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LORD’S ATTACK: Scotland’s top judge lashes out at Judicial Complaints Reviewer transparency call to Scottish Parliament for register of judicial interests proposal

11 Jun

Anti-Transparency: Lord Gill protests independent support for proposal to declare judges interests. SCOTLAND’s top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has lashed out at support given by the independent Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali for Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – a proposal under consideration by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee which would create a register of judges interests for all members of Scotland’s Judiciary.

In a letter to Committee Convener MSP David Stewart MSP, the clearly frustrated Lord Gill hit out at earlier evidence in which Moi Ali told MSPs “a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

Gill, who has tried in vain for over a year to close down the debate on secret judicial interests & failures to recuse in court curtly declared: “I do not share Ms Ali’s view that a register of interests is essential. I do not believe that such a register is necessary.” and went on to claim “I’m not aware of recent evidence that there’s public concern about the integrity of the judiciary.”

However, the top judge has refused several calls to appear before the Scottish Parliament in public to answer questions on the secret interests of judges & goings on in Scotland’s judiciary, where reports of judges convicted of fraud & other criminal offences have emerged in the media, as well as multiple failures of judges to recuse themselves in court over conflicts of interest and failures to declare other interests.

And the Lord President’s increasingly bitter opposition to transparency created by a register of judicial interests has made it clear judges fear the openness created by judicial disclosure – revealing their vast personal, undeclared wealth, extensive family and business connections throughout the legal profession, links to big business, offshore trusts & investments, ownership of numerous and high value properties through a variety of ‘creative’ arrangements, directorships, shareholdings, and even unpublished criminal records of members of the judiciary.

The Scottish Sun on Sunday reports:

Judge’s gifts plan outburst

EXCLUSIVE : By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 8 June 2014

SCOTLAND’S top judge has slammed a watchdog in a row over whether law chiefs should reveal gifts and investments.

Lord Gill hit out at Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali over her support for a register of interest for sheriffs and judges.

In a letter to Holyrood bosses, the Lord President said: “I fail to see how the creation of a register would reduce the number of complaints.

“I’m not aware of recent evidence that there’s public concern about the integrity of the judiciary.”

A log could detail hospitality. gifts, property, shares, criminal convictions and links to outside bodies such as law firms.

But legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi said: “This letter smacks of yet more judicial arrogance.

It’s about time the head of Scotland’s judiciary realised that he is answerable to the public.”

TOP JUDGE – Protests Transparency Register of Judicial Interests:

Top Judge Lord Gill’s latest letter of protest to Public Petitions Committee Convener. I do not share Ms Ali’s view that a register of interests is essential. I do not believe that such a register is necessary. I set out my views in my letter to you of 5 February 2013. My views remain the same.

Ms Ali suggests that the number of complaints against the judiciary would fall were such a register to be published. In fact the number of complaints made against judicial office holders in Scotland is small by comparison with the number of cases with which they deal. Complaints cover a wide range of matters; but only rarely do they make allegations of personal interest. I fail to see how the creation of a register would reduce the number of complaints.

Ms Ali suggests that a failure to institute a register of judicial interests will create suspicion, and that this will in turn undermine judicial credibility. I am not aware of any recent evidence that there is public concern about the integrity of the judiciary. In my view the terms of the judicial oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the provisions of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 for the regulation of judicial conduct are effective safeguards that enjoy public confidence.

The Judicial Complaints Reviewer suggests that the rules about complaints against the judiciary – the Complaints about the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2013 – are not fit for purpose. I disagree. Our  experience of operating the Rules, since they were introduced in 2011, is that they provide a system for review that effectively filters out complaints that are without substance, while providing an effective hearing mechanism in others.

I am considering amendments to the Rules in light of a consultation that was carries out last autumn. Ms Ali has annexed to her letter to you a submission dated 2 December 2013 setting out her views on the Rules. I will take her views into account when I instruct amendments to the Rules. It would be inappropriate in this letter to comment in detail on the points she seeks to make.

JUDICIAL COMPLAINTS REVIEWER – Support for register transparency:

Last year, Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali attended the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee  to give evidence to msps on proposals to create a register of judicial interests, reported previously here: As Scotland’s top judge battles on against transparency, Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life

Writing in a recent letter to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, Moi Ali, first Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer reiterated her strong support for the creation of a register of interests for Scotland’s judges, telling msps “a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public”.

Moi Ali said: “Given the position of power held by the judiciary, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity but crucially, that they are seen to have absolute integrity. Again, a register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case –financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any other way. Conversely, the refusal to institute a register of interests creates suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. So once more, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

And, responding to claims from Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill that a register of judicial interests was not needed due to “safeguards” put in place by MacAskill in consultation with the same judges who now oppose a register of interests, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer told msps: “As the person appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to review complaints handled under these rules, I can say from experience over nearly three years that the rules are not fit for purpose.”

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

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