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Author Archives: petercherbi

About petercherbi

A writer & commentator on legal issues, human rights, & injustice in Scotland. I have a particular interest in reforming regulation of public services, politics, & the legal profession in Scotland. Uncovering scandals and breaking news stories comes with the territory I cover ...

DEAL AXES TRUTH: Scottish Ministers avoid probe of undermining Freedom of Information requests as political deal sidelines report revealing secret two-tier FOI regime

Holyrood deal blocks probe of Ministers FOI misuse. THE Scottish Government has avoided an independent investigation into a deliberate policy by Ministers to mishandle and undermine Freedom of Information requests.

Earlier today, demands for an independent review of how Scottish Ministers deliberately mishandle FOI requests from journalists & the public were thwarted after the Scottish Government struck a deal with the Liberal Democrats against a Scottish Labour motion calling for a probe.

Now, after months of work by the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Office on a report into the Scottish Government’s abuses of Freedom of Information laws (FOISA), the widely criticised anti-transparency attitude of Scottish Ministers will instead result in a ‘consultation’ on Libdem proposals to extend FOI coverage to private contractors providing services to the public sector.

However, the highly critical report published by the Scottish Information Commissioner earlier this month, found Scottish Ministers are operating a secret two-tier FoI regime – which deliberately & consistently obstructs the release of any information which is likely to embarrass them.

The report also found that journalists, MSPs and their researchers were subject to extra scrutiny, leading to deliberate delays (sometimes of many months) in requests being handled, despite the law saying the FoI system should be blind.

There is also anecdotal evidence in recent media reports that the Scottish Government’s anti-transparency attitude towards Freedom of Information compliance has trickled down to almost every single Scottish Public authority – including Police Scotland, the Crown Office & other key justice related agencies.

Today, during the Holyrood debate on calls for an independent probe of Scottish Ministers & their misuse of FOI legislation, parliamentary business minister Joe FitzPatrick agreed the deal with the LibDems instead of a fully independent probe into Scottish Ministers.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Against a backdrop of an ever-changing public service delivery landscape, where services traditionally provided by public authorities are now being provided by the third sector or private contractors, I’m conscious there are increasing demands to look again at the scope of coverage of the legislation.”

The full debate can be viewed online here:

Debate: Review of Government FOI Handling and Record Keeping – 20 June 2018

Readers may also be interested in a retired journalist’s petition to bring a guarantee of honesty to Freedom of Information legislation, after it was found public authorities were distorting and in some cases, providing dishonest information in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Video footage of the proposal to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in April 2014, by retired Scotsman journalist William Chisholm MBE, can be viewed here:

Petition PE01512 Amendments to the Freedom of Information Scotland Act 2002 Scottish Parliament

However, and somewhat surprisingly, Rosemary Agnew – who was at the time, the Scottish Information Commissioner – and is now currently serving as the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman – blocked the attempt to bring a guarantee of honesty to Freedom of Information responses.

Video footage of Rosemary Agnew’s evidence to the Petitions Committee and her position against addressing issues of honesty in Freedom of Information responses, can be viewed here:

Scottish Information Commissioner Evidence to MSPs on Petition PE1512 6th May 2014

A full history of the work & report by the current Scottish Information Commissioner on the Scottish Government’s policy of undermining Freedom of Information requests, can be found here on the SIC website – which has published the following details:

Intervention 201702106: Scottish Government 

Intervention Report: Assessment Phase

On 13 June 2018 the Commissioner published his report following the assessment phase of his intervention into the Scottish Government’s FOI practice and performance. The full report is available to download below.

The report details the findings of the Commissioner’s extensive assessment. These include:

  • It is an important principle of FOI law that, in most cases, it should not matter who asks for information. The practice of referring requests for clearance by Ministers simply because they come from journalists, MSPs and researchers is inconsistent with that principle.
  • The Scottish Government’s FOI policies and procedures are not clear enough about the role of special advisers in responding to FOI requests.
  • The Scottish Government takes longer to respond to journalists’ FOI requests than other requests, but in only one case did the Commissioner find evidence that delay was deliberate.
  • The Scottish Government’s FOI practice has improved significantly over the last year, following the Commissioner’s first intervention: average response times to all requests, including journalists’ requests have reduced.
  • The Commissioner makes seven recommendations for further specific improvements to: clearance procedures; quality assurance of FOI responses; training; case handling and case records management; monitoring FOI requests and review procedures.

This assessment included:

  • Statistical analysis of data from 7,318 FOI requests received by the Scottish Government between December 2014 and December 2017
  • Inspection of 104 individual Scottish Government FOI case files
  • Examination of 87 appeals to the Commissioner about the Scottish Government’s handling of FOI requests
  • Review of the Scottish Government’s FOI guidance and procedures
  • Face-to-face interviews with 31 Scottish Government officials and four Cabinet Secretaries.

The Commissioner requires the Scottish Government to develop an action plan (for his approval) by 13 September 2018. The Commissioner will monitor and review the implementation of the action plan.

Read the Report:

Scottish Government Intervention – Assessment Report (PDF – 321 kB)

 Background  

In November 2017 the Commissioner confirmed that he would be undertaking a further intervention into the Scottish Government’s FOI performance. The Commissioner’s letter to the Minister for Parliamentary Business provides background to the intervention.

Invitation to journalists to provide further information

On 13 December 2017, the Commissioner issued the invitation below to the signatories of a letter sent by journalists in May 2017 to the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body. He invited them to provide further evidence to help him frame accurately the assessment phase of the intervention.

The invitation provides useful information about the scope of the intervention and a list of the questions the assessment phase will focus on.

Invitation to provide further evidence

We will publish a summary of the responses to this invitation as soon as possible after the closing date for submissions (12 January 2018).

Terms of the intervention

The Commissioner wrote to the Minister on 2 February 2018 to set out the aims of the intervention, the methodology for the assessment phase and the questions the intervention will explore.

The assessment phase is due to begin at the end of February 2018.

2018 02 02 Commissioner’s letter to Minister for Parliamentary Business

Correspondence about the intervention

On 8 February 2018 Tavish Scott MSP wrote to the Commissioner about the intervention. You can read the exchange of correspondence below.

2018 02 08 Letter from Tavish Scott MSP to Commissioner

 2018 02 15 Letter from Commissioner to Tavish Scott MSP

Previous articles by Diary of Injustice on Freedom of Information issues, including investigations by the Scottish Information Commissioner can be found here: Reports & investigations on Freedom of Information disclosures in the legal sector & public authorities in Scotland

 

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COURT FRACKING: Scottish Government ban on fracking does not exist says Lord Pentland – Court of Session throws out INEOS challenge as Judge says Ministerial claims “did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions”

Scottish Govt fracking ban does not exist – judge. SCOTLAND’S top court has ruled that claims by Ministers that fracking is banned, are not consistent with current law, and therefore the forced extraction of extracting shale gas from subterranean  rocks – has not been banned in Scotland.

The Court of Session’s decision also hits out at numerous “mistaken” statements by SNP ministers of a ban on what many regard as an environmentally damaging process which uses water and chemicals pumped at high pressure into underground shale beds to release methane gas.

Earlier today, the Judiciary of Scotland published Lord Pentland’s ruling on the INEOS challenge to the Scottish Government’s claims of a ban on fracking – in which the court threw out the challenge, on the grounds there was and is no existing prohibition against shale gas extraction in Scotland.

Despite claims of a ban on fracking by numerous Scottish Government Ministers, including the First Minister herself Nicola Sturgeon, Lord Pentland ruled that no such ban exists, and that in reality there is little more than an evolving planning policy.

Revealing there is no existing legal basis for claims by the First Minister & others that a ban on fracking is in force – Lord Pentland said statements by ministers including Paul Wheelhouse MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that a ban existed “did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions” involved.

The statement issued by the Judicial Office notes that [despite numerous claims by Ministers] “the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, made it clear to the court that such statements were mistaken and did not accurately reflect the legal position”.

Lord Pentland’s judgement concludes that “as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland”.

The ruling issued today followed statements by the Scottish Government to the Scottish Parliament during October 2017 that fracking had effectively been banned through the use of new guidance on planning consent.

Energy minister Paul Wheelhousewho once made false claims to a Holyrood Committee that fictitious gangsters made transparency in the judiciary impossible – told MSPs last year that “fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”.

Similarly, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “fracking is being banned in Scotland – end of story”.

Earlier this year, and after the continued claims by the Scottish Government and it’s supporters of a ban on fracking, Ineos Upstream Ltd and Reach CSG sought a judicial review of the effective ban, the Scottish Government began t changed its tune.

When the case was called in court, the Scottish Government’s own lawyer – James Mure QC  – claimed the legal challenge by Ineos was premature as SNP ministers had “not yet adopted a position” and that in effect Ministers had merely announced a preference for a ban.

James Mure QC was forced to admit to the court that his client the Scottish Government had merely spun the issue of a preference of a ban, into an actual ban.

The QC was forced to tell the court in the earlier hearing: “The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement.”

However, in the Court of Session opinion issued today, Lord Pentland’s judgement rubbished Ministerial claims of a ban on fracking, concluding that “as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland”.

In the judgment, Lord Pentland also rejected Ineos and Reach CSG’s case on the basis that no ban exists.

The Herald newspaper reported on the court’s decision today, and also reported – “After the judgment was released, the SNP rewrote the environment section of its website, deleting the words “The Scottish Government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland”.

Ineos, which runs the Grangemouth refinery and already imports US shale gas as a precursor for petrochemical works, would like to frack gas in the Central Belt.

It has previously accused the government of an “Alice in Wonderland” position on fracking.

Ineos said it now expected all planning applications for fracking to be considered on merit, not “prejudice and political expediency” and ministers of wasting public money by not being clearer earlier.

Mr Wheelhouse, who told MSPs there was a ban, welcomed the Court saying there wasn’t.

He said: “This decision vindicates the extensive process of research and consultation which the Scottish Government has undertaken since 2015.

“As I set out in October, our preferred position is not to support Unconventional Oil and Gas extraction in Scotland, and that position remains unchanged.

“I have repeatedly set out to parliament that we would undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) ahead of finalising that position and that approach has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament.

“The work to complete the SEA and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment is currently underway and the findings will be carefully considered.

“In the meantime, a moratorium is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed.

“The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process which is underway to finalise our position is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time.”

In his judgement published earlier today, Lord Pentland quoted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Wheelhouse’s statements in parliament about there being a ban.

However, in what seems an attempt at appeasing the misleading statements by Ministers, Lord Pentland was forced to add that the accuracy of such misleading ministerial statements was not the core issue – even though the existence of the misleading claims by the First Minister & Scotish Government led to the Ineos legal challenge in the first place.

Lord Pentland said: “The legal question is not whether ministers have accurately described or commented on their understanding of the legal effect of the various steps they have taken or authorised to be taken under the planning system, but the fundamentally different question of what the legal effect of those steps really is.

He added: “The ministerial comments reflecting the opinion that there was an effective ban on fracking are (a) irrelevant to the legal question before the court; (b) not binding on the court; (c) in any event, not determinative of the question of construction that the court has to address; and (d) to the extent that they did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions taken must be left out of account when it comes to answering the legal question.”

“To the extent that some sections of the ministerial statements made to the Scottish Parliament were capable of being read as suggesting that the policy would amount to a ban on fracking, Mr Mure QC accepted on behalf of the Lord Advocate that such statements did not accurately reflect the legal position; they were to that extent mistaken.”

The full statement issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland

Ineos Upstream Ltd and another v Lord Advocate

A petition seeking judicial review of certain acts and decisions of the Scottish Government in implementation of what was purportedly an indefinite ban on “fracking” has been refused. The Court of Session held that the legal effect of certain statements and planning directions made by the Scottish Ministers to the effect that the Scottish Government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and a subsequent decision that the directions should continue in force indefinitely, is that there is in fact no prohibition against fracking in force. The following is a summary of the detailed opinion issued by Lord Pentland.

On 28 January 2015 the Scottish energy minister, Mr Fergus Ewing MSP, made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland (“UOG”) to the effect that there was to be work on planning and environmental regulation, a health impact assessment, and a consultation process on UOG. He stated that given the importance of this work it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime. He therefore announced what he described as a “moratorium” on the granting of planning consents for all UOG developments, including the method of oil and gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. The moratorium was to continue until such time as the work referred to had been completed. The minister stated that a direction would be sent to all Scottish planning authorities to give immediate effect to that policy. A similar direction would be issued to SEPA.

The 2015 Planning Direction and the 2015 SEPA Direction gave legal effect to the moratorium, by requiring planning authorities to intimate the receipt of planning applications for any UOG developments to the Scottish Ministers, prohibiting planning authorities from granting planning permission within 28 days of notification to ministers, and giving ministers the power to call in applications for determination by them. The power of the Scottish Government to call in planning applications for determination by them, coupled with the 2015 Planning Direction and the 2015 SEPA Direction gave Scottish Ministers the means to control two of the essential legal requirements for onshore extraction of UOG. By refusing planning permission or authorisation of controlled activities, the Scottish Government could prevent onshore UOG development extending beyond drilling of core samples. To date, the notification requirements under the 2015 Planning Direction have not been triggered. No application has been remitted to ministers by SEPA under the 2015 SEPA Direction.

Following further research into the impact of onshore UOG development in Scotland and a public consultation, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Mr Paul Wheelhouse MSP made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 3 October 2017 in which he confirmed the Scottish Government’s “preferred position”, namely that it would not support the development of UOG in Scotland and that it would use planning powers to deliver its position; that it had written to local authorities across Scotland to make it clear that the directions that give effect to the moratorium would remain in place indefinitely; and that this action was sufficient to “effectively ban” UOG in Scotland.

On 5 October 2017 at First Minister’s question time, in reply to an observation that there was concern that the ban was not yet legally watertight, the First Minister said that: “What Paul Wheelhouse outlined to the chamber earlier this week is an effective way of banning fracking and … is the quickest way of banning fracking.”

At a debate on UOG in the Scottish Parliament on 24 October 2017, Mr Wheelhouse said that the Scottish Government was honouring the commitment it had previously given to allow MSPs an opportunity to “endorse our carefully considered and robust position on unconventional oil and gas”.  An amended motion was passed endorsing the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce an immediate and effective ban on UOG and noting that this position would be subject to a strategic environmental assessment before being finalised.

In December 2017 Ineos Upstream Limited and Reach Coal Seam Gas Limited, which both hold interests in petroleum exploration and development licences (“PEDLs”) in respect of certain onshore areas in Scotland raised the present proceedings, seeking judicial review of the acts and decisions of the Scottish Government in relation to UOG in Scotland. The basis of the petitioners’ case was that in 2017 the Scottish Government unlawfully imposed an indefinite ban on fracking.

The Lord Advocate on behalf of the Scottish Ministers maintained that, on a correct understanding of its acts and decisions, the Scottish Government did not impose any such ban. He contended that since there was no ban the petitioners have no case; the petition for judicial review was based on a series of fundamental misunderstandings of the Scottish Government’s position and should accordingly be refused.

Refusing the petition, the judge held that, as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland. The fact that the emerging policy position was expressed as being a “preferred” one shows that the Scottish Government understood that unless and until the strategic environmental assessment was completed, a policy on UOG could not lawfully be finalised and adopted. Ministerial comments reflecting the opinion that there was an effective ban on fracking were (a) irrelevant to the legal question before the court; (b) not binding on the court; (c) in any event, not determinative of the question of construction that the court had to address; and (d) to the extent that they did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions taken must be left out of account when answering the legal question.

Lord Pentland’s opinion stated: “The petition is predicated on the proposition that the Scottish Government has introduced an unlawful prohibition against fracking in Scotland. Whilst acknowledging that there have been a number of ministerial statements to the effect that there is an effective ban, the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, made it clear to the court that such statements were mistaken and did not accurately reflect the legal position. The stance of the Scottish Government before the court is that there is no legally enforceable prohibition. For the reasons set out in this judgment, I consider that the Government’s legal position is soundly based and that there is indeed no prohibition against fracking in force at the present time. What exists at present is an emerging and unfinalised planning policy expressing no support on the part of the Scottish Government for the development or extraction of UOG in Scotland. The process of policy development is not yet complete; the important stages of a strategic environmental assessment and a business and regulatory impact assessment have still to be carried out. There is no basis on which the court should interfere with those procedures; the petitioners will have a full opportunity to contribute to and participate in them. I conclude that since there is no prohibition against fracking, the petitioners’ case is unfounded; their application for judicial review of the alleged ban must accordingly fail.”

