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Category Archives: Judicial Reform

PARTISAN JUDGE: Accused of sexual misconduct, rage unbefitting a judge – Trump’s SCOTUS nomination Brett Kavanaugh still looks likely to succeed amid partisan Republican efforts to load the judicial dice

Partisan politics will probably ensure Kavanaugh nomination succeeds. SCOTLAND’S former top judge once said: “I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.”

Those words – of very clear condemnation of how judges are selected in the United States of America – came from Lord Brian Gill – during his testimony to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in November 2015, reported earlier here: Scotland’s former top judge lashes out at America’s justice system, accusing US judges of financial ties to corporations & vested interests

Admittedly, anyone watching last week’s Senate Committee on the Judiciary hearing where Judge Brett Kavanaugh – President Donald Trump’s nomination for the Supreme Court of the United States – responded to allegations from Dr Christine Ford that he attacked her, during their school years – may well think Lord Brian Gill’s comments are a beacon of sanity against Kavanaugh’s now widely mocked beer drinking amid the reporting of further allegations against him by at least two other women.

In some respects, Gill is correct.

Would anyone here want a judge like Brett Kavanaugh sitting in the Court of Session?

Most people, certainly outside the strange, ivory tower world of the judiciary & legal clique, would probably say a resounding “No”.

Yet here is the quandary – The world only found out about Kavanaugh’s temper, anger & rage – amid the accusations against him – because the judicial nomination process in the US is televised and open.

Here in Scotland, and the UK – the process of judicial selection and appointment is a very secretive, closed door affair where only in the past few years – due to the Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests – has questions of the judiciary’s attitude against transparency revealed case after case where judges are simply not being honest with litigants, the courts, and ultimately the public with regards to their interests, and cases which come before our own judiciary.

So, even though Lord Gill’s disdain for the US system of judicial selection does have it’s merits, we in Scotland, and the UK still deserve to find out much more about our judiciary and how they are appointed, than a few pages of redacted FOI disclosures, and that very judicial anger for anyone asking for transparency.

Video footage of last week’s Senate Judiciary  where Dr Christine Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified, is well worth a watch:

Professor Christine Blasey Ford & Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh testify

Developments since the testimony, including details of the allegations by Dr Ford, and others – are widely reported in the US media however, one of the more relevant debates revolves around the tone and demeanour of Brett Kavanaugh during his testimony, revealing a rage from an experienced Judge of 12 years, which the public all across the world should take note of.

A judge and his rage.

The elderly, angry Senate Judiciary members – in their publicly funded jobs, some for up to 40 years, exhibiting the same self centred sense of entitlement exhibited by Judge Kavanaugh – even came out and supported his anger – for reasons they claim that he was unjustly accused.

Yet, if you ever ask a judge to comment on why anyone other than a judge may feel anger at being unjustly accused … you are often met with the same angry response that it is for judges to decide who can and cannot be angry if ‘their court’ convicts the wrong individual for crimes they never comitted.

Indeed, ask a judge why he failed to declare an interest in a multi million pound damages claim, you will often encounter a very rabid response, backed up with the same venom and malignancy we have seen in the Kavanaugh saga.

Quite a thing to see the anger of the judiciary spill out in public, when their sense of entitlement and demand for high office – comes up against scrutiny, and in the case of Kavanaugh – allegations he attacked a woman – Dr Christine Ford – who testified before the same Republican dominated Senate Judiciary Committee which is now hell-bent on sending Judge Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

And – just like how Justice Kennedy’s retirement came out of the blue – watch out for further sudden retirements from the US Supreme Court, which will enable the Trump administration to stack the court even more in favour of vested interests.

One last thing – Kavanaugh said during his opening statement that he travelled with President Bush  “…from Texas to Pakistan, from Alaska to Australia, from Buckingham Palace to the Vatican”

It would be quite interesting to see how many interactions Judge Kavanaugh had with the UK judiciary and political system … however, in our ever decreasing transparency & growing anti Freedom of Information culture in the UK, you can be sure little, if anything will ever emerge.

