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Teaching old dogs new tricks ? Judicial Institute for Scotland aims to drag Judges out of “Victorian” era ways with training, technology, & business as usual …

31 Jan

Scotland’s courts, judges  & justice system previously condemned as a failure to society, remain so today. A SENIOR JUDGE from Scotland’s Court of Session was asked at a recent get-together of fellow members of the judiciary, “How do you handle doctors letters or medical reports?”. He tersely replied, murmuring an expletive, “I … completely ignore them”. It turns out the same judge kicked out a test case involving a disabled infant just a few months earlier.

And thus from the ignorance of a few ill-mannered men at the head of Scotland’s courts is born the latest pledge from Scotland’s antiquated judiciary to tidy itself up, to be known as the Judicial Institute for Scotland, it’s launch recently announced by the Judiciary of Scotland.

Nearly FIVE YEARS after Lord Brian Gill, then in his capacity as Lord Justice Clerk branded Scotland’s justice system as an unduly complex, expensive “Victorian” system which fails society, the judiciary has only now seen fit to make a public announcement its members appear to require additional training to handle new legislation, new case law, courtroom ‘technology’ (which has in some cases, such as audio recording equipment been in place for nearly a decade already) and “case management expectations” which may not necessarily include public expectations of the swift, cheaper & wider access to Scotland’s justice system proposed by Lord Gill way back in 2009.

Can court users expect any improvement in the way Scotland’s wealth laden clique of judges treat those mere peasants who appear before them with legal issues often made more complex and unnecessarily expensive by their colleagues in the legal profession ? Let’s say … no. Certainly not when some of Scotland’s judges treat the weakest in society with so much contempt for daring to think the courts are there for everyone to access and receive, at the very least, a measure of justice so far denied to them …

Or, could the new training regime be an answer to the recently revealed criminal habits of some members of Scotland’s judiciary, revealed by Diary of Injustice here : ALL THE LORD PRESIDENT’S MEN : Benefits cheats, drunk drivers & tax dodgers, yet identities of convicted Scottish judges to remain secret for now

The Judiciary of Scotland’s Press Release from last week announcing their latest ‘achievement’ : Official Launch of the Judicial Institute for Scotland

Today sees the official launch of the Judicial Institute for Scotland and the opening of the purpose-built learning suite located within Parliament House.

This new learning suite has been equipped with state-of-the-art technology that will enable the Judicial Institute to deliver a wide range of training courses and to respond quickly to training needs when they arise.

In his speech at the start of the legal year last September, The Lord President, The Right Honourable Lord Gill, emphasised the importance he placed on providing judges in Scotland with high quality training in order to ensure that they are in a position to deal with the raft of new legislation and case law, and that they are fully conversant with courtroom technology and case-management expectations.

“Judicial training is not simply an optional extra for the judiciary,” he said. “We have an obligation individually and collectively to ensure that we maintain a professional approach throughout our judicial life.  This new learning suite will enable us to ensure that judges in Scotland benefit from the latest technology in helping them to meet the challenges that lay ahead”.

Prior to 1997 there was effectively no formal training for judges.  The Sheriffs’ Association took on some training in the 1980s and ’90s but that tended to be organising visits to prison or arranging talks.  Training then began to be delivered in hotels on two or three day residential courses, but such facilities limited the type of training that could be delivered.  Over time it became clear that judges needed a more bespoke relevant, modern and accessible training programme which eventually led to the development of this new training facility.

The Director of the Judicial Institute, Sheriff Welsh QC recently said of the learning suite: “Everything is imbued with the principles of adult education. The plectrum-shaped tables are designed to facilitate interaction among groups of judges. The L-shaped room can be converted into big or small spaces; IT can be configured in different ways. The benches at the end of either leg of the room are fitted with the technology you will find in courts across Scotland to enable judges to practice using modern court equipment designed to help vulnerable witnesses give evidence remotely.”

Being in Parliament House also brings the added advantage of enabling senior judges to engage and take part in training and to meet more readily with JPs and sheriffs on training courses.  Training can also be designed around the particular needs of individual judges and sheriffs, taking into account their previous experience and skill set.

The Deputy Director Sheriff Duff said: “We do have continuing professional development. It isn’t compulsory but I have not encountered any reluctance among judges to opt in for training. Induction training is however compulsory for every new judge.”

Attending the opening today will be Mr Kenny McAskill Cabinet Secretary for Justice and number of invited guests.  The Lord President will invite The Right Honourable Lord Ross to formally open the Judicial Institute for Scotland.

A week on for Scotland’s judiciary since the press release … and its back to business of fiddling one’s mounting assets and failing to declare financial & other interests in court case after court case …

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