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SUPREME SECRETS: UK Supreme Court refuses to publish recusal data – Court rejects release of info on UKSC justices conflicts of interest in response to Freedom of Information recusals probe on top UK court

Top UK court obstructed Scots media judicial recusals probe. THE UK Supreme Court (UKSC) has refused to disclose how many of it’s justices have recused themselves from court hearings over conflicts of interest or requests to step aside from cases.

And, the top court’s refusal to disclose the information only came about after the Information Commissioner (ICO) decided to issue a decision notice forcing the Supreme Court to respond to Freedom of Information requests submitted in May 2017.

Unlike in Scotland, where the Judiciary of Scotland publish a Register of Judicial Recusals– listing judges who have stood aside in cases for certain conflicts of interest (not including financial, wealth or other status related interests), the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court in London does not publish any recusal information.

However, Freedom of Information requests seeking disclosure of the UK Supreme Court’s recusal data encountered obstacles after UKSC officials took a decision to refuse to respond to Scottish journalists FOI requests.

And, it can also be revealed the Ministry of Justice – the body in charge of all courts in England & Wales followed the Supreme Court’s anti-transparency position – refusing to respond to a similar FOI request again sent from Scotland in May 2017.

Four months after the original Freedom of Information request was made to the UK Supreme Court, and amid numerous reminders to UKSC officials, the Information Commissioner’s office was contacted in July for assistance.

After discussions with ICO staff, the Information Commissioner gave the top court an extra month to reply.

However, the Supreme Court again refused to respond to any Freedom of Information requests from Scotland on the subject of recusals.

A legal insider claimed the refusal to reply to the requests originated over fears the material was to be referred to at the Scottish Parliament in connection with a five year probe on judges’ interests and a call to create a register of judicial interests – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

However, after the Information Commissioner again contacted Scottish journalists making the requests, the ICO confirmed it would issue a determination to order the UK Supreme Court to respond to the requests.

In an email of 25 August 2017, Matthew Cresswell of the Information Commissioner’s office informed journalists seeking the recusal information: “As the Supreme Court have failed to respond to your information request within the statutory time limit set out in section 10(1) of the FOIA, the Commissioner can now start the process of ordering a decision notice on this case. A decision notice is a legally binding document that will require the public authority to provide a response.”

Coverage of the case then appeared in The National newspaper on 30 August – which prompted the Supreme Court to finally issue a response to the Freedom of Information requests.

However, the UKSC refused to divulge any details of UKSC justices’ recusals, citing cost grounds of gathering the information.

Paul Brigland, for the UK Supreme Court claimed logging errors where the real reasons for a lack of reply to the FOI requests, rather than a determined policy by the UK Supreme Court not to respond to a Scottish Freedom of Information request.

Paul Brigland, the Head of Office and Building Services & Departmental Records Officer said: “Firstly, I would like to apologise for the mishandling of your request and the failure to reply. This is entirely due to an error in our logging process in which this request was incorrectly marked as dealt with, but had in fact been mistaken for a separate request you made under the FOLA at the same time which we responded to within the correct time limit. I hope you will accept our apologies for this error. I should also explain that since you made your request we have changed the way in which we log and handle FOI requests, so this situation should not arise in the future.”

Paul Brigland then confirmed the UKSC held information relevant to the request.

Mr Brigland said: “I can confirm that we do hold some information relevant to your request.”

However, Paul Brigland claimed the work involved and cost would prohibit the information being disclosed.

Brigland added: “In order to provide you with the information on the scale that you have requested would require a search of individual paper case records. We do not maintain a central record of any such requests as there is no business need to do so.”

“Section 12 of the FOLA makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for central government is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days in determining whether the Department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.”

“As your request is widely framed, I estimate that it will take us more than 3.5 working days to determine appropriate material within the scope of your request, and locate, retrieve and extract that information.”

“I am sorry that on this occasion I cannot suggest ways in which you could narrow the scope of your request to bring it within the cost limit. This is because any information sought under a revised request, for example requesting information for a shorter time period, would still be exempt under section 32 (court records).”

“However, outside the terms of the Act, and to be helpful, I can explain the following.”

“Where there are reasons that a Justice considers there might be an issue of recusal, that information is sent to the Justice chairing the panel (normally the President or Deputy President) and then a letter is sent to the parties. I can confirm that there have been no instances where we have written to parties that has subsequently led to a request from the parties for a Justice to stand down.”

“Similarly, I can confirm that there have been no instances where a Justice has recused themselves following a request initiated by a party to a case.”

However, the explanation offered by the UKSC does not actually confirm if any justices have refused to recuse themselves following any request from litigants or parties to do so.

And, as no register of recusals currently exists at the UK Supreme Court, legal insiders have suggested the explanations from the UKSC on recusal data should be taken with a pinch of salt.

A legal insider has suggested legal teams operating in the UK Supreme Court are dissuaded from – or not minded to ask for recusals.

The source said “ justices do not take well to their position being questioned to recuse from a hearing”.

A solicitor from England who has now come forward on the issue said he was aware of certain cases at the Supreme Court which may have necessitated a recusal.

The solicitor, who has studied the details contained in Scotland’s register of judicial recusals said it was clear in some cases before the UKSC, comparable examples of justices links to issues do exist, and therefore should be acknowledged in a similar register of recusals at the Supreme Court.

However, the solicitor cited the Supreme Court’s determination to avoid declaring justice’s interests in a register of interests as one reason which the UKSC is avoiding publishing any data on it’s justices’ recusals.

Amid the Supreme Court’s refusal to release information on recusals, Scottish journalists asked for a review of the decision, which was handled by William Arnold, the Head of Corporate Services.

Mr Arnold did not provide a review response on material with the UK Supreme Court logo, instead responding by email in the following terms.

Willian Arnold said: “As Mr Brigland explained, the UK Supreme Court does not maintain any formal central register of requests  to Justices to recuse themselves  from particular cases, since there has never been any operational need to do so.”

“Identifying the record of any such requests would therefore entail reviewing all the case papers in every case heard since January 2014 to the present date. I am satisfied that Mr Brigland was correct in assessing that carrying out this review would require staff resource input, which would exceed the cost limit for answering FOI requests of £600.”

“As Mr Brigland went on to say, this would be a pointless exercise in any event, because any such recusal request, if one was found, would form part of the records of the individual court case; and in Section 32 of the FOI Act Parliament has enacted an exemption of court records from the FOI regime. This exemption is not subject to any kind of public interest test, so the UKSC would not in any case be able to release any such recusal request, if one was found, to you under the FOI regime. I agree with this analysis.”

“In order to try to be helpful, Mr Brigland, however, went on to tell you, outside the provisions of the Act, since this is not recorded information which the UKSC holds, that the practice is that where a Justice considers he might have interests which might generate a request for recusal, a letter is sent to the parties outlining those interests.”

“Nobody here of those staff who have been at the UKSC since its inception in 2009 can remember any instance where such a letter has resulted in a request from a party to a case for a Justice to recuse themselves. Equally nobody here can recall any instance where a party has ever initiated a request for a Justice to recuse themselves, so the question of acceding to or rejecting such a request has never arisen.”

Mr Arnold went on to contradict Paul Brigland’s initial explanation where he stated the UKSC did hold material in relation to recusal information.

William Arnold stated: “The only sentence in Mr Brigland’s letter which I do repudiate is on page one  where he says “I can confirm that we do hold some information relevant to your request.”

“He may have been thinking of the letters we send to parties, where a Justice believes they have interests they should disclose, as set out above, but it is not clear to me that these are strictly relevant to your request; and I cannot find any other evidence which leads to the conclusion that the UKSC ‘holds some information relevant to your request’.”

“Indeed I have reached the opposite conclusion – that we likely do not hold any such information, although we could not be formally sure of that without carrying out the review of all our cases, which on cost grounds, as set out above, we have declined to do.”

A barrister who studied the correspondence from the UK Supreme Court, including the initial FOI response and the UKSC’s review – said the responses were evasive.

He also noted the UKSC’s position on holding no recusal data revolved around process where a letter is sent out to parties in relation to a justices’ conflict of interest – rather than an interest being raised by a party or legal representative.

The barrister said: “The UK Supreme Court has existed for eight years. I think it highly unlikely not one single request for a recusal at the Supreme Court has been made during such a considerable length of time.”

While the UK Supreme Court remains determined to refuse any further disclosure of information on judicial recusals, the Information Commissioner has been contacted again over the Ministry of Justice’s refusal to answer similar requests for disclosure of recusal information from the English courts.

A decision from the Information Commissioner on this matter is awaited.

However, the position Scottish users of the UK Supreme Court now face is that judges in Scotland are required to publish their recusal data, while the UKSC has decided against any such transparency – leaving Scottish court users at a considerable disadvantage.

The National reported on the battle to obtain recusal information from the UK Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice in two articles, published below:

Victory for Scottish information campaigner in battle with Supreme Court

Martin Hannan Journalist 30th August

THE UK Supreme Court will be ordered by the Information Commissioner to reply to question from a Scottish legal rights campaigner, after it refused to say whether it had a register of recusals by court justices.

Recusal is the term used when a judge has to step aside from a case because of a possible conflict of interest. It is thought that various Supreme Court justices have recused themselves from numerous cases, but no such information is made public.

