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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Justice Committee to continue work on register of judges’ interests – MSPs to seek evidence from constitutional experts & info on conflicts of interest of key stakeholders in the justice system

MSPs to continue work on judicial register. THE Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee will continue work on a cross-party backed petition calling for the creation of a register of interests for all Scottish judges: Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

On Tuesday, members of the Justice Committee voiced their support for the plan to create a judges’ register of interests – despite intense opposition from Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway – who refused to face questions from MSPs on judges’ interests .

Justice Committee members also decided to seek evidence from constitutional and academic witnesses – and briefings on the extent of conflicts of interest relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish justice system.

During the hearing, John Finnie MSP said: “The debate seems to be polarised. The petition has been open for a considerable number of years, and an issue remains. The public would expect some measure of accountability.”

“I note the comments about intrusion into the independence of the judiciary, and I wonder if there is any opportunity to investigate that further as a way forward. I am conscious that the petition has been around for a long time.”

James Kelly MSP said: “Over the period for which the committee has been examining the issue, I have become convinced by the case for a register of interests for the judiciary.”

“I note the responses from the cabinet secretary and Lord Carloway; there is clearly a bit of a stand-off here. Members’ suggestions of taking additional evidence to take the issue forward are sensible. We should not park the issue; it is important and we should continue to press it.”

Rona Mackay MSP said: “It is a very important issue, and it will not just disappear. As a committee, we should investigate it further and take some wider evidence to inform our views. I would be in favour of doing that at this stage. Albeit that we have—as John Finnie says—reached an impasse, it is incumbent on us to take a wider look.”

The move by the Justice Committee comes amid strong and continued opposition to the judicial transparency proposal from Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway, and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf who both oppose any moves to require judges to disclose their interests in the same way others in branches of government, boards and all 129 MSPs disclose and register their interests.

Earlier this week, MSPs were provided with evidence from a senior Justice of the Peace that the official Register of Judicial Recusals – created by former Lord President Lord Brian Gill – was an incomplete record of conflicts of interest in Scotland’s courts.

Writing in a letter to the Justice Committee Convener, Justice of the Peace Dennis Barr said: “We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.”

The startling admission from Mr Barr – that judges were told by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff – that any cases where Justices of the Peace stood down from a court case due to conflict of interest – would NOT be recorded – completely undermines assurances to MSPs from retired top judge Brian Gill, and current Lord President Lord Carloway – that the recusals register was an accurate register of Scottish judges standing aside from cases due to conflicts of interest.

Mr Barr’s evidence to the Justice Committee was reported in further detail here: INJUSTICE OF THE PEACE: Judge admits Scottish Courts concealed conflict of interest recusals – Justices of the Peace were told by Court staff any cases where JP judges decided to step down from court hearings – would NOT be recorded in official register of judicial recusals

Continued opposition from the Scottish Government to the judicial transparency proposal – in the form of a letter from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to the Justice Committee, is reported in further detail here: NO, MINISTER: Justice Secretary claims Holyrood transparency legislation for register of judges’ interests – would undermine top judge who refused to meet Justice Committee on EIGHT YEAR judicial register petition

The Justice Secretary claimed that adding the requirement of judges to declare their interests could undermine Scotland’s top judge and intrude on the judiciary’s independence – similar arguments which have been constantly put forward by the Scottish Government & judiciary to the Public Petitions Committee – who investigated the petition for over six years and backed the plan to create the judicial register.

Further reporting on the register of judges’ interests petition and conflicts of interest of Scottish judges can be found on STV News here: Judging for ourselves if conflict of interest in courts and here: Scots judges facing pressure to declare their interests

The cross party backed judicial register petition filed at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Minutes of the meeting of Tuesday’s Justice Committee reveal the following decision:

Public petition PE1458: The Committee considered various pieces of correspondence received in relation to its ongoing consideration of the petition. The Committee agreed to keep the petition open and to seek further oral evidence in due course, in round-table formal, from constitutional and academic witnesses.

The Committee also agreed to seek further written briefings from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) in relation to other potential conflicts of interests relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish judicial system. The Committee will consider the scheduling of this work as part of its work programming up to spring 2021.

Video footage of Tuesday’s hearing can be viewed here:

Register of Judges Interests Petition PE1458 Justice Committee 10 March 2020

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Conservative) Convener:  Agenda item 7 is consideration of petition PE1458, which is a proposal to establish a register of judicial interests. I refer members to paper 4, which is a note by the clerk. Do members have any questions or comments?

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green): We have had some very interesting contributions from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and from various representatives of the judiciary, as well as comments on each of those from the petitioner.

The debate seems to be polarised. The petition has been open for a considerable number of years, and an issue remains. The public would expect some measure of accountability. I note the comments about intrusion into the independence of the judiciary, and I wonder if there is any opportunity to investigate that further as a way forward. I am conscious that the petition has been around for a long time.

I am supportive of the principle, and I note everything that has been said. However, we seem to have hit an impasse. I am keen to hear the views of different people—constitutional lawyers, for example.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD): I agree with John Finnie. Intuitively, I am supportive of the idea of a register. However, I do not underestimate some of the concerns that have been raised by the cabinet secretary and representatives of the judiciary—particularly on the independence of the judiciary.

The debate is rather polarised, and it is difficult to see where compromise might be possible. However, I wonder whether we might proactively elicit views from academics in the area, with a view to testing some of the arguments that they made to us in their helpful evidence.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): It is a very important issue, and it will not just disappear. As a committee, we should investigate it further and take some wider evidence to inform our views. I would be in favour of doing that at this stage. Albeit that we have—as John Finnie says—reached an impasse, it is incumbent on us to take a wider look.

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): It is clearly an important issue, which merits our having a conversation or a discussion about it in the committee.

On principle, as the petition has been in the system for eight years, we should take evidence with a view to bringing the matter to a conclusion. It is not fair to have petitions in the system for that length of time without bringing them to some kind of conclusion. However, I would be happy to hear evidence on it.

James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab): Over the period for which the committee has been examining the issue, I have become convinced by the case for a register of interests for the judiciary. I note the responses from the cabinet secretary and Lord Carloway; there is clearly a bit of a stand-off here. Members’ suggestions of taking additional evidence to take the issue forward are sensible. We should not park the issue; it is important and we should continue to press it.

The Convener: I should note that there is a petition that we have been dealing with for in excess of eight years—the Megrahi case petition. However, as members have said, it is not an ideal situation. Given the impasse and the diametrically opposed views, does the committee wish to seek further information on the record in a formal meeting with constitutional lawyers and others, in an effort to move forward and with a view to looking at the pros and cons of the petition? We could then take a formal decision on it. We could also ask the Scottish Parliament information centre and the clerks for a note on the wider issues, perhaps even taking into account any conflict-of-interest issues that might have a bearing on how court decisions are taken.

Liam McArthur: I agree with that. Such an evidence session might be better using a round-table format, rather than having a more traditional evidence session. Due to the fact that the cabinet secretary and, previously, the petitioner referred to the situation in New Zealand, which has now taken a different course, it would certainly be useful in the information that is to be provided by SPICe to have an understanding of the thought process that the New Zealand Parliament went through to arrive at the decision that it reached in relation to the same issue.

The Convener: Are we all agreed that that is the way forward?

Members indicated agreement.

The National reported on developments at the Justice Committee here:

 Scottish judges and government on collision course over interests register

By Martin Hannan The National 11 March 2020

THE Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament is on a collision course with the Scottish Government and leading Scottish judges after the Committee voted to continue its inquiries into the possibility of legislation to set up a register of the financial and other interests of judges.

Lord Carloway, Scotland’s senior judge, and justice secretary Humza Yousaf both told the committee by letter yesterday that they were opposed to such a register, indicating that the petition for such a register raised in 2012 by journalist and law blogger Peter Cherbi should now be dropped.

The Committee decided otherwise, however, and agreed to keep the petition open and to “seek further oral evidence in due course, in round-table formal, from constitutional and academic witnesses”.

The Committee also agreed to seek further written briefings from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) in relation to “other potential conflicts of interests relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish judicial system”.

In a surprise move directly against the wishes of Yousaf and Carloway, the Committee agreed to consider the scheduling of this work as part of its work programming up to spring 2021.

Yousaf had told the Committee: “I would caution however that if such a register were to be established by way of legislation, rather than through the powers of the Lord President, this may be perceived as undermining the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government.”

Yet Carloway, the Lord President and Lord Justice General, has long made known his opposition to such a register, and he told the Committee in his letter that he would not be attending to give his views.

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, John Finnie MSP said the debate on the issue had become “polarised”.

He said: “There is an issue here that remains to be dealt with and I think the public would anticipate that there is some measure of accountability.”

Peter Cherbi told The National: “Noting the Justice Committee meeting today I am grateful to those MSPs who declared their support for the register of judicial interests – and all the MSPs who have previously worked on this petition to support it and advance the issue of judicial transparency

“Clearly the debate has become very polarised as John Finnie said during the hearing. This polarisation has come about because the judiciary are entrenched in their opposition to the same level of transparency which applies to all other branches of the executive.

“It is no accident this petition has lasted eight long years, where at every turn the judiciary have sought to undermine the petition at every hearing, invoke anyone, from government ministers to vested legal interests in an effort to shut down the petition and any debate on judicial transparency.

Sadly, the effort expended by judges against this petition, is an indication judges have something to hide and fear disclosure.”

UNCONVINCING TOP  SCOTS JUDGES WHO REFUSED TO BE TRANSPARENT:

Scotland’s recent two top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for Scotland’s judiciary

Former Lord President Brian Gill, and current Lord President Lord Carloway consistently argued the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by  judges negate any requirement for further transparency in the judiciary.

