assist Police Scotland with their investigations.

32. Police Scotland have provided evidence to show that the information requested by Mr Delamore is contained within witness statements. However, in this case, it is clear that Mr Delamore has not asked for any witness statements; he is merely asking for specific facts from Police Scotland’s investigation into the circumstances of Mr Macrae’s death. For example, Mr Delamore asked for the time a photograph of a gun was taken, the date and time that a post-mortem took place, and the time that police were notified of a gunshot wound. The Commissioner acknowledges that these facts are contained within witness statements, but she does not accept that their disclosure, in isolation from the context provided by the rest of the statement, would cause the type of harm cited by Police Scotland.

33. The Commissioner does not accept that disclosure of the requested information would have any impact on the public’s willingness to assist the police with future investigations. The Commissioner considers that none of the witnesses providing the statements containing the requested information could be identified from disclosure of the factual information Mr Delamore has requested. The information does not represent anyone’s views or recollections. Overall, the Commissioner is not persuaded that disclosure of the requested information in this case would dissuade anyone from co-operating with Police Scotland in any future incident.

34. The Commissioner agrees that “public interest” does not mean “of interest to the public” but “in the interest of the public”. However, in some circumstances it may be in the public interest to disclose information in which the public is interested: if, for example, disclosure would serve the general public interest that information is accessible, and therefore enhance scrutiny of decision-making processes and improve accountability.

35. The Commissioner is aware that the death of Mr Macrae has been subject to continuing speculation over the last 30 years and it is undoubtedly of interest to the public. Since his death, there has been a multitude of news stories raising questions over the official verdict of suicide. The investigation into Mr Macrae’s death was reviewed by the Crown Office in 2010/2011, and there is currently a public petition requesting a Fatal Accident Inquiry into his death, which has now gathered more than 10,000 signatures. The Commissioner notes that there has been a significant level of public distrust regarding the original investigation into the  death of Mr Macrae. She takes the view that disclosure of additional factual information about the case could be in the public interest, by helping to establish the known facts and, in doing so, perhaps help dispel public distrust.

36. On balance, the Commissioner finds that the public interest in maintaining the exemption in section 34(1)(b) of FOISA is not outweighed by the public interest in disclosure of the withheld information. Accordingly, the Commissioner requires Police Scotland to disclose to Mr Delamore all of the information falling within the scope of parts 1, 2, 4 and 5 of his request.

37. In this case, the information is factual and concise, and can be extracted easily from the documents. That being the case, the Commissioner considers it would be acceptable for Police Scotland to extract the information and summarise it in a single, separate, document, if they so wished. But Police Scotland must ensure that it is clear what information relates to which part of Mr Delamore’s information request.
Police Scotland also claimed that the date and time of Macrae’s post-mortem was exempt under section 39 of FOISA. The Commissioner judged that the information requested was not exempt because the necessary condition was not demonstrated (i.e. release of information 'would, or would be likely to, endanger the physical or mental health or the safety of an individual' [FOISA 2002]).  

Because she so ruled there was no need to apply the public interest test.

The Commissioner’s reasoning was as follows.
Commissioner’s conclusions on section 39(1) of FOISA
45. The Commissioner has no doubt that the loss of Mr Macrae must have caused (and will continue to cause) mental anguish and distress to Mr Macrae’s family. She accepts that any press coverage about his death, or the investigation into his death, will only serve to remind the Macrae family of the loss they have suffered, thus adding to their stress and anguish. However, based on the submissions provided by Police Scotland, it is clear that media interest surrounding Mr Macrae’s death has never waned and recurs annually. Given that Police Scotland does not disclose new information about the case on a yearly basis, this cycle of media attention indicates to the Commissioner that media interest is not dependent on the emergence of new factual information, but rather it thrives on the emergence or re-emergence of theories and speculation.

