Mae hwn yn fersiwn HTML o atodiad i'r cais Rhyddid Gwybodaeth 'Information regarding the death of Willie McRae'.


 
                                                                                
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service  
Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LA 
abc
Policy Division 
 
Ms Catriona Dalrymple, Head of Policy 
 
 
 
 
Tel: 0131 
226 
2626 
Mr Steven Semple 
Text Relay prefix: 18001 
 
 
[Cais Rhyddid Gwybodaeth e-bost #200835 ] 
Fax: 0844 561 4075           
                   
 
Your ref: 
Our ref:  R007270 
 
9 April 2014 
 
Dear Mr Semple, 
FOI REQUEST 
Thank you for your e-mail of 6 March 2014 under the Freedom of Information 
(Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) in which you seek the following information: 
“Any and all paperwork, documentation, police reports, etc. relating to the 
death of Willie McRae at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary on 7 April 1985” 
I would firstly like to offer you my apologies for the delay in providing this 
response, which was caused by the need to make further investigations into the 
issues you raised.  
 
The information held by COPFS in relation to the death of William McRae 
consists of police reports, witness statements, Crown precognitions and 
correspondence and minutes between Crown Counsel and the Procurator Fiscal 
at Inverness, as well as correspondence between the Procurator Fiscal and 
witnesses. There is also a copy of the post mortem report, a firearms report 
and a road traffic collision report.  
 
It has previously been decided that it is in the public interest to disclose certain 
information in relation to the death of William MacRae. The information that has 
previously been made available to the public is enclosed at Annex A. This 
information was first made publicly available on 1 February 2005 in response to 
a number of Freedom of Information requests that had been received. 
  
In relation to your request for further information, the various reports held by 
COPFS in relation to this case, they are held by the Procurator Fiscal for the 
purposes of an investigation carried out by virtue of a duty to ascertain the 
cause of a person’s death, and as such are exempt in terms of section 
34(2)(b)(i) of FOISA. Section 34(2)(b)(i) is not an absolute exemption and the 
Crown must consider the public interest in the disclosure of information in this 
case. 
  
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk 


 
There are very strong public interest considerations which require COPFS to 
maintain the confidentiality of police reports and reports provided by expert 
witnesses. In terms of FOI, the public interest must be assessed in the context 
of each individual case and I can confirm that the following factors have been 
considered. The courts in Scotland have traditionally placed great weight on 
any assertion of the Lord Advocate that it is not in the public interest for certain 
documents to be disclosed except when, in the particular circumstances, the 
interests of justice require it. In particular, a high degree of confidentiality has 
traditionally been attached to police or expert witness reports. This is both 
during the investigation into a death and after it has concluded to secure 
absolute candour and freedom in the making of such reports and the courts 
have indicated that the most important safeguard in that regard is an absolute 
guarantee against publication. To disclose the police and expert reports in any 
case would jeopardise that candour and freedom with which the police and 
expert witnesses report to the Procurator Fiscal. 
  
As with police and expert reports, the witness statements and precognitions are 
held by COPFS for the purposes of an investigation which the department has a 
duty to conduct to ascertain the cause of a person’s death. Such statements 
are, therefore, also exempt in terms of Section 34(2)(b)(i) of FOISA. Again, the 
public interest must be considered.  
  
In assessing the public interest, I have had regard to the fact that the criminal 
justice system relies upon witnesses providing information to the criminal 
justice authorities, in order that offenders can be brought to justice and so that 
all sudden, suspicious or unexplained deaths can be fully investigated. I 
consider that, when doing so, witnesses have a legitimate expectation that 
information will be used for such purposes and will not be further processed 
unnecessarily. I have no doubt that the release of information relating to a 
serious and sensitive case such as this would seriously undermine the 
confidence that witnesses and, consequently, the public would have in the 
criminal justice system.  
 
I have had regard to the comments of the Scottish Information Commissioner 
in decision 115/2007. In that decision, the Scottish Information Commissioner 
commented:  
 
“Where witness’ evidence is heard in open court, it is done (generally orally but 
occasionally by way of sworn witness statements) under strict rules and 
conditions.  In my view, to release untested, verbatim statements into the 
public domain is likely to be unfair to those to whom the statements relate. 
Corroboration, cross examination and the legal testing of evidence are essential 
components of the justice system. Were these established principles of justice 
not to be adhered to (through the wholesale release of witness statements), 
there might be a form of summary justice established whereby the mere fact of 
a witness providing a statement in relation to some alleged offence or 
wrongdoing would be considered proof of that offence or wrongdoing”. 
  
