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Victorian by name, Victorian by expenditure : £200K judges & high expenses claims have not yet delivered wider or faster access to justice for Scots

08 Aug

Judiciary of Scotland website coverThe Judiciary of Scotland : Latest look at expenses claims by Scottish judges reveals high price of justice for Scots. IN SEPTEMBER 2009, Scotland’s Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, issued his Civil Courts Review, the damming report on Scotland’s Civil Justice system, which Lord Gill had earlier in 2009 described as “Victorian” and unfit for purpose. He went onto claim the courts system was failing the litigant & society and its costs put justice out of reach of many. How true. However, while solicitors & advocates fees have long been thought of as two of the major obstacles to getting into court, the exact nature of the costs of running our courts system in terms of accountability and who was claiming what, took another year to be published.

Diary of Injustice covers Judges expenses claimsDiary of Injustice reveals Scotland’s Court of Session judges & Sheriffs claimed £535K expenses on top of huge salaries. Later in 2010, Diary of Injustice made enquiries through Freedom of Information legislation for figures on the expenses claims of members of Scotland’s judiciary, from sheriffs to the judges in the Court of Session. Unusually, no such figures relating to expenses claims of the judiciary were available in Scotland, yet judicial office holders expenses claims in England & Wales had been published for some time, actually, a number of years. The figures sought under FOI legislation for Scotland were gradually revealed by the Scottish Government & Scottish Court Service, in a series of articles beginning with my initial report : The costs of Scotland’s ‘Victorian’ Justice System : Court of Session judges paid £6.1 million as litigants struggle to obtain hearing dates.

It is now one year on since the Scottish judiciary began publishing their expenses claims, as all public servants and those paid by the taxpayer should be obliged to, yet one may rightly ask, has the transparency had any effect on the delivery of wider & faster access to justice for court users ? It is therefore now time to take a look at how well our judges have been doing at taxpayers expense, in comparison to any improvements on the speed of our courts to deliver justice.

Clearly, the judiciary of Scotland are well salaried, and well taken care of. Never have judges been so well paid in Scotland yet never have the courts been so clogged with cases, both criminal & civil. If reports from court users & litigants across Scotland are to be believed, there are as yet, no noticeable improvements in the delivery of wider access to justice for all Scots and particularly those who are now choosing to represent themselves as party litigants in Scotland’s creaking antiquated courts system.

FOR those many Scots who struggle to gain access to justice or get anywhere near one of Scotland’s courts to pursue litigation, either using legal representation or as a party litigant, or for the growing numbers of names being added to the Law Society of Scotland’s blacklist of people denied legal representation of any form in Scotland, the latest peek into expenses claims by members of Scotland’s judiciary reveals the courts are well funded but in many cases, still not open to those who need them or those who deserve justice.

Take a look at Scotland’s judiciary’s expenses here : Judiciary of Scotland : Judicial Expenses

Senators of the Court of Session

Senators of the Court of Session, who are paid between £172,753.00 per annum excluding expenses up to £214,165.00 per annum excluding expenses are required to go on circuit from time to time, meaning that they sit in various courts throughout Scotland. Depending on the distance from Edinburgh (location of Senators’ base court) they may reside in accommodation near the court or travel daily.

2011-12 Quarter 1 – 1st April 2011 to 30th June 2011 Download (Total claimed £18,600.78)

2010-11 Quarter 4  – 1st January 2011 to 31 March 2011 Download (Total claimed £24,312.93)

2010-11 Quarter 3  – 1st October to 31st December 2010 Download (Total claimed £15,957.45)

2010-11 Quarters 1 & 2 – 1st April 2010 to 30th September 2010 Download (Total claimed £15,945.99)

Sheriffs Principal and Sheriffs

The role of a Sheriff Principal involves visiting the various courts in their Sheriffdom as part of managing the business of the Sheriffdom, hearing appeals and conducting Fatal Accident Enquiries.

A number of sheriffs are classed as “All-Scotland Floating Sheriffs”, meaning that they are able to sit in any court in Scotland. Although most floating sheriffs will primarily sit within the Sheriffdom in which their base court is located they may be required to travel some distances and stay overnight in the course of their duties. This applies notably to the sheriffs based in the Sheriffdom of Grampian, Highlands and Islands, which contains several remote courts.

As of 2011 the salary of a sheriff principal is £138,548 per annum not including expenses and the salary of a sheriff is £128,296 per annum not including expenses.

2011-12 Quarter 1 – 1st April 2011 to 30th June 2011 Download (Total claimed £59,234.28)

2010-11 Quarter 4 – 1st January 2011 to 31 March 2011 Download (Total claimed £43,847.19)

2010-11 Quarter 3 – 1st October to 31st December 2010 Download (Total claimed £35,004.81)

2010-11 Quarters 1 and 2 – 1st April 2010 to 30th September 2010 Download  (Total claimed £63,141.70)

Part-time judicial office holders

Part-time sheriffs sit when required to assist with heavy workloads and provide cover for permanent sheriffs who are absent. They may sit in any court in Scotland and consequently the very nature of the role can involve a considerable amount of travel. Temporary judges and re-employed retired judicial office holders may also be required to travel in the manner of their permanent counterparts. Re-employed retired sheriffs may hold a similar role to that of a floating or part-time sheriff.

Scottish Government appointments notices regularly quote the full salary of a sheriff (£128,296 per annum excluding expenses) for part-time Sheriff appointments.

2011-12 Quarter 1 – 1st April 2011 to 30th June 2011 Download  (Total claimed £54,702.73)

2010-11 Quarter 4 – 1st January 2011 to 31 March 2011 Download (Total claimed £47,114.16)

2010-11 Quarter 3 – 1st October to 31st December 2010 Download (Total claimed £70,031.97)

2010-11 Quarters 1 and 2 – 1st April 2010 to 30th September 2010 Download  (Total claimed £126,399.69)

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