Scotland’s judges to be asked for views on their own lack of transparency over personal interests, vast wealth. BY WHAT PRIVILEGE are highly paid Scottish Judges & Sheriffs allowed to conceal their substantial wealth, the origin of their investments, interests and other undeclared earnings according to rules written by themselves, asks a PUBLIC PETITION heard today by MSPs at the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee.
The petition, inspired by legislation currently under consideration in New Zealand, calls for a published Register of Interests for Scotland’s highly paid Judges & Sheriffs who currently prefer to keep their vast and somewhat “interestingly arranged” wealth and in some cases, criminal records, hidden from public gaze, even when there are clear indications such wealth & interests conflict with the interests criminal & civil cases, being heard in Scotland’s courts.
However, and somewhat ironically, while the meeting of the Petitions Committee began with declarations of interests from its various members, a requirement politicians must comply with, a somewhat stony silence descended on the Committee when members were asked for their views on the petition which calls for members of the judiciary to be required to comply with similar rules of disclosing their financial & other interests in court.
MSPs ask legal profession, Scottish Govt. for views on a Petition PE1458 : Register of Interests for Judges Petition (Click video to view the debate)
Petitions Committee Convener David Stewart MSP (Scottish Labour) opened debate on the petition : The fourth and final new petition is Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on the register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary and members have a note by the clerks spice briefing and the petition and like other members i think there is some additional papers from the petitioner and that involves some press coverage and the press coverage involved some comments about six judges who have been convicted of crimes since 2005 i think the petitioner was very keen that was made public in terms of the interests of his particular petition.
Convener : Can I throw this open and ask for members views on this petition
Jackson Carlaw MSP (Conservative) said : I have to say similar to the last petition I find this slightly clumsy and unnecessary and at this stage as far as i can see on the basis of something that is envisaged potentially but not actually currently being implemented in New Zealand however I am quite happy for us to at this stage to seek the advice of the Scottish Government and the Lord President as to what his view would be on this and perhaps actually ask for some sort of indication or report as to what information has been forthcoming in terms of the way in which any system that’s been operating up to this point has been functioning.
Convener : Thank you for that. Are members agreeable?
John Wilson MSP (SNP) said : Can I also add if we are going to write out seeking views we write to the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland for their views o this issue because clearly as Jackson Carlaw indicated the petition makes reference to the New Zealand case which arose because the very fact that a judge was judging a case where there was a lawyer before him where it is alleged the judge owed a substantial amount of money to and that could have created a [something] the case in terms of before the New Zealand courts so could I suggest we also write to the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society just to get their views on whether otr not they think this would be appropriate at this time to go forward with any legislation.
Convener : Thank you for that. Are members agreeable ?
Given that the Petitions Committee have now decided to ask the Scottish Government, the Lord President Lord Gill, the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland for their views on this petition, it will be interesting to see just what arguments the professions, the judiciary and the Scottish Government put forward for excluding Judges from the accepted norms of full transparency of those key decision makers in Scots public life.
If the Judges have nothing to hide from a register of interests, then they have nothing to fear. We are often told the same as members of the public, therefore the same criteria should apply to those in the courts who are making decisions which affect us all in one way or another.
PETITION BACKGROUND :
Petition PE01458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests. Diary of Injustice has featured coverage of the petition in earlier reports, Register of Interests for Judges.
The petition also features references to debate in the Parliament of New Zealand who are considering legislation to create a register of interests for the judiciary. It is time for Scotland to move in the same direction and create a similar register of interests for the judiciary of Scotland and all its members, increasing the transparency of the judiciary and ensuring public confidence in their actions & decisions.
The full details of the New Zealand Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill, should be looked at for a model of similar legislation in Scotland, can be viewed online here Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.
The New Zealand Law Commission’s discussion paper on a register of judicial interests which recommends further inclusion of court staff in a register of interests, can be downloaded here : NZLC IP21 – Towards a New Courts Act: A Register of Judges pecuniary interests? (pdf)
In comparison to New Zealand’s effort to ensure transparency in the judiciary, Scotland’s judges and the Scotish Government have, unsurprisingly backed away from any similar measures, even concealing criminal charges and convictions of Scottish judges, where in one case a Scottish judge was charged with fiddling benefits claims, exposed in a Diary of Injustice investigation into Judge’s financial fiddles, here : CAREER CROOKED : Investigation reveals Scottish judges are CONVICTED CRIMINALS, Drunk Drivers,Tax Dodgers & alleged BENEFITS CHEATS
The on-going 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 Sunday Mail newspaper has reported on the petition for a register of Judicial Interests, here :
by Russell Findlay
Sunday Mail November 04 2012
A legal campaigner has urged MSPs to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judges.
Peter Cherbi has secured a Scottish Parliament petition calling for all sheriffs and judges to declare financial interests and hospitality.
The legal blogger from Edinburgh, said: “Like those in other areas of public life, members of the judiciary should be required to disclose their interests, financial or otherwise.
“This would increase transparency and help to ensure public confidence in their actions and decisions.
“It has been suggested to me some judges have offshore investments for the purpose of tax avoidance while others may have shares or other connections to businesses.”
Cherbi was inspired by a similar proposed law which is being debated in New Zealand.
The closing date for the online petition is December 7.
Judges were issued with ethical guidelines which were drawn up by senior judges headed by Lord Osborne two years ago.
The Judicial Office for Scotland: “We do not hold a register of hospitality for members of the judiciary and there are no plans to do so.”