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LORDING IT MORE OPENLY: Scotland’s obsessively secretive judiciary reveal overseas junkets – after media spotlight on judges’ international air travel circuit increases judicial transparency

16 Jul

Media interest results in judges revealing overseas trips. THE MOST powerful & unaccountable figures in Scotland’s justice system – The Judiciary –  will now regularly publish details of their frequent use of taxpayer funded overseas travel junkets.

The transparency victory comes after a three year Freedom of Information & media spotlight on judicial overseas travel junkets forced the Judiciary of Scotland to come clean on judges’ opulent use of public cash to fly around the globe to lavish locations and events officially described as ‘law conferences’.

Of the thirty one overseas travel junkets taken by Scottish judges in the latest year of figures covering from April 2015 to March 2016 – members of the judiciary racked up a further £22,605.92 worth of international trips funded by public cash – including £2,052.97 of expenses claimed by the travelling judges.

Overseas travel records now released by the Judicial Office for Scotland reveal Court of Session judge Lord Brailsford – enjoyed a £4,898.94 eight day taxpayer funded junket to Sydney Australia from 11 – 19 November 2015 – making Lord Brailsford the top overseas judicial junket claimant of the past twelve months.

Lord Brailsford – who regularly appears in judicial overseas junkets lists – was recently outed in published documents obtained from the Scottish Government – as the listed owner of the Laigh Hall – which forms part of Court of Session buildings located at Parliament House, Edinburgh.

The Laigh Hall was effectively swiped from public ownership by the Faculty of Advocates in the Parliament House titles scandal – which saw the City of Edinburgh Council lose public ownership of Scotland’s top court buildings to the Faculty of Advocates and the body which runs the courts – the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

The overseas travel data also reveals Scotland’s former top judge – Lord Brian Gill and current Lord President Lord Carloway – as the two judges filing the largest expenses claims on top of the costs of overseas travel in the past year.

Lord Gill enjoyed a two day trip during the twilight days of his short, if stormy three year term as Scotland’s top judge – to the Forum of Chief Justice of British Isles – held in the tax haven of Jersey.

Figures reveal Lord Gill claimed £302.09 expenses on top of the £231.60  cost of travel to Jersey – taking the cost of his last ‘confirmed’ judicial overseas junket as top judge – to £533.69.

Known for previous overseas judicial trips taken at taxpayers expense – Lord Brian Gill travelled to Qatar in 2014 on a five day £2,800 taxpayer funded state visit – while dodging invitations to attend the Scottish Parliament to face scrutiny on his opposition to increased transparency of the judiciary.

And earlier this year, Lord Gill billed the Scottish Parliament a further £267.75 worth of expenses claims – after the former top judge travelled 1st class to Edinburgh in November 2015 – demanding MSPs drop a three year probe on proposals to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Meanwhile Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) – who ascended to the top judicial post carrying the title of Lord President in January 2016 – claimed £352.51 expenses on top of the £650.47 cost of a judicial junket to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg during 24-26 January 2016 – bringing the total cost of Carloway’s latest taxpayer funded trip to £1,002.98.

Carloway – also well known on the judicial air miles junket set – previously took a £5,820.16 seven day trip costing taxpayers £5,820.16 to a law conference in Vancouver, Canada during 21 – 27 June 2014.

And, a two day group judges trip to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in late January – comprising Lord Carloway, Lord Braccadale, Lord Bannatyne, Lady Stacy, Lady Smith and Lady Paton – cost taxpayers a whopping £4413.23.

Full details of public cash funded overseas travel junkets by Scottish judges have previously been published by Diary of Injustice here: Overseas travel of Scottish judges in 2014-2015, Overseas Travel of Scotland’s Judges 2013-2014 & Overseas Travel of Scotland’s Judges 2010-2013.