The National can reveal the Information Commissioner has decided to act after the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice for England and Wales failed to reply to blogger and campaigner Peter Cherbi’s request for information.

A register of recusals has been in existence for several years in Scotland – it can be viewed online – and Cherbi wants to see the system extended to all the judiciary in the UK.

The Information Commissioner told Cherbi, above: “As the Supreme Court has failed to respond to your information request within the statutory time limit set out in section 10 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act, the Commissioner can now start the process of ordering a decision notice on this case.

“A decision notice is a legally binding document that will require the public authority to provide a response.”

Sources at the Supreme Court have indicated that the decision notice has not been received by the court, but that it will be acted upon.

Cherbi’s long-term aim is to see the creation of a register of judicial interests similar to that which MPs, MSPs and police officers must complete. His petition calling for that register has been debated by MSPs for nearly six years, and a decision is due next year. He feels the delay is an attempt to stop the register of interests. The National can reveal that lawyers in London support Cherbi’s case, but think judges will oppose it.

One legal source said: “They fear recusals up here in Scotland are inevitably leading to a register of judicial interests and it will lead to the same thing happening in England and Wales.”

The Supreme Court has already decided against a register of interests, stating: “The justices have decided it would not be appropriate, or indeed feasible, for them to have a comprehensive register of interests, as it would be impossible for them to identify all the interests, which might conceivably arise, in any future case that came before them.

“To draw up a register of interests, which people believed to be complete, could potentially be misleading. Instead the justices of the Supreme Court have agreed a formal code of conduct by which they will all be bound, and which is now publicly available on the court’s website.

“In addition, all the justices have taken the judicial oath … which obliges them to ‘do right to all manner of people after the law and usages of this realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

“And, as is already the practice with other members of the judiciary, they will continue to declare any interest which arises in the context of a particular case and, if necessary, recuse themselves, whether it is a substantive hearing, or an application for permission to appeal.”

Cherbi said: “Refusing access to information is not accidental. We are looking here at a coordinated attempt to thwart the introduction of Scottish judicial transparency to the rest of the UK.”

The Ministry of Justice referred The National to the Supreme Court where a spokesman confirmed that they were awaiting the Commissioner’s formal decision.

Supreme Court finally responds to Scottish FoI request about recusals … and rejects it

Martin Hannan Journalist 06 September 2017

THE UK Supreme Court has refused to issue information on how many of its justices have stood aside from cases because of a conflict of interest.

The National revealed last week that the Information Commissioner in England had ordered the Supreme Court to deal with Scottish law campaigner Peter Cherbi’s freedom of information request after it failed to reply to him in time.

Now the Supreme Court has written to Cherbi apologising for failing to deal with his request timeously but saying it will not give him the information as it would cost too much to provide it.

“That’s just ludicrous,” Cherbi said yesterday, “and it just makes people all the more suspicious that the Supreme Court is covering up something that the public should have the right to know.”

In another development, Cherbi is to ask the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee to invite the new President of the Supreme Court to give evidence as to why she and her fellow justices oppose a register of interests for the judiciary similar to that for MPs and police officers.

The committee has been discussing Cherbi’s call for a register of judicial interests in Scotland for almost five years.

Cherbi said: “I would like Lady Hale to come to Holyrood and explain why the UK Supreme Court’s members are so set against a register of interests.

“We have already seen Scotland’s top judges opposing it, and it would be good to know why the UK Supreme Court opposes it – after all, the Supreme Court sits in judgement on Scottish cases all the time, so why should the public not be able to see what interests, financial and otherwise, that judges have?

“As the President of the UK Supreme Court, Baroness Hale will be able to give a substantive account of why Supreme Court justices no longer consider they require to adhere to the expectation of completing a register of interests as they did pre-UK Supreme Court days as Law Lords in the House of Lords.

“After all, we ask our MPs and MSPs and police officers to register their interests so that everything is seen to be above board, so why not the judges in the highest court in the land?”

Cherbi also wants Lady Hale to tell the committee why the Supreme Court does not keep a register of recusals (when judges step aside from a case) as happens in the Scottish courts.

In its delayed response to Cherbi, the Supreme Court said: “To provide you with the information on the scale that you have requested would require a search of individual paper case records. We do not maintain a central record of any such requests as there is no business need to do so. Section 12 of the Freedom Of Information Act makes provision for public authorities to refuse requests for information where the cost of dealing with them would exceed the appropriate limit, which for central government is set at £600.

“This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3.5 working days in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information.

“As your request is widely framed, I estimate that it will take us more than 3.5 working days to determine appropriate material within the scope of your request, and locate, retrieve and extract that information.”

A legal expert told The National: “The information on recusals certainly exists, so all that needs to be done is to send an email to the justices and their assistants and the information could be gathered in a day.”

Cherbi said: “We have a register of recusals in Scotland. It’s time they had one for the Supreme Court and all English and Welsh courts.”

Previous reports on moves to publish judicial recusals in Scotland and a media investigation which prompted further reforms of the Scottish Register of Judicial Recusals can be found here: Judicial Recusals in Scotland – Cases where judges have stood down over conflicts of interest

Recent reforms to the way in which judicial recusals are recorded and entered in Scotland’s register of judicial recusals were reported here: RECUSALS JUST GOT REAL: Judicial Office concedes to reforms for Judicial Recusals Register, full case details where judges stand down from court hearings to be entered after media & FOI probe success

 

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DECLARE THE CROWN: Secrecy block on Crown Office Register of Interests – after fears info will reveal crooked staff, dodgy business dealings, prosecutors links to judiciary, criminals, drugs dealers and dodgy law firms

COPFS secret register contains links to judges, crime & business. AN INVESTIGATION has revealed Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) are blocking the publication of a staff register of interests – over fears it will reveal close relationships between prosecutors & judges, suspended solicitors, staff with criminal convictions including drugs crimes, and links to organised crime and sectarian behaviour.

The secret COPFS register of interests only received public acknowledgement of its existence – after the Scottish Information Commissioner became involved over refusals by Scotland’s top law officers to publish the information similarly disclosed in other registers of interest held by public bodies – including Police.

The issue came to light when journalists examined discussions between the Crown Office and the Scottish Parliament over a call for the Lord Advocate to submit evidence on Crown Office employees register of interests.

However, the Crown Office bluntly refused to provide any evidence or testimony to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who have been investigating proposals to require Scottish judges to declare their interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Senior figures at COPFS put a secrecy block on publication of their own register of interest after journalists uncovered a host of conflicts of interest by COPFS staff, including links to disgraced solicitors and suspended judges, unrecorded meetings with Ministers and members of the judiciary, business connections and interests of COPFS staff and dumbed down criminal convictions of prosecutors still working for the Crown Office.

And the Crown Office block on publication remains in force today – after over two years of refusal to disclose the information in response to Freedom of Information requests.

When journalists approached the Scottish Information Commissioner for assistance, the SIC made enquiries of the Crown Office to be told “As you have noted, our original response indicated that in our view no application could be made to the Commissioner. COPFS considered that section 48(c) of FOISA applied as the information requested is held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland. You have now asked us for our views on why we consider that to be the case.”

“I can confirm that COPFS holds a Register of Interests which extends to all members of staff. The Register is held on behalf of the Lord Advocate in order to guard against conflict of interest in prosecutorial decision making. The register of interests is designed to ensure that impartiality can be demonstrated in relation to any individual making prosecutorial decisions or involvement in the preparation or presentation of any case. Given the register is held on this basis, we consider that the information is held by the Lord Advocate in his capacity as the Head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland.”

 Scottish information Commissioner files released on discussions with COPFS Register of Interests.

However, the enquiries and media interest prompted the Crown Office to acknowledge publicly for the first time the register of interests existed.

The Crown Office statement to the SIC in a letter dated further revealed: “Coincidentally, this issue has recently been considered by the COPFS Executive Board and a decision has been taken that the register should not published. To provide information about the personal interests of prosecution staff could compromise the security of individual staff members, undermine their ability to do their job and create conflict with our obligations under the Data Protection Act.”

“We intend, however, to provide a public statement of explanation about why we do not publish details of the Register of Interests on our website within the next 6 weeks and I will ensure that you are provided with a link to this when it is published.”

However, tt can now be revealed COPFS feared the register would also reveal close links between Advocate Deputes who prosecute criminals in court – and their spouses and partners who work in the Scottish Courts and some who serve on the judicial benches.

Discussions took place with regard to media enquiries , and fears were raised if the public and persons in court found out of  personal and family links between prosecutors and the judiciary, there could be questions over impartiality.

One such example of a Prosecutor with family in the judiciary is that of Advocate Depute Murdoch MacTaggart – who prosecuted the longest fraud trial in UK history in the case of Edwin & Lorraine McLaren – in connection with their sell your house & rent it back property scheme. MacTaggart was married to a Sheriff – Mhairi McTaggart.

There are a number of other personal relationships between prosecutors, crown office staff, the legal profession and judiciary – some of whom have appeared in and on both sides of the court together during  criminal trials – without any questions being raised on impartiality.

It is very clear COPFS felt the disclosure of personal and family relationships between prosecutors and judges may cause problems in a number of previous and ongoing trials.