The full opinion can be accessed online here: Ineos Upstream Ltd and another v Lord Advocate

The Top judge who said court lawyers & judiciary should profit from & serve shale gas extraction & fossil fuel interests:

THREE years ago, Scotland’s now former top judge – Lord Brian Gill spoke on the very same day the Scottish Government announced the ‘moratorium’ on fracking, expressing his desire – and ultimately judicial policy – that fracking for shale gas should go ahead, and will increase business in the courts.

In a speech given at a Holyrood digital media conference on the same day that Minister Fergus Ewing MSP announced the moratorium on fracking, Lord gill also said he wanted to turn Scotland’s legal system into a mediation haven for big business, big oil, shale gas barons & bankers, according to a speech he gave on the theme of “Digital Justice” last week.

Lord Gill’s plans for fracking & big oil mediation was hoped to draw in millions for lawyers and judges – without the need to declare any interests.

During the fourteen page speech – Gill (72) also urged the legal sector to better exploit Scotland’s “natural resources” and renewable energy for their own profit.

Speaking on the issue of fracking, and taking aim squarely at the Scottish Government’s alleged policy on a moratorium, Lord Gill told conference delegates: “Our resources of energy may be increased by the retrieval of shale gas, if that should be allowed. It seems to me therefore that the opportunity that our natural resources present should be served by the court system.”

Speech by Lord Gill on Digital Justice, Fracking & Big Oil. During the speech, Lord Gill also chastised his own judicial colleagues & lawyers for missing out on exploitation of Scotland’s oil boom.

Lord Gill said: “In the 1960s and 1970s the economy of Scotland was transformed by the discovery of North Sea oil. The judges and lawyers of that time were not alert to the opportunity that Scotland could be an international forum for resolving disputes in the oil and gas industry. We paid a price for our complacency when the international oil and gas industry passed us by.”

Gill continued: “Half a century on we should look at Scotland’s economic opportunities and see how the courts can best serve them. In recent years a commitment to renewable energy has brought wind power to the fore as an energy source. Other forms of renewable energy may follow.”

The top judge also claimed Scotland can be made an international centre for litigation and mediation.

Gill said “Our legal system should be a driver for economic progress in Scotland. Our courts and our judges can and should contribute to the prosperity of our country. We can do that if, by the excellence of our judges, and our legal profession and the efficiency of our courts, we make Scotland a forum of litigation that not only retains litigations that at present go elsewhere but also becomes a forum of choice for litigations from abroad..”

Lord Gill’s own speech on the issue of fracking, and personal desire for shale oil gas extraction to go ahead, as a matter of judicial policy – was at complete odds with the statement issued by Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing on the same day to MSPs at Holyrood.:

While Gill gave his ‘fracking is good for the legal profession, courts & judiary’ lecture, Mr Ewing told the Parliament: “I want to ensure that the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard, and are heard in a more formal and structured way.I am therefore announcing today that in addition to the technical work I’ve referred to on planning, environmental regulation and upon assessing the impact on public health, Scottish ministers will also launch a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction.”

An earlier report on Lord Gill’s speech on the issue of fracking can be found here: FRACKING JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge promotes shale gas extraction, big oil and renewable energy as profit incentive for courts on same day Scottish Government announce ban on fracking

 

 

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

MSPs support creation of Judicial Register. A SIX YEAR Scottish Parliament investigation of a petition calling for the creation of a register of interests for judges has received the backing of a powerful Holyrood Committee – who have concluded the proposal to increase judicial transparency – should become law.

On Thursday, 22 March 2018, the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament held it’s 25th hearing to discuss Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Members of the Committee concluded that such a register should be introduced into law – and cast aside arguments put forward by two top judges that such a register was “unworkable

Petitions Committee Convener Johann Lamont MSP (Scottish Labour) said: “In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. “

“The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests.”

“We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.”

Deputy Convener Angus MacDonald MSP (Scottish National Party) added: “This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn.”

“Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.”

“The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.”

“I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.”

The Petitions Committee have since written to the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, and Lord Carloway.

When responses are received, MSPs will consider further action.

Video footage and a transcript of the Public Petitions Committee hearing follows:

Petition PE 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 22 March 2018

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458):

The Convener:  The next petition, PE1458, calls for the introduction of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. As members will recall, we have previously agreed to write to the Lord President and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and have considered a draft letter at previous meetings. The petition has received much consideration since it was lodged in 2012. I express my gratitude to the petitioner for raising the issue and to all those who have engaged in discussions on the issues that are raised in the petition, including the Lord President, Lord Carloway, and his predecessor, Lord Gill.

In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests. We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.

In reaching that view, the committee is very clear that it does not consider there to be a basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making. Rather, it is the view that we have reached, based on the principles of transparency and openness in public life. While that is the view of this committee, we also understand that the Lord President and the Scottish Government have indicated they do not support the introduction of a register.

Would it be appropriate for us to invite the Justice Committee to consider the petition in light of our recommendation? Would members be content to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration? Do members have any comments?

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn. Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.

The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.

I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.

Rona Mackay: I broadly agree with what my colleague has said. That is a natural way forward for the petition. I do not think that we can take it any further, given the history that we have just heard. I think that it is sensible to send it to the Justice Committee for its consideration.

The Convener:  Do we agree to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration?

Members indicated agreement.

Decision: PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out its view that a register of interests should be introduced and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, under Rule 15.6.2 of Standing Orders, for its consideration.

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and 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 PE1458 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.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

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 – 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.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving 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”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving 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

The letters sent by the Public Petitions Committee to Lord President Lord Carloway, and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests:

Dear Lord Carloway,

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

As you may be aware, the above petition was lodged in December 2012 and has been considered by the current Public Petitions Committee and its Session 4 predecessor. Over this period MSPs have taken on board the arguments for and against a register of interests and the nature of the interests that might be covered in such a register. This letter sets out the conclusions that the Public Petitions Committee has reached on the petition.

In setting out these conclusions, I would emphasise that the Committee absolutely recognises that an independent and well-functioning judiciary is, and must be, an essential part of our system of government.

I also make clear that the Committee’s consideration of the petition, and the views set out in this letter, reflect our viewpoint that there is no basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making.

The Committee has reached its views based on the wider contemporary picture of transparency and openness in public life wherein preventing the perception of any undue influence is important in ensuring confidence in those holding public office.

Register of recusals

One of the welcome developments in the course of this petition has been the introduction of a register of recusals. The Committee notes that this register was brought into effect in April 2014 directly as a result of the petition and a meeting between the then Lord President, Lord Gill, and representatives of the Session 4 Public Petitions Committee. In recent discussions with the Committee, and the petitioner, you agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals. As a result, the register will now ensure transparency about recusal across courts and tribunals in Scotland. The Committee very much welcomes these measures.

In doing so, we note that this addresses one of the arguments made against a register of financial interests – that it would not capture those instances where consideration of any potential conflict in a case was based on a social or personal connection that may not be known about prior to a case coming to court.

The Committee agrees that the practicalities are such that it would not be possible or proportionate to require advance registration of personal connection with parties that may at some point be relevant within a particular case. However, we do consider that public transparency of such connections is vital and the register of recusals is the tool that strikes an appropriate balance in this regard.

We would also observe that the value of collating information about recusals is that it enables analysis to be undertaken of the way the recusal systems operates and for this analysis to inform ongoing thinking about the administration of justice through the Scottish courts.

Register of financial interests

Turning now to the core question of a register of interests, the Committee’s most recent consideration of the petition focussed on seeking to understand and explore some of the arguments put forward against the introduction of such a register.

These arguments have included—

• a risk of online fraud due to retribution from dissatisfied litigants (which, it was argued, may have an inhibitory effect on the administration of justice if judges start to decline roles on public bodies such as the board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service) and,

• the possibility of the existence of a register of interests having a damaging effect on recruitment.

Members do, of course, have an understanding of the practical operation of a register of interests given the duties that apply to elected members. However, in considering the arguments put forward, we have not considered the role of judges as analogous to the role of elected members or had in mind any particular model for a register of interests that might be appropriate for judges.

Instead, our consideration has been based on an understanding of the expectations that apply to all holders of public office, whether elected or unelected, in relation to disclosure of financial interests. As we noted above, such disclosures not only allow for demonstration that decision-making is not influenced by personal interests but also prevent the perception of the influence of interests on decision-making.

Having considered these arguments and the thinking behind them, the Committee has not been convinced that a register of interests is an unworkable idea and it is the view of the Committee that such a register should be introduced.

Recognising that the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland have indicated that they do not support the introduction of a register, the Committee today agreed to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, inviting that Committee to consider the petition further, in light of our recommendation.

Yours sincerely: Johann Lamont MSP Convener

The National reported on the success of the six year petition calling for a register of judicial interests, in the following articles:

Judges register backed by MSPs to become law

Martin Hannan Journalist 23 March 2018

IT’S taken nearly six years and 25 hearings but as The National predicted yesterday, a register of interests for all Scottish judges is set to become law.

The petition for a register by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi will now go the Justice Committee at Holyrood with a recommendation that the register becomes law.

The current and previous Lord Presidents, Lord Carloway and Lord Gill respectively, both strongly opposed the register which they feel will make it difficult for judges to be recruited.

Committee chair Johann Lamont said: “The committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable and it is the view of the committee that such a register should be introduced.”

She said the committee’s view had been reached with regard to “the principles of openness and transparency in public life”.

Having achieved his success after years of work, Peter Cherbi told The National: “I am delighted to hear the Public Petitions Committee support the creation of a register of interests for judges, and applaud their work on this petition.

“From filing the petition in 2012, being a part of the process to submit evidence, report on hearings, and observing witness evidence, I am very impressed that Holyrood followed this through from committee, to a full debate in the main chamber in October 2014, where the petition gathered overwhelming cross party support, to now, with the decision to recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests.

“Key evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali in September 2013 was, I believe, the turning point and a key moment where the proposal for register of judicial interests gathered steam.

“MSPs were able to hear for themselves from someone within the justice framework how a register of interests for judges would not only benefit transparency, but also bring back much needed public trust and respect to the justice system and our courts.

“My sincere thanks to MSPs Angus MacDonald, David Torrance, current Convener Johann Lamont, ex-convener David Stewart, Jackson Carlaw, particularly Alex Neil who asked key questions several times in the process, former MSPs Chic Brodie and John Wilson and all members of the Public Petitions Committee past and present who have given their considerable time, effort and input into this petition, have taken the time to study the evidence, and arrive at the conclusion transparency in the judiciary is a good thing, and not as Lord Carloway and Lord Gill claimed ‘unworkable’.”

This is a good day for the Scottish Parliament and for transparency.

The Sunday Mail print edition reported on the Petitions Committee backing for legislation to require judges to declare their interest, and also featured a report on Alex Neil MSP – who supports the judicial transparency proposals and is prepared to bring in a Members Bill to create a register of judges’ interests:

BATTLE TO BRING IN JUDGES’ REGISTER

Sunday Mail 25 March 2018

Ex-minister Alex Neil will defy Nicola Sturgeon with a bill forcing Scotland’s judges to declare their interests.

Holyrood’s petitions committee have asked the Government to legislate for a register which may include details of financial, professional and personal connections of judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace.

Sturgeon is expected to reject the committee’s recommendation. But Neil believes there is enough cross-party support to raise his own bill, in a rare act of SNP backbench rebellion.

He said: “If no bill is brought forward by the Government, I would intend to do so myself, as there is significant support from other MSPs.”

Former health secretary Neil backs the register after representing constituent Donal Nolan, who took Advance Construction to court over a land dispute.

It later emerged that judge Lord Malcolm sat on the case despite his lawyer son Ewen Campell acting for the construction firm.

Neil said: “If the committee decide to recommend a bill, it is absolutely necessary as I have seen from cases such as Nolan v Advance Construction where there were undeclared interests.”

The Scottish Sun print edition also reported on the Petition Committee’s backing for a register of judicial interests and Alex Neil MSP’s plan for a Member’s Bill:

JUDGE LIST IS BACKED

Scottish Sun 23 March 2018

MSPs defied Nicola Sturgeon yesterday by calling for judges to list their financial ties.

Holyrood’s cross-party Public Petitions Committee backed a register of interests for the judiciary.

Its convener Johann Lamont said the move was based on “principles of transparency and openness in public life”.

Top judge Lord Carloway claimed the register would hit recruitment and the Government has said it was “not needed”.

Last night Nats MSP Alex Neil warned if plans for the list are not backed he is “prepared to do it as a Member’s Bill”.

A further report in The National newspaper:

MSPs to call for judges’ register in Scotland after years-long campaign

Martin Hannan Journalist 22 March 2018

AFTER nearly six years and 25 sittings of evidence and debate on the petition to create a register of judges’ interests, The National has learned that the Holyrood Petitions Committee is set to recommend legislation to the Scottish Government.

The petition lodged by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi in 2012 called for a Register of Pecuniary Interests Bill and when it meets later today, the Petitions Committee will have a draft letter before it suggesting the Scottish Government brings in such a register.

Cherbi’s petition has been strongly supported by MSPs such as Alex Neil and equally strongly opposed by members of the judiciary led by the current and former Lord Presidents, Lords Carloway and Gill respectively, who said it could be harmful to judges and their recruitment.

Cherbi said last night: “Everyone apart from the judiciary, and apparently those with a desire on becoming a judge, gets the idea that judges should declare their interests in a register, just like everyone else in public positions.

“For the judiciary to have stalled this transparency proposal on their reasoning that judges should be given a pass from transparency just because they are judges does not fit in with modern life or expectations by the public of openness in government and the justice system.

“Two top judges have given evidence. Both adopted overwhelmingly aggressive positions to the idea that the same transparency which exists across public life, and which they are charged with enforcing in our courts, should be applied to them.


“Yet amidst their inferences that justice would shut down, judges could not be hired, and the world would stop turning, neither Lord Carloway nor Lord Gill could make a convincing case against creating a register of judicial interests.

“Prosecutors, police, court staff, even the legal aid board – all key parts of the justice system have registers of interest. Therefore there can be no exclusion from transparency for the most powerful members of the justice system – the judiciary itself.

“Who would have thought judges would have been so fearful of transparency and disclosing their own interests, that it would have taken six years for the Scottish Parliament to reach this stage of recommending legislation? Time now to take openness forward for our judiciary, which will ultimately help regain a measure of public confidence in the courts.

“This is a win win for Scotland. We as a team, petitioners, the media, Judicial Complaints Reviewers, those in our courts and even the legal profession who back this move – changed the judiciary’s expectations of openness and requirements of transparency.”

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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CAPITAL SECRET: Crown Office block disclosure of financial costs in FIVE YEAR probe of collapsed £400m Heather Capital hedge fund linked to Scotland’s judiciary

Crown Office Hedge Fund probe secrecy. A FIVE YEAR investigation by the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) into charges relating to a collapsed hedge fund – remains shrouded in secrecy after the case was axed, and with a recent decision to block disclosure of costs of the probe.

The collapse of the Isle of Man based Heather Capital Hedge Fund saw four persons charged after a three year long Police investigation –  in April 2013 – in connection with events relating to the broke £400million hedge fund.

Heather Capital launched in 2005 – attracting global investors, loaning money to fund property deals.

After the collapse of the hedge fund in 2010, Paul Duffy, the liquidator of Heather Capital – claimed that about £90 million was unaccounted for.

However, in February of this year, Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC quietly axed the lengthy five year investigation of the collapsed hedge fund and solicitors Gregory King & Andrew Sobolewski , accountant Andrew Millar and property expert Scott Carmichael.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request, the Crown Office has now refused to disclose any information in relation to the costs of the five year investigation into a collapsed hedge fund which saw four persons charged by Police Scotland in 2013.

The Crown Office were asked for information contained in the costs (figures) of the investigation by the Crown Office into charges against four persons in relation to the collapsed Hedge Fund Heather Capital.

When (date) the decision was taken to drop any action against the four persons charged in connection with above.

How many independent or other counsel & crown counsel served or worked on this investigation (and other COPFS staff, or others contracted in for this investigation (and their speciality role) – and their costs.

Information contained in any overseas travel (dates & destinations, costs of) in relation to this investigation.

Responding for the Crown Office, Christine Lazzarin claimed there was no costing available for the failed five year investigation, as the Crown Office intentionally does not monitor costs in investigations.