However, both the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who investigated the judicial interests petition for six years, and the Justice Committee – who have considered the petition since 2018, found the judiciary’s arguments against transparency to be “unconvincing”.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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INJUSTICE OF THE PEACE: Judge admits Scottish Courts concealed conflict of interest recusals – Justices of the Peace were told by Court staff any cases where JP judges decided to step down from court hearings – would NOT be recorded in official register of judicial recusals

Court staff concealed judges’ recusals from register. AN ENTIRE TIER of Scotland’s judiciary were told by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff that any cases where Justices of the Peace stood down from a court case due to conflict of interest – would NOT be recorded in an official Register of Judicial Recusals – according to papers released by Holyrood’s Justice Committee in relation to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The recusals register – set up by a former top judge to record conflicts of interest leading to judges standing aside in court hearings – has until this year failed to publish recusals by Justices of the Peace – according to an admission by the Secretary of the the Scottish Justices Association (SJA) to Holyrood’s Justice Committee.

Writing in a letter to the Justice Committee Convener, Mr Barr – who is also a Justice of the Peace – admitted to unrecorded instances where he personally has stood aside in court cases – said “We have established that recusals by JPs do happen occasionally, but to date all such instances have been initiated by the JP themselves.”

Mr Barr also claimed in his letter Court staff had informed the Scottish Justices Association that any recusals by Justices of the Peace in cases of conflicts of interest – would not be recorded.

Mr Barr said: “If I may use myself as an example, I have recused myself on three separate occasions, sitting in the JP Courts in Glasgow over the past ten years, as I have personally known the accused. We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.”

The admission from the Scottish Justices Association comes amid an EIGHT YEAR probe by the Scottish Parliament in moves to create a register of judges’ interests.

The cross party backed judicial register petition filed at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The Register of Judicial Recusals was created in April 2015 by the then Lord President – Brian Gill – in an attempt to persuade to drop their investigation of a proposal to create a fully published register of judges interests.

However, Lord Gill deliberately excluded all Justices of the Peace (numbering around 300 judges) from the recusals register in 2014.

To this day, no convincing explanation has been offered as to why a significant number of members of Scotland’s judiciary were allowed to keep all their conflicts of interest secret from the public during court hearings.

And – only one recusal by a Justice of the Peace has since been recorded – coincidentally, just after the date of the Scottish Justices Association letter to Holyrood’s Justice Committee.

The recusal is listed as occurring on 04 February 2020 at Dumfries JP Court as “Of member’s own accord – accused’s family are known to the Justice”

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee will hear Petition PE 1458 on Tuesday 10 March 2020, and will consider evidence submitted from the Scottish Justices Association.

Letter from the Scottish Justices Association to Margaret Mitchell MSP, Convener, Scottish Parliament Justice Committee

Dear Ms Mitchell,

Petition 1458 – Proposal to establish a register of judicial interests

With reference to both your letter to Mr Gordon Hunter, the Chair of the Scottish Justices Association, on 22nd November 2019, and his reply dated 24th November 2019 on the matter of Justice of the Peace (JP) recusals, I can now advise that we have investigated this matter further.

We have established that recusals by JPs do happen occasionally, but to date all such instances have been initiated by the JP themselves. If I may use myself as an example, I have recused myself on three separate occasions, sitting in the JP Courts in Glasgow over the past ten years, as I have personally known the accused. We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.

If, however, the court receives a formal motion from either the Procurator-fiscal or the defence agent then it must be recorded by the Clerk of the Court and details must be sent to the Judicial Office, where the information is collated on behalf of the Lord President. This formal notification is recorded irrespective of whether the motion for the recusal was granted or refused. This arrangement has been in place in the JP Courts since 2018.

It is evident from the pro-forma used by SCTS staff acting as Clerk of the Court, for recording such motions, that use of the pro-forma applies to all levels of the Judiciary in Scotland, including JPs. In discussions with SCTS in each of the six Sheriffdoms it became clear that nobody could recall the use of the pro-forma in any Scottish JP Court over the past two years.

I do think it important to stress that in principle JPs do consider themselves to be fully integrated members of the Scottish Judiciary and would seek to be subject to the same processes and procedures as other members. The lack of formal motions for the recusal of JPs is, we believe, more reflective of the fact that JPs are representative members of the community they live within and serve; and clearly wish to demonstrate their impartiality in the cases that come before them. The relative minor nature of the criminal cases heard by JPs may also be a factor, notwithstanding the fact that some cases may have a relatively high public profile.

I can assure you that all of the Sheriffdom Legal Advisors (SLAs), who sit alongside JPs in court, are aware of the requirement to use the standard pro-forma when a formal motion for a recusal is made. I am not aware of any formal recording of instances where a JP has recused themselves from a case, and thereby it would not be possible to provide the public with such details.

As far as the S JA believe, this policy of regarding self-recusals as informal administrative decisions, and thus not recorded, applies to all levels of the Judiciary in Scotland. To this extent we understand that we are treated in the same manner as Sheriffs, and indeed Senators, and it is an approach that we would vigorously support.

I hope that this clarifies the position, but if you do require any further information then I and all other members of the SJA Executive Committee would be very happy to assist.

Yours sincerely Dennis W Barr

Responding to Mr Barr’s letter to the Justice Committee, the petitioner provided further information to MSPs of the variance in how recusals of Justices of the Peace have not been recorded – and evidence where senior figures at the Judicial Office had misled enquiries on the issue of Justice of the Peace recusals.

Response to letter from Scottish Justices Association 27 January 2020

The Scottish Justice Association’s view of how Justices of the Peace recuse themselves and how recusals are recorded, appears to contradict information previously provided on recusals by Justices of the Peace – by the Head of Strategy and Governance for the Judicial Office in material which I have previously provided to the Public Petitions Committee, and which has also been reported in the media.

In a query to the Judicial Office, I was informed on 21/12/2017:

“The JP courts will start reporting any recusals to us (Judicial Office) come January.  When we may see the first we don’t know until we get one of course.  But January we have asked them to start sending us any notes of recusals and that will be reported on our website.

I am in touch with the tribunal presidents but don’t yet know when we will be able to start reporting in this area.  I’ll hopefully have an update for you re timescales come mid-January on tribunals”

There are admissions in the SJA response of Justices of the Peace, including the author of the letter Mr Dennis Barr – recusing themselves from cases.

In the case of Mr Barr – he states “If I may use myself as an example, I have recused myself on three separate occasions, sitting in the JP Courts in Glasgow over the past ten years, as I have personally known the accused”

Mr Barr goes on to state: “We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.”

I draw members attention to my submission of 29 November 2017 – PE1458/JJJ to the Public Petitions Committee on the issue of Justice of the Peace which refer to communications between myself and the Judicial Office on JPs recusals. The Justice of the Peace issue was also reported in the media: Campaigner calls on Scotland’s top judge to extend register of recusals

Justices of the Peace were excluded from the creation of the Register of Recusals in 2014 – despite making up the largest membership of Scotland’s judiciary. No reason has been given for their exclusion.

Successive hearings by the Public Petitions Committee and requests for my response to Committee hearings, improved the coverage and content of the Register of Recusals over the course of this petition, however, not until 2018 and after communications with the Judicial Office were Justices of the Peace included in the recusals register,

There is only one single published recusal of a Justice of the Peace – coincidentally – which was published in the recusals register at Judicial-Recusals – Judiciary of Scotland after the SJA’s letter to the Justice Committee of 27 January.

The recusal is listed as occurring on 04 February 2020 at Dumfries JP Court as “Of member’s own accord – accused’s family are known to the Justice”

Mr Barr states in his response to the Justice Committee: “I do think it important to stress that in principle JPs do consider themselves to be fully integrated members of the Scottish Judiciary and would seek to be subject to the same processes and procedures as other members.”

I feel the time has come to ensure JPs recusals are formalised and properly published in the same way as recusals of other members of the judiciary which have been published since April 2014..

Justices of the Peace – who comprise a significant number in the total membership of Scotland’s judiciary, should be included in a publicly available register of judicial interests.

In January 2019, DOJ reported on the lack of any published recusals involving Justices of the Peace in Scotland, the article can be found here: THE UNRECUSED: Mystery as 450 Justices of the Peace fail to register one single recusal in a full year after conflict of interest rules change for Scotland’s secretive army of lay magistrates

In response to media enquiries last year – the Judicial Office claimed it had not been informed of any recusal motion by any of Scotland’s Justices of the Peace.

The Judicial Office said: “We have received no notification of a JP recusing themselves from a case since the guidance came into force, which was in January 2018”

In response to further enquiries for information relating to any refusals of Justices of the Peace to recuse, the Judicial Office stated: “We are to be informed if a formal motion for recusal is granted or refused, or if the Judicial Office holder decides at their own accord to recuse.  Nothing has yet been reported to us.”

However – the admission in the letter from the Scottish Justices Association to the Justice Committee throw previous claims of not being informed of judicial recusals into doubt.

Guidance requiring Justices of the Peace to declare conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from court hearings came into force in 2018 after calls for JPs to be brought into line with rules of recusals which apply to the remainder of Scotland’s judiciary.

This guidance was created after a report on DOJ here: DECLARE YOUR JUSTICE: Judicial Office consults with Lord Carloway on including Justices of the Peace in Register of Judicial Recusals – as questions surface over Lord Gill’s omission of 500 JPs from judicial transparency probe.

In an UPDATE to this article, the National featured a report on evidence submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee ahead of the hearing on Tuesday 10 March.

