Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scottish Justice system is in tatters as Nat Fraser wins appeal after Crown Office deliberately violate his Article Six right to a fair trial

Dear All

I have a healthy interest in independence which is widely known, a question which will figure in the minds of voters before they vote for this, will be, will an independent Scotland be fairer and just.

People are constantly fed the economic argument on independence that we would be better off financially.

But independence will not be won simply on the basis of economics, fronting a single issue will eventually run out of road.

There has to be more than one strand to the independence argument.

What will an independent Scotland look like?

What changes will be brought in regarding institutions?

How will the Scottish Government be re-organised?

And you can add a phone book of other questions.

Yesterday, I blogged on the Nat Fraser judgement in which a Scot found guilty of murdering his estranged wife won his appeal against the conviction.

He did so because, five justices at the Supreme Court in London said Scottish prosecutors had breached Nat Fraser’s right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

This was not a re-run of the trial but rather how the State in terms of Crown Office has acted in relation to this case by concealing evidence.

Clearly, Nat Fraser’s Article Six rights were violated in the same way that Peter Cadder's were.

Having jumped through the hoops to try and get justice in Scotland, they had to go to London, England.

And the UK Supreme Court had to do what the Scottish Court of Appeal in Edinburgh should have done in the first place.

And didn’t.

Fraser will now face a retrial but given the circumstances, publicity, conduct of the Crown Office staff acting in a rather nasty fashion, he will not be able to get a fair trial.

As to those who denied Fraser his rights, nothing at present is being said about them, 'don’t say don’t ask' seems to be the motto.

The current thread is talk about the ‘threat’ to the independence of Scotland’s criminal legal system.

As politicians are speaking of ‘threats’ will they be dealing with the threat posed by members of the Crown Office?

Or are we all Team Angiolini now?

The current political argument centres on has the UK Supreme Court involved itself in criminal matters, it hasn’t, they aren’t re-running the case, they are looking solely at the human rights issue.

The Supreme Court was established in 2009 to ensure people who believe their rights have been infringed did not need to take their appeals to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

If politicians believe it is acceptable to go to Strasbourg then it is untenable and naïve to suggest they cannot go to London.

Lord Hope, deputy president of the Supreme Court ruled:

“The court holds that the trial would have been significantly different if the undisclosed evidence had been available. There is a real possibility that the evidence would have been sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether (Fraser) placed the rings in the bathroom on May 7. If that were so, the jury’s verdict would have been bound, in view of the judge’s direction, to have been different.”

And let us review how Lord Hope got to that judgment it was said that three of Arlene’s rings had been the “cornerstone” of evidence against Fraser. They were found in the bathroom of her house on May 7, 1998.

Prosecutors suggested that Fraser had removed them from her body and placed them in the bathroom to make it appear that she had left home.

However, the judges said, it later emerged that prosecutors had evidence from police to suggest the rings were in the house on the night Arlene vanished.

Fraser’s counsel argued that the failure by the prosecution to reveal that information to his legal team breached his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR.

Ergo, Fraser was deliberately not accidentally denied a fair trial by the prosecution.

Maybe rather than criticism of the UK Supreme Court that gaze should shift across the room to the Crown Office prosecutors.

It is time Scotland put its own house in order on the justice front because economics isn’t enough to sell the independence argument to the masses.

And until we do get that type of political will in the corridors of power, we need the wisdom of the UK Supreme Court because there is precious little down at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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