However, legal insiders have suggested costs around the five year investigation have run into millions of pounds,and that some felt the case was flawed from the outset due to ‘a lack of additional charges.

There are also claims a number of prosecutors & counsel became inactive, leaving the probe over the span of the five years.

Responding to the Freedom of Information request, Christine Lazzarin of the Crown Office ‘Information Unit’ wrote: In relation to your request I will firstly explain that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) does not routinely collate the total costs associated with investigating individual cases, and having made enquiries with our Finance Division I can advise that there are no COPFS costs recorded against the case reference allocated to this investigation.

By way of explanation there was no specific team created to investigate this case and all COPFS costs associated with the investigation will be addressed within the existing budgetary framework and not recorded separately. We do not therefore hold associated staffing costs in terms of Section 17 of FOISA. Additionally I can confirm that there was no overseas travel involved in this investigation.

The investigation was handled by staff within the COPFS Serious and Organised Crime Division (SOCD) in consultation with the COPFS International Co-operation Unit. The case was then reported to Crown Counsel to take a decision on whether to prosecute.

Following full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the currently available admissible evidence, Crown Counsel instructed that there should be no proceedings at this time. The Crown however reserves the right to raise proceedings should further evidence become available.

It may be helpful if I outline the COPFS policy in relation to providing case related information in relation to a Freedom of Information request. Other than confirming that we do hold information, this information will not be provided to persons unconnected to a case under a Freedom of Information Act request. Information about a case will include sensitive personal data about the accused, victims and witnesses in terms of the Data Protection Act 1998, disclosure of which could constitute a breach of that legislation. Where disclosure of personal sensitive information would contravene the Data Protection Act, we are not required to disclose it under FOISA.

Having explained our general position you have asked for the date this decision was made and I can advise that I am unable to provide you with the information you have requested for the following reasons:-

The information is exempt in terms of section 34(1)(a) of FOISA because it is held by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for the purposes of an investigation carried out by virtue of a duty to ascertain whether a person(s) should be prosecuted for an offence(s). This is not an absolute exemption and I have therefore considered whether the public interest favours disclosure of the information, notwithstanding the exemption. Although the public interest is not defined in FOISA it has been described as “something which is of serious concern or benefit to the public”. It has also been held that the public interest does not mean “of interest to the public” but “in the interest of the public”. The decision to take no proceedings at this time is already in the public domain but I do not consider that it is in the interests of the public to know the date the decision was made. Additionally as the Crown reserves the right to raise proceedings should further evidence become available in the future it would be inappropriate to release case related details over and above those already in the public domain.

I also consider that under section 38(1)(b) of FOISA, release of the information requested would contravene section 10 of the Data Protection Act 1998 as you are requesting details of a criminal case reported to COPFS against particular individuals. This is an absolute exemption and I am not required to consider the public interest test.

I hope you find this information helpful.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your request has been handled, you do have the right to ask us to review it. Your request should be made within 40 working days of receipt of this letter and we will reply within 20 working days of receipt. If you require a review of our decision to be carried out, please e-mail foi@copfs.gsi.gov.uk.

The review will be undertaken by staff not involved in the original decision making process.

If our decision is unchanged following a review and you remain dissatisfied with this, please note that although generally under section 47(1) of FOISA there is a right of appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner, where the information requested is held by the Lord Advocate as head of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths in Scotland, under section 48(c) no application can be made as respects a request for review made to the Lord Advocate. The information you have requested appears to fall into that category, although ultimately it would be for the Commissioner to decide whether that was the case should you refer the matter to him.

In circumstances where section 48(c) does not apply and the Commissioner accepts an appeal, should you subsequently wish to appeal against that decision, there is a right of appeal to the Court of Session on a point of law only.

While an investigation will be sought from the Scottish Information Commissioner’s office, previous attempts to have the SIC look at Crown Office blocking of Freedom of Information requests have fallen by the wayside – even when a request was made to investigate the Lord Advocate’s secrecy block on publication of the COPFS register of interests, more on which can be viewed here: DECLARE THE CROWN: Secrecy block on Crown Office Register of Interests – after fears info will reveal crooked staff, dodgy business dealings, prosecutors links to judiciary, criminals, drugs dealers and dodgy law firms

Although the Crown Office have refused to answer any questions on the status or costs associated with their five year investigation of the Heather Capital collapse, legal insiders have pointed to previous COPFS investigations and recent trials of financial frauds, where costs to the taxpayer have ran up to nearly ten million pounds.

One such case was the Mclaren property fraud case – which the Crown Office did everything in their power to avoid categorising as a “mortgage fraud” prosecution – after claims emerged the fraud duo once worked for, and had dealings with among others – a senior legal figure linked to one of the current top legal officers in the Crown Office.

In the McLaren case, Edwin McLaren, from Quarriers Village in Renfrewshire, was found guilty of property fraud totalling about £1.6m, convicted on 29 charges, and his wife Lorraine – on two charges.

The trial at the High Court in Glasgow began in September 2015 and heard evidence for 320 days.

Reports in the media quoted costs of around £7.5m, with more than £2.4m in legal aid paid for defence lawyers.

However, legal insiders claim the investigation by COPFS prior to the trial of the McLarens also ran into millions of pounds.

Similarly, with the complexity of the Heather Capital collapse – at £400million – the trail of money and international capital transfers – the costs of the Crown Office five year Heather Capital probe are likely to be at least equal to, or significantly higher than the investigation into the McLaren property fraud prior to that case going to trial.

HEATHER CAPITAL £28M CIVIL CLAIM ENDS:

Solicitor Peter Black Watson, formerly of Glasgow law firm Levy & Mcrae –  was linked to the collapsed hedge fund in a now abandoned £28million civil claim.

However, it has been previously reported part time Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended in February 2015 by Scotland’s top judge – Lord Brian Gill “to maintain public confidence in the judiciary”

A statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland issued after a newspaper asked for a comment, stated: Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

“On Friday 13 February the Judicial Office was made aware of the existence of a summons containing certain allegations against a number of individuals including part-time sheriff Peter Watson.

The Lord President’s Private Office immediately contacted Mr Watson and he offered not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings.

Mr Watson e-mailed a copy of the summons to the Lord President’s Private Office on Saturday 14 February.

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

Having been shown the summons, the Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

Mr Watson was therefore duly suspended from office on Monday 16 February 2015.”

Peter Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law – also based in Glasgow.

Watson, and his former law firm named in the Heather Capital writ – Levy and Mcrae –  also currently represent the Scottish Police Federation – who in turn represent all Police Officers in Police Scotland.

Investigations by the media also show that suspended Sheriff Peter Watson represented, among others – Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini – during her term as Lord Advocate.

Watson’s other clients included Alex Salmond, Stephen Purcell, Yorkhill Hospital Board – which has now changed it’s name to Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity – of which Watson is chair, of the board and Rangers Chiefs.

In Court documents published online by the Scottish Court Service, it is noteworthy that during the tenure of Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini – who was Lord Advocate from 12 October 2006 – 30 April 2011, significant transfers of capital from Peter Watson’s law firm – Levy & Mcrae – took place to Panamanian and Gibraltar registered companies.

Records from the Court of Session reported:

On 4 January 2007, HC transferred £19 million to its client account with Levy and Mcrae.

On 24 January 2007, HC transferred £9.412 million to its client account with Levy and Mcrae.

On 9 January 2007, Levy and Mcrae transferred £19 million to a Panamanian company (Niblick) owned and controlled by Mr Levene:the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security.

On 29 March 2007, Levy and Mcrae transferred £9.142 million to Hassans, solicitors, Gibraltar, under the reference “Rosecliff Limited” (a company controlled by Mr King):the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security.

A full report on the now abandoned £28million civil claim case against Peter Watson & Levy & Mcrae, and Lord Carloway’s consideration of Watson’s continuing suspension from the judicial bench can be found here: CAPITAL NUDGE: Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway to consider status of de-benched Sheriff Peter Watson – suspended for a record THREE YEARS over £28million writ linked to collapsed £400m hedge fund Heather Capital

 

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NORWAY, M’LORD: Judicial interests register of Norway cited as example to follow for Holyrood MSPs six year investigation to create a register of judges’ interests in Scotland

Norway’s judicial interests register cited as example for Scotland. A SIX YEAR Scottish Parliament investigation to create a register of judicial interests for judges of the Judiciary of Scotland – should follow the model used by an operational judicial register in Norway which has been in use for some years.

Unlike in Scotland, where judges have lobbied to remain exempt from public transparency of their interests, the Courts of Norway have operated a Register of extra-judicial activities for many years, which lists jobs, investments and other interests of members of the Norwegian judiciary.

The website of the Courts of Norway states that “The rules on registration of interests apply to all judges, including deputy judges.”

“Full-time and provisional judges are covered if appointed or employed for a period exceeding one month. ‘Interests’ cover membership, offices or other forms of commitment other than a company, organisation, association or body of the state, county or local authority.”

The Norway model has been put forward to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – as an example of an operating register of judicial interests in a country close to Scotland which should be included in the evidence base accumulated by Holyrood over the past six years of studying how to move forward on legislation to create a register of interests for all judges in Scotland.

A register of judicial interests for Scotland would include all judges – from the Lord President, down to Justices of the Peace, and members of tribunals.

On Thursday, 22 March 2018, the Public Petitions Committee will hold the 25th hearing to discuss Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

A further request has been filed with the Public Petitions Committee to contact Norway’s judiciary, seeking  material and information on how their register operates, and any insight the Norwegian judiciary & Government hold on how the register has benefited their judiciary and justice system.

A late submission to the Public Petitions Committee states: “Given the six years of evidence collected by the Scottish Parliament on the merits of creating a register of judicial interests for Scotland, to have evidence from a working register of interests as part of the public debate and the Parliamentary record of this petition is a worthwhile step to take.”

“While the recusals register does not tell the full story on conflicts of interest, having up until now, carefully avoided any mention of financial conflicts of interest & disclosures relating to instances where judges have been asked to recuse but have failed to do so, the recusals register is again, another indicator that an accurate, updated and fully published register of judicial interests is beneficial to the public, court users, and public scrutiny of the judiciary.”

Readers can View here the Register of extra-judicial activities from the Courts of Norway website.

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and 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 PE1458 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.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

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 – 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.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving 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”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving 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

NORWAY: A register of judges’ interests Scotland could adopt, and improve upon:

THE COURTS OF NORWAY:

To ensure that no one is any doubt about the impartiality of a judge in a case, there is a ‘register of extra-judicial activities : View the Register of extra-judicial activities (pdf)

This lists honorary posts, investments etc. that a judge may be engaged in alongside his/her duties as a judge. The purpose of the register to ensure full openness. This page provides details of what is registered and how to search the register.

The rules on registration of interests apply to all judges, including deputy judges. Full-time and provisional judges are covered if appointed or employed for a period exceeding one month. ‘Interests’ cover membership, offices or other forms of commitment other than a company, organisation, association or body of the state, county or local authority.

What is registered?

The rules basically require all interests to be registered with the exception of:

  • Membership of political parties, religious communities, stakeholder organisations and non-profit organisations.

  • Offices and the like in non-profit organisations with fewer than 100 members.

  • One-off lectures and the like.

What should be registered:
  • Investments in individual companies exceeding NOK 200,000 at the time of investment or ownership exceeding 10% of the company. The duty to register does not cover bank accounts, unit trusts or the like. The size of investment does not have to be registered.

  • Honorary posts in associations, societies, organisations or political parties with over 100 members.

  • Membership of brother- or sisterhoods, e.g. the Freemasons or Odd Fellow.

  • Employment in private or public sector companies.

  • Participation in committees, boards or the like set up by the public sector. The same applies to private arbitration boards or the equivalent.

  • Other involvement, e.g. in education, exam censor, authorship, arbitration or other types of activity.

  • The last position held before being appointed as a judge.

An interest should be deleted from the register when more than three years have passed since it ended.

How Norway’s Judiciary works:

Background:

Independence of the Courts

The independence of the Courts of Justice protects all citizens against arbitrary decisions and abuses committed by other branches of state power, This independence is a consequence of Norway being a constitutional democracy. The Constitution sets clear limits on legislative and executive power even when decisions are carried by a majority vote.
Control of the other branches of state power

The Courts of Justice exert a control function regarding new laws and changes to existing laws that are proposed by the National Assembly. If a law is against the Constitution by, for example, violating the constitutional rights of one or many citizens, a court may set aside the law in any trial where such rights are deemed to have been violated. In a case brought before the Supreme Court where two or more judges deem that a specific law breaks the constitution the case is settled in a plenary meeting of the Supreme Court. This may result in the Supreme Court setting aside the law in question in the settlement of the case.This implies that the Supreme Court through its rulings can control or limit the legislative power of the National Assembly. This control or limitation by the Supreme Court has only occurred on very rare occasions.

In concrete cases the Courts of Justice also have the authority to check on decisions made by the government or other subordinate administrative bodies. In such cases the Courts of Justice will decide whether the administration has remained within the framework of the law, whether the resolution is based on accepted facts and correct proceedure, and that the administration’s judgement is not improper or seriously unreasonable. If such errors have occurred, an administrative pronouncement can be ruled invalid by the Courts of Justice. However, it should be noted that such a ruling can only occur in response to an actual dispute brought before a court.

How independence is guaranteed

According to our Constitution judges’ decisions in each and every case are to be independent of external influence. Judges’ verdicts cannot be instructed or influenced. The decisions of the Supreme Court cannot be rejected or altered by other authorities.

Over the last few decades the situation has changed somewhat. The influence of international courts of justice has grown, especially regarding the international conventions on human rights. Amongst others, the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg plays an important role in the development of law and jurisdiction in Norway. When, in future, the Court of Human Rights interpretes the convention differently from the Supreme Court the Norwegian Supreme Court must act in accordance with the guidelines and rulings made in Strasbourg. So even though the Supreme Court is the ‘last instance’, the Supreme is obliged to take into consideration the decisions of the Court of Human Rights.

A verdict can only be altered by a superior court of justice after an appeal proceedure. In criminal cases the usual deadline for appeal is 14 days after the verdict is handed down. In civil cases the deadline is one month. A superior court on its own initiative cannot instruct a subordinate court on its proceedings in any one specific case. However, if one party makes an appeal or an interlocutory appeal against a verdict, the court of justice processing the appeal may rule that the subordinate court must process the case again. The subordinate court must then abide by the interpretation of the law which constitutes the basis for the superior court’s ruling.

The National Assembly (Stortinget) passes general laws which the Courts of Justice apply in all cases heard in court. The Courts of Justice are independent in their interpretation of the law. This means that the courts, headed by the Supreme Court, have a a great influence on how the letter of each law is applied in each individual case. Furthermore, there exists large areas of the law wherecourt rulings and interpretations have developed or evolved contemporary law and jurisdiction.

The Courts of Justice and all judges must be protected from external influence over rulings and verdicts. For a state to be democratic and legal the judges must be both independent and impartial with regards disputing parties and all interests represented by such parties. The parties in a case may request a judge to step down if the judge in question has any connection with the case or the individual parties which might raise doubts over the impartiality or independence of the process. Judges have a personal responsibility to ensure that they do not give grounds for disqualification in any individual case.

Although the independence of the courts is guaranteed by the Constitution, all courts are not insulated from democratic developments insociety.The National Assembly passes regulations relating to the organisation of the courts, for example: how many courts shall be provided throughout the nation, where they shall be situated, the number of presiding judges for each court and the proceedure for appointing judges. All of the latter are practical matters reflecting the ever changing developments in society. The Courts of Justice are administratively subordinate to the independant Norwegian Courts Administration (NCA).

Judges cannot be dismissed

Judges appointed according to the constitutional regulations have, like other civil servants, an especially protected employment status according to § 22 of the Constitution. They hold permanent positions and cannot be dismissed or moved against their will. They can only be dismissed following a court hearing and a verdict of guilty. Permanently appointed judges can be suspended, but such a decision can only be carried out by the King in cabinet. Civil or criminal proceedings to remove a judge must be started immediately following the King’s decision to suspend a judge. Like other civil servants permanent judges can be punished for breaking the law while carrying out their duties or for offences committed outside their workplace. However, the decision about whether to prosecute for offences relating to a judge’s duties may only be taken by the King in cabinet. Permanently appointed judges cannot be indicted for public order offences according to the regulations for all civil servants. Supreme Court judges enjoy even stronger protection and can only be removed through an impeachment process.