Battle for Scottish judges to register interests in court cases

By Martin Hannan The National 10 March 2020

ALMOST eight years since it was registered, a public petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for a system in which judges must register their financial and other interests reaches a crunch point today.

Journalist and law blogger Peter Cherbi first registered his petition in 2012 and it has been supported by both the Petitions and Justice Committees at Holyrood.

It is the latter committee which will meet today to discuss comprehensive refusals to start such a register made by both Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Scotland’s most senior judge and head of the judiciary, Lord Carloway, the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General.

The latter’s predecessor, Lord Gill, agreed in 2014 that a register of judges’ recusals – when a judge stands aside because of a perceived or actual conflict of interest – would be kept.

The National can reveal, however, that this register has NOT been kept for Scotland’s 250-plus Justices of the Peace (JPs) despite assurance by the Judiciary Office that it would be. According to a leading JP, that’s because they don’t have to.

In a letter to the Justice Committee, Dennis Barr, secretary of the Scottish Justices Association states: “If I may use myself as an example, I have recused myself on three separate occasions sitting in the JP courts in Glasgow over the past ten years, as I have personally known the accused.”

Barr goes on: “We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.”

Peter Cherbi commented: “I was assured in 2017 that such a register would be kept. The register of recusals was created in April 2015 by the then Lord President – Brian Gill – in an attempt to persuade MSPs to drop their investigation of a proposal to create a fully published register of judges interests. However, Lord Gill deliberately excluded all Justices of the Peace.

“To this day, no convincing explanation has been offered as to why a significant number of members of Scotland’s judiciary were allowed to keep all their conflicts of interest secret from the public during court hearings.”

Cherbi is adamant that a register of interests is necessary and is hopeful the committee will carry on with it despite Humza Yousaf ‘s opposition. Yousaf says that it is “not necessary”, while Lord Carloway stated: “I remain of the view that, from the constitutional perspective, the extent of any monitoring of judicial conduct, including judges’ interests relative to the performance of their duties, should remain a matter for the Judiciary and not for Government or Parliament.”

Cherbi told the Committee in a letter: “While noting the Lord President’s repeat of his earlier comments in relation to issues involving the Council of Europe, and the Judicial Council in Scotland, Lord Carloway has not provided any convincing argument against creating a register of judicial interests. It is also very clear from Lord Carloway’s letter, the judiciary continue to maintain resistance to the very notion of a register of judicial interests, and will not create one on their own.

“I urge members to take the petition forward and advance PE1458 to primary legislation, to ensure all members of Scotland’s judiciary declare and register their interests in the same way as all others in public life, including all 129 MSPs of the Scottish Parliament.”

A report in the Scottish National newspaper in 2017 also featured the calls for JPs to register recusals, which can be viewed here:

Campaigner calls on Scotland’s top judge to extend register of recusals

Exclusive by Martin Hannan Journalist The National 3rd October 2017

SCOTLAND’S Justices of the Peace should have to register their recusals when they step aside from cases in their courts due to conflicts of interests, according to the man who is leading a campaign on judges’ interests.

The judicial register of recusals was established by Scotland’s most senior judge in April 2014, former Lord President Lord Gill, and the judiciary website shows all such recusals by judges and sheriffs and the reasons why they stepped away from a case.

Now legal campaigner Peter Cherbi has called for the register to be extended to Justices of the Peace, who are lay magistrates dealing with less serious cases such as breach of the peace or minor driving offences.

For five years Cherbi has been petitioning the Scottish Parliament on the issue of judges’ interests, and he sees a register of recusals as vital for public confidence in all the judiciary.

Cherbi said: “Given there are nearly 500 Justices of the Peace in Scotland who must act in accordance with the same rules laid down for other members of the judiciary, JPs should now be included in the Register of Recusals.

“I am surprised Lord Gill omitted Justices of the Peace when he created the Register of Recusals in April 2014. This was a significant omission, given the numbers of JPs across Scotland, and Lord Gill should have corrected this flaw before he left office in May 2015.

“I note Lord Carloway (left) has not attended to this glaring omission since taking office as Lord President in January 2016 until now being asked to do so.

“The omission of Justices of the Peace from the Register of Recusals has left out a significant portion of the judiciary and therefore concealed a more truer representation of numbers of recusals and interests across Scotland’s judges and courts, which are of significant public interest.

“I shall be informing the Public Petitions Committee of this development and if the need should arise, I will request MSPs write to the Judicial Office and Scottish Justices Association to make enquiries as to when JPs will be added to the Register of Recusals, and to seek an explanation why they were originally left out from the data, despite it being a relatively simple operation to include JPs in the recusals statistics.”

The National contacted the Scottish Justices Association, which represents the Justices of the Peace, but no reply had been received by the time we went to press.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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NO, MINISTER: Justice Secretary claims Holyrood transparency legislation for register of judges’ interests – would undermine top judge who refused to meet Justice Committee on EIGHT YEAR judicial register petition

Justice Sec. Humza Yousaf opposes judicial transparency. SCOTLAND’S Justice Secretary has attempted to block further action in an EIGHT YEAR Holyrood judicial transparency probe – by claiming any primary legislation created by MSPs to require judges to declare their interests – could undermine Scotland’s top judge – who is also opposed to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Writing in a letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP – Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – Justice Secretary Humza Housaf claimed: “I would caution however that if such a register were to be established by way of legislation, rather than through the powers of the Lord President, this may be perceived as undermining the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government.”

The cross party backed judicial register petition filed at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Mr Yousaf also told the Justice Committee that recent details of Scottish judges working in the Gulf States while serving in Scotland were not relevant because since the judge was allegedly acting as a judge on a temporary basis – the rules did not apply to him.

However court opinions previously provided to MSPs confirm Scottish judges heard cases in the Court of Session while also working in the United Arab Emirates.

The Justice Committee previously considered material in relation to Scottish judges serving in the Gulf States & United Arab Emirates – reported in further detail here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women’s rights

John Finnie MSP – Scots Judges serving in Gulf States – Justice Committee 28 May 2019

During a hearing on 28 May 2019, Justice Committee member John Finnie MSP said “I do not agree with the idea that anyone connected with the Scottish judiciary could have any role whatsoever in the United Arab Emirates.”

“I looked yesterday at the Human Rights Watch world report, which does a country by country breakdown. The United Arab Emirates is a country that is intolerant of criticism, which has played a leading role in unlawful acts in Yemen, and whose treatment of migrant workers’ rights and women’s rights is shocking. It is a country that permits domestic violence.”

I do not think that any reasonable examination of the role of a public official—and I get the point about the separation of the judiciary—would say that involvement in such a country is acceptable.”

“I believe that we need to do something and I am not content with the cabinet secretary’s response, which is just playing out the same line as before—that there is nothing to see here and we should move on.”

“I do not think that this issue will move on until we have the openness and transparency that people rightly expect of public office.”

Earlier in April 2019, Mr Yousaf wrote to the Justice Committee, claiming ““no further evidence has been provided to the Justice Committee that strengthens the arguments already put forward in favour of the introduction of the register.”

However, the 2019 letter from the Justice Secretary was found to have copied much of it’s content from a letter dated April 2014 – from the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to the Public Petitions Committee – reported in more detail here: COPY MINISTER: ‘Copied’ content from ex Minister sent by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to Holyrood MSPs – Public must rely on judges judging judges for transparency, Scottish Government will not create register of judges’ interests

The latest attempt by the Scottish Government to scupper the eight year probe of a cross party supported petition to create a register of judges’ interests comes after a previous Minister for Legal Affairs – Paul Wheelhouse told the Public Petitions Committee in 2014 the judiciary were concerned gangsters could see their interests.

It later transpired Mr Wheelhouse was accused of misleading MSPs after files obtained via Freedom of Information revealed there was no basis for such claims, and Ministerial advisers had attempted to hunt down any leads to back up Mr Wheelhouse – without success.

And, despite Mr Wheelhouse misleading claims of gangsters & judges – a probe by journalists uncovered instances of members of Scotland’s judiciary representing some of the country’s top gangsters in the same courts in which they serve as judges.

Former Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse evidence to the Public Petitions Committee can be found here: TOO MANY SECRETS: Legal Affairs Minister ‘anti-transparency’ evidence to MSPs a ‘poor substitute for top judge’ as Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee consider next move on proposal to create a register of interests for judges

Mr Wheelhouse’ evidence to MSPs came during a concerted attempt by Scotland’s then top judge – Brian Gill – to block MSPs from continuing to investigate plans to create a register of judges’ interests – which – later in October 2014 – saw a full debate at the Scottish Parliament, resulting in cross party support for Petition PE1458.

In 2015, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also intervened in the petition, demanding the petition be closed due to the judiciary’s concerns of media and public scrutiny of judges interests – reported in further detail here: INTERESTS INTERVENE: First Minister joins top judge in bid to block register of judicial interests as MSPs consider recalling Legal Affairs Minister over dodgy evidence & private meeting with Lord Gill

Despite a barrage of opposition from Scotland’s judiciary and vested legal interests, the Public Petitions Committee continued work on Petition Pe1458 for a number of years, concluding a register of judges’ interests could, and should be created.

The decision by the Public Petitions Committee to endorse the petition was reported in further detail here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

MSPs on the Public Petitions Committee also looked at a model used by Norway for declarations of judges’ interests, supporting the introduction of a similar register in Scotland.

In Norway, judges must complete a register of interests listing honorary posts, investments, memberships of political parties, companies, religious communities and charities among others.

