Senior prosecutor who played key role in the Lockerbie case

Born: June 15, 1962;

Died: September 18, 2019

JOHN Dunn, one of Scotland’s most senior prosecutors, who has died aged 57, will be remembered for his lightning wit, fast analysis and generous heart. In a long career with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service he worked on the Lockerbie bombing case and was involved in reform at every level of Scottish criminal court.

A great love for the outdoors meant he was equally comfortable laughing with friends in a remote bothy as he was wrangling with challenging casework or justice issues in a Crown Office committee room.

After 34 years with the Procurator Fiscal service he retired in February 2019 from his final role as Deputy Crown Agent with responsibility for around 1000 colleagues tasked with prosecuting crime in local courts across Scotland.

Crown Agent David Harvie said: “John was an outstanding prosecutor, but first and foremost he was a kind, caring, intelligent man who is greatly missed by his family and many friends and colleagues.”

Born in Glasgow in 1962, he was raised in Jordanhill by his mother Edna and father John, also a solicitor. Dunn was educated at St Aloysius College and went on to secure an honours degree and diploma in legal practice at Strathclyde University before postgraduate studies at Pembroke College, Oxford. While at university he met Sandra who was to become his partner for 39 years. The couple recently celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary.

In his letters of recommendation to the Procurator Fiscal service he was described as “a very clever young man indeed. He is earnest and hard-working; I think the civil service would be lucky to have him on its strength.” Another referee wrote: “Personally he is an exceedingly pleasant man, diligent and conscientious. He is entirely trustworthy and I would recommend him to you wholeheartedly.”

He joined the Procurator Fiscal Service as a trainee solicitor in 1985 and served initially in Paisley in return for a weekly salary of £126, relatively low compensation for a man of his abilities and such that gave rise to one of the many legends that developed about him – that he still had his first fiver and that he could quote the serial number on the note.

In 1991 he was seconded to work on the criminal investigation based within the Lockerbie incident control centre before moving to the Fraud and Specialist Services Unit at Crown Office.

In 1998 he joined the team dealing with the detailed preparation of the case against Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, the two Libyans accused of the bombing that brought down PanAm flight 103. In this work he spent time in Malta and in Libya where the environment was challenging and the witnesses he was there to interview were difficult.

In 2000 he was part of the Lockerbie trial team based in Kamp Van Zeist in the Netherlands until the conclusion of the case. Correspondence from the Lord Advocate and Crown Agent of the time indicate that it was impossible to adequately capture the significance of his effort and contribution to the investigation and trial.

After Lockerbie he was appointed to the Procurator Fiscal's office in Edinburgh with particular responsibility for the preparation and presentation of debates dealing with novel and complex legal issues.

In 2002 he became head of the High Court unit at Crown Office during the period when the Bonomy reforms were being brought into effect. Next stop was Procurator Fiscal for Ayrshire, based at Kilmarnock, in 2005 and involvement in summary justice reform inspired by the work of Sheriff Principal McInnes.

In December 2007 he was appointed Deputy Crown Agent and became part of Sheriff Principal Bowen’s review of Sheriff & Jury procedures, completing a full house of reform at every level of Scottish criminal court and ensuring he leaves a unique legacy.

In a record 11 years at that senior grade he dealt with the most complex issues faced by Scotland’s prosecutors and became a champion for equalities within the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Beyond COPFS he served with distinction on the Law Society of Scotland’s Criminal Law Committee, their Human Rights Committee and their Council.

Among friends and the Rannoch Climbers he was an inspiration and joyful companion on many expeditions on hills and mountains from Arran to the Alps and farther afield to the United States. He had bagged every Munro by 1995 and was well on course for a completing a second lap. Colleagues remember him organising walks where he managed to lead from the front while supporting those at the back, all the time carrying the heaviest bag containing drinks to celebrate together at the summit.

Colleagues and friends also remember an eclectic taste in music, the ability to find a place to dance in the most unlikely of surroundings and a movie quote for any situation.

Fittingly, for a man who carved his livelihood from Scotland’s adversarial system of prosecution, friend of 40 years Gavin Mitchell said Dunn’s middle name could have been “Competitive”. He faced every challenge with a glint in his eye and remained dignified through the cancer illness to which he finally yielded.

John Dunn is survived by his wife Sandra and siblings Barbara, Kenneth and Helen.