Judges are guaranteed protection of office to enable them to make rulings and give verdicts that may be unpopular, judges have to be free of the fear of dismissal because their decisions are not supported by the authorities or by other judges. By granting judges such a secure position, all parties appearing in court are ensured an independent and impartial ruling from the Courts of Justice.

What does it mean to be a lay judge in a norwegian court? (film)

The Courts must have the people’s confidence

The decisions of judges often have great significance for many individual citizens. It is a vital requirement in a state governed by law that all the citizens of that state respect a court’s ruling as well as the laws on which such rulings are based. The courts need the trust of the people in order to maintain their authority and legitimacy. It is the legitimacy and the authority of a court which ensures that rulings are respected. The credibility of the courts must not be weakened by the perception that courts can be influenced by any external pressure.

In order for the courts to be able perform in a free and independent manner it is necessary that they have sufficient professional and economic resources to be able to fulfil their tasks.

Both the costs and the duration of court proceedings can have a negative effect on whether an ordinary citizen will take their case to court. An efficient rather than a long drawn out processing of cases is itself a guarantee of legal protection. “Justice delayed is justice denied”. The issue of reducing the duration of case processing has received a great deal of attention in recent years in Norway. Norwegian courts are now among the most efficient in Europe in this context.

A brief history of the Norwegian courts

The Viking Age

We know that there were legislative, judicial and executive authorities as early as the 10th century. In those days the kinship group was the most important executive power; crimes and conflicts were resolved by negotiation between the kin-groups, often involving agreement on the penalty. In the course of the 11th century there developed local and regional assemblies (bygdeting and lagting), which also functioned as courts; the Norwegian word ting still means both. Their most important function was to reach solutions to various disputes and their formation was driven by population growth, bigger districts and increased collaboration between districts. King Håkon I “the Good” changed the composition of the assemblies from universal attendance to representation by delegates. The most famous regional assemblies from that period are the Gulating for Western Norway and the Frostating for the Trøndelag in the middle of the country. The Hålogaland, Eidsivating and Borgarting assemblies developed in the 12th and 13th centuries, but never achieved the same influence as Gulating and Frostating. Legislative codes from the Gulating and Frostating were rediscovered in modern times. The development of the assemblies and the discovery of the codes clearly show that the rule of law was well on the way to becoming centralised as early as the 12th century.

The most usual legislative instance at that time was customary law: that is to say, there were many rules of law, but not laid down by any public authority. Customary or common law is still in use today not only in international law, but also in national areas such as constitutional and administrative law, some parts of private law and the law of damages.

The High Middle Ages

In the course of the High Middle Ages the king acquired more power, and ultimately discharged all three roles – legislative, judicial and executive. The Church also had a role in all three areas, resulting in a constant tug-of-war for supremacy. The need for codification increased, and in 1274, under king Magnus VI “Lawmender” the old regional laws were reworked and called the National Law (Landsloven). This was meant to be authoritative for the regional courts and to some extent for the district courts.

The Law was regarded as an administrative unification of Norway, the political unification being traditionally dated to 1030. The National Law also involved amendments to the judicial and executive aspects of the legal system, such as royally appointed court presidents (lagmenn) to chair the proceedings between the parties. More higher courts (lagting) were created, and sited in towns or other centres. Crime was no longer conceived as an offence against the kin-group, but as against the King. The period saw not only the beginnings of centralisation, but also of bureaucratising and professionalisation.

The Union period

Norway was in union with Denmark, and intermittently with Sweden too, from 1390 to 1814, a period in which the Norwegian legal system saw further professionalisation. Norwegian cases began in the city or district court, proceeded to the higher courts and finally to the Overhoffretten in Oslo, from 1624 called Christiania. After Denmark created a Supreme Court in 166 1, Norwegian cases could be appealed there.

The Danes had little knowledge of Norwegian laws and legal thinking, and therefore settled cases by their own laws. The Supreme Court was subject to the king, and until 1771 all decisions made by the Supreme Court were to be reviewed by him. In 1771 this review power was abolished, except for death sentences. In the course of the Danish Union, attempts were made to increase the distinction between the judicial and executive powers, at the same time as the king maintained his position as the fount of legislation.

The National Law promulgated under Magnus “Lawmender” was still applicable law in Norway. As the 17th century progressed a need was felt to update it, leading to the Norwegian Law (Den norske lov) of 1687, which was to a certain extent based on the Danish code of 1683. The Supreme Court in Denmark could now deal with two legal codes that were more or less similar.

The separation of powers and the Norwegian Constitution

The principle of “separation of powers” – that is, between the legislative, executive and judicial functions – was formulated by the French philosopher Montesquieu. Montesquieu’s separation of powers was central to the Norwegian constitution of 1814, adopted after that year’s separation from Denmark. The King was the executive power, the Storting the legislative power and the courts the judicial power. The Norwegian constitution was more liberal than many others, inter alia being based on the principle of popular sovereignty.

Norway acquired its own Supreme Court in 1815. The Norwegian constitution remained in force after the young state entered a union with Sweden, and so the final Norwegian independence in 1905 did not represent any change in the Norwegian legal system. During the German occupation of 1940-45 the Supreme Court resigned, and judges were appointed who were loyal to the occupiers. Neither the judges nor their decisions from this period were recognised after Liberation.

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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CAPITAL NUDGE: Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway to consider status of de-benched Sheriff Peter Watson – suspended for a record THREE YEARS over £28million writ linked to collapsed £400m hedge fund Heather Capital

Lord Carloway considering status of suspended Sheriff linked to collapsed Hedge Fund. A JUDGE who has been suspended from the Judiciary of Scotland for a record THREE YEARS – after being named in a £28million writ linked to the collapse of a £400m Hedge fund – remains suspended despite the closure of the civil claim.

Now, Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) – Scotland’s most senior judge – is now said to be considering the position of part time Sheriff Peter Black Watson (64) – after the liquidator of Heather Capital Paul Duffy of EY – mysteriously abandoned the £28m action against Glasgow law firm Levy and McRae solicitors – in which Peter Watson was once a partner.

Peter Watson was suspended from the Judiciary of Scotland more than three years ago on February 16, 2015 – after the then Lord President, Lord Brian Gill, was informed by a journalist of the claims in the case against Levy and McRae, and specifically against Watson, over Heather Capital’s collapse in 2010.

The move came after allegations surfaced in a £28million writ naming part time Sheriff Peter Black Watson – and his former law firm Levy and Mcrae, and a number of individuals under investigation in connection with the £400million collapse of Heather Capital.

In response to queries from the media in February 2015 on the contents of the writ – the Judicial Office subsequently issued a statement confirming Lord Brian Gill  had suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson (61) on 16 February 2015.

The suspension came after Gill demanded sight of the writ.

Responding to the Lord President’s request, Watson then offered to step aside temporarily – while the litigation concluded – however a Judicial Office spokesperson said “The Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”

A statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland read as follows: Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

“On Friday 13 February the Judicial Office was made aware of the existence of a summons containing certain allegations against a number of individuals including part-time sheriff Peter Watson.

The Lord President’s Private Office immediately contacted Mr Watson and he offered not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings.

Mr Watson e-mailed a copy of the summons to the Lord President’s Private Office on Saturday 14 February.

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

Having been shown the summons, the Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

Mr Watson was therefore duly suspended from office on Monday 16 February 2015.”

Watson’s former law firm –  Levy & McRae, was one of several companies being sued by Heather’s liquidator, Ernst & Young, after the fund’s collapse in 2010.

Watson was also a director of a company called Mathon Ltd – a key part of the Heather empire.

The collapsed hedge fund Heather Capital – run by lawyer Gregory King was the subject of a Police Scotland investigation and a FIVE YEAR probe by the Crown Office.

However, in early February, the Crown Office coincidently confirmed there would be no prosecutions in the cases of the four individuals  – lawyers Gregory King & Andrew Sobolewski, accountant Andrew Millar and property expert Scott Carmichael – who were charged by Police Scotland in connection with a Police investigation of events relating to the collapse of Heather Capital.

Peter Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law.

Watson, and his former law firm named in the Heather Capital writ – Levy and Mcrae –  also represent the Scottish Police Federation.

Responding to queries from reporters, a  spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: “The action, in which suspended part time Sheriff Peter Watson was among the defenders, has settled.  An interlocutor to that effect has been issued.  The Lord President will consider what, if any, steps now require to be taken‎.”

Despite EY’s withdrawal of the £28million claim against Levy and Mcrae & Peter Watson, detailed claims in the Court of Session revealed the following:

[21]      In the Levy Mcrae case:

  • On 4 January 2007, HC transferred £19 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).
  • On 24 January 2007, HC transferred £9.412 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).
  • The money was intended to be loaned to a first level SPV Westernbrook Properties Ltd (WBP) for onward lending to second level SPVs (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).
  • On 9 January 2007, LM transferred £19 million to a Panamanian company (Niblick) owned and controlled by Mr Levene:the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).
  • By a memorandum dated 17 March 2007, HC’s auditors KPMG “identified a number of concerns relating to the documentation provided in respect of these loans”.Further work and information was required (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).
  • On 29 March 2007, LM transferred £9.142 million to Hassans, solicitors, Gibraltar, under the reference “Rosecliff Limited” (a company controlled by Mr King):the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).
  • In April to June 2007, amounts equivalent to the loans thought to have been made to WBP (including accrued interest) were “repaid” to HC via Cannons, solicitors, Glasgow.The directors were unable to ascertain the source of these repayments (Lord Doherty paragraph [7]).
  • Approaches made by HC to Mr Volpe and Triay & Triay, a firm of solicitors in Gibraltar, were met with a total lack of co-operation (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).
  • At a board meeting on 6 September 2007, “KPMG could not approve HC’s accounts … Santo Volpe had executed certain loans to SPV companies where non‑standard procedures had been followed which meant that inadequate security had been given for some loans … Gregory King stated that the loans to the SPVs had been repaid in full in May 2007” (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).
  • By email to a non‑executive director of HC (Mr Bourbon) dated 7 September 2007, Mr McGarry of KPMG referred to the previous day’s board meeting, and expressed concerns about the situation.He asked for further information, namely “all possible evidence regarding the movement of monies out of Heather Capital into these SPVs and onwards to whatever purpose the funds were applied – ie, sight of bank statements, payment/remittance instructions, certified extracts from solicitors clients’ money accounts etc”.(It should be noted that, contrary to HC’s averment in Condescendence 5 at page 13C‑D of LM reclaiming print, the email did not restrict the inquiries requested to “explaining what information was required from Santo Volpe”:the request was much broader.)
  • In October 2007 the non‑executive directors of HC met with the Isle of Man Financial Services Commission (FSC) to discuss “the issues” (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).A director also disclosed the suspicious activity and Mr Volpe’s obstruction to the Isle of Man Financial Crime Unit (FCU), who said they would investigate (Condescendence 5 page 14 of LM reclaiming print).The auditors KPMG carried out an additional full scope audit.
  • By letter dated 18 October 2007, FSC wrote to the directors of HC setting out further information which they required.
  • By letter dated 26 November 2007 Mr King advised the HC board that “some sort of fraud had been deliberately introduced with invalid land registry details on a number of the loans”.He stated that he had applied pressure to Mr Volpe and Mr Cannon, whereupon there had been “full repayment of the loans with relevant interest” which meant that “investors were secure”.
  • On 17 December 2007, KPMG signed the accounts and added a completion note using language such as “The risk of fraud increased to high as a result of the documentation issues surrounding the SPVs, where some form of fraud appeared to have been attempted”.In their audit report opinion, they stated “We have been unable to verify where funds advanced to the SPVs were invested.In addition, we were supplied with false documentation in relation to the SPVs which appears to have been a deliberate attempt to mislead us.Given these loans were repaid in the period, we consider that the effect of this is not so material and pervasive that we are unable to form an opinion on the financial statements [opting instead for express qualifications that loan and security documentation could not be validated] … There is uncertainty as to where the monies lent to the [SPVs] were then subsequently invested … Investigations continue to determine what party (or parties) were involved in and were accountable for these events, and whether any action should be taken against them …” (Lord Doherty paragraph [9]).
  • By letter to HC dated 4 January 2008, KPMG gave serious warnings about their inability to validate loan and security documentation, and lack of evidence as to the purpose for which the money advanced to SPVs was applied.In their words:

“ … Our report is designed to … avoid weaknesses that could lead to material loss or misstatement.  However, it is your obligation to take the actions needed to remedy those weaknesses and should you fail to do so we shall not be held responsible if loss or misstatement occurs as a result … [Having explained the disappearance of the funds and the apparent repayments, on which legal advice had been received, KPMG warned] … these matters are extremely serious … an attempted fraud appears to have been perpetrated … We would recommend that the Board continue their investigation into this matter and formally document their decision as to whether or not to inform the criminal justice authorities …”

A full copy of a court opinion detailing these and other claims with regards to a further case against Burness Paull LLB  – which coincidently also collapsed earlier last year – can be viewed here: Court of Session allows proof against Levy & Mcrae and Burness Paull LLP in Heather Capital case as liquidators attempt to recover cash from collapsed £280m hedge fund.

In the motion of abandonment filed by EY & Heather Capital, heard in the Court of Session on 28 February before Lord Glennie, Lady Paton & Lady Clark of Calton, Lord Glennie’s opinion sums up matters in relation to issues in the Heather Capital case, which linked claims of financial wrongdoing directly to Scotland’s judiciary – who, ultimately heard and ruled on the case.

Lord Glennie stated in his opinion:

[97]      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinions to be given by Lady Paton and Lady Clark of Calton.  I agree with them and, for the reasons they give, I too would allow parties a Proof Before Answer of all their averments on record preserving all pleas. 

[98]      I would wish to add two comments of my own. 

[99]      The main focus of the debate in each case was whether the pursuer, HC, had made sufficient and relevant averments of “reasonable diligence” for the purposes of section 11(3) and the proviso to section 6(4) of the 1973 Act.  In both cases the Lord Ordinary held that HC had not said enough and in sufficient detail to justify sending the matter to a Proof Before Answer.  The matter could be determined on the pleadings.  Lady Paton has explained why we take a different view.  But I have a more general concern about this approach. 

[100]    In his note of argument in the LM case, under reference to cases such as John Doyle Construction Ltd v Laing Management (Scotland) Ltd 2004 SC 713 at pages 722 – 723 and Watson v Greater Glasgow Health Board [2016] CSOH 93 at paragraphs 22-23, Lord Davidson QC was at pains to remind us that the purpose of pleading is to give fair notice of the assertions of fact sought to be established in the evidence as well as to identify the essential propositions of law on which a party founds.  Elaborate pleading is unnecessary in any action, not just in a commercial action.  The purpose of the pleadings is to give notice of the essential elements of the case.  The pleadings should set out the bare bones of the case.  They are not the place to set out in full the evidence intended to be adduced.  In the present cases that appears to have been overlooked.  To that extent I have some sympathy with Lord Davidson’s submission.  The Closed Record in the BP action, as it appears in the Reclaiming Print, runs to some 59 pages, while that in the LM action extends to 93 pages.  This has happened, so it seems to me, because in their pleadings parties have indulged in a process akin to trial by pleading.  The defenders have made averments of fact intended to undermine the pursuer’s case on reasonable diligence; the pursuer has responded by making further averments addressed to those points;  this in turn has caused the defenders to make further averments or raise further questions;  the pursuer has tried to answer by making yet further averments;  and this is constantly repeated until parties are finally exhausted.  The process resembles one of cross examination and response, a process for which pleadings are quite unfitted.  I do not seek to apportion blame.  In a case such as this, the temptation to pile pressure on to the pursuer by pleading a wealth of detail is difficult to resist;  and a pursuer who does not respond in kind runs the risk of being thought to have no answer to the points which have been raised.  Difficulty arises when the matter comes to debate on the question of whether, for example, the pursuer has made sufficiently relevant and specific averments that it “could not with reasonable diligence have been aware” that loss had occurred (section 11(3)) and that it could not “with reasonable diligence have discovered” the fraud or error induced by the debtor which induced it to refrain from making a relevant claim at an earlier stage (section 6(4), proviso).  Points are made in argument about the failure to take certain steps or to follow up on the particular line of enquiry;  and the Lord Ordinary is invited to form a view that what was done was insufficient or that the reasons given for not doing it are inadequate.  Such an invitation should, in my view, be resisted save in the most obvious case.  The judgments which the court is being asked to make are essentially value judgments, assessments of the reasonableness or otherwise of a party’s conduct.  Such judgments should seldom if ever be made on the basis of the pleadings without hearing evidence.  It may seem obvious, on paper, that something ought to have been done or that a line of enquiry ought to have been pursued; but when evidence is led it might seem less obvious, or there might be good reasons for not taking that course.  It is not the function of pleadings to set out every reason why each relevant individual took or did not take any particular step.  In many cases issues of credibility and reliability might arise, the evidence may be far more nuanced than it is possible to convey on paper, explanations may be given more fully and persuasively than can come over in the pleadings, and some of the criticisms may, in light of all the evidence, be seen to be informed by hindsight.  I should emphasise that I make these observations without reference to any of the particular points decided in the particular cases with which we are here concerned.  But it does seem to me that the cases with which we are concerned illustrate the danger of the court being drawn into deciding cases on detailed averments of fact when it would be more appropriate that all the evidence be heard before any decision is made. 