The Norwegian model of judicial interest disclosure was hailed by the Public Petitions Committee as model for Scotland’s judges to follow.

More on Norway’s register of judges’ interests can be found here: NORWAY, M’LORD: Judicial interests register of Norway cited as example to follow for Holyrood MSPs six year investigation to create a register of judges’ interests in Scotland

And in November 2019, the Convener of the Justice Committee wrote to Lord Carloway informing the top judge MSPs were minded to support the petition as the judiciary had not put forward any convincing arguments against the creation of a register of judges’ interests p reported here: JUDGES MUST DECLARE: Holyrood Justice Committee back cross party supported proposal to require Scotland’s judges to declare all financial interests and other links in a publicly available register of judicial interests

Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway also wrote to the Justice Committee in late January, refusing a second request from the Justice Committee to face questions on his opposition to the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Lord Carloway’s most recent refusal to give evidence and his letter are reported in further detail here: JUDGE JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge refuses to face MSPs on judiciary’s EIGHT YEAR battle against register of judges’ interests – Lord Carloway says he will not attend Holyrood to ‘rehearse the same arguments which have not apparently found favour’

Letter from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to Margaret Mitchell, Convener Justice Committee 07 February 2020

Public Petition PE 1458: Register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

Thank you for your letter of 22 November asking me to review the evidence you heard on 19 November and the previous evidence taken regarding this petition and to then set out in detail why I do not think it is necessary to establish a register.

The evidence of 19 November: Written Evidence

On the 19 November, the Committee considered written evidence in the form of a letter from the petitioner. I think it is important to address a number of issues with the evidence contained in his letter. The Lord President does not appoint judges or sheriffs to the bench. Judicial appointments are made by the Scottish Ministers on the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (JABS). JABS are an independent statutory body and carry out a rigorous recruitment process which involves written application, tests, interview, references and background checks carried out before recommendations are made based on merit from candidates who meet statutory criteria.

The petitioner highlights the press coverage of two former Scottish judges sitting in other jurisdictions. One of these judges was retired, the other was still a temporary judge at the relevant time. Once a member of the judiciary has retired, the individual would not be included in any proposed register of interests. Temporary judges are not full time salaried judiciary. These are judges who can be called on to cover gaps in the court rota and therefore not covered by the restrictions on other employment which full time judiciary are. Whilst a register of interests would have disclosed this additional work, it would not have prevented it being carried out.

Since the Petition was originally introduced to the Parliament, a register of recusals was introduced in 2014 and, I understand, is being used by both the judiciary and those appearing in court. From 1 February 2018, the register was extended to also include members of the Scottish Tribunals. The reasons for recusal tend to relate to personal knowledge of a litigant or witness or previous involvement in another relevant case. The register of recusals does not appear to have highlighted the sort of problems with conflicts of interest of the nature that the petitioner is concerned about. For clarification also, there are 277 justices of the peace, rather than 450.

The proposed reforms to the law of corroboration in Scotland, which the petitioner refers to, were aimed at addressing the difficulty in prosecuting certain types of criminal cases . These proposals were based on detailed research and analysis conducted by Lord Carloway and set out in a published report. It is difficult to see the relevance of this as evidence in support of a register of judicial interests.

The petitioner cites extensive written submissions of evidence in relation to this petition and the Committee have asked that I review all previous evidence. In doing so, I can see that almost half of those submissions are from the petitioner and over one third are either correspondents declining to make a submission or from the Scottish Government, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service or the Lord President and present evidence which is not in support of the register. The petitioner’s submissions do not always raise new evidence and cover some matters that would be outwith the scope of this petition.

Oral evidence: In terms of the oral evidence taken, a considerable part of this discussion focussed on the system for complaints about members of the judiciary. I note the point raised that Scotland differs from other jurisdictions in that upheld complaints are not published. I agree that this is a matter that consideration could be given to as it is transparent and consistent with the complaint process for many professions, however complaints against the judiciary are the responsibility of the Lord President and there may be valid reasons why complaints are not published. I also note the distinction that was explained by Ms Ali between judicial decisions and service complaints about the judiciary. This was followed by discussion on independence and accountability.

I have also considered the written and oral submissions from Professor Alan Paterson, the academic who has contributed views on this petition. I note that Professor Paterson told the Public Petitions Committee that he had not reached a concluded opinion on a register of interests for the Scottish judiciary. He explains that this question comes back to the role of the judiciary in a democracy and there is a need to balance judicial independence and accountability. Professor Paterson told the Public Petitions Committee that he considers transparency as part of accountability. I would agree with this point and I’m of the view that the judiciary’s decision making is transparent and subject to appeal.

International factors: At the time the Petition was lodged, and in a number of the petitioner’s subsequent written submissions, reference is made to the New Zealand Parliament’s consideration of a judicial register of interests. By a large majority, the New Zealand Parliament voted down a Bill to create a register after considering the whole issue and its difficulties. Few analogous jurisdictions to Scotland have legislated for a judicial register of interests, and those that have did so in response to evidence of challenges specific to those jurisdictions. South Africa, for example, created one as part of cementing its new democracy.

The Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) is an independent international body tasked with monitoring and advancing anti-corruption measures in countries across the world. It has examined the need for a judicial register of interests twice in Scotland and the most recent report of the Fourth Evaluation Round concluded that there was no evidence of corruption in relation to the judiciary in Scotland or of judicial decisions being influenced inappropriately. They do not recommend the introduction of an asset declaration scheme.

Ways to introduce a scheme: Your letter also asked for the Scottish Government’s view of what would be involved in establishing such a register and whether this would require primary legislation or could be achieved by some other means.

At present, and in line with the requirement to uphold the continued independence of the judiciary, set out in section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, Scottish Ministers do not have existing powers to establish such a register, whether voluntary or mandatory. Accordingly primary legislation would be required to implement any such register.

I would caution however that if such a register were to be established by way of legislation, rather than through the powers of the Lord President, this may be perceived as undermining the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government.

Conclusion: My predecessors set out in detail in earlier correspondence the safeguards in place. These safeguards are the judicial oath, the statement of principles of judicial ethics and the various rules made under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 which concern complaints about the judiciary and judicial conduct. I would draw particular attention to the statement of principles of judicial ethics. This is some thirty five pages long and sets out clearly the standards judicial office holders are expected to meet. Breach of the ethics can result in serious consequences for a judicial office holder. Having considered the evidence, I share the views of both of my predecessors that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary.

As mentioned previously, in the time since this petition was lodged with the Parliament, further measures have been introduced for, and by, the judiciary; such as the register of recusals and publication of judicial expenses and overseas travel. I believe that these measures have increased the transparency of the judiciary.

I am also mindful of the statutory requirement within the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, that Scottish Ministers and Members of the Scottish Parliament must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary.

I have given further consideration to the matter and have considered the evidence before the Justice Committee. I remain of the view that it is not necessary to establish a register of interests. I hope the detail of this letter explains my reasons for that

EIGHT YEAR JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register petition – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has consistently supported calls for a judicial interests register over multiple hearings – where MSPs have spoken out on Scottish judges involvement in the Gulf States, reported here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women’s rights

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in May 2019 – where MSPs backed the petition – can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee investigate approach to judges’ interests in other countries – MSPs say ‘Recusals register not comprehensive enough’ ‘Openness & transparency do not contradict independence of the judiciary’

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in February 2019 – where evidence in relation to Scottish judges swearing dual judicial oaths and working for Human Rights abusing Gulf States dictatorships – can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER – MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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JUDGE JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge refuses to face questions from MSPs on judiciary’s EIGHT YEAR battle against register of judges’ interests – Lord Carloway says he will not attend Holyrood to “rehearse the same arguments which have not apparently found favour”

Lord Carloway refused request to face MSPs. SCOTLAND’S top judge Lord Carloway – has refused a second request from Holyrood’s powerful Justice Committee to face questions on judges’ opposition to an EIGHT YEAR petition calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

In a letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP – Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) informed the Convener of the Justice Committee he would not attend Holyrood to “rehearse the same arguments which have not apparently found favour”.

The uncompromising – yet unconvincing letter from the top judge is a veiled reference to previous unconvincing arguments against judicial transparency put forward by both Lord Carloway and his predecessor – Lord Brian Gill – who both demanded an end to MSPs investigations of judges’ interests.

The letter from Scotland’s top judge to MSPs – dated 29 January 2020 but only published by Holyrood earlier this week – is loaded with contentions that judges can only judge judges – and ends with a previously used veiled threat to the Scottish Parliament over alleged constitutionality of elected politicians creating legislation to require judges to declare their interests.

Lord Carloway also rehearses previous arguments put forward to MSPs on sponsored studies by EU judicial quango groups – even though the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020.

It should be noted both the Public Petitions Committee and Justice Committee have heard the same arguments put forward by the judiciary over the course of eight years, yet both Committees found judges’ arguments against transparency and judicial declarations to be unconvincing against the weight of cross party, media and public support for a judicial register.

And in November 2019, the Convener of the Justice Committee wrote to Lord Carloway informing the top judge MSPs were minded to support the petition as the judiciary had not put forward any convincing arguments against the creation of a register of judges’ interests p reported here: JUDGES MUST DECLARE: Holyrood Justice Committee back cross party supported proposal to require Scotland’s judges to declare all financial interests and other links in a publicly available register of judicial interests

The cross party backed judicial register petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The Justice Committee’s note of support follows over SIX YEARS of investigations by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who also concluded a register of judges’ interests was workable and could be created – despite similar arguments put forward by Carloway’s predecessor Lord Brian Gill who warned MSPs they did not have the power to require judges to declare their interests.