However, the personal relationships between COPFS and others may be of lesser importance than prosecutors & COPFS staff business interests, which are significant and wide ranging, in a similar nature to what has recently been disclosed by Police Scotland, more on which is available here: POLICE REGISTER: ‘First responder’ Police Officers transparency in cops business interests register

However, in the case of COPFS employees & prosecutors business interests, there exists significant;y more potential for conflict of interest in court.

And, it can also be disclosed a number of COPFS employees relatives and direct family appear to be working in highly paid positions in other public bodies, the Scottish Government and organisations within the justice system  including the courts – some of whom secured jobs without interview.

Enquiries in relation to the work histories of several Crown Office employees also reveals some Prosecutors and Advocate Deputes may also be exposed to questions over their links to law firms alleged to have committed significant fraud  with legal aid cash and embezzlement of client funds.

In a further investigation linked to the long running McLaren fraud trial, COPFS refused to respond to queries in relation to the status of any proceedings against a suspended lawyer – Karen MacTaggart – who was suspended as a solicitor from April 2014, according to a notice issued in the Gazette.

Karen MacTaggart is the sister of a Crown Office Advocate Depute – Murdoch MacTaggart.

The Crown Office was approached for an explanation on this but refused to respond.

The investigation has also revealed further concerns at the Crown Office – over fears publication of their Register of Interests would expose details of serving employees criminal convictions on everything from common assault, to perverting the course of justice, and dealing of Class A drugs including Cocaine – to COPFS colleagues and members of the public.

A further block on publication of the COPFS register of interests came about after members of IT staff at the Crown Office became embroiled in a scandal involving anti-catholic sectarian behaviour

One COPFS employee was sacked and another quit after an investigation was launched into alleged sectarian comments made on an internal messaging system.

Shocked staff blew the whistle on their colleagues after spotting the anti-catholic remarks & comments on their computer screens, and following an internal probe, the men were found to have breached strict rules on bullying, harassment and discrimination.

As a result, one worker has been sacked and another has resigned, and a third, who had a senior managerial role, was given a final written warning.

The male members of staff who made the comments worked in the IT department of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) in Ballater Street, Glasgow, close to the city’s sheriff court. It is also understood that a second IT manager was moved to another department after the probe was completed.

An investigation was first launched after two Catholic staff members complained that sectarian hate comments had been posted by the three men but the resulting inquiry failed to find evidence to substantiate the claims – even though other members of COPFS saw the actual comments.

None of the COPFS staff involved in the sectarian probe have been named by prosecutors, however the names have now been passed to journalists who are looking further at the case.

Another reason for the Crown Office to refuse publication of it’s own register of interests hit the headlines in March 2016, when the Sunday Mail newspaper reported that the then Lord Advocate’s brother was at the centre of a probe into financial dealings – reported here: Revealed: Lord Advocate’s brother Iain Mulholland at centre of dirty money probe after arranging £550k mortgage for rogue lapdance tycoon

Iain Mulholland, the younger brother of Scotland’s top prosecutor who announced he was standing down last week, helped prepare paperwork that secured businessman Steven MacDonald a huge loan now being probed by the Crown Office.

Prosecutors hunting assets linked to organised crime claim MacDonald conned bank bosses into lending him enough cash to buy his Diamond Dolls strip club.

They claim the businessman lied on a mortgage application to get a £552,000 cash injection from the Bank of Scotland to purchase the property in Glasgow city centre.

Mortgage broker Iain Mulholland arranged MacDonald’s loan application through his First to Mortgage firm.

The 48-year-old fixed the loan that is now the focus of a major investigation by the Civil Recovery Unit (CRU) – investigators at the Crown Office, led by his brother, who seize dirty money, property and other assets linked to organised crime.

In another case referred to within COPFS circles amid media queries on the secret register of interests – concerns were raised after a senior female member of staff was discovered to be involved in a relationship with an underworld figure accused of supplying guns and drugs.

There were fears information was being provided to the crook – which may have impacted on a now collapsed prosecution against several gangsters.

And in another development, information has come to light regarding the status of a Grade 6 Manager at the Crown Office, and the employment of his relative who was later charged with drug dealing.

The COPFS Manager’s step-son – who worked part time in the NHS – and has a direct relative working in the same organisation –  was handed a lucrative Crown Office job with access to sensitive information – without even an interview.

The individual – identified as Mr Peter Murphy –  worked at the Crown Office for around two years and was then arrested, apparently, on a Petition Warrant relating to the supply of Class A drugs.

Murphy’s employment at COPFS included access to sensitive information and systems which contained files relating to drug dealers within the city.

Sources said “It was presumed that given the quantity of drugs involved the case would be prosecuted at the High Court” – however no trace of any trial has been discovered and, allegedly, the Crown Office drug dealer received a community disposal at Sheriff Court level.

COPFS staff suspect the watered down and preferential treatment of the COPFS drug dealer was a result of information provided to the police or the Fiscal reducing the charges.

After the incident, Peter Murphy was allowed to resign from the Crown Office, rather than be sacked.

However, investigations around the case first revealed in the Scottish Sun during 2016 in reports of drug dealing at the Crown Office case – has since established Mr Murphy’s identity as the COPFS employee charged with drug offences.

The Crown Office has refused to answer further questions on this case, however, records show Mr Murphy’s step father – John Tannahill – a Grade 6 Manager – has worked at the Crown Office since October 2002.

John Tannahill currently occupies the positions of Head of COPFS Police Reform Team and Process Review Team and Major Incident Co-ordinator, Chair, Judicial Panel Scottish Football Association – according to Mr Tannahill’s Linkedin page.

Further internal discussions on the publication of the register reveal senior legal figures concerns that their own staff may be identified as members of organisations condemned for associations with the far right and racism if the Crown Office register becomes public.

There are now calls to make the Crown Office Register of Interests a polished document, to enable court users and legal representatives have access to the information in relation to Prosecutors interests.

However, the Crown Office has refused to issue any further comment on the content of their register of interests other than a brief online reference to it’s existence, which was only published after discussions with the Scottish Information Commissioner.

Crown Office Register of Interests

The Civil Service Code, which applies to all civil servants, requires that they should not put themselves in a position where duty and private interests conflict, nor make use of their official position to further those interests.
As a public servant, an employee has a particular duty to ensure that their public position is not, and raises no reasonable suspicion of being, abused in their own personal interest.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service holds a formal Register of Interests which extends to all members of staff.

The Interests are defined as:

Business interests (including directorships) not only of the employee but also  close family members

Shareholdings or other securities/financial interest which the employee or members of their close family hold

Any political interest or interest/membership in an organisation, club or society where there is the potential for a conflict of interest to arise as a result of official position

It is held on behalf of the Lord Advocate in order to guard against conflict of interest in prosecutorial decision making.

It is designed to ensure that impartiality can be demonstrated in relation to any individual making prosecutorial decisions or involvement in the preparation or presentation of any case.

The Register is not published.

To provide information about the personal interests of prosecution staff could compromise the security of individual staff members, undermine their ability to do their job and create conflict with our obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

It is worth noting while the Lord Advocate is determined to withhold the information contained in the COPFS register of interests from public scrutiny, the Crown Office itself believe members of their own staff are not honest in their own declarations and entries in the register.

And, in a number of trials, prosecutors and COPFS staff have been switched around at the last minute after failing to declare interests which could have potentially harmed criminal trials.

While the Crown Office would only issue the above statement online in relation to it’s secret Register of Interests – the evidence now in the public domain in relation to serious conflicts of interest held by prosecutors, personal links to the judiciary, businesses who themselves have contracts within the justice system, and other more serious issues including jobs handed out to family members – make the case for publication much stronger.

For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland’s Crown Office – in Crown detail

 

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SILENCERS IN COURT: ‘Guns & Ammo’ rife in Scotland’s legal elite – Police Scotland disclose firearms ownership of judges, sheriffs, lawyers, advocates, QCs & Crown Office prosecutors

Scots legal elite firearms ownership revealed. AN INVESTIGATION into firearms ownership among Scotland’s legal fraternity – has revealed widespread firearms and weapons throughout the ranks of solicitors, advocates, prosecutors and the judiciary who run Scotland’s legal system and the courts.

And, it can be revealed – 295 lawyers, advocates, judges, QCs & prosecutors collectively own more guns in their private collections than even Police Officers – as information now released by Police Scotland reveals 1,079 firearms, shotguns & air weapons in the hands of the legal fraternity – compared to 1,043 firearms and shotguns owned by 327 Police Officers.

The investigation was triggered by a recent case involving firearms offences committed by the Solicitor General For Scotland – Lord Keen of Elie (Richard Keen QC) who was convicted and find £1,000 for breaches of the Firearms Act 1968 after he pleaded guilty by letter to the charge at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 1 March 2017.

Keen, who once headed a failed legal challenge against the Scottish Government over legislation to speed up pay-outs to asbestos sufferers –  was charged after police investigating a break-in at his Edinburgh home found that a 12-bore shotgun had been ‘left outside a secure cabinet’ while Lord Keen and his wife ‘were away on holiday’.

Lord Keen’s conviction for firearms offences, and the widespread ownership of firearms – including handguns – by members of Scotland’s legal fraternity – has drawn interest in the use of guns by Scotland’s wealthy legal establishment – who are known to favour the hunting & shooting set lifestyle with participation at shooting events at home and abroad.

And these are no ordinary weapons owned by Scotland’s legal elite.