The latest transparency move by Scotland’s judiciary to reveal the secretive world of judges junkets and expenses claims comes after an earlier Freedom of Information campaign by DOI during 2009 –2010 resulted in the then Lord President – Lord Arthur Hamilton agreeing to publish regular disclosures on judicial expenses, featured in an article in 2010 here: Scots judges emerge from ‘Victorian veil’ as judiciary’s expenses claims set to be published online from November 2010 .

In response to a Freedom of Information request for information on the latest judicial overseas trips, the Judicial Office for Scotland confirmed the new policy of publication.

R. Gare, Policy Manager for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: “The Judicial Office for Scotland now publishes information on overseas travel. Information relating to your request can be found on the Scottish Judiciary website. Further, I can confirm that no SCTS staff travelled with any of the members of the judiciary in relation to the trips contained within the table.”

Overseas travel of Scotland’s judiciary 2015-2016: Information released by the Judicial Office for Scotland to DOI, and now published on the Judiciary of Scotland’s website reveals the extent of overseas travel undertaken by Scotland’s judges in the past year:

9 -10 April 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Lisbon £540.31

16 – 17 April 2015 Sheriff G Liddle ENCJ – RECJ meeting of the Project team “Development of minimum judicial Standards” in Brussels £566.57

29 -31 May 2015 Lord Gill Forum of Chief Justice of British Isles in Jersey £533.69

2 – 6 June 2015 Sheriff G Liddle ENCJ AGM meeting in The Hague £408.68

3 – 5 June 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ General Assembly meeting in The Hague £443.36

9 – 14 June 2015 Lord Brodie FBIJCC meeting in Paris £663.48

10 – 13 June 2015 Sheriff McGowan FBIJCC meeting in Paris £562.82

10 – 14 June 2015 Sheriff Welsh FBIJCC meeting in Paris £719.72

10 – 14 June 2015 Sheriff M Neilson FBIJCC meeting in Paris £710.75

11 – 14 June 2015 Lord Eassie FBIJCC meeting in Paris £646.55

11 – 14 June 2015 Sheriff L Drummond FBIJCC meeting in Paris £970.92

18 – 20 June 2015 Lord Tyre ERA meeting in Luxembourg £375.24

June 2015 ENCJ Reimbursement -£975.10 -£975.10 August 2015 ERA Reimbursement -£364.77 -£364.77

13 – 18 September 2015 Sheriff R Dickson CMJA Conference in NZ – Wellington £1,161.26

12 – 19 September 2015 Sheriff Fletcher CMJA Conference in NZ – Wellington £1,545.28

24 – 25 September 2015 Sheriff G Liddle ENCJ Project meeting in Paris £660.97

24 – 25 September 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project meeting in Paris £983.10

27 – 29 September 2015 Lord Matthews ECJ meeting in Luxembourg £522.25

3 – 5 October 2015 Lord Doherty Opening of Legal Year in Dublin £584.90

4- 5 October 2015 Lady Stacey Opening of Legal Year in Dublin £281.37

11 – 19 November 2015 Lord Brailsford International Hague Network of Judges in Hong Kong and Commonwealth and Common Law International Family Justice Conference in Sydney £4,898.94

30 November – 1 Dec 2015 Sheriff Liddle ENCJ meeting project on Funding of the Judiciary in Brussels £557.90

3 – 4 December 2015 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Meeting – Independence and Accountability in Brussels £508.36

24 – 26 January 2016 Lord Carloway European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £1,002.98

24 – 26 January 2016 Lady Paton European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £650.47

24 – 26 January 2016 Lady Smith European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £690.52

24 – 26 January 2016 Lord Bracadale European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £729.89

24 – 26 January2016 Lord Bannatyne European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £650.47 

24 – 26 January 2016 Lady Stacey  European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg £688.90

18 – 19 February 2016 Lord President  Bilateral Meeting in Dublin £110.51

28 February – 1 March 2016 Sheriff Liddle  ENCJ Colloque meeting – Dublin £253.00

7 March 2016 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group – Independence and Accountability in Brussels £322.63

Total: £20,552.95 £2,052.97 £22,605.92

Abbreviations: ENCJ – European Network of Councils for Judiciary, CMJA – Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association, ECJ – European Court of Justice ERA – Academy of European law, FBIJCC – Franco -British – Irish Judicial Cooperation Committee Colloque

The decision in 2016  by the Judicial Office to publish judges overseas travel information and costs comes after several media investigations into the judiciary’s use of public cash to fund overseas trips.

