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REGISTER, THE SIXTH: Holyrood probe on calls for a register of judges’ interests will enter SIXTH YEAR with 23rd Petitions Committee hearing to decide on way forward for publicly available judicial transparency register in Scotland

23 Dec

Holyrood probe on judicial interests enters sixth year. A FIVE YEAR Scottish Parliament investigation of Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – will now enter an unprecedented SIXTH YEAR – after a private meeting decided to carry forward  proposals for judicial transparency into 2018.

At a meeting of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee on Thursday 21 December 2017, the judicial transparency petition was scheduled as the last item – to be debated in private  – as MSPs looked for a way forward on the cross party supported proposals.

However, MSPs did not conclude on a way forward at that meeting, and decided to take forward the petition into next year for further scrutiny and consideration.

The proposal – to create a register of judicial interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary, was originally filed with the Scottish Parliament in 2012.

The  latest move by Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee to look for a way forward – comes after the petition secured powerful backing of former Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil MSP (SNP).

In an interview with The National newspaper, and a posting on Mr Neil’s Facebook page, Alex Neil said : “It is now time for the Petitions Committee itself to look at using the powers of parliamentary committees to introduce a Bill to set up a judicial register of interests.”

Alex Neil added: ““There is no doubt in my mind at all that it is long overdue. I do not see why judges should be any different from ministers or MSPs, and they should need to declare interests as most people in public service do these days.

“A Bill of this nature is badly needed, and if it can be done on an all-party basis through the Petitions Committee, then the committee’s members should not wait and should act now to sponsor a Bill.

“I am very supportive of the Petitions Committee, which I think is a very good committee, and it is now time for them to seriously consider bringing forward their own Bill on this matter, as I have no doubt that the case for such a register has been thoroughly made out.”

The latest developments – in the 22nd hearing of Petition PE1458 on calls to create a register of judges’ interests – comes after MSPs previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, including a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2017.

The judicial interests petition – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1450 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary

Video footage of the short hearing prior to MSPs debating the judicial interests register proposals in private, follows:

Register of Judicial Interests PE 1458 Public Petitions Committee 21 December 2017

A brief report from the Public Petitions Committee on the meeting reports the decision as follows:

Consideration of a continued petition (in private): The Committee considered a draft letter on PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on Register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to consider a further draft letter at a future meeting.

Journalists involved in the petition expressed their thanks to members of the Public Petitions Committee for keeping the debate open and welcomed the continued public & parliamentary debate on the judicial register – which continues to bring in key intelligence on judicial interests & cases where serious conflicts of interest have been ignored in both criminal and civil cases in Scotland’s courts.

JUDICIAL REGISTER MUST GO FORWARD:

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, is widely supported in the media and  in public debate as a result of media coverage.

The petition secured early support of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali, and her successor as JCR – Gillian Thompson.

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013, giving early backing to the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Scotland’s second Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also supported  the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

A report on Lord Brian Gill’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

A report on Lord Carloway’s widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

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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