The recent release of a convicted murderer, his triumphal return to Libya, the response from the FBI and President Obama, the objections from the relatives of the killed, the non-response from Gordon Brown, the avoidance of a straight opinion from the un-elected Mandelson, the self-assuredness of the opposition politicians, the outraged Press…it all seems to have taken-over our media.
I refer of course to the repercussions over the release of the only convicted person related to the Lockerbie tragedy….I remember the evening well as it is less than an hour from our house by car (about 10 mins air time). The shock at hearing about it was overwhelming, as no-0ne could envisage that anyone would want to do this. Daughter was not long in the police at that time, and probably would have been involved in the searches for bodies if she had been in a few weeks longer.
A prolonged hunt for, and ultimate trial of, the perpetrators was plagued by suspicions of evidence rigging, and omission of some evidence and police reports. Subsequent investigations into the quality of the trial have not proved fruitful, and probably added to the suspicions which have circulated.
Whatever the rights, limitations and possible wrongs of an imperfect judicial system, the early release of an ill man after 8 years was always going to cause differences of opinions and emotions……… anger at the lack of trans-Atlantic discussions or consultation, sympathy for a terminally-sick man, respect for the relatives of the dead, frustration at the lack of surety about the guilt and ultimate imprisonment, sorrow that no-one may ever know the absolute truth about what happened, forgiveness (deserved or otherwise), lack of remorse (if it was warranted)…….these have all come to the surface of this very emotive series of events.
The Scottish Minister of Justice did not seem to have used any of the above emotions in his final statements; he may have thought of them and considered them in his decision. However, it was the ideas of Mercy and Compassion which seem to have been the main element leading to the release.
To my mind, these are personal concepts, and not easily-applicable to a nation-to-person situation. A nation, in the form of a judicial system can release or modify a sentence, but surely the only mercy or compassion which is appropriate is that from the wronged….the relations of those killed.
Had the Justice Minister told us that he had consulted with the known relatives of those poor victims and had had an overwhelming response telling him that the convicted perpetrator should be released on compassionate grounds, then I think must people would have agreed to it.
As it is, he has witnessed the ‘unintended consequences’ principle and, having offended a considerable number of people, the only people who seem happy are the Libyans….with their twisted sense of thanks and gratitude!
….And what would I have done if I were the Justice Minister. I honestly don’t know. It goes to show once again that there are very few black and white decisions in this world…..I don’t think there is a perfect answer!