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COURT BANKING, M’LORD: ‘Unworkable’ register of judicial interests reveals top judges’ financial links to world of big money, insurance giants, vested interests & banks fined billions in plea deals with financial regulators

25 Sep

Register reveals judicial links to bank cartels & rate rigging. A REGISTER of judicial interests – described by Scotland’s former Lord President Lord Brian Gill & First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as being “unworkable” – has revealed financial links between some of Scotland’s top judges & banks fined by regulators for rigging international exchange rates, failure to report to regulators, and operating in cartels like “the mafia”.

The documents, released by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service in response to a Freedom of Information request – reveal the latest lists of shareholdings & interests of Scotland’s top judges – who are fighting to prevent the public from scrutinising their hidden wealth.

Also disclosed for the first time are the shareholdings of non judicial members who sit on the Scottish Courts Service Board (SCSB) – now renamed as the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service Board (SCTSB) – the influential body which makes decisions on how the courts operate.

Among those who now feature in the register of interests for top judges who decide on court administration are new faces to the SCTS Board, including Lady Anne Smith – who was appointed head of the Tribunals by former top judge Lord Brian Gill.

The substantial declarations of shareholdings reveal judicial links to financial institutions such as JP Morgan – fined over foreign exchange & Libor rate rigging, Goldman Sachs – fined for reporting violations by US authorities & Barclays – who were fined a record £284.4 million by British regulators and around £1.5bn in total as part of a UK and US settlement with authorities over the foreign exchange trading scandal.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee are currently investigating a plan to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

If the judicial transparency proposal becomes reality, all members of Scotland’s judiciary – instead of just the elite few who sit on the board of the Scottish Courts – will be required to declare their vast and varied interests from membership of charities to undeclared paid work, property ownership, financial wealth and connections to big business & the legal profession among a host of details many in public life are already required to enter in declarations of interests.

JUDICIAL DECLARATIONS: ‘Unworkable’ register is very workable … and very revealing:

President of Scottish Tribunals – Rt Hon Lady Smith: Shareholdings: Artemis Fund Managers, Barclays, Blackrock AM, Brown Advisory, Goldman Sachs, Global Access, Henderson Investment, Ishares PLC, JP Morgan, Lazard Fund Managers, Pimco Global, Skandia Investment, Vanguard Funds PLC.

Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway: None, Sheriff Principal Duncan L Murray: None, Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: None significant, Dr Joseph Morrow: None

Sheriff Iona McDonald:  Glaxosmithkline, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Equiniti, Barclays, Standard Life, HBOS, Royal Mail.

Johan Findlay OBE JP:  Aviva, Vodaphone, Santander, Unilever, Norwich Union, Legal & General, Fidelity Funds Network, Lloyds Banking Group, Thus Group, HBOS, Trafficmaster, Standard Life.

Eric McQueen: None, Dr Kirsty J Hood: None, Professor R Hugh MacDougall: None

Simon J D Catto: Aberdeen Football Club PLC, Scottish Power UK Plc, Royal Mail PLB.

Joe Al-Gharabally: RBS, Ryan Air, Aviva, AT&T.

Anthony McGrath: Accys Technology, Alexander Mining, Apple, Ashley House, Asian Citrus, Augean, Avanti Comms, Barclays Bank Bond, Billings Services, Camkids, Cell Therapeutics, Centamin, Chariot Oil, Chemring, Coal Of Africa, Consolidated General Minerals, Correro, Cupid, East West Resources, Emblaze, Essenden, e-Trade Financial, Fox Marble, Globo plc, Goldenport Holdings, Goldplat, Heritage Oil, HSBC Holdings, lmic, Infrastrata, Interpublic, Jubilee Platinum, Lloyds Banking, Magnolia Petroleum, Mobile Streams, Norseman Gold, Polo Resources, Pure Bioscience, Quindell, Reach4entertainment, Resource Holdings, Royal Bank of Scotland, Saltire Taverns, Stagecoach, Standard Charter, STV, Tanfield, Tower resources, Volga Gas, Westminster Group.

And, in further documents released by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service – the last snapshot of the Scottish Court Service Board (SCSB), reveals the final declaration of interests, directorships & shareholdings of Scotland’s now retired top judge Lord Brian Gill – who bitterly fought proposals to increase judicial transparency by creating a register of judicial interests.