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: ‘Judges should register their interests’ says former Judicial Investigator – as Holyrood Justice Committee set to consider SIX YEARS of work, evidence and backing from MSPs & Public Petitions Committee

Scottish Parliament probe judicial interests & register proposal. A SIX YEAR Scottish Parliament probe into Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary which generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate – is set to be looked at by Holyrood’s Justice Committee, tomorrow – Tuesday 25 September.

The proposal, 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.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support from a full debate at Holryood in October 2014.

Now, members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are set to look at the proposals, already backed by many MSPs and the Public Petitions Committee.

Recommendations for action by Justice Committee members – listed in papers for Tuesday’s meeting include the following options:

5. Once a petition has been referred to a subject Committee it is for the Committee to decide how, or if, it wishes to take the petition forward. Among options open to the Committee are to: Keep the petition open and write to the Scottish Government or other stakeholders seeking their views on what the petition is calling for, or views on further information to have emerged over the course of considering the petition; Keep the petition open and take oral evidence from the petitioner, from relevant stakeholders or from the Scottish Government; Keep the petition open and await the outcome of a specific piece of work, such as a consultation or piece of legislation before deciding what to do next; Close the petition on the grounds that the Scottish Government has made its position clear, or that the Scottish Government has made some or all of the changes requested by the petition, or that the Committee, after due consideration, has decided it does not support the petition;

The Committee may wish to consider what action, if any, it would like to take in  relation to the petition. Possible options are set out at paragraph 5 above. If this is an issue that the Committee would like to explore further, it may wish to consider writing to those listed at paragraph 9 to ask whether they had anything to add to their earlier contributions. It could also seek more information on the Norwegian model, and then obtain an updated briefing from SPICe.

Included also in the Committee papers are submissions from the Petitioner, and Moi Ali – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer – who gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee in September 2013, supporting the petition’s calls for the creation of a register of judicial interests.

The submission from Moi Ali reads as follows:

This brief submission to the Justice Committee relates to its consideration of a proposal to implement a register of interests for the judiciary. I am writing as an ordinary citizen, but my submission is informed by my experience as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR).

In that previous role I gave evidence to the Petitions Committee in support of a register of interests.

Although now writing in a private capacity, I have served on public boards for nearly two decades and as a Board Member I have (rightly) been required to complete a register of interests for each role, to provide assurance to the public that my dealings are not motivated by money, family connections or friendships.

The Justice Committee members who will take the decision on a register of interests, as MSPs must publish their interests too.

It is time that the judiciary joined the rest of those in public life in taking this small, simple step to improve transparency and accountability, thereby enhancing their own reputation in the process.

I have long campaigned for greater transparency in public life, yet in my role as JCR I occasionally found the judiciary to be needlessly secretive.

I am not suggesting that there was anything to hide, but a failure to be transparent inevitably left the public with whom I dealt feeling suspicious.

I will not rehearse the arguments in favour of a register of interests: they are well known.

However, I would emphasise that although opposed by the judiciary, it is in their own interests as well as the public interest that there be a register of interests.

I would like to conclude by reiterating my respect for the judiciary and the essential work that they undertake. Judicial independence is vital to a democracy, but with independence goes accountability. A register of interests is a mechanism for enhancing accountability. Ms Moi Ali 18 September 2018

In March of this year, after lengthy deliberations & evidence,  the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee backed the petition calling for the creation of a register of interests, and 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 on 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.”

The video timeline of debate at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee from 2012 to 2018 on Petition PE1458:

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scottish Judiciary Scottish Parliament 8 January 2013

The Committee decided to call for submissions on the petition from the Lord President, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Crown Office.

Petition PE1458 Register of Judges Interests 5 March 2013 Scottish Parliament

Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to legislate to create a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary was heard today 5 March 2013. The Committee decided to call for further evidence and also to invite the Lord President Lord Gill and others along to speak to MSPs and be questioned on the matter.

Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament 16 April 2013

 

A petition calling for a register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary has again been debated at the Scottish Parliament, where upon the Lord President Lord Gill’s refusal to attend the Petitions Committee to give evidence, the Petitions Committee decided to repeat its invitation to Lord Gill to attend, and also agreed to seek the views of the Judicial Appointments Board and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.

Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scottish Judiciary 25 June 2013 Scottish Parliament

Members of the PPC decided to invite Moi Ali, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence and also to contact Dr Kennedy Graham MP of the New Zealand Parliament. Dr Graham currently has a bill before MPs in New Zealand calling for a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges. During the debate it was noted Lord Gill has refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to discuss the petition and judge’s interests, but has attended the Justice Committee to discuss court closures in Scotland.

Evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali on Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament

Moi Ali, Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer gives evidence to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament regarding Public Petition PE1458 calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

Petition 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 28th January 2014

Following a private meeting between Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Brian Gill, and the Convener & Deputy Convener of the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament,the Committee agreed today, 28 January 2014 to defer consideration of Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to create a register of judicial interests, pending receipt of a letter from the Lord President.

The Convener, David Stewart MSP and Deputy Convener, Chic Brodie MSP reported back to members on what had been said at the private meeting with Scotland’s top judge who refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to be questioned on his deep seated opposition to the proposal to requie Scottish judges to declare all their interests, hidden wealth, family & business links and other matters which may impact on cases being heard before judges in Scottish courts.

Committee Member John Wilson MSP requested details of the private meeting with the judge be put on the official record of the Committee, and Jackson Carlaw MSP drew attention to the fact had it not been for the Petitions Committee asking tough questions there would not even be any letters forthcoming from Lord Gill.

The petition will be heard once a letter has been received from Scotland’s top judge, who appears to be set against any attendance to face questions on why judges should not be required to register their interests, unlike all other public officials, politicians, Government Ministers and others.

Petition 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Scottish Parliament 4 March 2014

The Committee agreed to seek time in the chamber for a debate on the petition. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee

The Committee agreed to continue the petition, and is seeking a debate in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government for more detailed responses.

The next fifteen video clips are from the debate held at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 09 October 2014, in which MSPs, Scottish Government ministers and members of the Public Petitions Committee spoke in the debate. The full text of the speeches of each MSP can be found here: DEBATING THE JUDGES: Cross party support for proposal seeking a register of interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary as Scottish Parliament holds first ever debate on judicial accountability & transparency

David Stewart MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

David Stewart: The committee’s motivation in giving consideration to the issue and in seeking time in the chamber to debate it is a point of principle and comes from the starting point of there being an assumption of openness and transparency in all areas of public life in order to shine a light, if you like, into every corner of Scottish society.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Roseanna Cunningham: The setting up of a register of judicial interests would be a matter for the Lord President, as head of the judiciary in Scotland. The Lord President takes the view that a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary is not needed. Furthermore, a judge has a greater duty of disclosure than a register of financial interests could address.

Graeme Pearson MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Graeme Pearson: Until the petition was discussed, there was no knowledge of recusals in the public domain. I welcome the fact that, as of April this year, the Lord President has introduced a register of recusals. It is fair to say that without the petition and the work of the Public Petitions Committee, such a register would probably not have been considered.

Jackson Carlaw MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Jackson Carlaw: It is perhaps difficult to take on the judiciary, because judicial independence is always mentioned. As I said, that is a cornerstone of democracy, but because there has been no separation of accountability and independence, it is easy for the judiciary to say, ‘We are independent, so don’t interfere in that.’ Unless independence and accountability are separated, legislation will continue to include no requirement for more openness and transparency.”

Angus MacDonald MSP Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Angus MacDonald: If we as elected members have to register and declare our interests, I see no reason why members of Scotland’s judiciary should not be subject to a full and publicly available register of judicial interests.

