'Last month The Herald revealed that Megrahi had applied to return to Tripoli on "compassionate release" because he is terminally ill.
'Technically he could continue his appeal, but there is a growing expectation that he would be encouraged to first drop legal proceedings.'
These two sentences from The Herald's report on the Cabinet Secretary for Justice's meeting with Abdelbaset Megrahi are troubling. If the suggestion is that the Justice Department is encouraging Megrahi to abandon his appeal as a condition of being granted compassionate release, or is indicating that abandonment would improve his prospects of being granted compassionate release, this would be highly improper conduct on the part of the Department. The abandonment of an ongoing appeal is legally a wholly irrelevant consideration in the formulation of any decision on compassionate release; and a decision taken having regard to this irrelevant consideration would be judicially challengeable.
Moreover, it would make no sense: the advantage of compassionate release over prisoner transfer is precisely that it enables Megrahi's appeal to proceed; and it is clearly in the Scottish public interest that the widespread concerns over his conviction should be ventilated in court and judicially adjudicated upon, however embarrassing this may be for elements within the Scottish criminal justice system.