The decision by the Public Petitions Committee to endorse the petition was reported in further detail here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

And, like Lord Carloway – Brian Gill refused two requests to face MSPs questions on the petition – only finally showing up at Holyrood in November 2015 after the top judge retired earlier that year.

The Justice Committee will consider Petition PE1458 at a meeting on Tuesday 10 March 2020.

Lord Carloway’s letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP Convener of the Justice Committee:

I thank you for your letter of 22 November 2019 in which you indicate that the Justice Committee is inclined to support the principle behind the petition of a judicial register of interests. I have, once again, considered the matter very carefully. As I mentioned in my letter of 23 August 2019, if substantive new issues had been identified then I would have been happy to address them. However, no new issues have been identified.

Over the course of 7 years, I and my predecessor have repeatedly explained our view that a register of judicial interests is constitutionally inappropriate, unnecessary, disproportionate, unsupported by objective evidence, and incapable of achieving its stated aim. On a practical level, it would have negative effects on judicial retention and recruitment at a time when attracting quality applicants for judicial office is, as I suspect you are already aware, extremely challenging. It would be cumbersome to operate. It would provide additional means for disgruntled litigants to target judges and their families. Elected office and judicial office are not comparable. The checks and balances applicable to each are different by conscious design. Judges and sheriffs are fully accountable for each and every decision which they take. Those decisions are taken in open forum and subject to appeal. At each stage the actions of the court are governed by clear and transparent legal rules. The nature of political decision-making is very different from that of legal decision-making. That is why the checks and balances are correspondingly different.

The Committee will be familiar with the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO). The Committee undertakes regular independent investigations into anti-corruption mechanisms in member states. It concluded (at para 133), once again, in its Fourth Evaluation Round Report about our judiciary that there is no “element of corruption in relation to judges, nor is there evidence of judicial decisions being influenced in an inappropriate manner… What was said in the First Evaluation Round Report with respect to the absence of a system for formal registration of interests of judges is still valid. GRECO did not recommend the introduction of an asset declaration system at that time and the GET found no change of circumstance that require such a recommendation at this time”. GRECO is an important independent source of evidence on how our legal system functions. In the absence of any objective suggestions of corrupt practices, and by that I mean from those without axes to grind, I would suggest that no additional controls, beyond those already in place, are desirable.

The Committee appears already to have reached at least a preliminary view on the matter. There would seem to be little value in wasting the Committee’s time with a third Parliamentary appearance only to rehearse the same arguments which have not apparently found favour.

I have mentioned previously that the question of whether to have a register of interests for the judiciary is not something that can be considered in isolation. It forms part of a larger equation which bears on judicial recruitment, retention, reward, quality, independence and effectiveness. As part of ensuring that this equation continues to balance, the Committee may be interested to know that a judicial working group of the Judicial Council, comprising members drawn from each of the judicial ranks, has been working for some months on a project to refresh the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics. The Statement is a cornerstone in supporting judicial independence, impartiality and integrity. It builds on tire UN Bangalore Principles.

At its most recent meetings, the group has focussed on the extent to which judges may undertake extra judicial activities. In due course, the Judicial Council will be considering whether or not, among a range of other measures, a system of permissions for commercial activity has a place in any adjusted code of ethics. Regardless of the decisions which the group may eventually reach, the Committee can have confidence that they will have been arrived at after deep consideration of the likely effects of any change across the whole judicial system. That is the most effective means by which such questions can be explored and resolved.

I remain of the view that, from the constitutional perspective, the extent of any monitoring of judicial conduct, including judges’ interests relative to the performance of their duties, should remain a matter for the Judiciary and not for Government or Parliament. I note that almost every country in Europe and the Commonwealth agrees with this analysis.

While Scotland’s judiciary have conducted an eight year resistance to proposals to make the judiciary as transparent as elected politicians, other jurisdictions such as Norway, the USA, and other countries have operated registers of judicial interests and requirements on judges to publish their financial reports without any issues.

In Norway, judges must complete a register of interests listing honorary posts, investments, memberships of political parties, companies, religious communities and charities among others.

The Norwegian model of judicial interest disclosure was hailed by the Public Petitions Committee as model for Scotland’s judges to follow.

More on Norway’s register of judges’ interests can be found here: NORWAY, M’LORD: Judicial interests register of Norway cited as example to follow for Holyrood MSPs six year investigation to create a register of judges’ interests in Scotland

EIGHT YEAR JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register petition – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has consistently supported calls for a judicial interests register over multiple hearings – where MSPs have spoken out on Scottish judges involvement in the Gulf States, reported here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women’s rights

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in May 2019 – where MSPs backed the petition – can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee investigate approach to judges’ interests in other countries – MSPs say ‘Recusals register not comprehensive enough’ ‘Openness & transparency do not contradict independence of the judiciary’

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in February 2019 – where evidence in relation to Scottish judges swearing dual judicial oaths and working for Human Rights abusing Gulf States dictatorships – can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER – MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

 

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JUDGES MUST DECLARE: Holyrood Justice Committee back cross party supported proposal to require Scotland’s judges to declare all financial interests and other links in a publicly available register of judicial interests

Justice Committee issues backing for Judicial Register. A CROSS-PARTY supported proposal to require all members of Scotland’s near 700 strong judiciary to declare and register their financial interests, links to big business and other connections has moved a step closer after MSPs declared their support for Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

The Justice Committee published a letter from Margaret Mitchell MSP, Convener of Holyrood’s powerful Justice Committee to Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway – in which Ms Mitchell states: “After this evidence session and a previous one, the Committee is minded to support the principle behind the petition of a judicial register of interests as it has yet to hear a convincing case against.”

The cross party backed judicial register petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Support from the Justice Committee to advance the judicial transparency proposal – comes after six years of investigation by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who unanimously backed the petition in the face of strong resistance from Scotland’s judiciary, and two years of work by the Justice Committee – who have now gone on the record with their support for a publicly available register requiring all judges in Scotland to declare their interests – in the same way all members of the Scottish Parliament declare their interests.

While in theory, all UK judges including Scotland’s judiciary have a duty to declare all relevant interests in cases they hear in court, a number of serious cases have come to light via media investigations – revealing judges are routinely failing to declare key interests – even when their own family members are before them in court.

In one serious example of a failure to declare interests, Lord Malcolm (real name Colin Campbell QC) heard a damages claim EIGHT TIMES while his own son – Ewen Campbell – represented the defenders in the same court.

The case involving Lord Malcolm generated significant interest as it was not just any ordinary case – it was an appeal linked to a multi million pound damages claim involving defenders represented by a then serving member of the judiciary – (now former Sheriff) Peter Watson – who was later suspended for a record three years plus over his links to a £28M writ involving the £400M Heather Capital Hedge Fund collapse – and then resigned in 2019.

The investigation into the Lord Malcolm case of serious failures to declare conflicts of interest,  is reprinted here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders

A number of other cases where judges failed to recuse have also come to light, and cases where the Judicial Office failed to publish recusals – including at least one hearing involving Lord Bracadale (real name Alistair Campbell) – were drawn to the attention of the Public Petitions Committee during their long six year investigation of the proposal calling for a register of judicial interests.

An investigation revealing the Judicial Office altered the Register of Judicial Recusals – one year after Lord Bracadale recused from a case – and only after journalists questioned the Judicial Office on the omission, can be found here: RECUSALS UNLIMITED: Doubts over credibility of register of judges’ recusals – as Judicial Office admit court clerks failed to add details of senior judges recusals – then silently altered records a year later

The full letter from Margaret Mitchell, Convener of the Justice Committee – to Lord Carloway – was published by the Justice Committee as follows:

Dear Lord President,

Petition 1458 – Proposal to establish a register of judicial interests

I write regarding the above Petition which the Justice Committee considered on 19 November. After this evidence session and a previous one, the Committee is minded to support the principle behind the petition of a judicial register of interests as it has yet to hear a convincing case against.

The Committee thanks you for your letter of 23 August 2019 on this subject. However in light of the above, members agreed it wanted to give you the opportunity to relate your views, in person, as to why a register of judicial interests should not be established.

I should be grateful, therefore, if you would indicate whether you, or a representative of the Judicial Office, would be willing to give oral evidence on the petition in the New Year. If so, in order to move forward. I would be grateful if your officials would contact the Justice clerks to discuss a mutually convenient date.

Finally it would be extremely helpful if you would provide further details on your views of what would be involved in establishing such a register and whether this would require primary legislation or could be achieved by some other means through the powers that you have as Lord President.

I look forward to your response. Best wishes,

Margaret Mitchell MSP Convener, Justice Committee

While Scotland’s judiciary have conducted an eight year resistance to proposals to make the judiciary as transparent as elected politicians, other jurisdictions such as Norway, the USA, and other countries have oeprated registers of judicial interests and requirements on judges to publish their financial reports without any issues.

In Norway, judges must complete a register of interests listing honorary posts, investments, memberships of political parties, companies, religious communities and charities among others.

The Norwegian model of judicial interest disclosure was hailed by the Public Petitions Committee as model for Scotland’s judges to follow.

More on Norway’s register of judges’ interests can be found here: NORWAY, M’LORD: Judicial interests register of Norway cited as example to follow for Holyrood MSPs six year investigation to create a register of judges’ interests in Scotland

After hearing evidence from Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali in a hearing last November, the Justice Committee have also invited Lord Carloway to attend Holyrood to face further questions on his opposition to judicial transparency.