Shotguns popular with Scotland’s legal eagles – range from the relatively inexpensive to more costly ‘over & under’ & ‘side by side’ barrelled Browning, Beretta, matched pairs of expensive Purdeys and other expensive brands such as Holland & Holland, Army & Navy, and in the case of the Solicitor General for Scotland – a Stephen Grant 12 bore shotgun – which can sell for over £6,000.

Data seen by journalists also reveal ornate ‘Damascus’ etched barrelled weapons, expensive side-lock action shotguns, semi automatic weapons, and presentation piece quality shotguns, well out of reach of most shooting enthusiasts.

In relation to firearms, the legal establishment is similarly tooled up in numbers and quality of guns – ranging from handguns – and smaller .22 and .243 calibre rifles to high calibre firearms purposely designed for deer stalking.

Among the more lethal stocks of weapons owned by the legal fraternity are – according to firearms insiders – double ‘express’ (two barrelled) rifles – primarily designed for ‘taking down’ much larger beasts such as lions, rhino and even elephants.

And, the ownership of silencers for firearms among Scotland’s legal elite – is much more widespread than originally thought.

However, it can be revealed members of the legal fraternity own only 57 silencers for their ‘registered’ firearms – compared with a staggering 216 silencers owned by Police Officers –  disclosed in part one of the firearms investigation revealing Police gun ownership.

Information obtained during the investigation has now been clarified by Police Scotland, who disclosed some details in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Police Scotland has revealed 8 Sheriffs and 8 Judges hold a selection of firearms, air weapons and shotguns.

Of the 8 certificates held by Sheriffs, 1 is for firearms, 5 are for shotguns and 2 are for air weapons are held by currently serving Sheriffs, totalling 2 firearms and 10 shotguns.

A further 8 senior ranking judges own a similar mixture of firearms, air weapons and shotguns.

In relation to the eight certificate held by judges, 1 is for firearms, 3 are for shotguns, and 3 are for air weapons, totalling 2 firearms and 5 shotguns.

Curiously – while Police Scotland readily disclosed information in relation to members of the judiciary owning firearms – the Judiciary of Scotland said in response to an FOI request that no member of the judiciary has declared any ownership of firearms or shotguns to either the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) or the Judicial Office.

The Judicial Office also refused to answer questions on judges’ membership of any hunting or shooting clubs or associations, participation in hunting trips including deerstalking and other firearms related activities within the UK or overseas.

While the judiciary remained tight-lipped on their stack of firearms & shotguns, Police Scotland has also released details on the firearms ownership of Scotland’s legal profession, where paralegals, solicitors, barristers, advocates, QCs and even prosecutors own over a thousand firearms, shotguns and air weapons.

The SHOGUN firearms database used by Police Scotland revealed the following:

4 paralegal certificate holders – hold 3 shotgun certificates and 2 air weapons certificates, holding a total of 5 shotguns.

6 barrister certificate holders – hold 2 firearms certificates, 4 shotgun certificates and 2 Air weapons certificates – holding between them 9 firearms with a further 3 silencers (sound moderators) and a total of 23 shotguns.

8 QC certificate holders – hold 2 firearms certificates, 8 shotgun certificates and two air weapons certificates – holding 6 firearms along with 2 silencers, and a total of 31 shotguns.

18 Advocate certificate holders – hold 4 firearms certificates, 18 shotgun certificates and 7 air weapons certificates – holding 9 firearms along with 3 silencers, and a total of 26 shotguns.

40 lawyer certificate holders – hold 12 firearms certificates, 25 shotgun certificates and 18 air weapons certificates – holding 55 firearms with 18 silencers and a total of 96 shotguns.

199 solicitor certificate holders – hold 51 firearms certificates, 146 shotgun certificates and 60 air weapons certificates – holding 100 firearms with 31 silencers, and a total of 393 shotguns.

Two court officer certificate holders – hold one firearms certificate and one shotgun certificate. Only one single firearm held is listed in this category.

Police Scotland also disclosed two Crown Office prosecutors of Procurator Fiscal rank hold 2 shotgun certificates, holding three shotguns in total.

It was not possible for Police Scotland to disclose further details of COPFS employees firearms, shotgun or air weapons usage, however it is known COPFS employees ownership of, and involvement with firearms shotguns and other weapons does exist = and to a more significant level than quoted in the Police Scotland FOI response.

Police Scotland also disclosed firearms ownership among Scotland’s political classes at Holyrood.

3 MSP certificate holders – hold 3 firearms certificates, 2 shotgun certificates and 1 air weapon certificates – holding 9 firearms with 3 silencers, and – Police Scotland claim – a total of 24 shotguns according to the FOI disclosure.

One Scottish Government Minister holds 1 shotgun certificate – and is in possession of 3 shotguns.

A further 3 “Members of Parliament” certificate holders – hold 2 shotgun certificates and 1 air weapon certificate, holding a total of 5 shotguns.

And one “Parliamentarian” holds a single shotgun certificate, and is in possession of 8 shotguns.

Police Scotland said it could not provide details of Scottish Government employees due to deficiencies in the SHOGUN database which allows some firearms owners to dodge having their ownership of weapons included in national statistics.

Police Scotland said “SHOGUN does not hold the individual employer details related to an individual certificate holder. The application form 201 requires a work address and contact but work address details are not searchable on the SHOGUN system. Searching occupations which include the word ‘government’ includes local government employees, government inspectors, government officers and investigators. The parameters of the search therefore cannot provide the details required.”

While the figures released by Police Scotland pertain only to numbers of weapons – rather than types and their potency by way of calibre – enquiries by journalists have since established Scotland’s legal elite enjoy generous permissions to hold, and purchase – significant quantities of ammunition for firearms and shotguns – with figures of thousands of rounds kept by certain members of the legal fraternity being commonplace.

Commenting on the information released by Police Scotland, a firearms specialist who did not wish to be named said that while some of the certificate holders may be members of gun clubs and ‘shoot at paper targets’ , it was his understanding most of the weapons held by persons he knew to be members of the legal fraternity – are used for hunting purposes.

There are also claims the figures of firearms and gun ownership among Scotland’s legal establishment may be much higher than stated in the Police Scotland Freedom of Information disclosure – as various weapons such as antique powder propellant type pistols, muskets and rifles are among items thought to be owned by lawyers and others in the legal fraternity – and are often not registered despite some requirements to do so.

The sometimes murky origins of the firearms & shotguns owned by the legal fraternity in Scotland are also drawing curiosity – after a legal source gave an account to journalists in relation to how two expensive shotguns including their leather cases and a set of valuable fishing rods & equipment ended up in the hands of a solicitor after he allegedly took the items from the estate of a deceased client to be valued.

The items were never handed back to the family of the deceased nor were they included in any account of assets of the deceased’s estate.

The Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) could not be reached for a statement on their members ownership and usage of firearms and shotguns.

‘KEEN SHOT’ TOP LAW OFFICER CAUGHT WITH HIS GUNS OUT:

IN March 2017, Lord Keen of Elie – the UK government’s most senior adviser on Scots law – was fined £1,000 after admitting a firearms offence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Advocate General for Scotland Richard Keen QC pleaded guilty – by letter – to breaching section two of the Firearms Act 1968 by ‘failing to secure a shotgun’.

Police investigating a ‘break-in’ at one of Mr Keen’s properties – a house in Edinburgh – found that the weapon had been left outside a secure cabinet.

Lord Keen, a former chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, was made a life peer in 2015. He did not appear when the case called at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in March 2017, choosing to plead guilty by letter – thus avoiding a court appearance.

The presiding judge – Sheriff Frank Crowe said: “I do take into account Mr Keen’s previous good record and the fact that he admitted his guilt at the outset.

“Nevertheless to hold a firearms certificate is a privilege and there are very strict conditions which have to be adhered to to prevent such weapons falling into the wrong hands.

“There was a potential risk with the shotgun not in the secure cabinet as laid down by the regulations.”

The court heard the offence came to light when Police Officers were called to a break-in at one of Lord Keen’s properties – an address on Ann Street in Edinburgh – on Hogmanay last year. The court was told Lord Keen and his wife were away on holiday.

Officers searching the property ‘found’ a 12 bore Stephen Grant shotgun in a basement out of its secure cabinet.

Solicitor advocate Simon Catto, representing Lord Keen – told Edinburgh Sheriff Court his client had been out shooting on 27 December.

Mr Catto added on returning home his client had taken the gun to the basement intending to clean it, but had then “forgotten about it through his own carelessness” before leaving on holiday the following day.

Mr Catto said Lord Keen had contacted Police himself on Hogmanay after receiving a mobile phone alert that his alarm system had been triggered.

While the upper floors of the property had been ransacked, the burglars had not entered the basement area, he said.

Mr Catto said: “He’s a keen shot, he shoots approximately 10 times per year.

“He has been a shotgun enthusiast for around 25 years and has held a firearms certificate. He is therefore fully aware of what’s expected and required of him in terms of the certificate.

“He accepts on this occasion he fell below that.”