SCSB Interests 2015. Lord President – Rt Hon Lord Gill: Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884). President of the Royal Society for Home Relief to Incurable, Edinburgh Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland,Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music, a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828) Chairman of Council, Royal School of Church Music, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Endowment Trust: a trust for the benefit of RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust: a trust for the benefit of the RCS and its students, Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg’d No 250031)

Shareholdings: Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Newton Global Equity Fund, Scottish Widows UK Growth Sub-Fund, HSBC Balanced Fund (Retail Acc), Royal Mail Plc,TSB Group Plc, Urban and Civil Plc, Vestry Court Ltd.

Hon Lord Bannatyne: Chester Street (Limited Partner) Ltd on behalf of the Board if the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh Member of the Board of the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh Shareholder as Trustee for the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, in Chester Street (General Partner) Ltd Member of the Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal of the Episcopal Church, Member of the Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal of the Episcopal Church.

Shareholdings: Dimensional Emerging Mkts Core Equity, Dimensional Global Short Date Bond, Dimensional Global Targeted Value, Dimensional UK Small Companies, Dimensional UK Value, Ishares FTSE EPRA UK Prop, L&G All Stocks Gilt Index, L&G All Stocks IL Gilt Index, L&G UK Index I, Vanguard FTSE D World ex-UK Equity Index.

Sheriff Principal R Alastair Dunlop QC: Chair of Local Criminal Justice Boards in Tayside Central and Fife,Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses, Elder of Gorebridge Parish Church of Scotland, Member of Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club, Member of the New Club, Edinburgh, Trustee of St John’s Kirk of Perth Trust.

Shareholdings: Astrazeneca, BHP Billiton, Blackrock AM UK Gold & General, Bluescope Steel, BNY Mellon Newton Global, Carador Income Fund, CG Real Return Inc, Diageo, Findlay Park FDS American Smaller Cos, Intercontinental Hotels, Lomond Shipping Co, Lloyds Bank, M&G (Guernsey) Global Leaders, National Grid, Oakley Capital Investments, Pernod Ricard, Real Estate Credit Investors, Rio Tinto, Royal Bank of Scotland, Royal Dutch Shell, Scottish Oriental Smaller Cos, Tesco, Verizon Communications, Vodafone, Weir Group.

INTERESTS FOR REGISTER:

The proposal to require all members of the judiciary to declare their interests gained cross party support from msps during a debate on the petition – held at the Scottish Parliament on 7 October 2014, and reported along with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges. MSPs overwhelmingly supported a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests.

However, in an unprecedented intervention by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of the wealthy secretive elite judiciary who head Scotland’s courts, Ms Sturgeon attacked the idea of judicial transparency and plans to create a register of interest for judges.

The First Minister – herself a former solicitor – joined the now retired Lord President Lord Brian Gill in accusations of aggressive media & litigants – in an attempt to block the judicial transparency proposal. The First Minister also quoted the 73 year old former judge, backing his claim such a register – which revealed Gill’s own substantial interests – is “unworkable” and cannot possibly be applied to the entire judiciary.

The First Minister claimed in a letter to the Petitions Committee: The breadth of such a register would make it virtually unworkable. It would need to cover not only financial interests, but also memberships of groups and associations and familial and social relationships. Even so, such a register might not capture relevant issues that could arise.”

Ms Sturgeon continued: “The position of the judiciary is different from that of MSPs and others who hold public office. The judiciary cannot publicly defend themselves. The Lord President has cautioned that such a register could also have unintended consequences. Consideration requires to be given to judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by aggressive media or hostile individuals, including dissatisfied litigants. In addition, there is currently no evidence that judges who should have recused themselves from cases have not done so.”

Aside from legal vested interests ‘aggressive’ opposition to the judicial transparency plan, the proposal to require judges to declare their interests has powerful backing from judicial watchdogs.

Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali supported the judicial transparency proposal during an evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013.

In a letter to the Public Petitions Committee, Ms Ali told MSPs: The position of the judiciary is incredibly powerful. They have the power to take away people’s assets, to separate families, to lock people away for years. Some of these people will not have committed a crime. They may be women who want protection from abusing partners, fathers who want access to their children, or people whose home is at stake due to various legal or family wrangles. People going through the court system face stress and anxiety, perhaps financial pressures, and fear about the future. Their perspective is important and must be a consideration in this matter.

Ms Ali continued: “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.”

Current JCR Gillian Thompson OBE gave further support for the plan to create a register of interests for judges during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

Multiple property ownership and interests in real estate, buy to let and property companies is big business for members of the judiciary and their family members – however there are no details or disclosures of any property directly owed by the SCS Board members contained in the declarations released by the SCS.

Additionally, the limited disclosures of SCS Board & SCTSB contain no references to outside earnings & work, relationships to law firms, big business and others more detailed declarations which may be picked up by a fully published register of judicial interests as is currently under investigation by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee.

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 can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

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