[101]    The other comment I would wish to make concerns the question of whether the claims advanced in both actions on the basis of the existence of a trust are subject to the 5‑year prescriptive period in section 6 of the 1973 Act or are subject to the 20-year long negative prescription in section 7.  This matter was discussed by Lord Doherty in the LM action at paragraphs [25]-[31].  He concluded that the obligation of a trustee to produce trust accounts is an imprescriptible obligation;  that the liability to make payment of the sum found due in an accounting for trust funds is subject only to the long negative prescription;  and that the obligation of a trustee to restore the value of trust property paid away in breach of trust is also subject only to the long negative prescription.  The matter was not discussed by Lord Tyre in the BP case for reasons which are slightly unclear – matters appear to have proceeded in that debate on the basis that all obligations were subject to the 5-year prescriptive period and that the only issues in that respect concerned the pursuer’s case on sections 6(4) and 11(3) – but it was not suggested before us that the point is not live in that action too.  Detailed submissions on the point were made by Mr Duncan QC on behalf of LM and adopted by Mr Dunlop QC on behalf of BP.  Lord Davidson QC responded on behalf of HC.  I, for one, was grateful for their submissions.  It emerged in the course of those submissions, as it had to some extent at the debate in the LM case, that not only was there a dispute as to the law to be applied in a case of accounting and/or breach of trust but there was also a dispute as to whether the circumstances of the present cases gave rise to a relationship of trust at all or, alternatively, a trust of a kind intended to be excluded from the 5-year short negative prescription.  In light of this, it seems to me that it would be desirable that all of the relevant facts be determined before the issues are decided.  For that reason, and for the reasons given by Lady Paton in paragraph [80] of her opinion, I am persuaded that it would be premature to attempt to decide these points at this stage.

COLLAPSE OF FIVE YEAR CROWN OFFICE PROBE:

In a further twist to the Heather Capital saga, a FIVE YEAR probe by the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) collapsed just a few days before the collapse of the £28million writ against Levy and Mcrae, & Peter Watson.

A report by journalist Russell Findlay revealed: CROWN prosecutors will take no action against four men following a fraud probe into a collapsed £400 million finance firm.

Lawyer Gregory King, 49, and three others were reported to the Crown by detectives who investigated his hedge fund Heather Capital which was based in the Isle of Man.

Heather, launched by King in 2005, attracted investors from around the world and loaned money to fund property deals.

Following its 2010 collapse, Heather’s liquidator Paul Duffy claimed that around £90million was unaccounted for and a police fraud probe resulted in the four men being reported to the Crown Office in April 2013.

An Isle of Man court judgement likened Heather to a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, made famous by US financier Bernie Madoff who was jailed for 150 years in 2009.

The other three reported by police were lawyer Andrew Sobolewski, of Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Andrew Millar, of ­Cambuslang, near Glasgow, and Scott ­Carmichael, of Thorntonhall, near Glasgow.

Last year there was criticism of the Crown for taking so long to consider the case but after almost five years it has now dropped the case.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “Following full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the currently available admissible evidence, Crown Counsel instructed  that there should be no proceedings at this time.

“The Crown reserves the right to raise proceedings should further evidence become available.”

The Scottish Sun reported on the serving of the £28million civil writ which named lawyer Peter Black Watson – back in February 2015, here:

The Scottish Sun reports:

WRIT HITS THE FAN

FIRM FIRM SLAPPED WITH COURT SUMMONS – Top legal outfit in megabucks lawsuit

Practice is linked to bust hedge fund – Briefs with ties to big business and high-profile clients

By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 15 February 2015

A TOP law firm has been hit with a multi-million pound writ linked to a finance company at the centre of a fraud investigation.

Legal practice Levy & McRae — which acts for footballers, politicians, cops and newspapers — faces the claim over its role in connection with £400million investment scheme Heather Capital.

It’s claimed millions of pounds went missing following the collapse of the hedge fund. And The Scottish Sun told last week how four men — including tycoon Gregory King — have been reported to prosecutors probing the allegations.

King, 46, ran Heather subsidiary Mathon, where Sheriff Peter Watson — a former senior partner at Levy & McRae — was also briefly a director.

The Court of Session summons was served on the firm six months after he left the legal firm.

Watson is one of the country’s most high-profile lawyers and spent 33 years with Levy & McRae before quitting to set up his own business.

The visiting Strathclyde University professor sat on an expert panel created by former First Minister Alex Salmond to look into media regulation in Scotland.

Watson also acted for former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini after she was harassed by a campaigner who was later jailed.

‘Their clients are a who’s who of Scotland’ And he includes ex-Glasgow City Council chief Steven Purcell among his list of clients, as well as senior police and prison officers.

The legal expert, 61 — chairman of Yorkhill Sick Kids’ Hospital charity — has also acted for former Rangers owner Sir David Murray.

And a Gers supporters’ group closed down its website following legal threats from Watson, who was working for under-fire directors Sandy and James Easdale.

A source said: “Watson and Levy & McRae are very well known and their clients are a who’s who of Scotland.”

Investors from around the world sunk their cash into Gibraltar-based fund Heather Capital, which launched in 2004.

Some of the cash was loaned to Mathon to bankroll developments across Scotland. But many of the Mathon-funded plans did not happen — and some of the cash was not repaid.

Liquidator Paul Duffy of Ernst & Young has been battling to recover investors’ cash since 2010 and is suing Heather’s auditors KPMG for negligence over their role. Isle of Man court documents — acquired by The Scottish Sun — claim Heather was operating a “Ponzi” scheme to dupe investors.

They alleged that as early as December 2006, senior KPMG staff feared that Heather Capital “may have been perpetrating a fraud”.

And in August 2007, KPMG employee Raymond Gawne told a colleague that he was “very uncomfortable” acting for the fund which “may have acted in a criminal manner”.

The claim also alleges that millions of pounds of loans passed through the client account of Glasgow lawyer Frank Cannon who acted for Heather. KPMG senior executive David McGarry sent an email to Gregory King stating: “Frank Cannon has been uncooperative, either in providing some form of explanation for all of the security documentation prepared by his firm, or in agreeing to facilitate access to Cannon’s clients’ money account”. McGarry added he did not accept “that this is due” to Cannon.

Watson declined to comment on the writ and Levy & McRae and Cannon did not respond to our requests for comment.

The Police Scotland report naming Mr King and his associates Andrew Sobolewski, Andrew Millar and Scott Carmichael is now being considered by the Crown Office.

A spokesman for Ernst & Young confirmed: “Heather Capital, via Ernst & Young, has made a claim against Levy & McRae.” And a KPMG spokesman said: “The passages in the plaintiff’s summons provide a selective and misleading picture and are drawn out simply to seek to make what is a wholly unsubstantiated case.

“The allegations are completely unfounded and are being fully contested by KPMG.”

GREGORY KING MARBELLA-based former Glasgow Academy pupil, 46, was a lawyer and taxi firm boss before launching Heather Capital in 2004. Family business dynasty includes nightclub boss cousin Stefan King.

PETER WATSON GREENOCK-born solicitor advocate, 61, carved out a fearsome reputation as a media lawyer during 33 years at Levy & McRae. He also dishes out justice as a part-time sheriff across Scotland.

KING’S £400million hedge fund Heather Capital loaned millions of pounds to Glasgow-based Mathon, of which Watson was briefly a director.

TOP lawyer and part-time sheriff Watson has acted for a string of high profile celebrity, political, sport and media clients in a glittering legal career:

Watson’s clients included Alex Salmond, Stephen Purcell, Elish Angiolini, Yorkhill Hospital Board, Rangers Chiefs.

and a further development reported by the Scottish Sun on the suspension of Sheriff Peter Watson:

Bench ban for sheriff linked to fraud probe

Lawman, 61, suspended

By RUSSELL FINDLAY 25th February 2015, Scottish Sun

A SHERIFF was suspended after he was linked to a collapsed finance firm at the centre of a massive fraud probe.

Peter Watson, 61, was barred from the bench by judges’ boss Lord President Lord Gill following an inquiry by The Scottish Sun.

Watson, whose past clients include ex-First Minister Alex Salmond, was briefly a director of Mathon, a company run by Glasgow bookie’s son Gregory King, 46.

It received millions in loans from King’s hedge fund Heather Capital which crashed owing a seven-figure sum.

Watson’s suspension came 24 hours after we revealed Heather liquidators Ernst & Young filed a multi-million court demand against his former law firm Levy & McRae.

Lord Gill, 73, can suspend sheriffs and judges if it’s “necessary for the purpose of maintaining public confidence”.

Watson forged a fearsome reputation as a media lawyer over 33 years with Levy & McRae before he left the firm six months ago.

King is one of four men named in a police report which is being considered by the Crown Office.

The Judicial Office for Scotland said last night: “Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on February 16.”

The National also recently reported on the continuing suspension of Peter Watson from the judicial bench, here:

Lawyer Peter Watson still suspended despite case ending

Martin Hannan Journalist

Peter Watson was suspended from the bench more than three years ago

LAWYER Peter Watson remains suspended from his position as a part-time sheriff despite a £28 million court action in which he was being sued having been brought to an end.

Lord Carloway, the Lord President and Scotland’s senior judge, is said by legal sources to be considering the position of Watson after Paul Duffy, the liquidator of Heather Capital, abandoned the £28m action against Levy and McRae solicitors in which Watson was a former partner.

Watson was suspended from the bench more than three years ago on February 16, 2015, after the then Lord President, Lord Gill, was informed of the claims in the case against Levy and McRae, and specifically against Watson, over Heather Capital’s collapse in 2010.

It was Watson himself who e-mailed the summons material to the Lord President’s office himself and volunteered “not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings,” as the Judicial Office stated at the time.

The statement added that Lord Gill had “concluded that … suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”

Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law.

He told reporters: “I am very pleased that this action has been abandoned and I am looking forward to serving my clients now it is clear that there was no valid basis for this claim.”

A spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: “The action, in which suspended part time Sheriff Peter Watson was among the defenders, has settled.

“The Lord President will consider what, if any, steps now require to be taken?,” the spokesperson added.

 

 

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DEPUTY CASH CONSTABLE: Top Cop who asked for her expenses in cash – fails to impress Holyrood Justice Committee with lack of answers over delays to dealing with Durham Constabulary probe of Police Scotland illegal spying scandal

DCC Rose Fitzpatrick could not explain delays over report. A DEPUTY Chief Constable of Police Scotland – who asked for her relocation expenses to be paid by cash – has failed to explain to MSPs why emails between senior officers took three months to release to a probe on activities surrounding an illegal Police spying operation connected to the unsolved murder of Emma Caldwell.

And, it emerged at a hearing on Thursday at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-Committee on Policing – that Police Scotland witnesses were unable to explain why contact details for retired officers who were of relevance to the probe being carried out by Durham Constabulary – were withheld for at least two months..

Evidence from Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick during Thursday’s session at Holyrood was braded unbelievable and “absolutely staggering” by MSPs on the justice committee.

Margaret Mitchell MSP (Scottish Conservative) who is convener of the full Justice Committee – was unable to secure a reasonable explanation from the witnesses as to why information was not handed over to Durham Constabulary during the investigation.

Frequently during answers to members of the Committee, the Deputy Chief Constable referred to legal advice on what could or could not proceed, yet DCC Fitzpatrick remained vague throughout each response.

At one point Ms Mitchell said she “remains unconvinced at answers given today”.

Ms Mitchell later dismissed an explanation by deputy chief constable Rose Fitzpatrick regarding what the police had learned from their failings.

MSPs also criticised Police Scotland’s “overly secretive approach” to investigations into their illegal spying activities against journalists, sources & Police officers.

Reports subsequently generated by these investigations – the published – yet heavily redacted report by Durham Constabulary, and the so-far unpublished Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) report on misconduct were branded as attempts to conceal information which had already been published in other areas.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick admitted during her evidence that Police Scotland had failed four officers at the centre of the illegal spying probe, but then she went on to defend her colleague’s handling of the independent investigation carried out by Durham Constabulary’s Chief Constable – Michael Barton.

During an appearance at the Justice sub-Committee on Policing in February, Chief Constable Michael Barton told the committee he had originally been asked to carry out an investigation into the Counter Corruption Unit (CCU) following a ruling of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT).

However, it emerged in Mr Barton’s evidence the investigation was later downgraded to an inquiry.

Struggling to give acceptable responses without continually referring to legal advice, DCC Fitzpatrick admitted there had been a “significant difference of professional view” between herself and the Durham Constabulary Chief Constable on how to proceed with the probe – but that a resolution had been found after Police Scotland obtained legal advice.

A full report on the Durham Chief Constable Michael Barton’s evidence to the Justice sub-Committee on Policing can be read here: FAIR COP: Police Scotland officers fabricated intelligence in order to spy on journalists & sources in CCU spying scandal – evidence from Durham Constabulary’s Chief Constable to Holyrood Justice Committee

The 80 minutes of ‘evidence’ from Police Scotland witnesses – which included – Duncan Campbell, Interim Head of Legal Services, and Superintendent Andy McDowall, Professional Standards Department, Police Scotland. was widely criticised in the media and by cross party politicians.

The full evidence session with DCC Rose Fitzpatrick & other witnesses at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-Committee on Policing can be viewed here:

DCC Rose Fitzpatrick evidence to Justice Sub committee on Policing – Holyrood 15 March 2018

Full written transcript of the hearing :

Counter-corruption Unit (Durham Constabulary Reports)

The Convener: Agenda item 2 is an evidence session on Durham Constabulary’s report on Police Scotland’s counter-corruption unit. I refer members to paper 1, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 2, which is a private briefing. I welcome Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick; Duncan Campbell, interim head of legal services with Police Scotland; and Superintendent Andy McDowall from the professional standards department of Police Scotland. Thank you for the written submissions. We will go straight to questions.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab): I begin with the central contention, which is the status of the work that was undertaken by Durham Constabulary. The first paragraph of the letter that Police Scotland wrote to Durham Constabulary on 28 July 2016 asks Durham Constabulary to agree to undertake “an independent investigation relative to the non-criminal complaint allegations identified by IOCCO.”

We have a more recent letter from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which sets out its query about the nature of that work. The tribunal said that you had not, in accordance with its order, referred the matter to the Durham force for investigation and asks for your response. I understand that you provided a response. However, given the language of your initial letter and the understanding of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, it is understandable that Durham Constabulary is confused, and perhaps upset, about the ambiguity relating to the nature of the investigation and indeed whether it was an investigation. What would you say to that summary and analysis of those understandings and the communications that there have been on the matter?

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick CBE QPM (Police Scotland): The first thing that I would say is that I am very grateful to Durham Constabulary for its thorough and professional report, which was produced for us under its terms of reference. The letter that you refer to asked Durham Constabulary to undertake an independent investigation “relative to the non-criminal complaint allegations”, and that was set out in the terms of reference. It should not be a surprise that, in something as important and complex as this, at particular times we should all want to ensure that we were operating in accordance with the terms of reference and, particularly importantly, that we were operating effectively under the law in Scotland.

When the chief constable of Police Scotland first asked me to become, in effect, the decision maker in this matter—that was in January 2017, and he formally appointed me to the role in February 2017—I engaged straight away with Mr Barton to discuss the complaints investigation and to establish whether progress was being made and whether there were any issues that I could assist with. When he made it clear that there were some issues for him around the terms of reference and in particular the regulations under which he was conducting his investigation, which are the Police Service of Scotland (Conduct) Regulations 2014, I of course listened carefully to that.

It is not unusual in complex matters for there to be a difference of professional view about the best way of progressing, but we were clear that he and Durham Constabulary had been asked to undertake an independent investigation only into the non-criminal complaint allegations and that our conduct regulations require other stages to take place should there require to be an investigation into the conduct of individual officers.