An investigation of gun ownership in the ranks of Police Officers can be found here: GUNS OF THE LAW: Police Scotland files release details of officers private gun ownership – shotguns, rifles & silencers, Cops also declare recovery of 30 handguns

 

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GUNS OF THE LAW: Police Scotland files release details of officers private gun ownership of shotguns, high powered rifles & silencers – Cops also declare recovery of 30 handguns

Scots Cops gun ownership reveals silencers for firearms. AN ONGOING media probe into the background & extent of gun ownership in the Police, legal fraternity and judiciary has revealed Scotland’s law enforcers & legal eagles own thousands of firearms and stockpile huge quantities of ammunition.

In part one of the investigation coveting law enforcement agencies, it can today be revealed Police Scotland have acknowledged their own officers own over a thousand firearms and shotguns, some of which have unusual configurations and which sources claim – have application uses now frowned upon in society.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, Police Scotland disclosed 327 officers hold either shotgun certificates or Firearms Certificates – or both – and own a total of at least 1,043 weapons.

Police Scotland also disclosed officers own at least 216 silencers for firearms – referred to in the FOI documents as “sound moderators”.

The 327 officers holding certificates allows for

• 161 holding firearms certificates

• 285 holding shotgun certificates

The number of firearms held under a firearm certificate is 392, with a further 216 sound moderators. Further breakdown of weapon types is unavailable.

The number of shotguns held is 651.

Comparing figures issued by Police Scotland for July 2017, there had been a slight drop in Police Officers holding firearms or shotguns.

The 333 certificates can be broken down as follows:

• 25 holding firearms certificates alone

• 10 holding both a firearms and a shotgun certificate but not co-terminous

• 167 holding shotgun certificates alone

• 131 holding both a firearms and a shotgun certificate as co-terminous. 

Many of the weapons held are thought to be for hunting purposes, including grouse shooting, deer, and other animals considered as “game”.

However some of the higher calibre rifles are of the variety used to hunt large animals not native to the UK.

In response to a question asking how many officers of Police Scotland currently have or have been granted other permissions (and what kind of permissions) to hold firearms?

Police Scotland admitted two additional permissions have been granted for temporary permits issued under section 7 of the Firearms Act 1968.

Police Scotland were also asked how many applications have been made by officers in the past three years (numbers per year)?

The FOI response stated: The National SHOGUN database (which records such information on firearms & shotgun ownership) came into operation on the 20th of October 2014 so the statistics can only be extracted from this date.

Application numbers provided include those certificate holders who have re-applied for the renewal of their existing certificate as well as those applications which are currently undergoing initial enquiry or have since been refused or withdrawn.

Applications made by officers in the past three years:

• 20th October 2014 – 19th October 2015 = 65

• 20th October 2015 – 19th October 2016 = 95

• 20th October 2016 – 19th June 2017 = 71

While Police Scotland refused to disclose information on the types of weapons being held, there are claims the selection of firearms held by officers includes high calibre rifles, and expensive shotguns normally found among the gentry & landed classes.

Many of the weapons held are thought to be for hunting purposes, including grouse shooting, deer, and other animals considered as “game”.

From types of weapons – particularly rifles – detailed in claims to journalists, some of the higher calibre rifles are clearly of the variety used to hunt large animals not native to the UK.

There are also claims some of those who are licensed to own firearms have permissions to stock “significant quantities of ammunition” as well as permission to purchase higher amounts of ammunition than other firearms applicants may find possible to obtain similar permission for.

Figures of several thousand rounds of ammunition have been mentioned to journalists, but Police Scotland have not clarified any information relating to stocks of bullets held by firearms owners.

Police Scotland were also asked if Police Officers to inform senior offices or the Chief Constable of their intentions to own firearms.

The reply stated: “There is no information contained in regulations or requirements that requires police officers working for Police Scotland to inform their employers of any firearm or shotgun application.”

In response to a further FOI query – Police Scotland also admitted to the recovery of around 30 handguns over a three year period asked for – although the real total is thought to be higher.

Police Scotland admitted it had recently taken in 11 Pistols and 19 Revolvers.

There are claims some of the handguns may have been handed in Police Officers themselves, and that some weapons have been handed in on behalf of criminals – but Police Scotland refused to provide further information relating to how many handguns the force had actually recovered or even the dates of recovery.

Police Scotland cited ‘costs’ reasons against disclosure and claimed there were no procedures in place for accurately recording the handover of such weapons – which carry a mandatory five year jail sentence in Scotland if persons are found to be in possession of a handgun.

Police Scotland said: “I can further advise that weapons surrendered or recovered by Police in this manner are not recorded on SHOGUN, which is the police licensing system, unless they were legally held weapons on the appropriate certificate.”

“The timescales in respect of these weapons cannot be provided as specific information is not available and many weapons recorded in this way may have been historical weapons that were noted as surrendered weapons from legacy forces at the period of migration to the National SHOGUN system.”

In response to further questions put to Police Scotland: Also, to ask how many handguns have been handed in to Police Scotland by Police Officers or retired Police Officers or civilian workers of Police Scotland from (i) personal ownership (ii) undetailed, undisclosed or unknown ownership (iii) in response to any amnesty or amnesty issued by Police Scotland for a specific handing in of a handgun from January 2014 to the date of this FOI request.

And if information is available on types of weapons, calibres in relation to weapons covered by this FOI request.

For the purposes of this FOI request, the term handgun refers to a firearm or a deactivated firearm.

Police Scotland said in response: “I would advise you that, there has been no amnesty issued by Police Scotland within the requested timescale, as such, in terms of Section 17 of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, this represents a notice that the information you seek is not held by Police Scotland.”

“To be of assistance I can advise that there was a firearms amnesty during the summer of 2014 which was supported primarily by police forces in England and Wales.”

However, in connection with the Firearms Amnesty in England & Wales of 2014, there are claims a significant number of firearms, including handguns made their way south to English Police Forces, to avoid being handed over in Scotland.

Journalists have also been made aware of claims some of the English Police forces who received these firearms became curious as to the origins of the weapons, and made queries with their Scottish counterparts as to whether any of the guns may have been used in crimes.

In 2015, Police Scotland claimed there were around 277,000 guns in Scotland reported by the Daily Record, here: Police reveal there are 277,000 guns in Scotland as they warn of thriving black market trade in firearms

 

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GONE EXEC’IN: Scottish Police Authority Chief Executive takes early retirement with pay-off, following resignation of ‘Kremlin’ Chair Andrew Flanagan – discredited board & Vice Chair who backed secretive top duo remain in posts

Chief Exec. John Foley retires from discredited Police quango. THE Chief Executive of the embattled Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is to take ‘early retirement’ – with an as-yet undisclosed pay off for leaving the crisis hit Police governance quango which oversees the running of Police Scotland.

John Foley – who faced heavy criticism along with SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan for running the SPA like the “Kremlin” in sessions before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee in April of this year will depart in October after the SPA’s year end accounts are signed off.

Ironically – Foley – whose retirement was announced earlier today by the SPA – will leave the discredited Police watchdog quango months before the eventual departure of Chief Executive Andrew Flanagan, who announced his resignation earlier in June.

However, Andrew Flanagan is to remain in the £70,000 a year post – while the Scottish Government look for a successor.

A recruitment round for the role of SPA Chair was only announced earlier this week, with a closing date for applications of Thursday 21 September 2017.

Commenting on Foley’s decision to take early retirement, and a payoff, Chair Andrew Flanagan said: “This new reporting arrangement is a further tangible step in strengthening oversight of forensic services, and will support work to develop a long-term strategy for forensics to complement the 2026 strategy for Police Scotland.”

“I want to pay tribute to the professionalism which he has shown throughout our consideration of this, and indeed for the valued service he has given to SPA and policing over what has been a period of unprecedented change.”

Commenting on his own departure, CEO John Foley said: “The SPA has continued to evolve and improve since its inception in 2013 and strengthening the governance of Forensic Services is the next stage of that journey and one I fully support. Clearly the revised arrangements have significant implications for the CEO role I currently hold and following detailed discussions with the Board since the start of the year I have chosen to seek early retirement.

“It has been an honour and privilege to have served as the first permanent CEO of the SPA for the past four years. I am confident that the Authority and policing will continue to improve in the coming years and I want to thank all of the staff and officers who I have had the pleasure of working with over the past four years.”

The SPA board said Foley would be paid in lieu of his contractual notice period as part of his overall settlement – but gave no figure on what the substantial payoff is likely to be.

The SPA stated: “While it is not possible at this stage to calculate a definitive figure on the overall financial settlement until Mr Foley’s formal leaving date is confirmed, SPA has agreed with Mr Foley that the costs of his financial package will be made publicly available as soon as practical after that leaving date.”

The SPA said it will now conduct a process seeking a 12-month secondee to act as chief officer for the SPA. A 12-month tenure will allow the review underway of the SPA’s wider executive requirements to be completed, the HMICS thematic inspection of the SPA to report next spring, and for a new SPA Chair to be appointed.

John Foley joined SPA in August 2013 as interim Chief Executive with management responsibilities for both the SPA’s governance and statutory forensic services responsibilities, and was formally appointed permanent CEO later that year.

Mr Foley’s early retirement comes under the terms of the approved SPA Voluntary Redundancy and Early Retirement scheme applicable to all eligible staff affected by a material change to their role, and commensurate with his age (over 55) and length of service (4 years).

Although the CEO role becomes redundant from 1 September 2017, the existing Board members – who were castigated by MSPs for a collective amnesia in their attempts to answer questions before Parliamentary Committees – has decided to keep John Foley on as Chief Executive until the SPA’s 2016-2017 annual accounts are signed off in late October 2017.