The minutes and correspondence between Crown Counsel and the Procurator 
Fiscal, will also not be disclosed as they are covered by the exemption in 
section 30 of FOISA, namely it is not in the public interest to disclose because it 
would inhibit substantially the free and frank exchange of views.  I have 
considered what effect disclosure would have on the provision of advice or the 
exchange of views including whether it would be more likely that persons 
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk 



 
offering advice would be unwilling to do so in the future and whether it would it 
make it more likely that advice would be given in the future would be materially 
different because of the possibility of disclosure. Given the often confidential 
and sensitive nature of communication between Procurators Fiscal and Crown 
Counsel we have taken the view that it is not in the public interest to disclose 
this information. If the Law Officers or senior officials are to take decisions on 
the basis of the best available advice, they need to be confident that advice is 
given without reserve.   
 
Finally, in relation to all of the information held by COPFS in relation to this 
case I consider that this information is exempt from release in terms of section 
39 of FOISA as the release of such information would be likely to endanger the 
physical or mental health or the safety of an individual. I am of the view that 
the release of such personal, sensitive and distressing information about the 
circumstances of Mr McRae’s death into the public domain would be likely to 
have a negative impact on the mental well-being of his relatives who may not 
wish such information to be made public.  
 
I do not, therefore, intend to provide you with any of the documentation that 
you have requested.. 
  
If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request under the Freedom of 
Information (Scotland) Act 2002 has been handled, you do have the right to 
ask us to review it.  Your request should be made within 40 working days of 
receipt of this letter and we will reply within 20 working days of receipt.  If you 
require a review of our decision to be carried out, please write to the Disclosure 
Section, Policy Division, Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LA 
or by e-mail to [E-bost cais Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal (Scotland)] 
The review will be undertaken by staff not involved in the original decision 
making process. 
If our decision is unchanged following a review and you remain dissatisfied with 
this, please note that although generally under section 47(1) of FOISA there is 
a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, where the 
information requested is held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of 
criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland, under section 
48(c) no application can be made as respects a request for review made to the 
Lord Advocate.  The information you have requested appears to fall into that 
category, although ultimately it would be for the Commissioner to decide 
whether that was the case should you refer the matter to her. 
In circumstances where section 48(c) does not apply and the Commissioner 
accepts an appeal, should you subsequently wish to appeal against that 
decision, there is a right of appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law 
only. 
 
Yours sincerely, 
 
 
Iain Batho 
Procurator Fiscal Depute 
Response and Information Unit 
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk 


 
Annex A  
 
 
Circumstances surrounding the death of William MacRae (61 years) 

  
  
The deceased was 61 years of age, was single at the time of his death and 
resided in Glasgow.  He was a partner in a firm of solicitors known as MacRae 
and Company, 16 Buchanan Street, Glasgow and a senior member of the 
Scottish National Party. 
 
On Friday, 5th April 1985 MacRae contacted his legal partner and asked him to 
call at his home where there had been a fire.  He informed his partner that he 
intended to travel to his holiday home at Dornie to spend Easter weekend. 
 
His partner was aware that MacRae possessed a small calibre, possibly .22 
revolver, which had a chrome and silver finish with a pearl handle.  The 
deceased left Glasgow on the afternoon of Friday, 5th April to travel to Dornie 
and his partner had arranged to contact him at his home number.  At about 
7.30 pm that evening his partner telephoned the Dornie number and got no 
reply.  He was concerned regarding his partner’s state of mind and he 
contacted all police stations en route from Glasgow to Kyle.  Mr MacRae had 
been driving his maroon coloured Volvo, registration number FGB 214X. 
 
At approximately 11.15 am on Saturday, 6th April 1985 a telephone call was 
received at Fort Augustus Police Station from Police Headquarters to the effect 
that a single vehicle accident had occurred on the A87 Kyle of Lochalsh to 
Invergarry Road. 
 
A police officer went to the locus and confirmed that a Volvo, registration FGB 
214X had left the road on the nearside opposite the Bunloyne Dam and had 
rolled down an embankment.  A local ambulance attended at the locus and with 
the help of witnesses, the injured party from within the vehicle was removed to 
Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.  The injured party was identified as William 
MacRae, and it was found that he had serious head injuries.  He was removed 
to the Neurosurgical Unit at Aberdeen Infirmary where he was examined by a 
neurosurgeon who found a bullet wound in his right temple.  X-rays confirmed 
that there was a bullet in his brain.  At this point senior police officers were 
informed, attended at the locus and the vehicle was secured and removed to 
Police Headquarters at Inverness.  At the time of the accident, when the police 
got to the scene, they treated the matter as a road accident because they did 
not see any weapon in the car and all that could be ascertained was that the 
deceased had some injury to his head.  At Raigmore Hospital the head wound 
was cleaned and any immediate evidence of forensic value was destroyed. 
 