During that hearing in November, and in response to a question from MSP Shona Robinson on concerns raised by Lord Carloway of difficulties in hiring judges – Moi Ali said: “If a lawyer were put off by having to be open and transparent, that would raise questions about their suitability to be a member of the judiciary.”

Video Footage of this exchange can be found here:

Moi Ali – Judicial interests register will not deter judicial candidates – Justice Committee 19 November 2019

A full report on the Justice Committee evidence hearing with Moi Ali on 19 november 2019 can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Ex-Judicial Investigator responds to top judge’s claims a register of judges’ interests may affect judicial recruitment – “If a lawyer were put off by having to be open and transparent it does raise questions about their suitability to be members of the judiciary”

Earlier, in September 2013, and during the term of her office as Judicial Complaints Reviewer – Moi Ali gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, and supported calls for the creation of a register of judicial interests. The hearing is reported in more detail along with video footage of the 2013 evidence session here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

EIGHT YEAR JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register petition – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has backed calls for further work on the judicial interests register during at least THREE further Holyrood hearings, including the latest hearing from June 2019, reported here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women’s rights

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in May 2019 can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee investigate approach to judges’ interests in other countries – MSPs say ‘Recusals register not comprehensive enough’ ‘Openness & transparency do not contradict independence of the judiciary’

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in February 2019 can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER – MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Evidence to MSPs urges probe of Scots Judges in Gulf States – Scottish Parliament Justice Committee urged to move forward on EIGHT YEAR cross party backed petition to create a Register of judges’ interests

MSPs consider evidence on judicial register. THE Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee have been urged to progress a cross party backed eight year petition calling for the creation of a Register of judges’ interests Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

A submission of evidence from the petitioner – published by the Justice Committee – also reveals there are questions over the lack of recusals by Justices of the Peace – who were deliberately excluded from a Register of Recusals created in 2014 as a result of the Public Petitions Committee’s hearings on the petition.

Responding to an earlier letter from Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway – the petitioner highlighted the Lord President’s inability to address issues of Scottish judges serving in the Gulf States – a subject which drew harsh criticism from Justice Committee members at an earlier meeting – reported here: JUDGE THE JUDGES: Seven years, and one year on from petition passed to Justice Committee, questions on judicial conflicts of interest & Scots judges swearing dual judicial oaths in Gulf States – time to move forward on legislation for register of judges’ interests

An investigation by journalist Russell Findlay revealed Scottish judges were serving in Abu Dhabi & UAE courts – while serious Human Rights abuses were taking place against British citizens in the same countries.

The investigation also reveals how Scottish and UK judges are lured to the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar with big money salaries are available here: JUDGES FOR SALE: Special investigation into top lawmen being lured with big money jobs in Qatar and the UAE and here: Scottish judges slammed for being on payroll of oppressive regimes abroad

The letter from Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) to the Justice Committee – also revealed the Lord President had refused to appear before the Justice Committee to give evidence, and went on to demand he be told of any questions in advance before he even consider the issue.

Lord Carloway’s letter to MSPs was reported in further detail here: Scotland’s top judge complains Holyrood judicial transparency probe prevents him recruiting judges – refuses Justice Committee invitation to give evidence in cross-party backed Eight year register of judges’ interests investigation

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

Given the submission from Lord Carloway dated 23 August 2019 has only recently been published, I would like to name a number of observations in this submission to the Justice Committee.

I would observe Lord Carloway does not address important issues raised with the Justice Committee in relation to serving members of Scotland’s judiciary holding judicial positions in the UAE and other States with poor Human Rights records.

Noting comments from member John Finnie MSP in relation to this matter, and the facts presented to the Committee in my previous submissions along with media coverage, I recommend members pursue this matter to the fullest extent, given this is a very clear issue where a register of judicial interests would, and should include such service – where members of Scotland’s judiciary are swearing judicial oaths in countries condemned by rights organisations for multiple Human Rights abuses.

To address the remaining points in Lord Carloway’s letter, the Justice Committee will be aware from previous work and evidence taken by the Public Petitions Committee that former Lord President refused at least two invitations to give evidence to MSPs, and only attended the Petitions Committee on November 2015, some six months after his retirement as Lord President.

Lord Carloway’s evidence to the Public Petitions Committee took place on 29 June 2017. I would highlight my previous submission to the Petitions Committee of 4 September 2017  and media coverage provided to the Petitions Committee in relation to that hearing.

I feel it appropriate to request members of the Justice Committee watch the video coverage of Lord Carloway’s evidence of 29 June 2017 to the Public Petitions Committee, and pay particular attention to Lord Carloway’s responses to MSP Alex Neil – Lord Carloway evidence on Register of Judges interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

I note Lord Carloway states it is unfortunate this issue is being raised by the Justice Committee at a time during which he is seeking to recruit more members of the judiciary.

The statistics of Scotland’s judiciary, often difficult to obtain and varying, depending on what the Judicial Office publish, indicate there are currently between 650 – 700 members of the judiciary in Scotland.

A handful of judges, around seven – are already required to declare their interests in the standing register of interests for the Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service Board.

The limited disclosure of the seven judges, and non-judicial members are included in the SCTS Annual report, published each year.

A further limited disclosure of financial shareholdings of SCTS Board members, is available via a Freedom of Information request, which I have submitted to the Justice Committee along with this written submission.

This leaves the bulk of Scotland’s judiciary who are not declaring anything, no interests, no financial disclosures, nothing – other than a short biography for a select few judges.

As a result of this petition there is now a Register of Recusals – which has existed since April 2014 and now holds over 180 recusals of members of the judiciary and tribunal members – on varying grounds which in itself, does confirm and bolster the need for a full register of judicial interests.

There are however, problems with the Register of Recusals – as some recusals are not being made and some are not being listed. Notably, Lord Carloway’s explanation to the Public Petitions Committee in regard to unpublished and omitted recusals should be looked at further.

I also ask Committee members to note – there is not one recusal from a Justice of the Peace in the entire Register of Recusals.

Given there are some 450 Justices of the Peace in Scotland, and taking into account the recusal statistics from other branches of the judiciary – from Sheriffs, to Court of Session Senators and Tribunal members, the lack of recusals from JPs are a matter of concern and should be investigated further.

I recommend members of the Justice Committee read my submission of 29 November 2017 to the Public Petitions Committee, which contains important information on the Register of Recusals.

On a further matter of judicial appointments to which Lord Carloway raises, I would recommend members of the Committee read published revelations in the book “Acid Attack” @acid_book by journalist Russell Findlay @RussellFindlay1

In one example of a judicial appointment, contained in the Acid Attack book, are substantiated references to Lord Carloway’s appointment of a full-time sheriff – a year after the Sheriff’s troubling conduct in relation to organised crime criminal clients.

I recommend the Justice Committee request evidence from journalist Russell Findlay, who has written extensively on matters related to the judiciary and justice issues in Scotland.

Of further note to the Justice Committee should be Lord Carloway’s swift appointment of former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland – direct from the position of Lord Advocate to the judicial bench, and a position as a Senator of the Court of Session.

Clearly, in anyone’s mind – making a top prosecutor a top judge in an instant – creates the possibility of voluminous conflicts of interest – particularly in the instance of Mr Mulholland – who stood with Lord Carloway on the Scottish Government’s move to remove the use of “corroboration” from Scots Law – the instance where evidence must be validated by two independent sources. It is of note the Justice Committee heard evidence from both Lord Carloway & former Lord Advocate Mulholland on this issue, and concluded it should not go ahead.

However, we are now in a situation where Scotland’s former top prosecutor is a top judge. Clearly yet another example of why a register of judicial interests for all members of the judiciary – should exist.

I previously provided evidence to the Public Petitions Committee of the instance where, as members will be aware from media coverage – the Lord Advocate’s wife – who is also a judge – was scheduled to hear a damages claim involving her husband – the Lord Advocate.

Clearly, a register of judicial interests for all members of the judiciary would help to inform litigants, court users, legal representatives and the public of such clear conflicts of interest, rather than leaving it to the last minute in a court hearing to realise the judge is related to one of those being sued in court.

I also recommend members of the Justice Committee read two fresh reports in relation to the petition’s aim of creating a register of judicial interests, and – reports of Scottish judges serving in the UAE – which have been previously commented upon by Committee members prior to publication of these news reports on Scottish Television (STV), here: Judging for ourselves if conflict of interest in courts  and here Scots judges facing pressure to declare their interests

A 75 second Video report relevant to this petition, and information of interest to the Justice Committee can be found on STV Twitter feed here: STV News – Register of Judges Interests

This petition is now in its eighth year, and has been with the Justice Committee for over a year, after the Public Petitions Committee agreed to support the petition in May 2018 after six years of evidence.

The evidence accumulated by the Public Petitions Committee, and the hard work of MSP members past and present of the Public Petitions Committee is as fresh today as when it was taken during the PPC’s extensive deliberations on this petition.

That work, including the evidence of all who gave it, and Public Petitions Committee members efforts to keep this issue alive, in the realisation members of the judiciary should declare their interests, and that there is no valid argument against a register of judicial interests, is to be commended, and therefore should be carried through to the creation of a register of interests for all members of Scotland’s judiciary.

A list of evidence accumulated by the Public Petitions can be found on the Public Petitions Committee link here Public Petitions Committee – Register of Judicial Interests  and within the files of the Petitions Committee in relation to copies of media coverage & related issues brought to the attention of it’s members.

Evidence gathered by the Public Petitions Committee includes:

Extensive written submissions of evidence (over 62 written submissions) across 25 hearings of the Public Petitions Committee,

Evidence from Cabinet Secretaries,

Evidence from one Lord President and one retired Lord President,

Key evidence from Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali, and supporting evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson.

