Recently I have been involved in very preliminary discussions about how best to move forward with the demand for an FAI into Macrae’s death. Some might be surprised, given my stated neutrality, that I would become involved.
Let me explain briefly.
I am still neutral.
But I can understand the frustration of those who have been trying for years to have the Crown Office hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry only to be rebuffed. I only have to remember Police Scotland’s refusal to answer Delamore’s three simple questions through a Freedom of Information request to feel frustration at the apparent senselessness of the decision. [Delamore’s questions:When were the photographs of Macrae’s car taken?; when was the car removed?; when was the post mortem carried out?]
Although neutral, I am in favour of more, much more, information being released and, if that is done through an FAI then fine. Therefore, when invited to be part of a short conversation about how best to push for an FAI, I accepted.
For the avoidance of doubt, I must say that I wrote this post in early February, a few days before the conversation, and so the words here are mine alone and are not influenced by the other conversationalists.
In Part 19 I used the officially released documents to support, as best I could, the contention that Willie Macrae committed suicide. I looked too at the very different way in which the Crown Office made their case.
Today I cast my eye over the Crown Office and their continuing refusal to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry and the implications this has on supporters of an FAI.
The ‘Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976’ is the legislation which underpins the Scottish system of Fatal accident Inquiries and the relevant paragraph for Willie Macrae’s death is
1 (1) b
it appears to the Lord Advocate to be expedient in the public interest in the case of a death to which this paragraph applies that an inquiry under this Act should be held into the circumstances of the death on the ground that it was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern,
There is some specific language which describes the type of death which can be considered for an FAI,
sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern,
There is lots of woolly language which gives the Lord Advocate plenty scope to do as he sees fit
it appears to the Lord Advocate to be expedient in the public interestand a death which
or has occurred in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern
But wooliness apart, it is this paragraph - 1. (1) b - that FAI campaigners must use to convince the Lord Advocate of the need to hold an FAI and there are two challenges to be met. Firstly, their evidence must meet the threshold of either showing the death was sudden, suspicious or unexplained, or the circumstances of the death were such as to give rise to serious public concern and then, they must convince the Lord Advocate of that fact. You might think that meeting the threshold and convincing are one and the same thing and many times you would be correct but the Lord Advocate, current and previous, and the Crown Office, in general, have shown themselves to be very defensive when their decisions are questioned.
In Part 19 I mentioned Lord Carmylie’s utter disdain and utter certainty when writing to Nicholas Fairbairn about Macrae’s death and the campaign for an FAI. Moving back from that position may be too much for the current Lord Advocate unless the evidence is compelling and the publicity overwhelming.
The Lockerbie case and the innocence /guilt of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi shows the difficulties that Macrae campaigners will face.
There is an effective organisation, ‘Justice for Megrahi’, fighting as the name suggests to clear Megrahi. To see their committee and signatories go here.
The case was laid before the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, SCCRC, who concluded
27.216 …… the Commission has also considered whether …. the entirety of the evidence considered by it points irrefutably to the applicant’s guilt. The Commission’s conclusion is that it does not.
27.217 ….. the Commission believes not only that there may have been a miscarriage of justice in the applicant’s case, but also that it is in the interests of justice to refer the case to the High Court. The Commission accordingly does so.
[Note: the full 800 pages plus document can be viewed here]Despite this the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, continues to assert his utter certainty in the original conviction. He called supporters of Megrahi’s innocence, ‘conspiracy theorists’ and just two months ago he claimed,
During the 26-year long inquiry not one Crown Office investigator or prosecutor has raised a concern about the evidence in this case.
We remain committed to this investigation and our focus remains on the evidence, and not on speculation and supposition.[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30560364]
But Megrahi is not Macrae.
But there are lessons for Macrae campaigners.
The basis for an FAI must be well-researched, substantial and substantiated. The Crown Office will not roll over and open an FAI even on evidence which is very solid and with apparent serious public concern.
As far as I am aware, other than the Willie Macrae Society in the early years after his death, there is no group which is working towards presenting a petition for a Fatal Accident Inquiry. I have seen individuals but no coordinating group. I do not know if there is any desire for individuals to come together but the benefits seem clear.
There are different theories about how Macrae died: at the hands of Special Branch, nuclear industry, drug barons, paedophile ring; by his own hand but with the involvement of Special Branch. Beyond this are a multitude of questions and doubts about the official version.
But, rather than support the case that his death was ‘sudden, suspicious or unexplained’, I find it weakened by the sheer breadth of the possible theories and questions.
Ideally, campaigners would have a coherent narrative which covered the months before and years after Macrae’s death but there should be no onus to produce this. That would be for the FAI to establish.
But they must either break the official suicide narrative or show evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up. Nothing I have seen so far achieves this to the degree I believe is necessary. A newspaper report is not sufficient. A witness statement being published online would not be sufficient. But a witness statement and questioning properly and legally recorded would be a massive step forward.
Do the campaigners have it in them to work together?
Will their case ever stand up?
Can they and their case stand up to the apparent hostility of the Crown Office?
The answers? Time will tell.
And much time will be needed if ever they are to achieve their aim. I wish them well.
I have now reached the end of the first phase of my study: the official case.
If you have thoughts, or more, feel free to:
email me at calumsblogATgmailDOTcom or
tweet me at @calumcarr
© CalumCarr 2015
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