John Macauley, a Glasgow Solicitor, has asked the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to review a conviction from over 200 years ago in a bid to have the conviction quashed.
The SCCRC has been asked by Mr Macauley to look into the case of James Stewart who was hanged for murder after having been convicted of killing Colin Campbell in Argyll wood in May 1752.
Colin Campbell was shot dead in Argyll woods near to where the Ballachulish Bridge currently stands.
The murder of Mr Campbell came in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden in 1746. It outraged the British establishment.
When looking at this case you can see just why Mr Macauley has made this submission to the SCCRC, it truly was (as Mr Macauley describes it) a farce.
The defeat of the Jacobites had effectively ended their hopes of replacing the Hanoverian dynasty on the British throne with the Stuarts. Mr Stewart was a Jacobite and was tried at a court convened in Inverary in September 1752.
Out of the fifteen jurors who sat on the case, eleven of them belonged to the Campbells who were a clan who fought against the Jacobites at Culloden. The trial was presided over by three judges, the most senior of whom was the Duke of Argyll, staunchly Hanoverian chief of Clan Campbell.
The main witness saw a man with a gun some distance away, but was unable to identity Mr Stewart as being that man. No evidence was ever presented that Mr Stewart had been involved in a conspiracy to murder and Mr Stewart presented an alibi to the court stating that we was several miles away from the site of the killing at the time.
The alibi isn’t particularly important for this appeal as it is almost impossible now to test the evidence. However, the kangaroo court that this trial was held in can be held under scrutiny and it doesn’t stand up. The senior judge and eleven of the jurors all had ulterior motives for finding the accused guilty; there could have been no equitable outcome to this case, something which Scots Law has long prided itself upon.
It will be interesting to hear the SCCRC’s ruling on the case (whether it should be referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal or not) when they finally do make it. The SCCRC has indicated that it will look at the submission made by Mr Macauley in due course.