At approximately 3.30 am on Sunday, 7th April 1985, Mr MacRae died of his 
injuries without regaining consciousness.  From the position of the wound in the 
deceased’s temple it appeared to be self-inflicted.” 
 
Post mortem examination 
 
Post mortem examination confirmed that the entrance wound was in the 
temple, suggestive of suicide.  Microscopic examination of the skin immediately 
around the entrance wound showed no powder driven into the superficial layer 
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk 


 
of the skin.  There was abundant powder residue in the track of the gunshot 
wound extending quite deeply into the subcutaneous tissue.  A mixture of fine 
and course particles was discovered.  The presence of much powder debris in 
the wound was typical of contact or near contact between the muzzle of the 
gun and skin.  This view was reinforced by finding no evidence of powder 
spread around the entrance wound suggesting that there was no room for such 
spread to occur and that the muzzle was held firmly against the skin.  Taking 
these findings into account, the pathologist was of the view that the wound was 
self-inflicted.  The cause of death was certified as a gunshot wound to the head. 
 
Examination of the locus 
 
Examination of the locus revealed a skid mark of some 57 feet in length on the 
loose grit at the lay by, which appeared to have been made by the rear 
nearside wheel of the vehicle.  There were no further marks on the road until a 
point 171 feet from the lay by where 4 skid marks were seen on the west verge 
of the road.  It was apparent that the vehicle had travelled down the 
embankment from the road, overturning until it landed on its roof, shattering 
the rear windscreen, had continued further down the embankment coming to 
rest 87 feet from the road on its wheels.  The vehicle was facing back the way 
it had come, lying over the burn on a small waterfall, with the driver’s door 
directly above the pool below the fall. 
 
Search of the locus 
 
Examination of the car, registered number FGB 214X failed to reveal a firearm 
so a search was carried out on 7th April 1985 at the locus of the accident.  At 
approximately 1230 pm a firearm, later identified as a Smith and Wesson 
revolver, was found in the burn beneath the small waterfall directly below 
where the driver’s door of the Volvo car had been.  The weapon was found to 
have two spent cartridges in the chamber.  It was concluded from the position 
of the deceased’s head when found by witnesses that either the recoil from the 
gun when the fatal shot was fired caused it to drop out of the broken window 
into the burn or that the gun was lodged against the car door or in the 
deceased’s hand and had fallen out of the car into the burn when the car door 
was opened by witnesses. 
 
Firearms examination 
 
The gun was examined by 2 police firearms experts and found to be a 7 
chamber, top-hinged, external hammer, single action revolver of the American 
manufacture (Smith and Wesson) designed to chamber .22 short rim fire 
cartridges.  Although fully capable of being fired the ratchet mechanism on the 
rear of the cylinder was so worn that the cylinder had to be rotated manually to 
align the chambers with the barrel.  Nevertheless, test shots were successfully 
discharged and a fired bullet recovered for comparison purposes.  At no time 
during the examination of the weapon could it be induced to discharge 
accidentally, despite being struck against hard and vertical and horizontal 
surfaces. 
 
The firearms experts also examined 5 live and 2 fired cartridges.  They were all 
.22 short rim fire cartridges of British manufacture (ICI) suitable for use in the 
above Smith and Wesson revolver.  Five were apparently live and the two fired 
cases bore a clearly defined hammer impression in each of their rims.  When 
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk 


 
these were compared and a comparison microscope such detail was present 
within the hammer impressions of each as to enable the experts to form the 
opinion that both had been fired on the same weapon. 
 
The test cartridge cases fired on the Smith and Wesson revolver submitted 
were compared one with another in a comparison microscope and it was found 
that the hammer imparted its own repeated, individual characteristics to each 
of the cartridge cases.  When one of these cases was similarly compared 
against one of the fired cases submitted, such agreement was again present as 
to enable the experts to form the opinion that the two fired cartridge cases 
submitted had indeed been fired in that Smith and Wesson revolver. 
 
A similar comparison exercise was carried out between the test bullets and the 
fired bullets recovered during the post mortem examination and again these 
showed such agreement in detail with the markings caused by the rifling 
system of the weapon that the experts formed the opinion that the bullets had 
also been fired from the Smith and Wesson revolver. 
 
abcdefghijklmnopqrstu      
 
abcde abc 
www.copfs.gov.uk