Judges’ use of overseas junkets in the dock. A CLAMPDOWN on judicial jet set junkets announced by Scotland’s top judge last October has failed to curb the ever spiralling jet set habits of the judiciary – it can be revealed.
Figures released by the Judicial Office in response to a Freedom of Information request – report the costs of Overseas travel of Scottish judges in 2014-2015 has in fact – increased – from the previous year (2013-2014) – which saw Scots judges take lavish 5 day judicial junkets to international destinations including middle eastern dictatorships.
And the frequency of flights & journeys suggest Scotland’s judiciary are still clocking up air miles regardless of spending cuts across other public services – often at brutal expense & little gain to the justice system.
The latest list of overseas travel – which the Judicial Office claim is necessary for judges to share their understanding of the law and court processes – also includes a five day junket for three Sheriffs who travelled to Africa.
The taxpayer funded £15,000 junket to Zambia – paid for Sheriff Gordon Liddle, Sheriff Lindsay Wood and Sheriff Michael Fletcher to attend a five-day conference hosted by the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association. The event was held at a hotel by the Victoria Falls and ended with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
Speeches at the five day event included “building public confidence through judicial accountability” and “identifying and eliminating corruption in the legal system”.
The latest revelations of judges taking taxpayer funded trips to ‘law conferences’ & river tours emerged after last year’s investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper which revealed Scotland’s top judges spent £26,000 on thirty three international trips funded by taxpayers – including journeys to destinations such as Russia, Israel, Switzerland,Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania.
The now retired top judge Lord Gill – who has yet to respond to a third invitation requesting his appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee to answer questions from msps on judges undeclared wealth & interests – also jetted off on a five day state visit to Qatar during 2014.
Last April, Gill (73) gave a sixteen page speech on ‘judicial ethics’ in the Gulf Emirate of Qatar – a country which stands accused of multiple breaches of human rights, using slave labour and funding terrorism & war.
Asked for further details of Lord Gill’s itinerary in Qatar, a spokesperson for the Judiciary of Scotland said no information could be provided. The Judicial Office claimed there were no photographs or video footage of Lord Gill’s trip to Qatar, even though the trip was paid for by the taxpayer.
In response to media scrutiny of judicial air junkets and mentions in the Scottish Parliament, top judge Brian Gill announced a crackdown on overseas trips made by judges.
The Lord President issued an edict on judicial jet junkets, setting out new rules stating judges would have to make a written business case for clocking up more air miles via taxpayers cash.
However, as total figures for this year reveal, the cost of flying the highly secretive, wealthy & elderly Scottish judges around the globe at taxpayers expense surpassed last year’s £30K figures – and this is only for trips admitted to by the Judicial Office and the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service.
Listed by: Date, Judicial Office Holder, Reason for Trip & Destination, Cost, Expenses Claimed, Total Cost.
15-18 May 2014 Lord Eassie EAJ Conference in Larnaca £731.53 £0.00 £731.53
10-13 June 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ General Assembly of the ENCJ in Rome £984.00 £110.90 £1,094.90
10-13 June 2014 Sheriff Normand ENCJ General Assembly of the ENCJ in Rome £945.16 £65.00 £1,010.16
21-28 June 2014 Lord Carloway ISCRCL Conference Vancouver in Canada £1,885.28 £39.00 £1,924.28
21-28 June 2014 Sheriff McFadyen ISCRCL Conference Vancouver in Canada £1,408.31 £0.00 £1,408.31
Jan 14 – June 14 ENCJ Reimbursement -£150.10 -£150.10
Jan 14 – June 14 ENCJ Reimbursement -£298.00 -£298.00
07 – 11 September 2014 Sheriff M Fletcher CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia £4,624.74 £290.53 £4,915.27
07 – 11 September 2014 Sheriff G Liddle CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia £4,810.77 £45.78 £4,856.55
07 – 11 September 2014 Sheriff L Wood CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia £4,998.30 £119.68 £5,117.98
18-19 September 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ project group meeting in Madrid £336.74 £95.39 £432.13
21 – 23 September 2014 Lord Turnbull Judicial and Academic visit in Luxembourg £384.30 £0.00 £384.30
21 – 23 September 2014 Lord Burns Judicial and Academic visit in Luxembourg £384.00 £0.00 £384.00
13 October 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ project group meeting – The Hague, Netherlands £468.01 £82.88 £550.89
16 – 17 October 2014 Lord Brailsford Judges seminar in Antwerp £782.27 £0.00 £782.27
17 – 19 November 2014 Lady Rae Judges Forum in Luxembourg £270.74 £0.00 £270.74
17 – 19 November 2014 Lord Bannatyne Judges Forum in Luxembourg £299.97 £0.00 £299.97
1-2 December 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Independence & Accountability 1-2 December 2014- Brussels £488.04 £70.25 £558.29
08 December 2014 Sheriff Liddle ENCJ Project group meeting in Dublin £183.19 £0.00 £183.19
Sept 14 – Dec 14 ENCJ Reimbursement -£284.54 -£284.54
25-26 January 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ Expert Group meeting in Brussels £487.25 £75.50 £562.75
29 – 31 January 2015 Lord Turnbull ECHR- Strasbourg on behalf of the LP £847.90 £0.00 £847.90
11-13 February 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Bucharest £466.25 £56.09 £522.34
25-26 February 2015 Sheriff Liddle ENCJ project group meeting in Madrid £135.25 £0.00 £135.25
23-24 March 2015 Sheriff G Liddle ENCJ project group Committee Meeting in Amsterdam £264.18 £7.40 £271.58
09 – 10 April 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ – Project Group meeting, Lisbon £452.87 £87.44 £540.31
16 – 17 April 2015 Sheriff G Liddle ENCJ Project group Meeting in Brussels £367.52 £0.00 £367.52
Total for Trips: £26,273.93, Expenses: £1,145.84, Total Cost: £27,419.77
Dates, Traveller, Reason for Trip & Destination, Hotel & flight costs, Expenses Claimed
25-28 August 2014 Lord Carloway Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo *298.26
25-28 August 2014 Lady Dorrian Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo
25-28 August 2014 Sheriff Principal Scott Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo
25-28 August 2014 Eric McQueen SCTS Staff Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo ** £412.96
25-28 August 2014 Tim Barraclough SCTS Staff Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo *** £146.60
5 people £3,712.37 The Hague – Hotel meeting room fees £146.50
Subtotals: £3,858.87, Expenses:£857.82, TOTAL: £4,716.69
The latest round of judicial jet set junkets was reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper:
More than £15,000 of taxpayers’ cash was spent on three sheriffs going on a junket to Africa – despite a clampdown on overseas trips.
