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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Bah Politics

August 27th, 2009 (10:15 pm)
current location: KY16 8SX

Better own up to my letter in The Herald. The last (third) paragraph is why I think it’s worth sticking my head above the parapet. Exceptional case or no, it would not have been the right precedent to set.


Posted by: Nik Whitehead (sharikkamur)
Posted at: August 27th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)

You're absolutely right - it would have made him a political prisoner. And look at the problems we had with those in Northern Ireland.

Excellent letter.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 27th, 2009 10:48 pm (UTC)

Thanks sharikkamur.

Posted by: Toby Atkin-Wright (tobyaw)
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)

While Megrahi was convicted by a judicial process, he was freed by a politician. Decisions made by politicians in the course of their ministerial duties must be open to political criticism.

I don't understand your argument that he would have been a political prisoner if kept in prison. He was convicted and sentenced by a court, and had a significant stretch of his sentence left to serve. However, there is an argument to be made that he was given a political release.

Posted by: Gavin Greig (ggreig)
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 05:07 pm (UTC)

He was freed by a quasi-judicial decision taken by a politician. While that description seems to have been shrugged off by most commentators as political excuse terminology, it actually has meaning: it's not a free political choice, he has to behave as if he were a member of the judiciary. I note that while his decision may be unpopular with the public, 70% of lawyers polled said he got it right.

It really shouldn't be a decision taken by a politician at all, and a large part of the damage is that, because it was taken by a politician, other politicians think they have the right to criticise his decision on political grounds. Actually they don't; at least no more than they would do the decision of a judge - which would probably be "a bit" given the topic, but not nearly so much as as occurred.

They do have the right to criticise aspects of the handling of the decision, and of course if he did anything that was either illegal or showed signs of political bias.

No-one has challenged the legality of the decision. It's clear it wasn't politically biased; the Justice Secretary chose the least populist option, and the many conspiracy theories are just not credible. Most of them seem to rely on the SNP being buddy-buddy with Gordon Brown, which any observer of the Scottish political scene will find extremely hard to swallow.

Finally, the decision was consistent with all precedent - no-one who has met the medical conditions for compassionate release has ever been denied it. The only refusals have been on medical grounds.

The only way to avoid making it a political decision, and turning Megrahi into a political prisoner for his remaining few months, was to follow precedent; that's why the release was not a political decision, although taken by a politician, and why it's so objectionable for other politicians to oppose it simply on the grounds that they, or the public, think Megrahi should have stayed in. It's they who have politicised the decision with their vehement opposition, which is frankly irresponsible. A bit of grumbling would have been OK - "I don't think it should have gone that way, but there you go" - but outright opposition: no!

It's a bit of a car crash and there are certainly things that could be criticised; why does it fall to a politician at all when it could be a purely judicial decision, were all the proper procedures followed, could the announcement have been handled better, and so on. But the decision itself? So long as it's legal and follows precedent, there are no legitimate grounds for opposing it.

Posted by: silverwhistle (silverwhistle)
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
Smiley Rosa

Well said, Gavin!

And I have to say I was amused by the "Boycott Scotland" idiots. Fine – we don't want you. Nor do we want the Tartan Uncle Toms who tie themselves in knots to pander to US notions of Scotland… (Some of the 'Homecoming' stuff this year was utterly cringemaking…)

Posted by: pictishqueen (pictishqueen)
Posted at: August 28th, 2009 09:22 pm (UTC)

Just back from visiting the parents. Yes, well done with the letter, Gavin. I too think it would be better if such decisions were handled by judges, it's only a matter of time or bad luck, before we get a justice secretary who wants to subordinate justice to political advantage. It's a pity this case couldn't be used as a springboard to do that, but with Tavish Scott and Iain Gray out to score points, it's unlikely that something sensible will happen.

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