Prosecutors & Lord President refuse to identify colleagues convicted of criminal offences. AN ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into the backgrounds of Sheriffs, High Court Judges & Senators of the Court of Session which has already revealed at least SEVEN Scottish judges have CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS for road traffic offences while others face charges involving BENEFITS FRAUD, featured in the Scottish newspapers earlier this week where msps including the Scottish National Party’s John Finnie, joined calls for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to identify the alleged benefits cheating judge, along with the remaining members of Scotland’s judiciary who are now known to have criminal convictions even though the Lord Advocate has claimed it is not in the public interest to release the identities of Scotland’s criminally convicted judges.
The investigation into judges backgrounds which has already turned up shifty relationships with criminal gangs, law firms who have serially defrauded clients on a massive scale, dodgy financial institutions, insurance companies convicted of criminal offences in foreign jurisdictions & other ‘vested interests’, both within the UK & in offshore tax havens, has now uncovered evidence of further cases where members of Scotland’s judiciary were interviewed by Police under caution yet were not charged despite the seriousness of some of the alleged offences ranging from assaulting wives or partners, to making threats against members of the public, and in at least one case, straying too close to an organised crime gang based in Glasgow.
Since the revelations were exclusively reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper last week and followed up by the Daily Record on Monday, further information has been provided to Diary of Injustice alleging at least one High Court judge was interviewed under Police caution in connection with liaisons with prostitutes & fears he may have strayed too close to organised crime gangs. No charges appear to have been made in the case and the judge was apparently allowed to retire and keep his substantial pension.
A legal insider told Diary of Injustice “…there is now concern within the Crown Office of accused persons or those already convicted of criminal offences may use the information to find out whether the judge at their trial has an undisclosed criminal record”. It has also been indicated to Diary of Injustice journalists that there is a strong possibility sheriffs found guilty of drink driving & road traffic offences have pronounced guilt on members of the public charged with similar offences.
The original disclosure from the Crown Office, released late in 2011 relating to the criminal convictions of members of Scotland’s judiciary stated :
• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 143 with an alternative charge of a contravention of section 165 of that Act – pled guilty to the alternative charge – sentence of £100
• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 5(1)(a) – pled guilty – sentence of £650 and disqualification from driving for 2 years
• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 3 – pled guilty – sentence of £200 and 4 penalty points
• 1 contravention of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, section 111A(1)(a) – plea of not guilty has been entered and the case is presently ongoing
However, the Crown Office REFUSED to release any further information on the cases, citing fears the public may be able to speculate on the nature & seriousness of the allegations & criminal charges made against the judges who Scotland’s prosecutors are increasingly relying on to hand down verdicts in cases where the Crown Office fails to present accurate or substantive evidence against accused.
Speaking for the Crown Office, Mr McGeechan continued : “The courts have indicated that the most important safeguard in that regard is an absolute guarantee against publication. In particular, I consider that the details of charges contained within a report to the Procurator Fiscal from the police or other reporting agency are not necessarily a reflection of any charges which the Procurator Fiscal may bring or deem appropriate and to release these to the public could cause speculation over an allegation without it having been tested in open court. Having considered the circumstances of this particular case, I have come to the conclusion that the public interest falls overwhelmingly in maintaining the exemptions in this instance.”
Mr McGeechan also admitted in one of the cases where ANOTHER judge had been charged with committing a criminal offence, there was “insufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings”, a term now familiar in Scotland where members of the justice system appear to have escaped criminal proceedings on multiple occasions after ‘Crown Counsel” gave their usual ‘independent instructions’ not to proceed like in the case of the FOURTEEN LAWYERS who were not prosecuted for millions of pounds worth of LEGAL AID FRAUD after Crown Counsel gave similar instructions claiming a lack of evidence to prosecute.
The Crown Office were forced to admit : “The one case that was not prosecuted, having carefully considered the facts and circumstances of this case, Crown Counsel gave an independent instruction that there was insufficient admissible evidence to justify criminal proceedings.”
The information disclosed by the Crown Office, which can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges while the ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into members of Scotland’s judiciary has already revealed a series of judges appear to be involved in OFFSHORE TAX AVOIDANCE schemes, associations with convicted criminals & organised crime, prostitution rackets, accepting hospitality & payments from well known corrupt solicitors representing dodgy law firms while others on the bench are engaging in questionable investments & duties which appear to be in conflict with their positions as members of the judiciary. More on these findings can be read in an earlier article here : Offshore trusts, property holdings, insurance syndicates, hospitality from dodgy lawyers, yet no plans for a register of interests for Scottish judges
The Judiciary of Scotland were also asked, via Freedom of Information legislation for more details about the convictions, and what steps were taken after the judges joined the ranks of Scotland’s criminal fraternity, however the Judicial Office for Scotland claimed that as they held the information for the Lord President who is not accountable to FOI, they were not required to disclose it.
The Judicial Office for Scotland stated : “As far as your request for information relating to disciplinary measures taken against members of the Scottish judiciary is concerned, I can confirm that the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 places a number of responsibilities on the Lord President as head of the Scottish judiciary including responsibility for matters regarding judicial conduct. In that regard the Lord President has issued a Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary and has made Complaints About the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2011 both of which can be accessed at http://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk. However, the Lord President is not a public authority for the purposes of the 2002 Act. Accordingly he is not required by law to provide information in terms of that Act.”