Evidence from law academics,

A full debate which took place in the Scottish Parliament in October 2014 – which concluded with members from all parties supporting the petition,

Multiple media reports on the petition and reports in relation to the judiciary – including undeclared conflicts of interest –

And a clear public interest and public expectation of transparency in court in this petition being brought into legislation to enable court users, the public, legal representatives of litigants, the media and politicians to see that the judiciary is held to the same levels of transparency as all others in public life.

It is now time, after eight years – for the Scottish Parliament to move ahead with this volume of evidence, the vast majority of which supports bringing transparency to the judiciary, and create a register of interests for all members of Scotland’s judiciary

Peter Cherbi, Petitioner PE1458

EIGHT YEAR JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register petition – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has backed calls for further work on the judicial interests register during at least THREE further Holyrood hearings, including the latest hearing from June 2019, reported here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women’s rights

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in May 2019 can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee investigate approach to judges’ interests in other countries – MSPs say ‘Recusals register not comprehensive enough’ ‘Openness & transparency do not contradict independence of the judiciary’

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in February 2019 can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER – MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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CONFLICT OF JUSTICE: Deputy President of UK Supreme Court Lord Hodge blocked appeal to UKSC on damages case he previously heard 16 times – where fellow judge Lord Malcolm failed to declare his own son represented defenders in same court

Lord Hodge heard case 16 times, then blocked appeal. PAPERS from a UKSC case file – reveal top judge Lord Hodge – who has today been appointed as Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) – blocked an appeal to the Supreme Court on a case he failed to declare he heard up to SIXTEEN TIMES when he sat as a judge in the Court of Session.

BUT, the case was not just any ordinary case – it was an appeal linked to a multi million pound damages claim involving defenders represented by a then serving member of the judiciary – (now former Sheriff) Peter Watson – who was later suspended for a record three years plus over his links to a £28M writ involving the £400M Heather Capital Hedge Fund collapse – and then resigned in 2019.

AND – in the SAME case representing the SAME defenders – was solicitor Ewen Campbell – the son of another Court of Session judge – Lord Malcolm (real name Colin Campbell QC) – who, like Lord Hodge – is also a Privy Councillor.

However, as DOJ has previously investigated and reported – Lord Malcolm ruled on the same case up to EIGHT TIMES – while failing to declare his own son – Ewen Campbell – acted for the defenders in the same court before his own father – Lord Malcolm.

The information revealing Lord Hodge blocked the appeal to the UK Supreme Court – came to light in a letter from UKSC Registrar – Louise Di Mambro.

The brief letter from the Registrar of the Supreme Court reveals no court procedure for any UKSC appeal was followed, and that simply – the Registrar had shown the papers to Lord Hodge who had claimed the UKSC had no jurisdiction over the case.

In fact – so confident was Loise Di Mambro and Lord Hodge of blocking the appeal – they sent a copy of their letter to solicitor Richard Cullen at the respondent’s law firm – Levy and McRae – where Ewen Campbell & Peter Watson had represented the defenders – Advance Construction Ltd.

When enquiries were made of UKSC media after the papers were discovered in case files some time ago – a long and protracted debate took place over the validity of an appeal, and counter claims were received in response to media queries on the case and how Lord Hodge came to a conclusion the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction.

However when the existence of the Registrar’s letter and it was pointed out – Lord Hodge had failed to declare he had heard the case up to sixteen times in the Court of Session – a different tone was struck from UKSC media chiefs in emails now being studied for further publication.

It should be noted the pursuer and his legal backers contended at the time – the UK Supreme Court did have jurisdiction over how badly the case had been manipulated in the Court of Session – however a noticeable and deliberate effort by the judiciary to put the case to one side, and even reopen hearings to channel funds to the defenders – struck a bad chord in Scotland’s courts – particularly with the background of what many connected to the case was a judge deliberately concealing his links to family members in court.

AND – there are significant grounds for a re-examination of the case – and other cases heard by Lord Malcolm – given the inescapable conclusion the judge could not have forgotten over eight hearings – that his own son was a legal representative of the pursuers in the exact same courtroom.

Bio: Justice of The Supreme Court, The Right Hon Lord Hodge

Patrick Stewart Hodge, Lord Hodge became a Justice of The Supreme Court in October 2013.

Lord Hodge was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983 and appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1996. From 1997 – 2003, he was a part time Law Commissioner at the Scottish Law Commission.

Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court in April 2013, Lord Hodge was the Scottish Judge in Exchequer Causes and one of the Scottish Intellectual Property Judges. He was also a Judge in the Lands Valuation Appeal Court and a Commercial Judge.

Lord Hodge is one of the two Scottish Justices of The Supreme Court.

Bio: Louise di Mambro Registrar

Louise has been Registrar of The Supreme Court since 1 October 2009 and Registrar of the Privy Council since 1 April 2011.

As Registrar, she exercises judicial and administrative functions under the two sets of Rules and Practice Directions which provide the procedure for these Courts.

From June 2008 until September 2009, Louise was Deputy Head of the Judicial Office of the House of Lords, supporting the Law Lords in their judicial functions. Before that, Louise was a deputy master in the Court of Appeal, Civil Division, working in the Royal Courts of Justice from December 1997 to May 2008.

From September 1977 to December 1997, Louise held various posts as a member of the Government Legal Service in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department and the Lord Chancellor’s Department. Louise was called to the Bar in July 1976.

It should be noted this is the second case of a top UK Supreme Court judge failing to declare their interests in previous cases and hearings.

Last month, Lord Reed – another Scottish judge – assumed the presidency of the UK Supreme Court after his appointment in the last days of Theresa May’s Government.

DOJ reported more on Lord Reed’s undeclared interests in further detail here: SUPREME COURT INTERESTS : Prorogation case judge Lord Reed who failed to declare role in appointment of Scotland’s Prorogation Judicial Review ruling top judge Lord Carloway – takes over as new President of UK Supreme Court

The investigation into the Lord Malcolm case of serious failures to declare conflicts of interest,  is reprinted here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders

Judicial Interests probe – Lord Malcolm heard case involving his own son. AN INVESTIGATION by MSPs into proposals to create a register of judges’ interests has received evidence which contradicts claims by top judges – that members of the judiciary recuse themselves when they have conflicts of interest in court.

Papers lodged with the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in relation to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – reveal Court of Session judge – Lord Malcolm – real name Colin Malcolm Campbell QC – took part in multiple hearings on a case which began with his son – Ewen Campbell – providing legal representation to building firm Advance Construction Ltd.

However, Lord Malcolm did not recuse himself from any of the hearings, and no one in the court made the pursuers aware of any relationship between Lord Malcolm and Ewen Campbell until years into the court case.

The high value civil damages claim, initially heard in Hamilton Sheriff Court and then transferred to the Court of Session for a ‘speedy’ resolution – involved the dumping of 16,500 tons of contaminated waste by the defenders from a North Lanarkshire Council PPI project on the land of Donal Nolan – the well known & respected former National Hunt jockey & trainer.

At the time, the defenders solicitor – Ewen Campbell – worked for Glasgow based Levy & Mcrae – a  law firm linked to Scotland’s judiciary and more recently named in a writ in relation to the £400million collapse of a Gibraltar based hedge fund – Heather Capital.

Papers now lodged at Holyrood reveal Ewen Campbell reported back to former Levy & Mcrae senior partner and suspended Sheriff Peter Watson on the day to day running of the case for Advance Construction Ltd.

Crucially, answers lodged by the defenders in relation to an appeal by the pursuer in 2016 – finally confirmed the relationship between the judge hearing the case and the defenders solicitor, admitting Ewen Campbell was Malcolm’s son, and had been acting for the defenders in court in earlier hearings.

However, the admission of the relationship between the judge and the defenders solicitor came years into the case, and questions are now being asked as to why the judge, and no one else in court informed the pursuers of this potential conflict of interest at a much earlier stage in the action.

A quote from a motion raised by the defenders in 2016 stated: “Lord Malcolm’s son, namely Ewen Campbell, was formerly an assistant solicitor at Messrs Levy & Mcrae, Solicitors, Glasgow. That firm is the principal agent instructed by the Defender and Respondent. Ewen Campbell was formerly involved in the present cause as an assistant to the partner handling the case.”

Pleadings to the court reveal Lord Malcolm heard the case on eight separate occasions, listed as 3 May 2012, 11 May 2012, 24 July 2012, 4 October 2012, 13 March 2013, 11 April 2013, 20 May 2013 and  on 16 March 2016.

However, there is no record of any recusal by Lord Malcolm in the case.

During the 11 April 2013 hearing, a note of the decision written by clerk Kate Todd reveals Lord Malcolm appointed Lord Woolman to hear the proof.

The move to appoint another judge is now subject to debate and questions from the pursuers and legal observers, given the fact Lord Malcolm had already taken part in no less than five hearings in Mr Nolan’s case without any recusal with regard to his son’s interest as legal agent for the defenders.

According to normal procedure, the appointment of Lord Woolman to the proof should instead have been undertaken by the Office of the Keeper of the Rolls of the Court, and not by another judge.

Lord Woolman has since come in for criticism after key parts of his 2014 opinion have been subject to concerns in relation to a lack of evidence and ‘unauthorised’ actions attributable to a senior QC.

However the saga of Lord Malcolm’s appearances in the case did not end with the proof being handed over to Lord Woolman in 2013.

Lord Malcolm returned to the same case during 2016 for another hearing – in order to hear and grant a motion handing money to the defenders – which had been lodged for an appeal by a friend of Mr Nolan.