As the sub-committee will be aware, we had a number of discussions about that. Mr Barton helpfully came up to discuss that with me in person on 30 January 2017. I listened carefully to what he said and I felt that it was my responsibility to take legal advice. The committee will have seen the senior counsel’s opinion that we received. That made it clear that, because we were operating under the 2014 conduct regulations, we needed to go through the process that is set out in those regulations. In effect, we needed to carry out an assessment in order for me to make a decision on whether there should be a conduct investigation and, if so, who should be appointed to undertake it.

Both of those investigations were conducted independently. Durham Constabulary’s investigation was clearly independent of us and its conclusions were arrived at independently, and then there was the separate conduct investigation, which was undertaken by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and again its conclusions were arrived at independently.

Daniel Johnson: You raised the matter of the regulations, about which we had a considerable degree of discussion when Chief Constable Barton was in front of us. I refer to the Official Report of that meeting and the discussion on the preliminary assessment. I understand the importance of that, given the different way in which complaints are made in Scotland compared to the process in the rest of the United Kingdom, but the evidence about the preliminary assessment was somewhat worrying. Darren Ellis said:

“I was initially told that a preliminary assessment had been completed. I was then told that one had not been completed. Then I was told that one had been completed and lost, and, after that, I was again told that one had not been completed. Over six to eight weeks, I tried to identify the starting point and what Police Scotland considered to be the views of the four complainants and the IPT, because an assessment of that would dictate the play. I do not believe that that work was ever done”.—[Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, 22 February 2018; c 18.]

Further to that, in responding to Chief Constable Barton about whether or not they knew even at that point, Darren Ellis said, “We do not know.” Given the importance of that preliminary assessment, which you acknowledge, is that not a deeply worrying state of affairs and a worrying report, in relation to the lack of clarity and the prospect that such an assessment had not been carried out? What would you say to that?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I would say that a preliminary assessment is a very important part of the process that leads from a complaints investigation and determines whether there will be a conduct investigation thereafter. As you rightly say, Durham Constabulary was asked to do the work in July and August 2016. I believe that Mr Ellis and his team were appointed to progress the work further in November 2016 or certainly late in 2016. When they had completed their report and provided it to us in May 2017, that triggered, under regulation 10 of the conduct regulations, what is known as a preliminary assessment.

I considered the conclusions of the complaints inquiry and the result of the investigation, which had identified that there were a number of officers whose conduct, if proven, might amount to misconduct, and I agreed with that assessment. I agreed with those conclusions in my preliminary assessment and my decision was that a number of the officers should be the subject of a conduct inquiry to determine whether, on the basis of the evidence that that inquiry would look at, they should subsequently face misconduct proceedings, for example. That was the point at which the regulations provide for the preliminary assessment to be carried out, as the bridge between the complaints allegations and any subsequent misconduct investigation.

Daniel Johnson: Just to recap, we had confusion and perhaps disagreement about the status of the work that Durham Constabulary was carrying out; we had a difference of opinion about the interpretation of the regulations, as we have heard from Mr Barton; and we had, at best, a lack of clarity in Durham Constabulary about whether a preliminary assessment, which we all agree is a very important step in the process, existed. It strikes me that those are three fundamental and important issues on which there was a fundamental difference of understanding between Police Scotland and Durham Constabulary over what we can all agree is a serious and important matter. Does that not speak to a very worrying situation? How would you explain that and what lessons have you taken from that situation?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: It clearly is a really important issue for all of us. We have been clear that our failings in 2015, which were the subject of the report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office and the IPT judgment and order, were severe. We were also clear that our responsibility was to provide Durham Constabulary with all the support that it needed to conduct its independent complaints investigation.

When I took up the responsibility of being the decision maker towards the end of January 2017, I met with Mr Barton. We spoke on many occasions about a number of issues around the progress of his investigation and, as I said, he raised the issue of the terms of reference. We were all very conscious of our responsibilities to ensure that the process was undertaken under the conduct regulations. From my point of view, I had a responsibility to ensure that, if Mr Barton required any issues to be resolved or if he needed any material, we could resolve those along the way. I hope that you will see from the exchange of letters that we were able to do that as we went.

The issues were very complex and important. I did not find it surprising that Mr Barton and Durham Constabulary should want to progress in the way that they thought fit. I was certainly conscious of my responsibility to ensure that we were progressing clearly in line with the conduct regulations. When the moment came to determine the issue about Durham Constabulary being able to move from a complaints investigation straight into a conduct investigation, I felt clearly that I had a responsibility to take proper legal advice about that, and you will see that we took senior counsel’s opinion.

We then agreed to progress on the basis of the original terms of reference and under the 2014 conduct regulations. The letter that we received with Mr Barton’s report on 12 May acknowledges that point. He said:

“My team found your colleagues to be helpful and professional, and for that I thank you—please pass on my thanks to them. My report is not as prompt as I would have liked—there were necessary delays taking legal clarifications on the status of my enquiry. I’m glad to say that was ultimately resolved”.

He went on to say: “I have, I trust helpfully, referred further to this issue in the ‘Lessons learned’ chapter”, which is a chapter in his final investigation report.

I think that we all acknowledged that there was a professional difference of view on the issue. Ultimately, we resolved that and agreed to proceed on the basis of the terms of reference and the interpretation by senior counsel of the conduct regulations as they operate in Scotland.

Daniel Johnson: Frankly, I am struggling to reconcile what you are telling me with what Chief Constable Barton said. From the way that you have just put it, it sounds as if you left things in a very amicable way in which all parties understood one another. However, in his evidence, Chief Constable Barton characterised Police Scotland, and in particular the legal department, as acting in an “overly legalistic” and “risk averse” way. The conclusion that one would draw from that is that procedure was getting in the way of looking after the wronged police officers. If everything was so amicable and nothing was wrong, why did Chief Constable Barton give the evidence that he gave to this committee?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I have reflected the fact that we had a significant difference of professional view, which was resolved by the taking of legal advice and an agreement that we proceed on the basis of the original terms of reference that Durham Constabulary was given and the two sets of legal advice that we had received from senior counsel. Mr Barton’s letter of 12 May reflected that. I have spoken about and read from his letter the point about the lessons learned part of his report.

The committee will be aware that we have been keen to ensure that all of the lessons are learned from each of the individual independent reports that we have had, from the IOCCO report and the IPT judgment and order through to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland’s 39 recommendations in its assurance review of the CCU, right through to the Northumbria Police, Durham Constabulary and PSNI reports. There has been learning for us in all of those that sits alongside the actual findings of the investigations.

A huge amount of work has already gone on, certainly on the 39 recommendations from the HMICS review. We are clear that, where there are things to be learned about the processes, such as those with Durham Constabulary, we will take those on. I do not for a moment suggest that, in our many conversations and exchanges of letters, Mr Barton did not raise points with me where he felt that we could provide something to him or perhaps provide a little more support to his team. As soon as I became aware of those issues, we resolved them as we went along. As I say, it was a complex matter that went on for a long time, so I am not surprised that, given that all of us were determined to proceed in the right way, there were differences of opinion. As I believe you can see from Mr Barton’s final letter to us, ultimately, they were resolved by the way that we agreed to proceed.

The Convener: Deputy chief constable, you are the disciplinary authority for Police Scotland. On receipt of the IOCCO report, could you have decided that there would be no conduct proceedings?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I suppose that, technically, that would have been the case. I was not the disciplinary authority then. In fact, I was asked by the chief constable to be the disciplinary authority in this particular case only in early 2017. I know that the IOCCO determination, which was received in November 2015, was followed by complaints from four complainers in, I believe, March 2016. Those complaints were referred to the Crown Office. At that point, therefore, we had complaints that we were bound to ensure were investigated. My understanding is that, when the complaints were received, they were referred to the Crown Office to establish whether there was any criminality in the allegations. It was determined that there was no criminality, but at that point I understand that it was agreed with the complainers that the complaints would be pended until the IPT hearing, which took place in July, followed by the IPT judgment and order in August. It was at that point that the complaints were referred to Durham Constabulary, which was asked to conduct its independent complaints investigation.

The Convener: What was the status of the individuals who were interviewed in the investigation or inquiry that you asked Durham Constabulary to do? Were they witnesses, suspects or accused?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Under a complaints investigation, there would have been complainers—there were four complainers in this case—and witnesses, in relation to establishing the substance of the complaints and the recommendations relating to the complaints. There are issues around conduct investigations. Such investigations are clearly defined in the conduct regulations, which put in place particular processes and procedures and, in some cases, safeguards in relation to officers who may become what we call subject officers—in other words, officers who are subject to a conduct investigation.

The Convener: The legal opinion talks about that and the position of challenge, were that to happen. Conversely, given the direction that you had given Durham Constabulary, was there the potential for anyone who was interviewed to have been compromised if they were subsequently to become a subject officer or an accused?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: That was never raised with us by Durham Constabulary. There will always be cases in which, before a determination is made, people may be spoken to, but it then becomes clear subsequently that perhaps they need to become a subject officer—that is, their conduct needs to be investigated because it is considered that there may be a possibility of misconduct or gross misconduct. It is the preliminary assessment that makes that decision. In this case, as a result of its investigation, Durham Constabulary identified a number of officers in relation to whom, in its view, a decision needed to be taken as to whether their conduct needed to be investigated. That was the preliminary assessment point that led to the conduct investigation.

The Convener: Just for completeness, did Durham Constabulary interview the people whom it subsequently said could be subject to disciplinary proceedings?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I do not believe that it did.

The Convener: What, if anything, should this committee read into the fact that ex-DCC Richardson did not co-operate with the Durham Constabulary inquiry?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I really cannot say, I am afraid. The inquiry was independent and I had no role; the organisation would have provided details of retired officers to Durham Constabulary.

The Convener: Nonetheless, in this instance you are the disciplinary authority and Mr Richardson had been the disciplinary authority. Would you not have anticipated full co-operation from your predecessor?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Durham Constabulary was conducting two parallel non-criminal complaints investigations, one on our behalf and the other on behalf of the Scottish Police Authority. Any issues concerning senior officers would have been part of the senior officer complaints investigation, which came under the auspices of the SPA.

The Convener: Nonetheless, Mr Richardson could have been a witness or, if he was a serving officer, subject to investigation. Do you have no view on his unwillingness to co-operate?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am simply saying that, if approaches were made to him, I am not aware of what the conversation was. I am really not in a position to comment.

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP): I want to be clear on the sequencing. We have Chief Constable Barton submitting his investigation conclusions on 12 May 2017; that is the end of one chapter, it seems to me. The next step, as you have described it, is your role in doing a preliminary assessment as to whether a misconduct inquiry would have to happen. In coming to your preliminary assessment view, what input—separate from its submission of a report—would there have been from Durham Constabulary? Would you simply have gone back to clarify points, or was Durham Constabulary out of the picture, with no role in the preparation of the preliminary assessment beyond the fact that it had submitted a report that you would be drawing on?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am very fortunate that I have a conduct expert to my left, but I will try to answer that myself and then hand over to Superintendent McDowall, who will put me right on anything that I may leave out.

Durham Constabulary’s independent complaints investigation was complete and entire in itself. It came to the conclusion that a number of the complaints were upheld, that some were partially upheld and that others were not upheld. It took the view that there was a prima facie case involving a number of officers, which, if proven, might lead to a finding that their conduct was in fact misconduct and in breach of the standards of behaviour that we expect of professional police officers.

My decision making was formed with support—in this case, that support was an assessment of the particular matters that came out. We separate out the complaints issue, we look at the individual officers, and then I make a decision on the basis of what is provided to me—in this case, the Durham Constabulary report—as to whether there is a prima facie case that requires to be investigated. Durham Constabulary spoke about eight officers originally. Looking at the case in detail, I determined that, for seven of those officers, there was a prima facie case, that their conduct, if proven, could amount to gross misconduct, and that, therefore, an independent misconduct investigation should take place. That was based on the Durham Constabulary report.

Stewart Stevenson: In relation to how you came to your conclusion, you used the phrase “with support”, and that is really what I am focused on. What was that support? Where did it come from? Did it involve going back to Durham Constabulary to say, “You have come up with this charge sheet,” and to get further information, so that the preliminary assessment could be as complete and reasonable, in all sorts of ways, as would be necessary? I just want to know whether, after 17 May, Durham Constabulary was no longer part of the decision-making process, or whether it was still advising you.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I did not go back to Durham Constabulary other than to thank it for its report. I do not know whether any of my colleagues in our conduct world felt that it would have been appropriate or helpful to do that at that stage.

Superintendent Andy McDowall (Police Scotland): Mr Stevenson, there is not much more that I can add to the deputy chief constable’s interpretation of how we formulated that regulation 10 preliminary assessment. The Durham Constabulary report was conclusive, and it was the information contained within that report that allowed us to formulate an assessment so that we could progress matters under the conduct regulations, as required. It was the Durham Constabulary report that the regulation 10 preliminary assessment was based on.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): I do not want to labour this too much, but can I ask you a bit more about the terms of reference? I feel that I need clarification, and I am still quite confused by it all. Chief Constable Barton said that it was three to four months into his investigation when he was told it would not be an investigation, that he did not have full investigatory powers and that it would instead be an inquiry. Is that when you took over, Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick—after the preliminary work had been done and you decided to take legal action? I am puzzled as to why the original remit from the chief constable of Police Scotland did not take that approach at the outset.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: As I said earlier, I did not become the decision maker until the end of January 2017—I was appointed officially on 14 February 2017. The terms of reference were set out in a letter to Durham Constabulary from the chief constable of Police Scotland on 4 August 2016. Durham Constabulary began work at that point and I first engaged with Mr Barton in January 2017 when the work had been under way since August.

Rona Mackay: That is what I am trying to determine. Was it after you had sight of that work that you decided that a different procedure needed to take place? Was it at that point that you said, “I need to take legal advice”?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Those were simply my initial conversations with Mr Barton. I spoke to him at the end of January, we had a meeting on 30 January 2017 and we had an exchange of letters about the terms of reference. Until then, I was not aware that there was an issue or a difference of view about the terms of reference and the extent of his inquiry; of course, as soon as he raised that with me, I had to listen very carefully. Then I determined that I needed to take some legal advice on the application of the conduct regulations in Scotland to the particular circumstance, and that is when I did that.

Rona Mackay: When you were liaising with him, how long was it before you realised that you would need to take advice?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: We had a number of conversations and we had an exchange of letters in February. Then I received senior counsel’s opinion on 21 March 2017. It was sequential: we talked about the terms of reference, we realised that we had a different professional view about the issue and we discussed it. I believe that Mr Barton said that he took legal advice—my recollection is that he mentioned that to me—and we also took legal advice. Importantly, I was very conscious of my responsibility to be open-minded about the views that he had come to, but also to make sure that we were proceeding on a very sound legal basis. If I am very honest, no legal advice was taken at the time in relation to the 2015 issues, when IOCCO and IPT determined that we had acted unlawfully, and I was very keen to make sure that we were operating on a sound legal basis, and hence taking legal advice.

I actually took two different sets of legal advice because, during those conversations and as we were getting the first set of senior counsel’s opinion on the Scotland regulations, Mr Barton made a specific proposal about how he might proceed under the regulations. I asked for that to be put to senior counsel to look at specifically because, again, I wanted to be open-minded about whether that was an appropriate—or, indeed, a better—way to proceed. I took legal advice on that, so that we could go down that road if that was appropriate for all concerned.

However, the second set of senior counsel’s advice, on that very specific point, was that we could not be advised to go down that route—that, in fact, the Scotland regulations would not allow us to do that while keeping within the regulations, which have the force of law. I felt that it was my responsibility to make an informed decision, based on two sets of legal advice that was very specific on those points.

Rona Mackay: I take it that you stand by that decision today, and that you believe that you did the right thing by taking that advice.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I believe that I did, yes.

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Con): Good afternoon. Mr Barton said:

“When I was given the inquiry, it was made clear to me by the chief constable that we were being asked to do an investigation. That means that we can investigate, access all the documents and interview people, so that we can make a recommendation on whether or not there may be misconduct.”—[Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, 22 February 2018; c 2.]

As part of that, he said that he wanted to interview senior officers and, before that, he wanted to see a chain of emails from those senior officers. He was not allowed to do that; the reason given for that was legal privilege. Would you like to comment on that, Mr Campbell?

