Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 28 August 2009


It is fashionable to play Fantasy football and place yourself in the shoes of well known football managers. What about fantasy politics. What would you have done, if you had been either Jack Straw, our Lord Chancellor, or the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill? Would you have granted the convicted criminals their freedom on compassionate grounds?

We do not necessarily have all of the facts, as the real decision makers did. Just because something appears in a newspaper sadly does not make it true. But one of the great things about modern communications is that we get bombarded with information enabling us to stand at least partially in the place of those who must decide. If there was other information which helped shape these decisions, it would almost certainly have emerged by now.

From what I have seen and read I would have let Biggs go home to die with his family. He committed a serious crime but has served many years in prison, many more than some who commit far worse crimes, and is clearly now not a threat to anybody. He may not have shown much remorse, but he did not take the life of another person, although arguably he may have inflicted damage on the train driver that did shorten his life.

But I would never have let Mr al-Megrahi go, not in a month of Sundays. I understand the need occasionally to show compassion, but this has to be tempered with Justice. The crime in question was one of the most heinous and cowardly acts of the age, responsibly for killing 291 innocent people.

There seemed to be a feeling around that perhaps this particular prisoner was not necessarily guilty, but that should have played no part in this decision. You cannot be half guilty. If there were circumstances suggesting he was innocent, that was a matter for an appeal and should have been separated from this decision taken on compassionate grounds, because of his prostrate cancer.

I still cannot for the life of me see how this decision was reached. It has made us look soft in the eyes of the world, upset our closest allies and handed a propaganda coup to those who wish us ill. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi went home to a hero’s welcome. As he has now dropped his appeal against the conviction we are never likely to know if he was truly innocent.

What would you have done?


posted by Gary @ 15:54