The board – which comprises members who have already taken large payoffs from other public bodies under terms of being “too ill to work” – stated they had consulted Audit Scotland – the equally discredited accounts body which counts among it’s duties a responsibility to audit public finances in Scotland and ensure value for money.

However, it has come to light the same Audit Scotland recently swept a £2.4 million loss at Scottish Borders Council under the carpet – the very same local authority which paid off SPA board member David Hume a total of £318,434 in 2012 after claims of bullying at the South of Scotland local authority.

In 2012 it was reported David Hume took a £318,434 secret “too ill to work again” secret legal deal from the corruption ridden south of Scotland local authority.

Hume then joined the SPA while also working for the Scottish Government in a position on Children’s Hearings Scotland. Hume’s salary for the CHS work was funnelled through his consultancy company – Enlighten: David Hume Consulting Ltd.

Hume’s term as SBC Chief Executive span dark years at the local authority, financial scandals with the loss of £4million from the education budget, consistent allegations of a culture of backhanders at the council, and a lack of duty of care.

Scottish Borders Council had been caught up in the Miss X Rape scandal, resulting in a Scottish Parliament inquiry which heard the Council had covered up a years long case where a severely disabled woman who lived close to the Council’s St Boswell’s HQ was repeatedly raped and abused. It transpired Scottish Borders Council held a written admission of rape from the man a full two years before the case came to light. A man was later jailed for 10 years for the crimes.

Scottish Borders Council decided not to discipline any social worker, despite the fact that Miss X, a woman with learning disabilities, had been subjected to an appalling catalogue of violent physical and sexual abuse.

The remaining text of the statement issued today from the SPA focussed on changes in reporting, reminiscent of “window dressing”.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is to take further steps to strengthen the leadership, visibility and governance of Forensic Services.

From 1 September 2017, the Director of Forensic Services will report directly into the Board of the SPA rather than through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Authority.

One consequence of this change in reporting is a significant reduction in the line management and direct budget accountabilities of the existing SPA CEO role, and which make the role in its present form redundant.

The SPA Board has been considering the implications of forensic reporting with the CEO since the turn of the year, and as a result John Foley has opted to take early retirement under the existing SPA scheme.

As accountable officer, and to ensure business continuity, the Board has requested that Mr Foley stay on until the completion of the 2016-17 SPA accounts, which are hoped to be signed off by the end of October.

To provide the Board with contingency against any change to that expected timeframe, the Board has also agreed a payment to Mr Foley in lieu of his contractual notice, in addition to his eligibility for an early retirement payment.

The Director of Forensic Services, Tom Nelson, will from 1 September 2017 report directly to the SPA Board. He will personally report into the Deputy Chair of the SPA, Nicola Marchant.

The Chair’s review of governance in policing, published in March 2016, highlighted the need for reorganisation of the SPA’s delivery functions, which are primarily in forensics services. Further professional advice was sought from HMICS on forensics later in 2016 which has informed the approach and steps taken to date.

The SPA approved in June 2017 a proposal to create a dedicated Forensic Services Committee to scrutinise forensics delivery. The HMICS Thematic Inspection of Forensic Services, published in late June 2017, also made a number of recommendations around leadership, visibility, and governance.

The Scottish Government announced in June that a review of how the executive of the SPA can best support the Board would be led by SPA Deputy Chair Nicola Marchant, and independent local authority Chief Executive Malcolm Burr. It is expected to report its conclusions and recommendations in Autumn this year. In addition, HMICS are expected to publish its Phase 2 thematic inspection report of the SPA in spring 2018.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland report into the authority, authored by inspector Derek Penman, found “positive signs of improvement” in SPA board operations over the last 18 months, with improved relationships between the SPA and Police Scotland and the development of the Policing 2026 strategy described as a “major milestone”.

But the HMICS report was highly critical of the approach which had led the SPA to meet in private.

Mr Penman said the “recent parliamentary scrutiny and media concerns over openness and transparency have weakened public confidence in the SPA and detracted from its ability to perform its statutory function”.

He described the decision to hold meetings behind closed doors as “precipitous”, and said it “should not have been implemented” until signed off by the board in full.

Mr Penman welcomed the decision of the board to revert to holding meetings in public and publishing committee papers in advance, but wrote: “I am aware that some board members continue to maintain that their decisions to implement private meetings and publish papers on the day of the board were essentially correct.

“There is a fundamental need to listen to the views of stakeholders to maintain public confidence, and on this occasion the SPA has failed to do so until pressed by parliamentary committees.The SPA must recognise the legitimate interests of parliament, local authorities, staff associations, the press and the wider public in the scrutiny of policing in Scotland.”

TRANSPARENCY FIRST: Former Board member Moi Ali spoke out on transparency concerns at Police Watchdog:

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

UNFIT AUTHORITY: – Crisis continues at Scottish Police Authority after Board members criticise MSPs scrutiny of Cop Quango:

SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan’s decision to stay in the lead role at the now discredited Scottish Police Authority comes after one of it’s Board members – Graham Houston – launched a blistering attack on open hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s PAPLS Committee’ – after it’s members quizzed the Chair & CEO of the SPA, along with Scottish Government Civil Servants at an earlier meeting of 20 April 2017.

Scottish Police Authority Board Member Graham Houston hits out at PAPLS scrutiny of Police Watchdog

Criticising MSPs scrutiny of the Scottish Police Authority, Board member Graham Houston said: “I also think as an example of good governance I think the treatment of my fellow board members by an audit and scrutiny committee was frankly appalling and I think if that is an example of what is expected of good scrutiny it leaves a lot to be desired. And I suggest that the members of that committee look to themselves about setting an example and also look to the guidance on board about how they conduct themselves in doing that.”

Mr Houston then attacked the media, accusing the press of abusing the ‘openness’ of the SPA and concludes by stating “I think that what will transpire is that probably we are one of the most open public authorities in Scotland.”

The SPA’s statement on the outcome of the meeting claimed it had strengthened the transparency and accessibility of its governance arrangements by making a number of revisions to Board and committee meetings and publication of papers.

The changes decided at the meeting, which will come in to effect from 1 June 2017 include:

SPA committee meetings held in public, with items taken in private only when necessary and with a clear articulation of the reason.

The publication of agendas for all public Board and committee meetings will be available on the SPA website 7 days in advance of meetings.

The publication of papers for all public Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (under embargo) 3-working days in advance.

The publication of agendas for closed Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (redacted if necessary) and a summary of the business conducted will be reported to the next public Board meeting.

The public will also have the opportunity to pose questions about policing matters to the SPA Board in advance of meetings.

In addition, the SPA Board established a new Deputy Chair role. Nicola Marchant has been unanimously appointed to that position with immediate effect.

Houston’s criticism of the refers to the following hearing, in which evidence revealed to MSPs portrayed the Scottish Police Authority as a haven of secrecy, run in the style of  a “kremlin” operation – according to former Cabinet Secretary & PAPLS member Alex Neil MSP (SNP):

Scottish Police Authority – Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 20th April 2017

A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here:POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A further appearance of current and former board members of the Scottish Police Authority before Holyrood’s PAPLS Committee on the 11th May – established evidence in relation to a sequence of alarming events at the SPA – giving MSPs significant cause for concern of how the SPA Chair was in effect, personally running the Police watchdog as a “secret society”.

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

The hearing also established not one board member of the now discredited Police Watchdog backed former board member Moi Ali – who was forced to resign from the SPA after she bravely raised issues of transparency and accountability during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in December 2016.

Then, at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing, Andrew Flanagan was asked by MSPs several times to consider his position as SPA Chair – yet Flanagan refused each call to stand down and allow the Scottish Police Authority to move on from the current crisis.

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing – Scottish Parliament: 18th May 2017

A more detailed report on the 18th May 2017 hearing of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing can be found here: AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog

SLOW SECRETARY: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was criticised for lack of action in Police watchdog governance crisis

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ducked out of taking immediate action on tackling the leadership & governance crisis at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – despite calls from across the political spectrum to act on restoring faith at the discredited regulator of Police Scotland.

During ‘Topical Questions’ at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 30 May 2017, MSPs from all parties called for a resolution to the crisis at the Police Regulator, and Andrew Flanagan’s refusal to step aside.

In response, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he was “conscious of the issues” and promised to consider the reports sent to him by the committees.

In Holyrood’s main chamber, Mary Fee MSP (Scottish Labour) told Michael Matheson that Andrew Flanagan had “lost the confidence of MSPs from all parties, including back benchers from the governing party.

“It is clear that his position is untenable. It seems that Mr Flanagan and the Justice Secretary are the last two people to see that.”

She called for a “drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run”.

Shying away from immediate action on the crisis at the Scottish Police Authority, Matheson replied: “I am sure that the member will recognise that it is important that ministers give thorough consideration to these issues in coming to a determination,”

The Justice Secretary added: “On the wider issue of the governance and structure of the SPA, there is no doubt that there are aspects of the way in which the SPA has operated over the past few years that have not worked as well as they should have and that there are areas in which I believe further improvements could be made.

“I have been clear about the need for the SPA to operate in an open and transparent manner as it undertakes its processes and considers matters, and I have repeatedly made that clear.”

