RSS

STOP SECRETS: Scottish Court Service staff switched travel destinations of Lord Justice Clerk from UK to Ireland in bid to avoid Freedom of Information row

03 Oct

Court staff switched details of Lord Carloway visit  AN INVESTIGATION by the Scottish Information Commissioner into false & misleading data released by the Scottish Court Service has received evidence court officials hurriedly switched the travel destinations of Scotland’s second most powerful judge – the Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, after journalists queried an FOI disclosure, asking for further details of a journey.

The switch of Lord Carloway’s destination during a trip taken in March 2014 – from Bristol – a city within the UK, to Dublin – capital of the Republic of Ireland, only came about after court staff realised they had previously claimed to journalists, and more recently to the Scottish Information Commissioner, the SCS did not hold data on judges trips inside the UK.

Staff at the Scottish Court Service maintained that to find the information on UK only travel – for the past year, the work would cost over £600, arguing the SCS were therefore under no obligation to disclose the data which included destinations and costs of the taxpayer funded trips of judges around Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway, the deputy head of Scotland’s justice system – who earns £207,730 a year, was listed in papers released by the Scottish Court Service: Overseas Travel of Scotland’s Judges 2013-2014 as having taken three taxpayer funded trips in the past year – a six day trip to Vancouver, Canada costing £5,820.16, a two day trip to Dijon, France, with a claimed cost of £59.15 and a two day trip initially listed as Evidence & Procedure Review Study Visit costing £232.93.

The Scottish Court Service was then contacted by journalists who asked officials to provide a destination of Lord Carloway’s Evidence & Procedure Review Study Visit. In response, a senior SCS official said “Lord Carloway attended the event in Bristol.”

When journalists again contacted the Scottish Court Service asking why one domestic UK trip had seemingly been disclosed when court officials claimed it was too expensive to publish the UK only trips, the same official replied “I queried this with the Judicial Office for Scotland who have asked me to pass on their apologies.  Lord Carloway actually attended the event in Dublin and not in Bristol.  It appears to be a miss-communication on their part.”

The Judicial Office for Scotland also became involved in attempts to set the FOI record straight, however an email from the Judicial Office concluded “we have checked the information that we provided and we have nothing further to add.”

Lord Carloway’s travels and the journeys of other Scottish judges including a State visit by Scotland’s top judge – Lord Gill – to Qatar, were featured in papers disclosed by the SCS and published here : LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree.

Judicial Air Miles at taxpayers expense. Curiously, a further five trips to destinations in the Republic of Ireland – undertaken by Lord Brailsford, Sheriff Wendy Anne Sheehan, Sheriff Frank Crowe, Sheriff Nicola Stewart, and Sheriff Thomas McCartney to the Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference, also had no destination listed in the papers published by the Scottish Court Service in response to the FOI request.

The family law conference – where the group of judges stayed for several days took place at luxury Carton House hotel and spa in Co Kildare where the itinerary included a black tie gala dinner and optional round of golf on the hotel’s course.

Now, it can be revealed the misleading information provided by the Scottish Court Service on Lord Carloway’s trip along with other erroneous claims relating to judges trips, has been under investigation since early August by officials based at the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office in St Andrews, Fife.

A submission provided by a journalist to SIC officials investigating the case states: “The feeling I am left with, as any reasonable person would be left with, is that the SCS tried to conceal information which rightly should be disclosed under FOI or in any case, should be in the public domain so members of the public can see for themselves the significant expenditures of public funds on members of the judiciary who travel round the UK and the world.

Information is already published on judicial travel & expenses claims on the Judiciary of Scotland’s website, it cannot be much of an effort to add the actual destination to what is already published so why the refusal to hand over the judiciary’s UK travel information.

The effort the SCS has expended on this matter, together with arguments against disclosure, errors, correcting them etc could well have been put to better use by being honest in the first place and disclosing the information sought on what is after all, a small judiciary with a limited number of courts and duties. After all, the SCS with their huge annual budget, have also just spent about £60 million on repairing the Court of Session & Parliament House – and they cant even get an FOI right or accurate details on the travels of their top judges ?”

Speaking to Diary of Injustice this morning, a legal insider said: “The conduct of those involved appears to indicate the destinations to Ireland were deliberately withheld by the Scottish Court Service or the Judicial Office because of the proximity of Ireland to the United Kingdom. It would not be unreasonable to expect disclosure of UK travel destinations given the SCS already collects data of judicial trips to Ireland.”

A decision in the investigation is expected to be published in due course by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Rosemary Agnew.

PROFILE: LORD CARLOWAY

Lord Carloway was appointed a Judge in February 2000 and was appointed to the Second Division of the Inner House in August 2008. He is a graduate of Edinburgh University (LLB Hons) and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1977. He served as an Advocate Depute from 1986 to 1989 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. From 1994 until his appointment as a Judge he was Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates.

He is an assistant editor of ‘Green’s Litigation Styles’ and contributed the chapters on ‘Court of Session Practice’ to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia and ‘Expenses’ in Court of Session Practice. Lord Carloway was the joint editor of ‘Parliament House Portraits: the Art Collection of the Faculty of Advocates’ and is a former president of the Scottish Arts Club.

In response to the case of Cadder v HM Advocate and its implications in Scotland, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill appointed Lord Carloway to undertake a now widely known review of Corroboration – a long held safeguard against miscarriage of justice in Scots law where evidence in a criminal trial is required from two separate sources for a conviction.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Government had embarked on a policy to abolish the safeguard from Scots law in an effort to ensure the Crown Office obtained more convictions – even when the evidence was not there or sloppy casework by prosecutors ended up in failed criminal trials.

Lord Carloway’s report agreed with Mr MacAskill & Crown Office campaigners that corroboration should be removed, however all other remaining judges including Scotland’s top judge the Lord President Lord Gill rightly opposed the removal of corroboration. The full Carloway Review can be read online here: Carloway Review Report & Recommendations 2011 along with the Executive Summary and Lord Carloway’s statement

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: