Here is the Prof. Black biopic:
Why Robert Black won't let the Lockerbie trial lie
The man who played a pivotal role in the case believes the guilty verdict shames Scots law, says JENNIFER VEITCH
Given his links to the case, the irony is not lost on Black. Born and brought up in Lockerbie, he was a practising advocate until accepting the University chair in 1981, and has a degree of personal interest in helping unravel the events leading to the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over the town in December 1988 killing 270.
Black, 58, was
the key architect of the non-jury scheme whereby Megrahi
and co-accused Al-Amin Khalifa
Fhima could be brought to trial under Scots law at
think the conviction of Megrahi, on the evidence that
was led at
Black argues that
there are too many flaws in the Crown case for the conviction to be sound. He
says that a key plank of the Crown's case was that Megrahi
had purchased goods in a shop in
What was the evidence?
The shopkeeper [ Tony Gauchi
] was able to narrow down the date of purchase to one of two possible dates,
because he knew it was a Saturday afternoon when a particular football
match was being broadcast on Maltese television. He could not remember whether
it was the first or second leg, so it was either 23rd November or 7 December. Megrahi was in
The defence led evidence from meteorologists because the
shopkeeper's evidence was, that whatever date it was, after he had bought the
goods, when he got to the door he discovered that it was pouring with rain. So,
in addition to the goods he had already bought, he bought an umbrella. The
meteorological evidence was that on 23 November, there was heavy rain in this
On that evidence, the
Scottish judges held it was the 7 December, the date Megrahi
Last week, Lord Advocate Colin Boyd called upon his predecessor, Lord Fraser, to clarify what he meant by comments which appeared to cast doubt on the credibility of Gauchi's testimony, saying he was "not quite the full shilling".
Black does not try to hide his frustration that the trial he helped get off the ground has resulted in what he believes is a false judgement. " I have written about this and nobody is interested. [They think] I have got a bee in my bonnet about Lockerbie. But every lawyer who has taken the trouble to read the judgement of the trial court says 'this is nonsense', and it is nonsense," he says, his voice rising in anger" It really distresses me. I will not let it go".
Black feels partially to blame for Megrahi's
situation. " I feel a measure of responsibility
for having suggested this form of procedure and having played a part in
persuading the Libyans to agree to it. And then this happens. My concern is not
about his guilt or innocence, although I do believe him to be innocent. My
concern is that on the evidence led at
Despite the concerns about the potential for pre-trial publicity to have prejudiced a jury, Black now believes the Libyan men may have fared better under the conventional procedure than in the non-jury trial he formulated.
Black says " If they had been tried by an ordinary Scottish jury of 15, who were given standard instructions about how they must approach the evidence and standard instructions about reasonable doubt and what must happen if there is a reasonable doubt about the evidence, no Scottish jury could have convicted Megrahi on the evidence led at the trial".
Black's career has taken him into other controversial areas. Ten years ago, he presided over initial inquiry into allegations of nepotism and religious bias at Monklands District Council - an episode he says he "regrets" getting involved with - and also holds outspoken views on the question of self-regulation in the legal profession.
" In the old days, one of the tests of whether a group qualified as a profession was that they were self-regulating. They basically dealt with their own rogues, or people who weren't up to it.
" It is sad that can no longer happen, but I accept that can no longer happen in the type of society we now have. It is not just that you can't trust the professional body to do the job properly. It is that, from a public relations point of view, it looks wrong. Whether they are doing the job properly or not, they are not the right people to do it".
He adds " If you at it, the clients complain to the ombudsman that they don't get a fair crack of the whip from the Law Society. But if you talk to solicitors who have had the Law Society investigate a complaint about them, they talk about the bloody Gestapo coming in and turning your life upside down. So the complainers don't like it, the people who are being complained against don't like it, nobody is happy. Get rid of it. Bring in a system that both sides can live with.
" The Law Society is in a no-win situation. Whatever they do, some of their members will be dissatisfied. I think they have got to bite the bullet and say let's lance the boil and get rid of this function completely and we will then start being a trade union".
Although he is now "semi retired", Black still enjoys teaching the next generation of lawyers on the LLB course - but adds that he is one of a dying breed of legal academics: " Most academics lawyers, years ago, were like me - they had come up through the ranks of the practising profession. That's unusual these days. In many cases they have never advised a human being with a legal problem in their lives".
Black spends six months of the year at his second home near a
remote village in the Northern Cape of South Africa. He says he "fell in
love" with the country after a sabbatical
" It is in the middle of nowhere, literally so. I have got a 50 mile drive over untarred roads till you get to my house, but I can do my work there. I am still writing and researching on various things, including Lockerbie. I have got internet access - very, very slow internet access. For things to download it takes an age - but you get there eventually", he says.