The Judicial Office continued to evade disclosing the identities of the judges, stating further : “The Judicial Office for Scotland was established by the Scottish Court Service to provide administrative support to the Lord President in the discharge of his non-judicial functions as head of the judiciary in Scotland. Such information as is generated in that context including both matters regarding judicial conduct and matters relating to the type of criminal offences described above and which is in the possession of the Judicial Office for Scotland is generated for and held by the Judicial Office for the purposes of the Lord President and in our opinion falls within section 3(2)(a)(i) of the 2002 Act, i.e. held on behalf of another person. I therefore advise you that this information is not held by the Scottish Court Service. I refer you to section 17 of the 2002 Act. Your request for information regarding disciplinary measures about particular members of the Scottish judiciary is accordingly refused.”
The Judicial Office for Scotland also claimed the cost of locating, retrieving and producing the information sought would exceed the sum prescribed by Scottish Ministers in the Freedom of Information (Fees for Required Disclosure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (currently £600) and would therefore not be providing any further information on the judges criminal records.
The Judicial Office for Scotland, who are the representative body for Scotland’s judges and the Lord President himself, Lord Hamilton, were asked for comment on the revelations. No response has been received at time of publication.
The Crown Office was also asked for a statement on whether it would now name & shame the judges who were convicted of criminal offences, including cheating the benefits system. No response has been received. However it has been disclosed by legal insiders that “angry discussions” have taken place over the disclosure of the information relating to the criminal records of Scottish judges.
The Scottish Government were asked for comment, however no statement has been issued.
The Scottish Court Service were asked for comment on the issue, however they refused to be drawn into the scandal, saying : “As matters of judicial conduct are for the Lord President, the Scottish Court Service cannot offer comment.”
The new problems of Scotland’s judges with criminal records come after a series of scandals in the judiciary, dating back many years where in the late 1980’s, Lothian & Borders Police accused senior members of Scotland’s judiciary of being involved in a “Magic Circle” justice for sexual favours scandal, more of which can be read on Scottish Law Reporter, here : Magic Circle returns to haunt Scots Judiciary
Scotland’s judges again found themselves the centre of attention a few years later when a top High Court judge, Sheriff Andrew Lothian resigned after a scandal involving trips to massage parlours. It also transpired the now former Sheriff’s ex wife had made serious allegations to Lothian & Borders Police & the Crown Office over several years, yet prosecutors had failed to act, some now claim on orders from the most senior levels of Scotland’s legal establishment who “were fully aware of Sheriff Lothian’s activities at the time”. More on the antics of Sheriff Lothian can be read via the Sunday Mail newspaper here : HERE & HERE & the story from the Sheriff’s former wife, at the Sun newspaper, HERE
Since then, a series of judges have featured in media reports where in one case, a Sheriff attended a wedding of a fugitive drug runner, while another Sheriff faced difficult questions over his relationships with murder victim Angelika Kluk, who died in 2006 Glasgow at the hands of Peter Tobin, who was convicted of the murder in 2007.
Robert Anthony, a serving Scottish Sheriff reluctantly quit in 2010, after being found charged with drink driving offences, reported by the Daily Record HERE. Sheriff Anthony, 48, was alleged to have been almost three times the limit when he was breath-tested.He was suspended from duty in his Glasgow courtroom pending the outcome of the case but resigned ahead of an expected court appearance which resulted in a two year ban, reported by BBC News HERE.
The Sunday Mail & Daily Record reports on convicted members of Scotland’s judiciary :
Crown Office refuse to identify judge convicted of benefit fraud
Mar 11 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay
A JUDGE has been convicted of benefit fraud – but his or her name is being kept secret. The Crown Office are even refusing to say if the fraudster is a High Court judge, sheriff or justice of the peace.
Legal campaigner and blogger Peter Cherbi discovered he or she was one of six judges convicted of crimes since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one admitted fiddling benefits while he or she passed judgment on other criminals. Officials also refuse to reveal how much was stolen or where the fraud took place. The mystery judge was convicted under section 111A(1)(a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.
While this identity is protected, the Crown Office have issued two press releases in the past four months naming others convicted under exactly the same section. One of them, who asked not to be identified, said: “My name, date of birth and where I’m from are online. “It was wrong but it is even more important for the public to know about a judge convicted of the same fraud.”
Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald MSP said: “I would have thought the same rules should apply for members of the public and judges.”
The Crown Office keep a “hard copy file” of the six but say keeping the details secret is in the “public interest”.
Cherbi said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record – that’s in the public interest.” He also asked the Judicial Office of Scotland to reveal the name under freedom of information law, without success.
MSP calls on Crown Office to reveal name of benefits cheat judge
Mar 12 2012 By Magnus Gardham
THE Crown Office came under fresh pressure yesterday to name a judge who has been convicted of benefit fraud. SNP MSP John Finnie, a member of Holyrood’s justice committee, added his weight to the demands for the cheating judge to be publicly identified.
It emerged at the weekend that six judges have been convicted of offences since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one of them admitted fiddling benefits. It is not known whether the person was a high court judge, a sheriff or a justice of the peace. Nor is it known how much cash was defrauded.
The Crown Office, who will not even confirm if the judge was male or female, insisted secrecy was “in the public interest”. But Finnie said yesterday: “The law should treat everyone equally, regardless of who they are and what they do, and this is something that should be looked into.”
The Crown Office often name and shame benefit fraudsters by issuing press releases about them. Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who uncovered the secrecy, said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record.”
As there is no Judicial Register of Interests in Scotland at this time, there are little if no requirements for judges to disclose their criminal records or dodgy financial interests. However, a public petition has been filed with the Scottish Parliament on this matter, more of which can be read here : judicial register of interests. It is clearly time for Scotland to follow other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand who are moving ahead with a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.