One area of rather noticeable neglect in the recent spate of election articles all over the Scottish media – is that of which party will do what with our failing legal system.
An unimportant issue then perhaps ? Certainly not. If we don’t have an effective and honest legal system in our own country, then we don’t have much, do we …
The first party to jump on this issue, has been Labour, with announcements from Cathy Jamieson, the Justice Minister, and First Minister Jack McConnell that recent ideas such as the “Judicial Appointments Board” actually turn into reality .. although from what we saw last year, the opposition from the Judiciary itself will be considerable to any perceived interference in it’s current ‘old boys club’ operation.
Well, while we are waiting to hear from the other political parties on this issue, I’d have to say one thing – Labour do have a track record in this area – we did, after all, get the Legal Profession & Legal Aid Act (2007) Legal Profession & Legal Aid Act (2007) … which I have a feeling no other political party would have given us.
Download a full copy of the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 in pdf format HERE
Yes of course, we didn’t get everything we wanted with the LPLA (Scotland) Act … and there are still a few loose ends where the legal profession have more control over matters than they really should – but it was a start, and that is definitely to be built on, as the new Scottish Legal Complaints Commission takes shape and begins operation.
I would like to say the SNP would also have given us such legislation, but my attention has been drawn to various outbursts from Kenny MacKaskill (the future SNP Justice Minister) who regards victims of the legal profession in rather worrying derogatory terms .. to the point I would hope Alex Salmond would take note of and appoint someone with more neutrality to the post of Justice Minister, if the SNP do win in May.
Would the LibDems do anything positive for the Scottish legal system ? I think not.
Actually, LibDem peers from the House of Lords were brought in by the Law Society of Scotland to defeat the LPLA (Scotland) Act, threatening court action against the Scottish Parliament itself if legislation was passed making complaints against lawyers an independently scrutinised process …
LibDem peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC was intent on arguing it was against the Human Rights of crooked Scottish lawyers to be independently investigated ! .. so I don’t think we can expect anything positive from the LibDem party .. who after all, took funding from a convicted criminal and didn’t hand it back …
The Conservatives may do something positive for the Scottish legal system them ? .. well perhaps they may, but the tories don’t stand a chance of power, and with the likes of David McLetchie still in the party, I think the tories would be more intent on repealing the LPLA (Scotland) Bill, like the LibDems .. than helping the victims of injustice …
As for the rest of the parties in the election, well, we can certainly trust Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers to do something about the Judicial system .. and you can find out more about their policies and candidates here Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers
Following article reporting on pledges on reforming Judges comes from the Daily Record, links in the headlines… and before anyone accuses me of being a Labour supporter – remember my politics are neutral – I’m reporting on the facts and events, not here to promote anyone over the other. If you want me to run stories on the other parties and their plans for tackling injustice or legal reform – send them in please.
McConnell in election pledge
Exclusive by Magnus Gardham
LABOUR will today unveil plans to sack out-of-touch judges.
Jack McConnell will promise tough powers to discipline and dismiss judges if he is still First Minister after May 3.
The move follows public outrage over lenient sentences.
McConnell will pledge to beef up the Judicial Appointments Board, set up to end secrecy surrounding judicial appointments.
The independent board, who include lay people, will be given statutory powers to discipline and sack badly performing High Court judges, sheriffs principal, sheriffs and part-time sheriffs.
At present, judges can be sacked by the head of the judiciary in Scotland, the Lord President – but the process can take years.
The proposed powers would be set out in a Bill within the first year of a new Labour government.
The move will be controversial – the legal establishment has hit out before at what it sees as attempts to undermine judges’ independence. But a source close to McConnell said: “The public can lose faith in the legal system when they see decisions that are not credible, mainly because judges have been too lenient.”
In one of the most infamous cases of recent years, sex beast James Taylor, of Grangemouth, was jailed for just five years for raping a baby and taking pictures of the attack.
The source added: “We want a system where judges can be held to account and disciplined for poor performance.
“Judges will still be free to be independent but the wider public interest has to be taken into account too.”
The move will be announced by McConnell and Cathy Jamieson as they highlight Labour’s commitment to fighting crime.
It comes after a poll showed Labour had overtaken the SNP. The Scottish Opinion poll for a Sunday paper said 35 per cent of voters backed Labour compared with 32 per cent for the Nats.
But a poll a week ago gave the SNP a 12-point lead and reaction to the latest findings was cautious.
TOUGH powers to sack out-of-touch judges are on the cards if Labour win on May 3.
The move is designed to make them more accountable and put the power to dispense with them back in the hands of politicans and public opinion.
To be fair, Scotland’s judges are more in tune than their colleagues down south.
There have been outcries over lenient sentences in recent times.
And there is no reason why judges should not face the same scrutiny as senior civil servants, head teachers and others with highly responsible public sector jobs.
The move will no doubt be seen by the legal establishment as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.
But under the existing format, it can take years to get rid of a poorly performing judge.
The recently created Judicial Appointments Board, who will exercise the new powers, were greeted with suspicion when they were set up.
But they work well and have now been accepted. They ensure the legal old boys’ network can no longer hire judges over a G&T at the golf club.
If Labour get their way, the board will bring the same spirit of openness to ensuring judges continue to be up to scratch.