Questions to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on Scottish Police Authority & Andrew Flanagan 30 May 2017

A full report on MSPs questions to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson can be viewed here:Justice Secretary dodges call to fire Chair of discredited Scottish Police Authority – as cross party MSPs say Andrew Flanagan’s position is untenable, and crisis will impact on diversity, recruitment & transparency at public bodies

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

 

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POLICE REGISTER: ‘First responder’ Police Officers transparency in cops business interests register beats ‘last responder’ secretive elite judges still locked in 5 year battle against Holyrood on judicial interest register

Police Officers business interests register beats secrecy on judicial interests. POLICE SCOTLAND has released the latest data on their officers business interests, revealing enterprises from property letting to golf, education, entertainment & consultancies.

The information, disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information request, follows on from an article in May which revealed 1,512 Police Officers in Scotland have secondary businesses & jobs in addition to their work as Police Officers.

The information relating to business interests of Police Officers is recorded on the Police Scotland HR system (SCOPE).

Police Officers in Scotland  are required to conform to the provisions of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013 which state: “A constable must not have a business interest without the consent of— (a) the Authority, in the case of a senior officer; (b) the chief constable, in the case of any other constable, provided that, in the case of any such constable in whose case the chief constable has an interest otherwise than as chief constable, the chief constable must refer the matter to the Authority for it to consider whether to consent.”

While the details disclosed by Police Scotland does not name actual companies and businesses in which officers are involved, the level of detail gives a flavour of potential cross over between cops second jobs and activities in public authorities, public contracts and particularly relationships with the legal world.

Police Scotland refused to provide an actual breakdown of organisations by name, claiming the cost would be too much to provide this information.

However, there is a significant public interest in the identification of businesses in which Police Officers operate, alongside their occupation as law enforcers, given potential conflicts of interest which can only truly be judged by the public, rather than Police Scotland itself.

The latest figures from Police Scotland reveal that since January 2015 there has been 354 Police Officers and 48 Police Staff who have been granted a business interest which is recorded on their SCOPE record.

However, Police Scotland refused to provide information on the number of Police Officers and Police Staff who have had a business interest refused – citing cost grounds on providing the information.

Police Scotland claimed they would have to “manually check each and every individuals personnel file to see if any individuals have applied and been refused”.

The full disclosure from Police Scotland on Police Officers & civilian staff outside business interests as of July 2017:

Executive: Property Letting.

Chief Superintendent: Education, Entertainment, Property Letting.

Superintendent: Agriculture, Property Letting, Shop or Other Like Business.

Chief Inspector: Coach, Director of Scottish Police Credit Union, Driving, Education, Golf, Photography, Property Letting, Shop or other like business, Sport Related, Voluntary Worker

Inspector: Administration, Board of Director, Football Club, Coach, Consultant, Crew member, Dance Class, Driving related, Education, Entertainment, Holiday Letting, Photography, Play in a Band, Property Letting, Referee, Retail Industry, Sales, Shop or other like business, Sport Related, Trade, Voluntary Worker:

Sergeant: Account manager, Administration, Agriculture, Childminding, Coastguard Rescue Officer, Construction, Consultancy, Driving, Education, Entertainment, Fitness, Football, Interior design/upholstery business, Gardening related, Health related, Landscape gardening, Musical interest, Office work, Photography, Piper, Play in a Band, Property Letting Retail, self-employed Joiner, Shop or other like business, Sport Related, Trade, Voluntary bailiff, Voluntary Worker.

Police Constable: Administration, Agriculture, Army cadet force instruction, beauty therapies, Catering, Cake making, Child-minding, Child nursery, Cleaning services, Coach, Coastguard Rescue Officer, Construction, Consultancy, Crew member, Cricket, Deer stalking, Driving, Education, Electrician, Entertainment, Fitness, Football, Foster carer, Freelance instructor, Gardening related, Ground maintenance worker, Gym attendant, Handicrafts, Handyman, Health related, Home carer, Indent chipping, Joiner, Martial arts, Motorcycle training instructor, Musical interest, Office work, Partner in family own farm, Parent Council, Photography, Piper, Play in a Band, Political, Professional footballer, Property Letting, Referee, Reservist, Retail, RNLI Lifeboat crew, Sales, Search Team Member, Self-defence Instructor, self-employed Joiner, Shop or other like business, Sport Related, Sports Therapy/rehabilitation, Spray Painter, Stockman, Tele-marketing, Territorial ARMY, Therapist, Trade, Training, Tutor, Unpaid Garage assistant, Voluntary Worker, Volunteer – Highland hospice, Volunteer – HM Coastguard, Web development and hosting, Writer.

Police staff (Civilian employees): Administration, Agriculture, B&B / Guest House, Beauty Therapies, Bicycle repairs, Caretaker, Cleaning Services, Comedy writer / Performer, Consultant, Consultant trainer, Dance class, Director, Driving, Education, Electrician, Entertainment, General maintenance Person, Handicrafts, Musical interest, Office work, Photography, Play in a Band, Property Letting, Receptionist/Administrator, Relief Support Worker, Reservist, Retail, Sales, Sale and Marketing, Secretary/treasurer, Self-catering holiday accommodation, Shop or other like business, Sport Related, Therapist, Trade, Voluntary Worker Wedding planner and car hire.

A Freedom of Information request recently published by Police Scotland on the website whatdotheyknow reveals figures of at least 1,512 Police Officers who have business interests outside their main employment in the Police Service for Scotland.

Regulation 5 of the aforesaid regulations outlines the provisions concerning any ‘business interest’ of a police officer. Police officers may also choose to disclose business interests of spouses or partners.

All police officers business interests are granted by the Chief Constable, which are based on their own particular circumstances and review dates are similarly set (based on individual).

Legislatively, the term ‘business interests’ covers a variety of categories and directorships fall within this. While a member of police staff is not legislatively required to declare business interests/secondary employment, contracts of employment can outline constraints on such activity.

For instance, some senior posts in Police Scotland are restricted; some politically, some commercially, some both.

Furthermore, the Anti-Corruption Policy includes putting in place procedures that support the identification of risks that business interests or secondary employment may pose to the organisation or individual.

An earlier Freedom of Information request to Police Scotland revealed certain business interests of the force’s top cops, :

For Chief Officers, this permission is granted (under Regulation 5 of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013) by the Police Authority. The conditions and circumstances are outlined in this legislation which is available online, therefore section 25(1) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 applies: information which the applicant can reasonably obtain other than by requesting it under section 1(1) is exempt information.

Information provided by Police Scotland revealed executive members (including the now resigned DCC Neil Richardson) business interests from 1 April 2014-31 March 2015.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick: Property letting, Member and Trustee of various Charitable Organisations

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson: Property letting, Board Member for Scottish Institute of Policy Research Trustee/Vice President of various Police Associations

Journalists then requested further details from Police Scotland in a request for review of the FOI disclosure, requesting the organisations referenced in the initial disclosure be identified.

The subsequent response from Police Scotland revealed:

Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson: Trustee, The Police Treatment Centres charity; Vice President, Police Mutual Board Member; The Scottish Institute for Policing Research.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick: Member, Scottish Chief Police Officers Association; Trustee, The Rank Foundation (Charitable Organisation); Trustee, Salle Ossian Community Sports Club (Charitable Organisation); Advisory Panel Member, Dfuse (Charitable Organisation; Patron, Revolving Doors (Charitable Organisation)

In relation to the numbers of properties rented out by senior Police Officers, Police Scotland refused to release details on the numbers of properties.

Police Scotland said in their response to the Freedom of Information request:  “In relation to the number of properties relating to each Deputy Chief Constable, I have decided not to provide this level of information requested by you as it is considered to be exempt in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the Act).”

“The number of properties which the respective Deputy Chief Constables hold as business interests is classed as personal information and as such Police Scotland believes that the disclosure of this information would cause unwarranted prejudice to the rights and freedoms and legitimate interests of the data subjects. Accordingly, release of this  information into the public domain would breach the requirement to process personal data fairly, as laid down by the first data protection principle in Schedule 1 of the Data  Protection Act 1998. This is an absolute exemption and does not require the application of the public interest test”

Police Scotland also refused to provide any values for the properties rented out by senior Police Officers, claiming the force did not hold the information:

Police Scotland said in their response: “Finally, Police Scotland does not hold details on the value of each property, as there is no requirement to do so under Regulation 5 of the Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013.”

In comparison to the Police Scotland disclosure – members of Scotland’s 700 plus strong judiciary – who take the ultimate decisions on the results of Police detection of crime – do not share any details on their outside interests save a handful of judges who serve on the ruling Board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

COPS DECLARE, JUDGES CONCEAL:

Members of Scotland’s judiciary continue to wage a bitter five year campaign against proposals to require members of Scotland’s judiciary to declare their interests, and links to big business.

The salary scales of officers in Police Scotland – where all officers are required to declare their interests – show a Police Scotland constable can expect £24,204 per annum going up to £83,925 for a Chief Superintendent with 3 years experience to Assistant Chief Constables: £115,000, Deputy Chief Constables: £169,600 and the Chief Constable: £212,280

However – Scotland;s judges have no such requirement to declare interests, despite their huge  judicial salaries skyrocketing from Sheriffs on £144,172 a year up to Sheriff Principals on £155,706 a year while judges of the Outer House of the Court of Session earn £179,768 a year, Inner House judges earning £204,695. The Lord Justice Clerk (currently Lady Dorrian) earns £215,695 a year, and the Lord President (currently Lord Carloway, aka Colin Sutherland) earns £222,862 a year.