46. While the Commissioner does not seek to underestimate the distress caused to a mourning family by media intrusion, she finds that Police Scotland have provided no evidence to suggest that withholding the requested information would, in any way, prevent this ongoing media attention, or that this media attention is endangering the mental health of members of Mr Macrae’s family. The Macrae family have endured repeated speculation about Mr Macrae’s death since it was first reported, and sadly, despite their own requests for those interested parties to accept the official version of events, it is likely that they will continue to endure such speculation, regardless of whether information is disclosed in this case or not.

47. The Commissioner does not consider that withholding the time and date of the post-mortem, would, in any way, lessen the media interest in Mr Macrae’s death, or that disclosing it is likely to endanger the mental health of anyone associated with Mr Macrae. In light of this, the Commissioner finds that the exemption in section 39(1) of FOISA does not apply to the information withheld under part 6 of Mr Delamore’s request.

48. Having concluded that the exemption was wrongly applied, the Commissioner is not required to consider the public interest test in relation to disclosing or withholding this information. She requires Police Scotland to disclose the information to Mr Delamore.

I am particularly interested in this decision and the reasoning because I have an on-going FOI request with the Crown Office who applied both section 34 and 39 – and others - to all my questions bar one.

Until recently, I knew nothing of FOISA but that position changed in April when I emailed a list of 36 questions to the Crown Office.  They had the information and so I asked them.  I hadn’t thought of Freedom of Information until the Crown Office got back to me saying that they treated my email as such and then refused to answer 35 of my 36 questions.

On Friday, 17 July, I asked the Crown Office to carry out an internal review of their response by considering again only 7 of my original 36 questions.

Oh, how I wished I’d known about the Delamore decision.  I ‘sweated blood’ trying to make my case and Delamore was waiting for me.  I knew Delamore had appealed to the Commission but I didn’t know the Commissioner had ruled on 19 June.  I had checked the Commissioner’s website on 20 June but it hadn’t been updated.  So close!

Hopefully, the Crown Office view will have changed in the light of Delamore’s case.  If not, I’ll head straight to an appeal to the Commissioner.

My questions?

Probably best that I wait until my case has moved on a bit.  The Crown Office has 20 days to reply and so I should have heard by 14 August.

I’ll keep you posted.

__________________________________________________________________

If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:

email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or

tweet me at @calumcarr

© CalumCarr 2015

__________________________________________________________________

COPYRIGHT

Copyright over this article is retained by me, CalumCarr.

Please feel free to reproduce extracts and images provided you attribute the words and images to me taking into account the provisos below.

If you wish to use more than one quarter of the article then contact me for permission at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Flawed Logic of Effie Deans

 

 

Until recently I had never heard of Effie Deans and, if you haven’t, you can find her blog at Lily of St. Leonards  and her tweets here.  Effie is unionist and, obviously, very staunchly anti-independence and is still fighting the independence battle.  I do not share her political views in any way but, just as I am, she is entitled to her views and to promote them as she sees fit WITHOUT being subject to abuse.  Here I shall not abuse but I shall say what I think about her arguments.

The colour of the government in Westminster is secondary to winning on independence.  Winning, to Effie, is shutting out the possibility of independence, for ever!

The first of her posts which I read was titled, 'We must attack the SNP at its roots' and it appears it is for this post that she has been ‘attacked’ on Twitter.  The abuse is wrong and it is pointless and it would still be wrong even if it were not pointless. She wrote this about the background to the abuse.

I questioned the assumption on which the supporters of the SNP base their support. …..  What I discovered last week with my little experiment is that huge numbers of Scots are unable to question the assumptions on which they base their thought. They were unable to respond with reason to my questioning of the assumption and so for the most part responded with fury. I set off a twitter storm that raged because I transgressed a nationalist taboo. Horror of horrors, I had explained logically why Scotland was not really a country. How dare I say that, splutter, splutter! But it is a country, it is! I got an awful lot of assertion. But the majority of minds were quite fully shut and not open to argument on this issue. [Source]

 

She claims to have explained logically why Scotland wasn’t a country but she didn’t.  Her case is fundamentally flawed. It is her logic alone which should be attacked.

