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banner Thursday, 11 January, 2001, 10:16 GMT
Original charges explained
Clare Connelly, from the University of Glasgow's Lockerbie trial briefing team, explained the three charges the two men had initially faced.

It should be noted that in its final submissions, the prosection announced that it would be focusing on the charge of murder and would not be proceeding with charges of conspiracy and breach of aviation security.

Charge one - conspiracy to murder

This relates to the allegation that the two men conspired with others to destroy a civil passenger aircraft and murder its occupants, furthering the purposes of the Libyan intelligence services.

It is alleged they did this by criminal means, namely the use of explosive devices in acts of terrorism directed against nationals and the interests of other countries.

The difference between conspiracy to murder and murder relates to whether or not the act was completed.

The charge of conspiracy is defined as:

The agreement of two or more persons to effect any [criminal] purpose, whether as their ultimate aim, or only as a means to it, and the crime is complete if there is such agreement, even though nothing is done in pursuance of it.

The parallel charging of conspiracy to commit murder (charge one) and murder (charge two), are used so that in the event of the murder charge not being proven, the accused may still be convicted of conspiring to murder.

There is no prescribed punishment for a conspiracy conviction. The sentence is at the discretion of the court.

Charge two - murder

This alleges that the two men, while members of the Libyan intelligence services and while acting with others, destroyed Pan Am Flight 103, murdering its 259 occupants and 11 residents of Lockerbie.

This is different from conspiracy to murder in that it relates to a completed crime, not merely an agreement to commit a crime.

The act of murder may be defined as:

The killing of an individual by a wilful act where the accused either intended to kill or was wickedly reckless so as to imply a disregard for the consequences of their actions.

In addition, it must also be shown that actions of the accused caused the harm suffered - the death of the victim.

There must be a physical link between the accused and the crime in the form of evidence.

The degree of evidence required to prove a completed crime is greater than that required to prove that an accused merely conspired to commit a crime.

The possible reasons for having both charges is to allow evidence of conspiracy to be led and also to safeguard in the event that the completed crime cannot be proven "beyond reasonable doubt".

The punishment following a murder conviction is mandatory life imprisonment.

The charges are drafted as alternatives. It may seem illogical why, if there was sufficient evidence, that the accused could not be convicted of both conspiracy to murder and murder.

The use of the word "alternatively" between the charges in the indictment prohibits this from happening.

Charge three - contravention of sections 2(1) and (5) of the Aviation Security Act 1982

Section 2(1) of the act makes it an offence for any person unlawfully and intentionally to destroy an aircraft in service.

It is also an offence to damage it to the extent as to make it incapable of flight or as to be likely to endanger its safety in flight.

Further, it is also illegal to commit on board any act of violence which is likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft.

A person convicted of such an offence faces life imprisonment.

To achieve a conviction under the terms of the statute, it would be necessary to show that the accused intended to destroy or damage the aircraft or that they committed an act of violence on board, likely to endanger the safety of the aircraft.

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