A NEW HOPE : Scotland’s “Victorian” Justice system makes way for reforming judge as Lord Gill is appointed new Lord President of Scots judiciary

01 Jun

Lord Brian GillLord Brian Gill, author of Civil Courts Review is Scotland’s new top judge. LORD BRIAN GILL, who as Lord Justice Clerk, authored the highly critical CIVIL COURTS REVIEW report of 2009 which condemned Scotland’s Civil justice system as a “Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms” has been appointed today as Scotland’s new Lord President, replacing the retiring Lord Hamilton who has held the position since December 2005. The news of Lord Gill’s appointment has been widely welcomed by campaigners for reform of Scotland’s antiquated & ailing courts & justice system which the new Lord President has previously said ‘fails litigants & fails society’.

The announcement of Lord Gill’s appointment was made earlier this morning by First Minister Alex Salmond, who issued a statement welcoming the appointment by Her Majesty the Queen of The Rt Hon Lord Gill as Scotland’s new Lord President. Lord Gill replaces the Rt Hon Lord Hamilton who retires on 8 June.

Mr Salmond commented that Lord Gill was an outstanding individual who would lead Scotland’s judiciary with independence and integrity and had a clear vision for the continued modernisation of the Scottish courts. Mr Salmond said : “I warmly welcome the appointment of The Rt Hon Lord Gill as Scotland’s new Lord President. His commitment to reform and modernisation is clear and under his leadership I am confident there will be substantial improvements to the justice system. He is an individual of great stature and integrity and in leading Scotland’s judiciary will enjoy the respect and confidence of those around him.”

The First Minister continued : “I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Lord Hamilton for his leadership over the last few years in establishing the new role of the Lord President and the new governance arrangements for the Scottish Court Service. The changes introduced by the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act were of considerable constitutional significance, and their successful introduction will stand as a testament to his period in office.”

Lord Gill is Scotland’s longest serving judge. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and lectured in the Faculty of Law of Edinburgh University before being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1967. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981. He is a member of the English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn, 1991; Bencher 2002); an advocate depute 1977-1979; Standing Junior Counsel to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1974-1977), the Home Office (1979-1981) and the Scottish Education Department (1979-1981); and Deputy Chairman of the Copyright Tribunal (1989-1994).

He was appointed a Judge in 1994 and Lord Justice Clerk in 2001. Lord Gill is Chairman of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court and was Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission from 1996 to 2001. In 2008, he was appointed by the UK and Scottish Governments to Chair the Public Inquiry into the fatal explosion in 2004 at the ICL factory in Glasgow. Lord Gill was also Chairman of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (2007-2009). He is Chairman of the Council of the Royal School of Church Music and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In 2011, Lord Gill was awarded a Papal Knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

The salary of the Lord President is £214,165 per annum and the salary of a Senator is £172,753 per annum.

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland was established by Ministers in 2002 and it became an independent advisory non-departmental public body on June 1, 2009. The Board has statutory responsibilities under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008. The Board’s role is to recommend for appointment to the office of judge, sheriff principal, sheriff and part-time sheriff. The First Minister retains the statutory responsibility for making nominations to Her Majesty the Queen. The First Minister is required by statute to consult the Lord President of the Court of Session before making his nomination to Her Majesty.

The process of selection for the Lord President is set out in the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”). In line with those provisions the First Minister established a panel of 4 people and invited them to recommend individuals suitable for appointment. The panel was chaired by Sir Muir Russell (Chair of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland) and also comprised the Rt Hon Lord Hardie and the Hon Lady Dorrian (senators of the Court of Session) and Professor Coyle (a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland).


Lord HamiltonScotland’s outgoing Lord President. Lord Hamilton’s term as Lord President has seen some change in the courts system, and also conflict with the Crown Office’s persistent court failures where, in the case of the collapse of the World’s End murder trial World’s End murder trial, Lord Hamilton accused the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini (nee McPhilomy) of undermining the independence of Scotland’s judiciary after she addressed the Scottish Parliament stating she was disappointed with the trial judge Lord Clarke’s ruling  there was insufficient evidence for the jury to convict and threw the case out. The rift over the World’s End case between Lord Hamilton & the now former Lord Advocate Angiolini, who among her now many roles acts as a Ministerial complaints adviser to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, was reported by Scottish Law Reporter HERE.

Among other developments, including the publication of judge’s expenses after Diary of Injustice gained sight of judicial expenses claims via Freedom of Information legislation, Lord Hamilton also oversaw the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts system, although the implementation and the mass of rules, including a ban on any remuneration paid to those acting as McKenzie Friends in Scotland has somewhat limited their effectiveness. Coverage of issues involving the outgoing Lord President Lord Hamilton can be viewed HERE


Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference in 2009, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links : Volume 1 Chapter 1 – 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb) Volume 2 Chapter 10 – 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb) Synopsis (215Kb)

Diary of Injustice coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, and the pace of reforms to civil justice in Scotland can be found here : Civil Courts Review – The story so far


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