The starting point for her case is this,

There’s only one good argument for an independent Scotland. But it is a very good argument indeed. It can be stated in the following way:

1 Scotland is a country.
2 Countries ought to be independent.
3 Therefore Scotland ought to be independent.

Once you have accepted this argument, then all other arguments will be impotent against it.

I quibble in a possibly surprising but still important way with this argument. I weaken the argument. Effie uses ‘ought’: I wouldn’t.  I would rephrase her three points as,

1 Scotland is a country.
2 Countries have the right to choose to be independent.
3 Therefore Scotland has the right to choose to be independent.

My rephrasing puts power where it should be; with the people of the country.  In September, the people of Scotland chose not to be independent but the power to become independent remains still with the Scottish people.

Despite this, Effie has captured the essence of the debate.  Whatever case one makes for independence it is predicated on those three points.

Being fiercely unionist, Effie continues,

In order to defeat an opponent it is necessary to put forward his best argument and then refute it. The only way to refute an argument is by either refuting the reasoning or the assumptions.

 

Therefore, Effie determines to refute the reasoning or the assumptions behind her three point argument and it is here that her logic disappears.  Let’s look at her starting point.

The initial assumption “Scotland is a country” must not be allowed, for if we do allow it, the rest of the argument follows as a matter of course.

How then does she achieve this?

Well, she sets up her definition of country.

But the vast majority of countries I can think of are independent, sovereign nation states. It would almost appear that the defining characteristic of a country is that it is independent and sovereign. [Emphasis is mine]

and two sentences later the characteristic has become definite,

Being independent therefore in the vast majority of cases is the defining characteristic of being a country. [Emphasis is mine]

You can see where this is going and Effie drives on either ignoring or not knowing that her logic is taking her closer and closer to a crash.

While Scotland is called a country owing to a quirk of the English language, it is not a country in the sense in which 99% of the countries of the world are countries. As I frequently say Scotland is a country in a similar way that Fife is a kingdom. Fife is called a kingdom, but it lacks the defining characteristic of being a kingdom. It lacks a king. Scotland too lacks the defining characteristic of being a country, for it is neither sovereign, nor independent.

 

There it is laid out, the unimpeachable logic.

Only a true country can be independent and a ‘country’ is only a true country if it is independent

and

a ‘country’ which is not independent is not a true country and can never be independent because it is not a true country.

 

Let me try and put this another way.  Effie’s logic is,

A ‘country’ which is not already independent can never become independent because if it were a country it would be independent already. 

Circular logic!!!

 

Now, if Effie’s rule is anything other than a device to deny independence to Scotland, then it would apply worldwide and not just today but yesterday and tomorrow.  And if her logic were not already in pieces it would self-destruct here.

Effie’s rule freezes the world!

No country could ever have become independent but we know that countries have, and continue to, become independent. 

But Effie’s rule precludes this!

How could this happen?

It’s quite simple.

Effie’s rule is a logical nonsense dredged up to achieve her desired end of an everlasting United Kingdom.

It is only ever meant to apply to Scotland so that Effie can enjoy her ‘right to live without a continual threat to my country’s existence.

 

There is no democracy in Effie’s world but there are Effie’s 'right's which trump those of all who dare to think differently.

 

There is no Effie’s rule but there is Effie’s nonsense.

 

 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Willie McRae Part 31: Long Grass?

 

A review should be good news but …….

PS to SM 1[Note: contact details have been removed]

 

….. has the case been kicked into the long grass again?

 

For those who may be new here let me briefly put my position.  I am absolutely neutral on the question of murder, suicide or whatever.   I don’t know: there is insufficient evidence to fix on one view.  I seek the truth, whatever it may be.  I am, however, in favour of a Fatal Accident Inquiry or other formal and legal inquiry.  Too many questions remain unanswered for the case to be left where it is. 