The proposal to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – 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.

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.

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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COPS & LAWYERS: Concerns on Public Bodies Legal Fees spending as figures reveal Scottish Police Authority fork out over £1m in legal fees, Police Scotland spend at least £1.3 million on external lawyers

Millions from Police budget ends up funding lawyers. SCOTLAND’S single national Police service – Police Scotland is spending millions of pounds of public cash on external law firms, advocates & QCs over and above the significant costs of it’s own in-house legal teams.

The single national Police service for Scotland has admitted paying at least £1,316,819 to external solicitors, QCs, advocates and the courts over a three year period – over and above costs for in-house legal teams.

The largest beneficiaries of public cash from Police Scotland are Clyde & Co (formerly Simpson & Marwick) who were paid £361,801.91.

However, while that firm was still Simpson & Marwick prior to its merger with Clyde & Co, they earned £284,914.15, giving total earnings since January 2014, of £646,716.06.

Other big-earning firms from Police Scotland’s public cash splurge on major law firms were Morton Fraser (£278,069.60) and Ledingham Chalmers (£103,906.08).

However, the figures – released in response to a Freedom of Information request – Police Scotland & SPA Fees to external lawyers, law firms & QCs 2014 to 2017 – are now subject to scrutiny – after journalists questioned the Police as to why over half a million pounds paid by the Police to a law firm named in a £400m collapsed Hedge Fund scandal and a suspended judge were excluded from the figures handed over by Police well out of timescales tolerated by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

It was reported by the Scottish Sun in March 2016, a sum of £187K was paid to lawyer Peter Watson – a sheriff who has been suspended from the judicial bench for well over two years, and a further £364,830 was paid to Levy and Mcrae – the Glasgow based law firm named in a £28m writ in connection with the collapse of the Heather Capital hedge fund, run by Gregory King who is subject to a Crown Office probe now in it’s fourth year.

Police Scotland also disclosed at least £52,014 has been paid to in respect of Opinions of Counsel and Senior Counsel instructed by in-house Legal Services directly and at least £32,378 has been paid to the Scottish Court Service since January 2014 by in-house Legal Services directly.

Police Scotland also disclosed the names of law firms and Advocates Chambers who have received legal fees.

And, today, it has emerged in an additional, three months late FOI disclosure – the controversial Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has admitted to spending millions more on legal fees for it’s own use, with at least £623K spent on external law firms and £435K on it’s own in-house legal teams.

SPA Legal Costs (in-house and Third Party) From Jan 2014 to June 2017 saw the following public cash spends on third party legal costs: £154,449 (2013/14) £104,570 (2014/15) £175,785 (2015/16) £167,667 (2016/17) and £20,543 spent already in this financial year which runs to 2018 making a total of £623,012 on third party legal costs.

Costs for the SPA’s own in-house legal team has now reached £434,512 in just three years.

However, unlike Police Scotland, the secretive Scottish Police Authority refused to identify the names of law firms & counsel involved in it’s £1million plus legal expenses bill.

The SPA’s refusal to identify legal firms via FOI legislation has now been submitted for review, and possible investigation by the Scottish Information Commissioner, after weeks of deliberate delays by the SPA in disclosing the legal costs.

Additionally, questions are also being raised with the Scottish Information Commissioner on Police Scotland’s attitude towards Freedom of Information timescales after weeks of deliberate delays in the force’s handling of FOI requests.

The breakdown of the total figure for solicitors’ fees by solicitor from 2014 – 2017 as paid by Police Scotland are as follows:

AC White £396; Allan Black & McCaskie £300; Allcourt Solicitors £462; Balfour & Manson £1236.3; Blackadder & McMonagle £342; Brazenall & Orr £168; Carruthers Curdie Sturrock & Co. £324; Clyde & Co.(Simpson & Marwick) £361801.91; Cockburns  £54; Corrigal Black £306; Criggies £42; Douglas Gilmour & Son £36; DWF £134.8; Gray & Gray £60; George Mathers & Co £600; Grigor & Young £1920; Hamish L Melrose £540; Hunter & Robertson Solicitors £1872; John Henderson & Sons £2232; Leddingham Chalmers £103906.08; Linda George Family Law £984; MacIntosh Humble £174; Mackie Thomson £96; Mackintosh Wylie £48; Macnabs Solicitors £312; Malcolm & Hutchison £132; Mathie McCluskey £78; McCluskey Browne £2032; McCusker McElroy & Gallanagh £30; McIntyre & Co £258; McLellan Adam Davis £54; MacDonald McIver & Co £353.1; Morton Fraser £278069.6; Patten Prentice £96; Rankin & Aitken £42; Reid Cooper £15901.92 ;Russel & Aitken £60; Russell, Gibson McCaffrey £4084.8; Simpson and Marwick £284914.15; Stewart Balfour £48; Thorntons £3760.16; W & AS Bruce £60 TOTAL: £1,068,320.82

The sum paid to advocates broken down by chamber and year are as follows:-

Chambers fees from 2014 – 2017: 5 Essex court £16620; Ampersand £84000; Arnot Manderson £12840; Axiom  £8640;  Black  £6600; Compass £20334; Terra Firma £3780 TOTAL: £152,814

The National newspaper reports on the Police spend on external law firms, here:

Police Scotland ‘spends £1k a day to fight legal battles’

Martin Hannan Journalist 13th August

Police Scotland’s legal costs were exposed after FoI requests

DESPITE having its own legal team, Police Scotland has spent more than £1000 per day on external legal lawyers and court costs since January, 2014.

In the three years and six months to June of this year, Police Scotland paid out £1,316,819 to external solicitors, QCs, advocates and the courts, according to figures released under Freedom of Information (FoI) rules.

Peter Cherbi, the legal issues campaigner and blogger who made the FoI requests, has criticised the force after it refused to answer The National’s questions on the issue, directing us to use FoI questions.

Cherbi said: “There are firms on the FoI list provided by Police Scotland who specialise in legal issues relating to defence of damages claims and other similar legal issues, yet at this time the force appears unwilling to cough up the real reasons for running to lawyers at all hours of the day.”

More than 950 fee notes were issued to Police Scotland by law firms and individual solicitors, with £32,378 paid directly to the Scottish Courts Service for costs incurred in numerous actions.

More than 40 law practices across Scotland were paid for work, some of which is believed to have been connected to the many police property disposals which have taken place over the past few years since the national force was created in 2013. Other firms were paid for expertise in various personnel and legally complex matters, and QCs, solicitor and advocates all represented the force in court, including cases at the Court of Session.

In all, solicitors received £1,068,320 in that time. The National can reveal that the biggest earners from police work were Clyde & Co (formerly Simpson & Marwick) who were paid £361,801.91 for their involvement in such high-profile cases as former Assistant Chief Constable John Mauger’s failed action for judicial review of a decision by then Chief Constable Sir Stephen House – Maria Maguire QC acted for the force in that case.

While that firm was still Simpson & Marwick prior to its merger with Clyde & Co, they earned £284,914.15, giving total earnings since January 2014, of £646,716.06.

Other big-earning firms were Morton Fraser (£278,069.60) and Ledingham Chalmers (£103,906.08). By contrast, Renfrewshire law firm McCusker, McElroy and Gallanagh were paid just £30.

The total sum paid to advocates and QCs was £152,814 – in its response to the FoI request, Police Scotland explained: “These figures relates to instances where advocates have been instructed directly by Legal Services.”

The force’s response added: “I regret to inform you that I am unable to provide you with the figure in respect of fees charged on occasions where Counsel and/or Senior Counsel have been instructed by external solicitors acting for the Chief Constable as it would prove too costly to do so within the context of the fee regulations.”

The response did state, “951 fee notes have been rendered by external solicitors since January 2014”.

The National asked the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) which is supposed to superintend the national force if it was aware of the extent of usage of lawyers outside the legal services section of Police Scotland. We also asked if Police Scotland had to pay the legal costs of anybody taking out a court action against the force, and why do many solicitors firms were used?

We also asked what is the annual budget for the legal services section and asked both Police Scotland and the SPA to say if any of the costs were for defending Police Scotland personnel accused of crimes, or if any external cost was incurred in defending Police Scotland personnel in civil cases. The reply we received was “you would have to submit an FOI request in relation to these questions”.

Peter Cherbi commented: “While chief constables and senior officers have been talking up their lack of resources and funding in public, Police Scotland have been keeping law firms afloat with huge public spends of funds better spent on front line policing.

“The force’s overuse of law firms for legal action and other legal services must be opened for public inspection on a case-by-case basis. What are Police Scotland spending all this money on lawyers, and why? What are the processes employed by Police Scotland for using legal services? A key question given they have their own in-house lawyers.

“The public have a right to know and the Scottish Parliament should be looking to raise questions on this issue, which would make for some interesting exchanges before the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub committee on Policing.

“This addiction to lawyers and exorbitant legal fees by Police Scotland and other public bodies must be brought to a halt as the operational budgets for policing and any public service are not meant to act as unaccountable public subsidies for the legal profession.”

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

 

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