Duncan Campbell (Police Scotland): Good afternoon, Mrs Mitchell. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on that. I was interviewed by Mr Ellis in December 2015 and January 2016, as part of the investigation. I was asked to provide factual information, which I did. That essentially related to my interaction with this committee’s predecessor committee between December 2015 and January 2016. I was also asked to provide a chronology and a copy of information that passed between me and the IPT in the period immediately following the hearing on 22 July.

Mr Ellis also asked me to provide additional information around the factual material. I indicated to him that I took the view that the material that he was looking for was legally privileged and that I would need to get the chief constable’s permission before privilege was waived; that privilege was vested in my client, who was the chief constable. The matter was not immediately pursued further with me. When it was subsequently pressed, I offered the chief constable advice about his entitlement to waive privilege as he saw fit. I also indicated to him that, if he was minded to do that, he might wish to avail himself of independent legal advice on whether to waive privilege. I did not withhold any material that Mr Ellis asked for and which I was in a position to provide to him.

Margaret Mitchell: What aspect of the chain of emails did you think was covered by legal privilege? Was it every single bit of the emails between those senior officers?

Duncan Campbell: I have seen Mr Barton’s evidence in that regard. I am not in a position to comment on emails passing between senior officers. I was only able to comment on material that was held in our own file, which concerned matters that were put to me for advice.

Margaret Mitchell: Should you not have made that distinction? Should you not have said, “On the basis of the emails I hold in my file, my advice is that legal privilege kicks in, but of course you can see any of the emails in a chain of correspondence that the senior officers have had”?

Duncan Campbell: That was not the inquiry that was made of me by Mr Ellis. I do not know whether he made that inquiry of anybody else, but he did not make that inquiry of me.

Margaret Mitchell: He was quite clear that he asked to see the emails that people sent to each other. I think that that was fairly reasonable. Given that the remit was, as Mr Barton said, to

“investigate, access all the documents and interview people, so that we can make a recommendation”,

Mr Ellis had to see everything. Mr Barton also said quite clearly that

“It is legitimate for a senior police officer or a member of the Scottish Police Federation to sit down with their solicitor and to be absolutely sure that those conversations are sacrosanct.—[Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, 22 February 2018; c 11.]

That is a given. That is not what we are talking about here.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I may be able to help. That issue came up with Mr Barton in our discussions in January and February—in fact in February, as I recollect; we also had an exchange of letters about it. I have just noted that, from my letter of 22 February 2017, I was able to confirm to him that we were waiving legal privilege in relation to the briefing documents that he required for his investigation.

Another issue related to access to a telecommunications product. As I said, when in the course of our conversation Mr Barton raised one or two issues with me that he felt that we needed to progress, I was able to resolve them, as far as that was possible. I think that that has a bearing on the point that you were just asking about, Mrs Mitchell.

Margaret Mitchell: It most certainly has. It took three months—the issue goes right to the heart of the criticism that the legal department was risk averse, that it was not open and that it was not transparent. Given the benefit of the analysis that has been made and the fact that the correspondence was subsequently released—albeit three months later—would you care to reflect now as to whether you might do things differently in future?

Duncan Campbell: The correspondence that I sent to Mr Ellis was sent sooner than the date that Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick refers to in terms of the briefing note.

As far as being risk averse is concerned, my role in providing advice to Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick and to colleagues in the professional standards department is to be risk aware, rather than risk averse—in other words, to be aware of the risks that would arise if certain courses of action were followed and to offer advice on that premise.

Margaret Mitchell: Your advice was to not release.

Duncan Campbell: No. With respect, my advice was not against releasing—it was not to not release. My advice to the chief constable was, “It is your privilege and it is for you to determine whether to waive it. It is not for me to waive the privilege on your behalf”.

Margaret Mitchell: So what took three months? If you looked at it and the request was made, I would have thought that you would have passed on that information. Did it take you three months to come to that conclusion? Who made the decision ultimately that the information would be released?

Duncan Campbell: It was not a decision that was taken by me. I initially reflected the situation back to Deputy Chief Constable Livingstone, the day after I had seen Mr Ellis. I explained to him that, in part, a request had been made for access to privileged material. It was suggested to me that that might be quite an unusual request and that I should reflect that back to Mr Ellis, which I did the following day.

Margaret Mitchell: Why did it take three months to release these emails? They were subsequently released.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: As I said, when we had our discussions at the end of January and in February, this was one of the issues that Mr Barton raised with me. I was able to confirm to him that, having had a discussion with the chief constable, we would be happy to provide the briefing documents that he was requesting.

Margaret Mitchell: Perhaps I can put this another way: is there a problem with communication? It took three months, but you have still not told me why. This investigation should have been going smoothly, and these emails should—as it turns out—have been released. They were subsequently released, but why did it take three months to do so?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I came to the issue at the end of January and the beginning of February. I was appointed as decision maker on 14 February, and I was able to confirm to Mr Barton on 22 February, as a result of his raising the matter with me, that we would be providing him with the material.

Margaret Mitchell: Are you saying that you only came to this late and that, in other words, it was somebody else’s problem?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am saying that as soon as I became aware of the matter, I sought to have it resolved, as it was.

Margaret Mitchell: Are there lessons to be learned?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: There are indeed. As I have said, the lessons that are set out in Mr Barton’s report and our discussions with him along the way form the basis of a significant amount of organisational learning for us not only in relation to the original matters of the IPT and IOCCO, but subsequently.

Margaret Mitchell: With respect, we have had such platitudes before. You have come here today, fully aware of the evidence that was given two weeks ago about this gap, and you are seeking to reassure us that things have moved on and that everything was quite amicable at the end. However, that is not the case. No criminality was found, and I am afraid that what we are hearing today merely sounds inept.

I want to ask about data protection and the request for the addresses of the retired officers, which was refused. Whose decision was that, and what was the reason for the refusal?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Shall I take that?

Duncan Campbell: Yes.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: As we know, every organisation has responsibilities with regard to data, and they are set out in data protection legislation. As retired officers are effectively members of the public, we have a responsibility for their data, including their personal details. Again, Mr Barton raised with me the point that this seemed to be taking some time—

Margaret Mitchell: Can I stop you there? We were told at our previous meeting that

“lawyers in Police Scotland said that we were not allowed to know where those retired officers lived”.—[Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, 22 February 2018; c 11.]

We are talking not about a member of the public or somebody with an interest, but about the person in charge of the investigation. As it is really a legal question, I feel that I have to ask Mr Campbell about it.

Duncan Campbell: I first became aware that access to retired officers was an issue when I was shown the letter from Mr Barton dated 7 February, which I think is before you. I was shown the letter either that day or possibly the next. When you look at the Official Report of Mr Barton’s evidence on 22 February, you might form the impression that I or one of my colleagues had already given some advice or instruction that home addresses were not to be released.

I hope that I can reassure you that that was not the case. We had not had any involvement in the matter until receipt of the letter of 7 February. I discussed it with Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick; the next day—I think—we discussed a number of matters, which were reflected in her letter of 13 February and one of which was the way in which we proposed to resolve the issue of access. We wanted to facilitate access, but to ensure that we did so in a lawful and proportionate way.

Margaret Mitchell: You say that you did not give legal advice, but was Mr Barton told by someone else that it was legal advice? If so, that was erroneous, given that two months later he got the information about where the retired police officers lived. How was the matter resolved?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: In my letter to Mr Barton of 13 February, there was an undertaking to resolve it—in fact, by that stage, it was in hand. We were doing what we were required to do in relation to personal information, which was to contact the individuals and ask them whether they were happy for us to provide that information—that is, their contact details—to Durham Constabulary.

Margaret Mitchell: Finally, on professional standards, Mr Barton said that he moved as fast as he could,

“and the only times that we paused were when we asked for preliminary assessments. At any time in our inquiry, the officers in the professional standards department could have done a preliminary assessment. If they had done that, they could have switched the process, even under their arcane rules, into an investigation, and they chose not to do that”.

Mr Barton then makes the main point when he says:

“We gave them ample opportunity on a number of occasions to switch to a full investigation. We were balked in speaking to some people because we were not given the addresses and we were balked because we were not allowed to see what were assessed as being legally privileged documents, although they were not. I just wanted to comment on timeliness.”—[Official Report, Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, 22 February 2018; c 14-5.]

There seems to have been a five-month delay in this process. Do you wish to respond, Mr McDowall?

Superintendent McDowall: I must confess that I am somewhat perplexed as to how we could suddenly jump from a complaints investigation straight into a conduct investigation. We have already discussed the regulation 10 preliminary assessment process, and as the conduct portfolio lead for Police Scotland, I would point out that the regulation 10 process follows on from an appointment of an investigating officer by the deputy chief constable to investigate misconduct matters. Legally in Scotland, we are not allowed to investigate police misconduct unless that process has been undertaken. As I mentioned to Mr Stevenson, the basis on which we formulated the regulation 10 preliminary assessment was the concluded—and conclusive—Durham report. We could not have appointed an investigating officer without having gone through that legal regulatory process.

Margaret Mitchell: I remain unconvinced by these explanations, and I am somewhat concerned that, despite areas being put into in the public domain at the committee’s previous meeting, we still do not have any answers. Perhaps you will reflect on that as we move forward.

Ben Macpherson (Edinburgh Northern and Leith) (SNP): Good afternoon. Going back to the legal opinions, I believe that Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick said that decisions were made on 30 January with regard to the terms of reference. Was that when the decision to seek senior counsel was made?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am afraid that I cannot recall exactly when the decision was made.

Ben Macpherson: Would it have been thereabouts?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: My first meeting with Mr Barton was on 30 January and we were talking about those issues at that point.

Ben Macpherson: In following up that meeting, I want to ask two real questions. First, why was senior counsel rather than internal legal advice sought? What was the position in that respect? Secondly, was Mr Barton content and in agreement with the process of seeking senior counsel?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: First of all, I wanted to take the best possible advice to make an informed decision about this. Internal legal advice will, of course, be part of that, but senior counsel’s advice will relate to very specific points, and I think that it is common for most organisations and many police services to seek senior counsel’s advice on particularly important or complex matters. I am not suggesting for a moment that I could not have had in-house advice—in fact, I was receiving that advice where that was appropriate—but it is called “senior counsel” for a reason and I wanted to make sure that we were getting the best possible focus on the matter.

I certainly discussed that with Mr Barton. I made him aware on both occasions—and when he came back with his specific proposal, too—that we were taking advice, and I was very frank in discussing the content of that advice with him. I know that Mr Barton told the committee that he took legal advice himself and ultimately, as our exchange of letters suggests, and as he mentions in his final letter to us after his report was received, we agreed to differ. However, we agreed to proceed on the basis of the legal advice that we as Police Scotland had received.

Ben Macpherson: But there was no objection from him at the time about your instructing senior counsel.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I do not think so—I do not recollect that at all. We had a number of conversations about the matter. We knew the points on which we differed professionally with regard to our interpretation of the Scottish regulations, and I hope that I was very open with him about what I intended to do.

Ben Macpherson: I ask the question simply because of Mr Barton’s position that Police Scotland was—to use his phrase—“overly legalistic” in the process. I know from having instructed senior counsel in a previous role that it can take longer and that that perhaps led to the time delay. Moreover, it is often the case that different legal opinions are sought from different advocates. Was that ever considered?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am trying to think whether I specifically considered that—I do not think so. As you have suggested, I was quite mindful of time; I asked for senior counsel’s view to be taken, but I did not specify which senior counsel it should have been. I am not a lawyer myself. In fact, because the two matters were taken so closely together, it was for the benefit of time that we decided to take opinion on the general point and on the very specific proposal.

Ben Macpherson: Paragraphs 51 and 52 of the first legal opinion, in particular, state the risk in senior counsel’s view of judicial review. Was Mr Barton receptive to that risk and did he understand it?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: He must have been receptive, because we ultimately agreed to proceed on the basis of my decision to follow the legal advice that I had received. I was very clear that this was not some abstract matter and that Police Scotland had already been judicially reviewed on a very similar issue, so this was not about having some abstract discussion of what might happen.

Ben Macpherson: And the decision to take legal opinion and the opinion that was given were not questioned or dismissed by Mr Barton.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: We discussed it, and I did not find Mr Barton to be dismissive at all. I hope that he did not find me dismissive, either. We were two professionals who both appreciated the importance and complexity of this particular issue; we were both very determined to do right by the issue and the people involved, particularly the complainers, and to take things forward in an effective way. We agreed to differ. As I understand it, we both took legal advice and then agreed to proceed on the basis of the legal advice that we had received.

Ben Macpherson: The debate over the interpretation of the 2014 regulations prolonged the investigative process, and it has been stated that that had an adverse effect on the individuals involved. Do you accept that?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I have accepted that, and I had the opportunity—for which I was grateful—to apologise in person to three of the four complainers on 1 March and in a letter to all four complainers on the same day not only for the failings that occurred in 2015 but for the subsequent impact on them and their families. I am mindful of that, and I know that Mr Barton was very mindful of it. The discussions that we had when I formally took this on in February and March led Mr Barton to conclude his investigation and his report was with us on, I believe, 12 May.

Ben Macpherson: Being mindful of all of that, what steps do you think will need to be taken to avoid any confusion with regard to the application of the 2014 regulations to any future inquiries or investigations that need to be carried out?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: As a result of the discussions that we had, particularly with Mr Barton and the Durham Constabulary investigation team, not only did we get a very thorough, diligent and professional report from them, which enabled us to progress the processes, but, as you will recall, we went on to develop terms of reference for the PSNI to carry out the conduct investigation. I felt that it was important that we were very clear about those, and we both understood exactly the legislative framework that we would be operating under. The PSNI was happy with that. My personal learning was to take my discussions with Mr Barton on the terms of reference and the difference of view that had arisen into the very early discussions with the PSNI to ensure agreement on its terms of reference.

Ben Macpherson: So despite the admitted delay and the potential damage that that could have had, there has been a constructive outcome to this with regard to future investigations.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Indeed. We have a lot of lessons to learn. As I have said, we had already put that into practice in asking the PSNI to do the work that it has done.

Daniel Johnson: I seek a technical clarification on the nature of this disagreement. My understanding is that, in Scotland, we separate the complaint from the subsequent investigation, and Police Scotland’s contention is that the investigator in the investigation cannot have had any previous involvement in the handling of the complaint, as that would undermine the requirement in the police regulations for the investigating officer to be impartial. Am I correct in understanding the crux of this disagreement?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I understand, too, that that was the crux of the disagreement. That is what formed the basis of the legal advice. As I think I said in answer to Mr Macpherson, this was not an abstract issue for us; we had previously been judicially reviewed on the point and had had to concede it.

Daniel Johnson: That was helpful. Thank you.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD): A little like other members, I am struggling a bit to reconcile the evidence that we had on 22 February from Chief Constable Barton, which was of the moment and reflecting back on what had happened. At that stage, he still felt moved to make some more serious criticisms than the more reassuring tone that you have sought to strike today. That is probably material for the committee in so far as it tends to suggest that, when it comes to lessons learned, you are more reassured than Chief Constable Barton and his colleagues are. I will leave that hanging there for the moment.

On the basis of the evidence that we have had, a couple of things have leapt out at me. It is staggering that access to retired officers was not identified as a potential issue and resolved, not in terms of each case, but in terms of handling, and agreed with Durham when the investigation was initiated. I cannot understand why that almost came as a surprise and out of left field after Durham had been asked to undertake an investigation. Is it not standard procedure? At some stage, there will undoubtedly—almost inevitably—be a request to make an approach to retired officers. How would Police Scotland respond? I can understand why you might need to seek permission but, for the life of me, I cannot understand why you would not anticipate that arising in the early stages—not just at some point, but in the early stages—of the investigation.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: You have quite rightly identified an area of learning for us in terms of preparation for these things. It is something that we took into our discussions with PSNI about what it would need in order to facilitate its subsequent independent conduct investigation.

Liam McArthur: Again, in passing, some of what Chief Constable Barton was referring to when he talked about an attitude and a lack of transparency was reflected in the level of redaction in the reports that were handed to us. I entirely understand and respect the requirement to redact reports of this nature, but it seemed that the extent of the redaction, including of information that was in the public domain, spoke to an approach that Chief Constable Barton was moved to suggest was overly secretive.