Scotland’s judges and sheriffs spent more than £27,000 on overseas trips in 2014-2015.
Destinations included Amsterdam, Rome, Madrid, Vancouver and Lisbon.
The most expensive trip was £14,890 for sheriffs Gordon Liddle, Lindsay Wood and Michael Fletcher to attend a five-day conference in Zambia hosted by the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association.
Speeches included “building public confidence through judicial accountability” and “identifying and eliminating corruption in the legal system”.
The event was held at a hotel by the Victoria Falls and ended with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.
Before retiring this year as Scotland’s top judge, Lord gill ordered a clampdown on overseas trips by sheriffs and judges.
But legal campaigner Peter Cherbi said: “The list of judges on the jet set circuit at taxpayers’ expense does not seem to have decreased”.
The Judicial Office for Scotland’s spokesman said: “Conferences provide judges with opportunities to share knowledge and good practice with practitioners in over jurisdictions.
Judges wishing to attend conferences must first apply for funding and make a business case.
“We hold a budget for conferences and overseas business travel and guidance exists to ensure that costs are controlled and maximum benefit is gained”
JUDICIAL PROMISE TO CUT BACK ON JETS TAKES FLIGHT:
Late last summer, Lord Brian Gill issued a travel advisory in an attempt to clamp down on judges demanding taxpayer cash to fund jet junkets.
The edict issued by Gill stated that costs of travel, numbers of judges attending, an explanation of the wider benefit of the trip to the judicial system and details of what may be learned – must feature in documents required to be written up by judges and submitted to the Lord President for approval.
Attendance at conferences and authorisation of overseas travel From the Lord President:
I have been reviewing the arrangements to control expenditure to meet attendance at conferences by the judiciary, especially where the conference is taking place outwith the United Kingdom. I have also been considering the arrangements for the authorisation of all other overseas travel to be paid from public funds. With immediate effect the following arrangements are to apply to future requests.
Requests for funding for attendance at conferences and for all other overseas travel should be sought only from the Judicial Office  . No request for support to meet attendance at conferences, or other overseas travel should be made to any other part of the Scottish Court Service.
In all cases where funding is being sought I require a business case to be produced by the judicial office holder or the judicial representative body that is seeking funding. The business case does not need to be long, but it must:
(i) identify the nature of the conference;
(ii) the number of judicial office holders it is suggested should attend;
(iii) why that number is necessary if it is more than one;
(iv) the benefit either to those attending or to the judiciary more widely from attendance at the conference;
(v) the likely costs of attendance ; and
(vi) the likely impact on the efficient administration of business.
The business case should be sent to the Executive Director of the Judicial Office for Scotland, Stephen Humphreys. He will assess whether funds are available to meet the costs of attendance and if so pass the business case to me.
I will then consider all requests and respond directly to the judicial office holder. I will need a clear justification for any overseas travel. As a general rule it should only be necessary for one judicial office holder to attend a conference overseas. It will only be in exceptional cases that I am likely to consider it necessary for more than one person to attend.
Where support is provided to attend a conference a report is to be prepared and sent to the Executive Director within one month of the end of the conference. The report will be placed on the Judicial Hub and the Judicial website. It is important that as many of the judiciary as possible are able to benefit from the investment of public money in attending the conference.
 In respect of attendance at events by Sheriffs, the Sheriffs Association will continue to consider the need for attendance by sheriffs at conferences before preparing the business case and seeking funding. The Association undertakes this activity on behalf of all sheriffs and it considers applications equally from both its members and non-members. If a sheriff wishes to attend a conference he or she should in the first instance contact the Secretary to the Sheriffs’ Association. I am grateful to the Association for undertaking this function.
 When considering the costs of attendance at a conference, Judicial Office Holders should consult the Judicial Office for an estimate of the likely travel and accommodation costs, if required. Travel and subsistence rules apply to all travel whether inside or outside the UK.
Now, a year on from the Lord President’s travel guidance – the evidence suggests Lord Gill’s move to make judges more prudent with public cash for travel junkets – has clearly failed.
And – suspiciously – the Judicial Office for Scotland and Scottish Court Service refused to reveal any details of hundreds of taxpayer funded trips taken by Scottish judges around the UK.
When further enquiries were made regarding domestic UK destinations of Scottish judges, staff at the Scottish Court Service switched destinations of Scotland’s second most powerful judge – Lord Carloway from Bristol in England, to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland – in an attempt to avoid having to disclose the information on UK judicial travel via Freedom of Information legislation.
Full details of trips undertaken by Scottish judges were previously published here: LORD JET SET: Investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree & LORD FLY-BYE: Scotland’s courts in the slow lane as judges prefer law conferences, business & ‘diplomatic’ trips to life on the bench