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The Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has backed the use of Public Interest Immunity in Scottish Courts, citing European and UK precedent and claiming the use of PII in Scotland is competent.
The use of PII came to the fore earlier this week when public intertest immunity was invoked in an appeal procedural hearing at the High Court in Edinburgh, in the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmad Al Megrahi. The Court held yesterday (Thursday) that the contents of a document understood to originate from a foreign Government could be disclosed in Court in a closed door session.
"What is a surprise is that it is a surprise," Angiolini told the Firm.
"The European Convention of Human rights is what brings about this new procedure. It is not some frolic on the part of the court or the lawyers involved in this case. In the past, if there was a circumstance where there was public interest immunity, before ECHS, the Lord Advocate simply declared it and the court wouldn’t question that. It has now shifted to a position where the court determines interest, rather than the minister who makes the assertion,"
"That is a huge change for the positive, that it is in court. You have to find a way which guards the issue at stake. The court has to determine the way forward. It is a complex issue and probably an issue of communication, but that is where you are hoping that journalists will look into the history of the law in this area. To look at the background, the history and the European jurisprudence. It is a very specialised area. What I hope is that there will be a balanced approach to it, informed by all of the facts."