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NOTHING TO DECLARE: Investigation reveals two Scottish judges escaped prosecution from criminal charges as debate heats up on transparency in the judiciary

14 Mar

No declarations as judicial colleagues of top judge escape prosecution EVEN while Scotland’s top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill was telling msps during a private meeting relating to judicial interests that he had full confidence in his judicial colleagues, an investigation has now uncovered two more Scottish judges have escaped prosecution for serious criminal charges.

Howerver, the two cases involving judges who were charged by Police in connection with serious motoring offences were dropped after a secretive consideration of the cases by ‘independent’ Crown Counsel prosecutors – who claimed there was a ‘lack of evidence’ to prosecute both members of the judiciary.

The latest records of criminal charges involving members of the judiciary were revealed in response to a Freedom of Information response from Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

These new revelations on the interests and lack of disclosures relating to Scotland’s judiciary come amid increased debate on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary in the Scottish Parliament and the secrecy surrounding the undeclared interests of Scotland’s judiciary’s sizeable financial wealth, hidden family & business connections within the legal profession, criminal records, directorships, secret earnings from law firms & big business and offshore ‘tax efficient’ trusts and investments.

However, as no register of interests for judges currently exists, and with the lack of answers from Scotland’s top judge to serious questions put to the Lord President by MSPs over the  current system of recusals & judicial oaths, there appears to be little to prevent these same judges sitting on cases involving similar criminal offences with no one else in court including accused persons being aware of it.

More Scottish judges beat criminal prosecutions – Crown Office disclosure. In response to a Freedom of Information request, Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) disclosed that since 25 November 2011 COPFS have received two reports from the police in relation to members of the Judiciary. Both of these cases were referred to Crown Counsel to consider.Crown Counsel are the senior, independent lawyers who act on behalf of the Lord Advocate.

One of the reports received from the police related to an allegation in terms of section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. After careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, Crown Counsel decided that the evidence, in law, did not amount to an offence under section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1998.

Crown Counsel also concluded that, based on the available evidence, it was not in the public interest to prosecute the individual involved for an offence under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The other report received from the police relating to a member of the Judiciary was in relation to two charges in terms of sections 170(2) and (4) and sections 170(3) and (4) of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Having considered the available evidence, Crown Counsel decided to take no action as there was insufficient evidence to prove either charge.

The Crown Office refused to disclose the judges’ identities or whether they are judges, sheriffs or justices of the peace, meaning they could even be close colleagues of Lord Gill sitting in Scotland’s highest court itself.

In the two latest cases, independent Crown Counsel dismissed both without going to prosecution. However legal insiders  have raised doubts of the ability & impartiality of the  ‘independent’ Crown Counsel system to look at such cases, particularly in the light of revelations where the same independent Crown Counsel system was used to drop criminal prosecutions against fourteen members of the legal profession who stood accused of millions of pounds worth of legal aid fraud.

A legal insider told Diary of Injustice today: “It is likely the same prosecutors or close colleagues have been in front of the same judges involved in the two cases of criminal charges. I imagine most people will view this as the justice system once again looking after their own.”

The latest revelations of judges escaping criminal charges come after a recent scandal in 2012 where another member of the judiciary faced charges for cheating the benefits system while his colleagues were found guilty of other offences including motoring offences.

• 3 contraventions of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 89 – all pled guilty – sentences of £120 and 4 penalty points; £400 and 6 penalty points and £140 and 3 penalty points.

• 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

The full information disclosed by the Crown Office in 2011 can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges. However, the Crown Office REFUSED at the time 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 those accused of wrongdoing.

Speaking for the Crown Office in late 2011, Mr McGeechan said: “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 proceed with a prosecution. The Crown Office claimed: “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.”

Asked for a statement on the information regarding the two judges released by the Crown Office in the FOI response, a spokesperson for the Judicial Office for Scotland told Diary of Injustice: “The Judicial Office for Scotland declined to comment”.

The Sunday Mail newspaper reported on the latest developments in the debate on the register of interests at the Scottish Parliament and on the information disclosed by the Crown Office in relation to charges against judges:

Minister quiz on judges’ interests

Sunday Mail Date 09/03/2014

A parliamentary debate has been demanded to discuss a bid to force Scotland’s judges to come clean over their interests. MSPs on Holyrood’s public petitions committee want Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to be quizzed in the main chamber.

The committee’s call marks an escalation in the clash between cross-party MSPs and the judiciary, headed by Lord President Lord Gill. Scotland’s most senior judge twice refused to attend the committee to discuss Peter Cherbi’s call for a judicial register of interests.

Lord Gill agreed to meet two committee members behind closed doors. He has now agreed to publish details of when judges recuse themselves – stand down – due to conflicts of interest.

Judicial complaints reviewer Moi Ali said it was “a step in the right direction towards greater transparency”. But she added: “It doesn’t go far enough.”

A register could disclose hospitality, gifts, property plus personal or financial links to outside bodies.

SNP MSP John Wilson called for judges to be accountable to the public. He said: “Without a register of interests, how would anyone dealing with a court understand or realise when a judge would have to recuse themselves?”

Lawmen on raps

Sunday Mail Date 09/03/2014

Two judges were charged with serious motoring offences in the last three years – but their cases were dropped by prosecutors.

One was accused of dangerous driving but Crown Office lawyers ditched the case.

Another was reported for allegedly failing to stop or provide details. This incident also did not proceed to trial, a freedom of information request revealed.

The Crown Office refused to disclose the judges’ identities or whether they are judges, sheriffs or justices of the peace.

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