In 2014, the Scottish Sun on Sunday newspaper investigated judicial overseas travel junkets, reporting:

 LORDING IT ALL OVER THE WORLD

Beaks Trips on Taxpayer

Exclusive : By Russell Findlay 17 August 2014 Scottish Sun

JET-SETTING judges spent £26,000 of taxpayers’ cash on overseas trips last year, a Scottish Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal.

Top beaks flew out to destinations including Russia, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Qatar.

The most expensive was a £5,800 trip to Canada by Scotland’s second most senior judge, Lord Carloway. Lord Gill – who is the Lord President – also spent five days on a £2,800 trip to Doha, Qatar, where he gave speech on judicial ethics.

Our probe found he jetted to the desert state — criticised for its human rights abuses – after twice snubbing calls to appear in front of the Scottish Parliament’s public petitions committee just 800 yards from his office.

Committee member John Wilson MSP said: “During his speech in Qatar he said that he had much to learn from that country’s judicial system. But Qatar has a poor record on human rights, as identified by Amnesty International.”

Legal campaigner Peter Cherbi added: “Judges are supposed to sit in courts, not in jets.

“It’s hard to believe that Scotland and our judiciary can learn anything from Qatar, a country accused of funding war. mass murder and chaos throughout the Middle East.”

In the past year the Judicial Office for Scotland has paid for Lord Carloway — who earns £208.000 a year – to take part in law events in Vancouver. Canada, and Dijon. France.

It also forked out public money for Lord Armstrong, Lord Boyd and Lady Dorrian to meet other Euro pean judges on a three-day trip to Luxembourg.

Lord Eassie travelled to legal events in St Gallen, Switzerland, and Yalta, Ukraine.

And Lady Clark spent four days at an Anglo-Israeli conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, while Lord Hodge went to Paris.

Meanwhile four sheriffs — Wendy Anne Sheenan, Frank Crowe. Nikola Stewart and Thomas McCartney — attended a four day family law event in Ireland.

It took place at luxury Carton House hotel and spa in Co Kildare where the itinerary included a lack tie gala dinner and optional round of golf on the hotel’s course.

Last year Lord Gill — whose salary is £216,307 – also travelled to Jersey, while in the previous three years he went to Ireland, South Africa, Slovenia and Canada.

Last week he announced a clampdown on overseas travel by judges, sheriffs and JPs.

He will only allow judges to travel if they give a good reason to do so and they will also have to write a report about their trips.

The SNP’s Mr Wilson added: “Given the pressures on our courts, it’s welcome that Lord Gill is seeking to curtail future judicial travel and will hopefully lead by example.”

The Judicial Office for Scotland was asked to give details of Lord Gill’s itinerary for the rest of his Qatar trip and whether he regretted going after snubbing Holyrood.

A spokesman said they couldn’t help as the Lord President is on holiday.

The Sunday Mail newspaper also investigated judicial overseas junkets in 2015 – revealing three sheriffs spent £15,000 on an overseas junket to Zambia in Africa JUDGE JET: Sheriffs’ £15K tour of Africa adds to air miles racket of Scots judiciary – as top judges’ clampdown on judicial jet set junkets takes flight.

And a report in the Sunday Mail on June 2 2013 revealed Scottish judges spent over £83,000 on overseas travel junkets in three years – while top judge Lord Gill refused calls to appear before the Scottish Parliament to answer questions on the judiciary’s secretive financial interests & links to big business, banks & the professions.

Previous articles on the judiciary’s use of public cash to fund judicial overseas junkets can be found here: Overseas travel of Scottish judges.

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