 

Now, might this review set the record straight and let justice be seen to done?

I might be wrong.  I hope I am proved to be wrong.  But I have no confidence that answers will be given or the truth of his death and subsequent investigation revealed.

When the Crown Office deigns to speak to the public they will assert,

Police Scotland has reviewed the case in detail and Crown Counsel has full confidence in the original investigation carried out by Northern Constabulary.

No new information will be released.  No reasons will be given.  They will have shut down the case for a few more years …. but still the questions will remain and, occasionally, new questions will arise which challenge the official position …. and still the Crown Office will assert …. and still justice will not have been seen to be done.

 

Why should we expect another review to bring a different result?

We have been here before: the investigators investigating themselves.  The two organisations about whom all questions relate look at themselves and find, ‘Nothing to see here. Move along.’?

But more than this, everything which has been produced in the last 6 months was either already known about or should have been uncovered in previous reviews.

Donald Morrison’s evidence wasn’t new but it’s importance was already denied by the Crown Office.

Why should this change now?

 

The car being returned to the crash site wasn’t new.  John Finnie raised this with the Crown Office in 2010/11 and, as far as I am aware, no action has followed.

Why should this change now?

 

There being witness statements from the Crowes although they made no statements should have been uncovered previously.  The Channel 4 programme, Scottish Eye – from 1991/2 – reported that, until approached by the programme makers, the Crowes didn’t know that Macrae had been shot and had died.  That there were statements on file from the Crowes in 1985 doesn’t tally and should have been a ‘red flag’ to any semi-competent investigation.

Why should this change now?

 

Why am I cynical?

The Chief Constable took more than 7 weeks to reply to an MSP’s letter!  This reflects poorly on Sir Stephen regardless of the subject matter. 

But now the timing of the review is perfect for the Crown Office. 

The profile of the case has been raised significantly in the last 6 months or so; there is a petition for an FAI; Scotland on Sunday carried good work just 3 weeks ago.  I’ve done my small bit.

Momentum was building and the announcement of a review gets the Crown Office off the hook and stalls the momentum.  I can imagine their words, ‘We have to wait for Police Scotland’s review.  We’ll make no more announcements until the review is complete.

Sir Stephen has set no time limit and he states,

such reviews are generally time-consuming

and

I am not in a position to advise you of a project timescale for completion.

I feel for Sir Stephen.  The top man and he’s not in  a position to advise. 

Yes, he is!  If this was important to him he would set a deadline but he hasn’t and so it isn’t.

Be assured, we’ll hear nothing this year…..

….. and then there will be nothing which Crown Counsel considers worthy of concern.  The questions shut down again.  The petition shut down.

I can hear them already.  ‘All the evidence and concerns raised by interested parties has been investigated and there is nothing in any of it.

And then with every additional issue raised, the Crown Office will keep going back to the 2015 review.

 

Is it time to give up?

No!

This isn’t about getting a particular verdict or getting a particular admission.  This is only about justice and justice being seen to be done.  An internal review can never achieve this.  Only an inquiry will do.

What has Scottish justice come to when we cannot trust those whose role is to uphold the law and see justice done?

There IS something to see.  It might not show murder or suicide.  It might only show a flawed police investigation. But, until answered, the questions will remain, the Crown Office and police forever stained by the darkness of a possible cover-up.

Goodness, I sound like a conspiracy theorist!  I’m not!  I want the truth!  I don’t care what the truth is as long as I know I have seen the truth.

 

I am not going away.

 

Please!  Don’t let Willie’s death be cast into the long grass.

 

If you haven’t done so, please sign the FAI petition here.  Tweet about it.  Talk about it.  Write about it. 

 

The Crown Office are our servants. 

They administer the justice system for us. 

They are accountable to us.

Let us hold them accountable.

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© CalumCarr 2015

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