I turn to the issue of the pastoral care. There has never been any disagreement around the fact that the four individuals concerned were gravely wronged, as Chief Constable Barton said. You have said that you were determined to do the right thing by the complainers. As I understand it, the IOCCO reported to Police Scotland in July 2015. Chief Constable Barton then suggested that the first contact that was made by Police Scotland with the four was in February 2016. Having been made aware of IOCCO’s concerns, why on earth did it take Police Scotland seven months—or whatever it was—to approach those affected? DCC Fitzpatrick, I appreciate that this predates your involvement but, again, I find that absolutely staggering.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am afraid that I do not know why it took so long. While we are on the subject of learning, having been asked to become the decision maker in this officially on 14 February, although I was in discussions with Mr Barton in late January—and we agreed whole-heartedly on this—I was determined to offer to meet the complainers as soon as possible and to offer them what I described in my letters to them as a whole-hearted and unreserved apology. I touched on this briefly earlier. That apology was not only for the failings in our processes and procedures around the communications data that the IOCCO and IPT had identified in 2015, but for the impact on them and their families at the time of those acts and since then. I was very grateful that three of the complainers agreed to meet me and I completely understood that the fourth did not choose to do so.

Liam McArthur: My understanding is that the apology was welcome and acknowledged for being as fulsome as you suggest but, just to get this clear, you were apologising for what happened and the impact that it had. Was it also an apology for the lack of on-going engagement and seeming concern for the wellbeing of the existing and retired officers throughout this process?

We have heard from colleagues of yours. In a number of evidence sessions, Deputy Chief Constable Designate Livingstone has made great play of the priority he attaches to the wellbeing of officers and of staff. That was glaringly absent throughout the process, and its absence is potentially on-going. I do not know the outcome of the discussions that you have had but I presume that the impact is also on-going. Certainly the complainants do not feel that the matter has been resolved for them, so I assume that Police Scotland is committed to continuing to work through whatever might bring about a resolution, subject to the willingness on the part of the complainants to engage.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: One of the striking things for me—and I think that this is the case for anybody who sits down with someone—when I spoke individually to the three complainers who agreed to meet with me on 1 March 2017, was to listen to them and to hear what the impact on them had been. Of course, I intended to apologise to them, and I did apologise to them directly and individually, but I also heard about the impact on them and on their families.

The work on wellbeing that Mr Livingstone has spoken to the committee about certainly needs to include our processes and procedures for serving officers, whatever their status and whatever the circumstances of our relationship with them in the future.

Liam McArthur: To be clear, that meeting on 1 March is not an end point. Notwithstanding the fact that the apology that was being sought was offered at that stage, is there an on-going commitment to engagement if that is felt to be necessary by those involved?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Yes. Absolutely, if indeed it is. As you will know, a number of the complainers have retired, but we still have a responsibility to any of them who have not retired.

One of the most significant points of learning for us was probably the fact that there was a very long gap, which you have identified. With Durham Constabulary’s help, I was able to meet the complainers at the beginning of March and that was an important part of what I felt was my responsibility at that time.

The Convener: DCC Fitzpatrick, given the profile and seriousness of the issue, which Police Scotland has acknowledged, a lot of people will be astonished that the outcome is that you have learned things but no one has been culpable in any way. You have a range of disposals. You could reprimand someone or you could caution them. You could send them for additional training. There has been none of that. Where are the individuals who have been involved in this?

Concern has been expressed to this committee that, although these people have been acquitted—and I readily accept that—they are now in more promoted posts. The reason I raise that is because there are genuine concerns about reputational damage and the signal that that sends out. Can you comment on why, after all this, no one even gets spoken to?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: That is not quite the case.

The Convener: What disposals were used then, please?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Seven officers were the subject of the PSNI’s independent conduct inquiry. The PSNI investigation report found that a number of allegations were proven, on the balance of probabilities, but there was no evidence of wilful acts of misconduct. It also described how, although there was no evidence of wilful actions, there was clearly recklessness, and that chimed entirely with the IOCCO and IPT findings that we had been reckless as an organisation. The PSNI found that some of those individuals had been reckless in their own individual behaviour and it also identified failures in leadership systems and processes.

Of the seven officers, four were subject to what we call improvement action, which is a disposal aimed at focusing on why they had behaved in that way and them taking action to make sure that it did not occur again. The PSNI also determined that three individuals were peripheral—that is my word—to these issues, and no further action was taken. For four of the individuals, therefore, action plans were put in place to make sure that their future actions are not likely to lead to adverse outcomes.

The Convener: How many of the seven have subsequently been promoted?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am afraid I do not have that information, convener. I am happy to provide it to the committee if it would help.

Liam McArthur: Just following up on that, earlier we discussed the lack of access to officers who are now retired. I presume that any improvement actions cannot be applied to those that have retired. Did the PSNI report shed any light on that?

You have talked about reckless behaviour and a lack of leadership. One would assume that something more than improvement actions would be required in the event of reckless actions, so did the PSNI have anything to say about the behaviour and involvement of retired officers and whether, had they still been in the force, more serious measures might have been necessary and appropriate in the circumstances?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Yes, it did. The PSNI observed that it had not been able to engage with officers who had retired because, of course, the conduct regulations fall when an officer retires from policing. The PSNI observed that, on the basis of what it knew, it felt that other action might have been appropriate. Of course, it also observed that it had not been able to engage with or interview those officers. At that stage, that was a judgment as opposed to something that it could say to us was a matter of fact.

Liam McArthur: Is that then something that you can take learning from, even if you can take no action because of the status of the officers as being retired? Are there lessons to be learned from that going forward?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Yes, to the extent that it is important to learn from all of these things. The issue here of course was the conduct regulations, which differ from those in England and Wales and under which there is no way of compelling individuals who have retired to engage with a conduct investigation. In fact, the conduct investigation has no locus for them at all because they are no longer serving as police officers. That particular point is a regulatory issue and not something that we have control over.

Liam McArthur: Given the role of this Parliament in looking at where regulation is and is not working, would you support our looking at that? Is it a deficiency in the way that the regulations are structured that, by dint of retiring, an officer can escape any sort of sanction, not for criminal offences, but for serious misdemeanours on their part?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: There is a range of views about that in policing. The 2014 conduct regulations have been in place for more than four years. There is learning about the regulations, just as there has been organisational learning for us all the way through in other matters in relation to CCU and comms data and so on. I think it is very wise to keep these things under review.

The Convener: Can you tell us why you cannot publish the PSNI report?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Again, I look to Superintendent McDowall to keep me right on this, but my understanding of the conduct regulations is that, under the arrangements that exist in England and Wales, for example, hearings—in particular, on conduct matters—may be held in public, whereas that does not apply in Scotland. There is a presumption in the conduct regulations that misconduct proceedings—that is, on the conduct of the misconduct—will be in private and that people therefore have an expectation of privacy.

The Convener: My question is specifically on the report and why it is not possible for it to be published, even in redacted form. I express some surprise, because I would have expected that, as the disciplinary authority, you would have a full grasp of the small number of regulations that comprise the conduct regulations.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I am sorry if the committee thinks that I do not have—

The Convener: I am only going by your comment that it was your understanding. I would have thought—

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: My understanding is that there is an issue around the misconduct process, and the proceedings being in private. I was going to ask Mr McDowall, as my left-hand man here, to put me right if I had misinterpreted the regulations.

Superintendent McDowall: Absolutely. The police misconduct proceedings in Scotland are private proceedings. That is not similar to England and Wales. As a result—I do not think that this refers just to the specific matter of the PSNI investigation—it is important that we maintain consistency, not just for regulatory compliance but for all other misconduct regulations, which are not put into the public domain.

The Convener: Was the information that there were to be no proceedings shared with the complainers?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I wrote to the complainers on 30 June with the result of the complaints investigation. The letters were very lengthy.

The Convener: That was the Durham Constabulary report. What about the PSNI report?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: That is right. I am trying to look now—[Interruption.] On 15 January, when we were speaking to the subject officers and letting them know the outcome of the conduct investigations into them—I am sorry; that took me a moment, because there have been so many letters on this—letters from me were hand delivered to each of the four complainers. Therefore, the complainers heard the outcome on the same day as the officers who had been subject to the misconduct investigation.

The Convener: Are you able to share how they responded to your decision not to institute proceedings?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I think that that is a matter for them, convener.

The Convener: On the point about the retention of material and the recent exchanges on that, Police Scotland used quite an unusual phrase, if you do not mind me saying so, when it referred to any material on Police Scotland databases that did not “reflect the truth”. Can you explain what that means, please?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Yes; I hope so. The committee will be aware that the original material that led to the IOCCO breach was one set of material; ultimately, the IPT judgment governs the disposal of that material. I understand that four of the complainers, three of whom were serving officers at the time, had some concerns, quite rightly, about other material about them that might be held on any of our databases—for example on our human resources database, or our professional standards database. When we talk about material that does not reflect the truth of these matters, that means any material that the complainers feel does not effectively represent the truth.

The IPT order governs the material that relates to the authorisations and the communications data. In speaking to the three complainers, as I did on 1 March 2017, I wanted to assure them of the fact that, if there was any material that they felt did not reflect truthfully what had happened, we would be very open to removing that material from any of our databases, such as our intelligence, HR, complaints or other databases.

The Convener: The complainers used the words “delivering our remedy”. Do you think that Police Scotland has delivered a remedy for people who have been wronged?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: There are two aspects to that. One is the effective remedy, which is referred to by the IPT; it was determined that that could come about only by an independent investigation into what has happened. Effectively, we have had two independent investigations. I know from speaking to the complainers when I met them on 1 March last year that they feel very gravely wronged in this matter, so for me there is that separate issue about what people feel personally is an effective remedy. Again, I cannot answer for the complainers on that, because I know that that is a very personal view.

The Convener: Do you think that it is legitimate that they continue to feel wronged?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Absolutely. As I said to them when I met them, and as I have repeated in my letters to them, I feel that we failed them absolutely as an organisation, and that we continued to fail them by not being in contact with them. I continue to offer them my whole-hearted apologies for that failing.

The Convener: What reassurance can you give the people of Scotland that we will not see a repetition of this abuse?

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: I have spoken about organisational learning. I think that it is very easy to use the phrase “organisational learning”, but I also think that it is legitimate to ensure that those lessons are actually implemented and that they effect change.

As the committee is aware, HM inspectorate of constabulary carried out a very early assurance review of our CCU arrangements, which has led to substantial change. The 39 recommendations that HMICS made have all either been completed or, in the case of three, are finally proposed for closure. In fact, HMICS is back with us to conduct a further review of our progress in implementing those recommendations. There is independent assurance around whether we have moved on from those days.

The Convener: Thank you. The committee will seek an update from the inspectorate on that work. Are there any further questions?

Margaret Mitchell: May I comment on one thing? It concerns the information that should be withdrawn. You said that it was about regulation, and that it did not fully reflect the truth. We were told quite bluntly that it had been made up. Unless you speak very plainly and say, “A spade is in fact a spade, we are holding up our hands to that and we will address it”, the lack of openness, transparency and accountability in how senior management—we are not talking about the rank and file—are getting on with their jobs on a daily basis, will mean that we will be here on a regular basis. At a senior level, openness, transparency and accountability must be at the very heart of what you do.

The Convener: Do you wish to respond, DCC Fitzpatrick? We are very keen that there is maximum engagement with the inspectorate on following up those 39 recommendations.

Deputy Chief Constable Fitzpatrick: Indeed, convener. I will respond to Mrs Mitchell’s point. We have asked Durham Constabulary, and it has very kindly agreed, to provide independent assurance on the process of removing material that, as I said, does not reflect the truth on all of our databases.

The Convener: I thank you all very much for your evidence. We now move into private session.

14:21 Meeting continued in private until 14:30

Meanwhile a day after the woeful evidence from Police Scotland witnesses to MSPs, information has emerged at an employment tribunal that Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick asked for relocation expenses to be paid by cash transfer.

A former accountant with the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – Amy McDonald told the tribunal that the payment would not have gone through the payroll system, where it would have been taxed.

Mrs McDonald said this was akin to a bonus payment and was against SPA and government rules.

The tribunal heard that the senior accountant was frozen out by the SPA after raising objections.

Previously at the tribunal hearings, Mrs McDonald had also revealed four unnamed senior SPA figures had received significant payments of public cash – totalling £350,000.

Mrs MacDonald claims the four who received the payments should not have been entitled to them.

The payments included a £165,000 “golden handshake” for a senior executive who had been arrested for domestic abuse just weeks previously.

Mrs McDonald – who was the Scottish Police Authority’s director of Financial Accountability – told the tribunal she raised objections with the watchdog’s officials.

Two months after raising concerns, Mrs McDonald informed the public spending watchdog Audit Scotland and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

As a result, Audit Scotland probed issues raised and published a scathing report into the SPA’s finances in December, criticising the “unacceptable” use of taxpayers’ money – which has not been repaid.

DCC Fitzpatrick became Scotland’s most senior female police officer when she moved from the Metropolitan Police in London in 2012, ahead of the formation of Police Scotland in April 2013.

The Audit Scotland report said the deputy chief constable was given £18,000 to relocate during the 2014/15 financial year, and another £49,000 for a similar move in 2016/17.

Mrs McDonald told the employment tribunal hearing in Glasgow that DCC Fitzpatrick had asked for a cash transfer to be made for the expenses although by the time she made the request she had lived in Scotland for four years.

Mrs McDonald said: “I could not see any exceptional circumstances to support this payment of relocation expenses.

“There was no event or circumstance which I can see to support the claim.”

Mrs McDonald said DCC Fitzpatrick viewed the payment as more akin to a bonus and added: “The SPA does not allow bonuses to be paid. And Scottish government rules also prevent bonuses from being paid.”

Mrs McDonald said normally such payments would go through the payroll.

Ms McDonald said: “The deputy chief constable asked for a cash transfer. This is something which does not go through the tax system.”

In its report, Audit Scotland said relocation money paid to DCC Fitzpatrick and a further £53,000 to settle her tax liability in 2017 “did not represent a good use” of public funds.

While Audit Scotland rebuked the SPA for its poor accounting of these payments, none of the public funds have been repaid.

A BBC Scotland article reports that Ms McDonald’s tribunal case relates to hundreds of thousands of pounds in further payments received by other senior figures in policing from the SPA, all of which she says she raised concerns about through the body’s whistleblowing policy.

However, a court order obtained by the SPA prevents the names of those senior figures – who received large payments of public cash – from being revealed in connection with the proceedings.

Mrs McDonald is a qualified chartered accountant who joined the SPA as director of financial accountability in 2014. However, and possibly as a result of raising objections to matters of financial accountability, Mrs McDonald is no longer in a financial role at the SPA having moved to a position with its forensic science team.

The case in which the details of cash demands by DCC Fitzpatrick have emerged relates to an action brought by Mrs McDonald – who claims she has suffered as a result of highlighting the potential financial wrongdoing.

BBC Scotland has further revealed that the tribunal later heard that after Mrs McDonald had submitted her grievance, she was warned she had posed a terrorist threat to DCC Fitzpatrick.

In her application to the tribunal she had said that the deputy chief constable had sold her house but insisted she had only revealed the town and county where it was located.

Asked what she understood the threat to be, she said: “I had put DCC Fitzpatrick’s personal safety at risk, potentially she could come to great harm as a consequence.

“Not harm just for DCC Fitzpatrick but for her family as well.”

Mrs McDonald said she was extremely frightened by this and was put under a great deal of stress.

Further information payments to DCC Rose Fitzpatrick can be found in the Scottish Sun here: Law unto themselves – Police Scotland branded ‘dodgy tax haven’ for wrongly listing part of top cop’s taxpayer-funded £120k relocation deal as childcare vouchers

Events have further moved on today, with the announcement that the deputy chair of the Scottish Police Authority – Nicola Marchant – who was appointed under the former chair Andrew Flanagan – is to resign from her role on 21 March.

In a statement issued by the Scottish Police Authority, SPA Board member, Nicola Marchant, has announced her resignation from the Board of the SPA having stood down as Deputy Chair last month.

Dr Marchant informed the Cabinet Secretary and SPA Chair earlier this week and will step down on 21 March 2018.

Susan Deacon, Chair of the SPA said: “I want to thank Nicola for the contribution she has made to the SPA over the last two and a half years as a Board member, as Deputy Chair and most recently for her work on the Executive Review of the SPA. I wish her well for the future.”

Politicians have described this as a good move, however, there has been recent criticism of the new SPA Chair Susan Deacon’s praise of the Scottish Government’s approach to policing, raising questions as to whether Ms Deacon – who replaced Andrew Flanagan as SPA Chair – will fair any better in bringing transparency to the discredited Scottish Police Authority.

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

 

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