Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Nat Fraser wins appeal at UK Supreme Court, Crown Office withhold evidence, is conviction by any means legally and morally justifable?
It is widely known that people who believe they didn’t receive a fair trial can go to the European Court of Human Rights, not to re run the trial but on matters of process regarding Article Six rights to a fair hearing.
Recently, the Peter Cadder case brought about a swift change in how a person is treated once arrested by the Police.
To put it bluntly, the Police were forced to give suspects their rights to legal representation immediately.
Previously that was denied on an institutional basis.
If you don’t support the Cadder ruling in full, then you don’t support the right to a fair trial.
It is that simple.
This has nothing to do with the actual merits of that case or Cadder himself but the way he was treated.
Another case which has been rumbling on is the Nat Fraser murder case.
He claims he is innocent and didn’t receive a fair trial for the murder of his wife Arlene.
Fraser from Elgin was convicted in 2003 and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Her body has never been found and a great deal of the evidence at the trial was circumstantial.
Fraser prompted appealed going through the Scottish appeals system, then he went to the UK Supreme Court.
Created by the UK Labour Government in 2009, The UK Supreme Court has produced some good judgements.
Fraser’s lawyers argued that his right to a fair trial had been denied because important evidence about Mrs Fraser’s rings was withheld from the defence.
In a statement this morning, the Supreme Court said:
“There was a real possibility, in light of the undisclosed evidence, that the jury at this trial would have arrived at a different verdict.”
So, the question is why was evidence unlawfully withheld?
And we should be looking over at Crown Office and Fiscal Service for an explanation of that and who did it.
People are entitled to ‘quality of arms’ which simply put means full disclosure, the only reason not give this is in order to increase chances of conviction.
Did someone in the Crown Office decide ‘the end justifies the means’?
Although The Supreme Court cannot ‘free’ Fraser, the case will go back to the Appeal Court in Edinburgh who will as a result of the ruling, will quash the conviction.
The Crown Office in Edinburgh has confirmed it will seek to bring a fresh prosecution against Fraser.
However they maybe stopped dead in their tracks if the Appeal Court decides that, for reasons such as the passage of time and publicity, the accused cannot get a fair trial.
Given the publicity this case has received it would be impossible in my opinion that a fair trial could take place.
We are where we are’ and that is because of the Crown Office and Fiscal Service being cute.
So, there should be an investigation into them.
Many Scottish lawyers are fearful that the Supreme Court imposes a ‘British’ level of judiciary above Scotland’s supposedly independent legal system.
However, no one is shouting the odds about the European Court of Human Rights; the Supreme Court means instead of going to Strasbourg, people can go to London.
Why isn’t anyone shouting that Europe imposes a ‘European’ level of judiciary above Scotland’s supposedly independent legal system?
Because they know that argument is hollow.
No system of justice is a sacred cow not even Scottish system; it took circa 25 years for Scots to get the same treatment as English suspects.
We denied people a fair trial and due process during that time.
Should we be celebrating that?
Professor Robert Black, professor emeritus of Scots Law at Edinburgh University said:
“I am not surprised. This latest case is a natural progression of the system we have got at the moment whereby under the Scotland Act we have devolution issues such as alleged breaches of human rights legislation. It’s not the Supreme Court or its predecessor the House of Lords making a takeover bid for Scots Law. Far from it. So careful are the Supreme Court about Scottish sensibilities that even though they had the power to quash Nat Fraser’s conviction, they did not actually do so but said that it is a matter for the Scottish courts. Unless the Scottish courts start taking the European Convention on Human Rights seriously, we will see more cases referred to the Supreme Court - and a good thing, too. There will be those who say the Supreme Court shouldn’t interfere, but the Court would not have to interfere if the Scottish courts and Scottish Prosecution Establishment were doing their job properly – that’s the scandal.”
If Politicians are so keen to defend Scottish law as many do, they should be pro active in ensuring that people get their full legal rights beyond a shadow of doubt.
It is not enough that justice is done it must also be seen to be done.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University