The return of a judge to a case in which MSPs have been told he should have stood aside due to a conflict of interest – has now prompted concerns over the integrity of information currently supplied by the Judicial Office since 2014 relating to judicial recusals – and previous claims by judicial figures to politicians that judges had recused themselves when required to do so prior to the creation of the recusals register in 2014.

And, it has been pointed out – Lord Malcolm’s position on such an obvious conflict of interest contrasts starkly with action taken by former Lord President Brian Gill – who avoided the same situation when forced to step down from a case in June 2014 when Lord Gill’s son – Advocate Brian Gill – appeared in the same court acting for a party in a hearing.

With increasing calls for transparency on judges’ declarations and interests, questions are also being asked why a judge was allowed to sit unchecked so many times on a case in which his own son provided legal representation for the defenders.

The case involving Lord Malcolm – has now been brought to the attention of members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who are involved in a five year probe on the judiciary and proposals put forward to require judges to register their interests.

Writing in a submission to MSPs, Mr Nolan’s partner – Melanie Collins – said had a register of interests for judges existed in Scotland, the existence of such a register would have resulted in Lord Malcolm recusing himself from hearing the case.

Ms Collins also highlighted links between the same judge – Lord Malcolm – and a ruling affecting hundreds of solicitors and members of the public which toppled over 700 investigations by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission against solicitors and law firms accused of wrongdoing.

Ms Collins informed MSPs the SLCC were at the time investigating a complaint in relation to issues surrounding Mr Nolan’s case.

However, the ruling by Lord Malcolm ‘coincidentally’ closed down the legal regulator’s investigation into solicitors involved in the case, and hundreds of other cases after the judge struck down a 30 year policy where the Law Society of Scotland and SLCC investigated “hybrid complaints’ comprising of conduct and service issues against solicitors since before 1980.

Now, Ms Collins and her partner Mr Nolan both have the support of their constituency MSP Alex Neil and backing to bring their experiences to the Scottish Parliament.

The full submission from Melanie Collins: PE1458/CCC: SUBMISSION FROM MELANIE COLLINS

I would like to make the following submission in relation to the current system of judicial recusals.

In my view the system is not transparent about the circumstances in which judges should recuse themselves, such as circumstances in which a judge could be perceived as having a potential bias, or the instances in which a judge may be asked to consider recusing themselves but decide not to do so. My experience demonstrates that the recusal register is not working and that a register of interests being put in place is both necessary and correct to allow the public to have faith in the judiciary and transparency of the judicial system.

My views arise from a case raised on my partner’s behalf and in which a senior judge did not recuse himself, in circumstances in which the existence of a register of interests may have resulted in him having done so.

The matter, which I note has already been mentioned in a submission by the petitioner and has been aired by Committee members, has relevance to a recent ruling in the Court of Session a recent ruling in the Court of Session carried out by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission .

In a civil case raised in the Court of Session, on behalf of my partner, Mr Donal Nolan, Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC) heard and ruled on evidence in the case.

His son, Ewen Campbell, who at the time was with Levy & McRae, was an assistant solicitor involved in the day-to-day running of the case, providing the defenders with advice and representation in court. Ewen Campbell reported back to Peter Watson, formerly a senior partner of Levy & Mcrae, and (at the date of this submission) currently suspended as a temporary sheriff.

In the case raised on behalf of my partner Mr Nolan, had a register of interests for members of the judiciary existed prior to the case coming to court, this may in my view have resulted in Lord Malcolm having recused himself.

In relation to the impact of this on the ruling in the case involving the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the SLCC were investigating matters in relation to this case which the ruling by Lord Malcolm had the effect of changing the hybrid complaints process which resulted in numerous cases not being concluded.

There are examples in the judicial recusals register of judges recusing themselves, particularly the instance where former Lord President, Lord Brian Gill, recused himself on 26 June 2014, after his son appeared in the same court acting for a respondent.

It is not clear to me how this instance differed from my case where Lord Malcolm did not recuse himself and on which Lord Brodie’s opinion concluded that the circumstances did not satisfy the test for apparent bias or that there was a question of interest on the part of Lord Malcolm. This lack of clarity about when recusal is appropriate does not help in assuring public faith in the judiciary and transparency of the judicial system .

Members may also wish to note I have written to the current Lord President Lord

Carloway, to make him aware of concerns in relation to my own experience before the Court of Session.

No action has been taken by Lord Carloway to address the matter, which in my view is of significant concern where there is a potential conflict of interest, and where the transparency of the judicial system could be improved. In a response from the Lord President’s Office, information about the complaints mechanism for judges was not provided.

As members of the Committee have previously been made aware of certain details of this case, I would very much welcome the opportunity to give evidence in a public session, and also that my MSP, Alex Neil whose assistance has been invaluable in advancing matters, be invited to give evidence before the Committee.

——————————

THE UNRECUSED: The judge, his son, conflicts of interest and failure to recuse – undermines public confidence in Court of Session:

An ongoing investigation into a case in which a judge did not recuse himself from seven hearings on a case where his own son represented the defenders, and returned for a eighth hearing in 2016 to hand over sums lodged as cation for an appeal – is eroding confidence in Scotland’s top court –  the Court of Session.

Journalists examining papers relating to Lord Malcolm’s eighth appearance to the case of Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd – have revealed a motion lodged by pursuer Mr Nolan for permission to appeal the decision by Lord Malcolm to hand over the £5,000 lodged as caution for expenses was blocked by Lord Brodie – but only after the judge appeared to be talked out of considering the pleadings by the defender’s QC.

The appeal raised by Mr Nolan against Lord Malcolm’s decision to hand over the cation – raised a conflict of interest and human rights, stating “grounds of justice and all persons who have an interest in the case should have been declared”.

This appeal was lodged during 2016 – only after the pursuer had been alerted to the fact a solicitor – Ewen Campbell – who acted for the defenders was actually the son of the judge – Lord Malcolm – who had presided over the case on seven previous hearings.

During hearings in relation to the initial lodging of the £5K cation by a friend of Mr Nolan – the QC, Roddy Dunlop acting for defenders Advance Construction Lrd asked Lord Menzies to increase the amount of the cation to around £35K.

However, Lord Menzies denied the defenders their motion to increase, and thought £5K was sufficient for to advance the appeal.

Then, in a later hearing, Lord Brodie said the money for the appeal should have been left in situ after the pursuer entered pleadings – requesting the cation be returned to the third party.

However Balfour & Manson – acting on behalf of Levy & Mcrae – for Advance Construction Ltd – presented a motion requesting the money be handed over to the defenders.

It was at this hearing, Lord Malcolm returned for the eighth occasion after earlier recusing himself from the case – to hand over the cash to the defenders.

The pursuer – Mr Nolan – then sought a written opinion from Lord Malcolm for his decision on 16 March 2016 to hand over the cation – however none was forthcoming from the judge or his clerks.

An opinion by Lord Brodie from the Court of Session – dated 20 May 2016 which the Scottish Courts Service has refused to publish – reveals Lord Brodie – who previously ruled on parts of the case, returned to hear Mr Nolan’s motion requesting for leave to appeal Lord Malcolm’s decision to the UK Supreme Court.

In the difficult to obtain opinion, Lord Brodie appeared to be going for the pursuer’s pleadings in that the test was met for a fair minded observer to conclude a conflict of interest existed on the part of Lord Malcolm.

However, as Lord Brodie’s opinion continues, the judge is then persuaded against granting the pursuer’s request for leave to appeal by the defender’s QC – Roddy Dunlop.

Commenting on the developments at the Scottish Parliament, the petitioner suggested the rules around judicial recusals should be improved to ensure a judge who has already recused themselves from a case should not be allowed to return to the same case at any later date.

The petitioner further stated: ”It appears Mr Nolan had no chance of obtaining justice at the Court of Session in a situation where the father of the defender’s legal agent was the presiding judge, the law firm acting for the defenders had senior partners who were judicial office holders and therefore colleagues of the presiding judge, and a QC who was representing the defenders has family links to the judiciary.”

“Had a register of judicial interests already existed, most or all of these relationships should have been caught and properly dealt with if public scrutiny and the test of fair mindedness of external observers were able to be applied to events in this case.”

As investigations into the case continue, papers currently being studied by journalists are set to reveal further issues:

* a senior QC sent emails to the pursuer and his partner demanding cash payments outside of the process where Advocate’s fees are normally paid through solicitors to Faculty Services. At the time of these demands for cash payments, the current Lord Advocate – James Wolffe QC – was the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and fully aware of the QC’s irregular requests for cash.

* a set of desperate emails from a senior QC demanding possession of a recorded consultation during which, among other issues the pursuer’s legal team seem aloof of developments in major contamination & planning related cases.

* Evidence of Advocates’ demands for cash payments and falsified documents handed to James Wolffe QC – the then Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and now Scotland’s top prosecutor – the Lord Advocate – were not acted upon or properly investigated.

* North Lanarkshire Council paid out £2 million pounds of public cash which ended up with the defenders after they were paid in a subcontract agreement – yet the contaminated material dumped by the defenders on Mr Nolan’s land is still there and no action has been taken to remove it while the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) ‘looked the other way’.

* Mr Nolan had obtained a Soul & Conscience letter from his doctor due to ill health, lodged as document 148 of the process. The existence of the Soul and Conscience letter meant Mr Nolan should never have been put a position to address a court under the circumstances but was forced to do so.

* the blocking of an appeal to the UK Supreme Court by Lord Hodge – who failed to declare he previously sat on the Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd case at least eighteen times while he served as a judge in the Court of Session.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the Sunday Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

 

 

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