Anne McTaggart MSP Register of Judicial Interests debate – Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Anne McTaggart: In Scotland, claims continue to emerge of trials that have been unfair as a result of religious, ethnic or national bias. As long as those claims continue to exist, it is the Parliament’s job to promote fair government. In conclusion, I declare my support for the petition and encourage support from all the other MSPs.

David Torrance MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct

David Torrance: Although I understand that conflicts of interest are on occasion declared in open court prior to taking on a case, the introduction of a register of interests would provide a more consistent and sound basis on which to move forward.

Neil Findlay MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Neil Findlay: We need to do much more to make our society less secretive and less closed, and I think that the register that we are discussing is just one step towards that end. I, for one, give it my full support and urge other MSPs to do the same.

Joan McAlpine MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Joan McAlpine: I gently suggest to the Lord President, in whose gift it is to set up a register, as we cannot legislate for it in the Parliament, that he should be mindful of the need for the judiciary to move with the times, along with every other public institution, in order to retain the confidence of the public.

John Wilson MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

John Wilson: A register of interests for judges is an area in which we could move forward and build more confidence in the system that we have in place.

Stewart Stevenson MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Stewart Stevenson: I encourage Lord Gill and his successors to think about recalibrating their relationship with Parliament.

Jackson Carlaw MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Jackson Carlaw: Mind you, I would point out that we, too, swear an oath, but we nonetheless still subscribe to a register.

Elaine Murray MSP Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Elaine Murray: “Given the position of power held by the judiciary, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity–but crucially, that they are seen to have absolute integrity.” Therefore, the issue is not that anyone doubts the judiciary’s integrity, but that the public need to see that integrity.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Roseanna Cunningham: A number of members referred to the register of interests of MSPs. However, the situation is different, because we are directly accountable to the electorate.

Chic Brodie MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Chic Brodie: There is concern that a register would have unintended consequences—a phrase that has been used often in the debate—for the judiciary’s freedom and privacy and its freedom from harassment from the media or dissatisfied litigants. Those are concerns, but they are no less so for others in public life, including MPs and MSPs, who may be attacked publicly for non-declaration of interests. Although it is argued that the establishment of a register may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary, it might equally be argued that its absence might have the same effect.

The debate at the Scottish Parliament now returns to deliberations of the Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 – A Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary:

Register of interests for judiciary Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 28 October 2014

Paul Wheelhouse Register of Judicial Interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 9 Dec2014

Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on their investigation of proposals to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458. Mr Wheelhouse on behalf of the Scottish Government opposes the creation of a register which will inform the public about what judges have, their interests, links to big business, banks, shares in corporations and tax avoidance scams.

Petition 1458 Register of interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament 12th May 2015

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 12 May 2015. The Committee agreed to call Gillian Thompson OBE – Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence on the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Evidence of Gillian Thompson Judicial Complaints Reviewer Register of Interests for Judges Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 23 June 2015

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 23 June 2015. The Committee took evidence from Gillian Thompson OBE – Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer who gave evidence in support of the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Lord Brian Gill evidence to Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 10 Nov 2015

Lord Brian Gill, former Lord President and Lord Justice General of Scotland gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 calling for a register of interests for judges.Gill refused two earlier invitations to appear before the Public Petitions Committee in 2013 and was dubbed “Lord No No.”. Several times during the debate the 73 year old ‘retired’ Lord Gill called on the panel of MSPs to show faith in the UK judiciary and scrap the petition along with calls for greater transparency of judges interests.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Judges Public Petitions Committee Holyrood 1 Dec 2015

Petitions Committee member Kenny MacAskill MSP calls for the committee to invite the new Lord President upon their appointment to appear to give evidence. Convener Michael McMahon MSP agrees to write to the new Lord President.

Petition PE1458 Register of judicial interests Scottish Parliament 23rd February 2016

The Committee decided Lord Carloway is to be called to give evidence, MSPs will also contact Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde for evidence.

Petition PE1458 Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 Sept 2016

The Petitions Committee decided to call Lord President Lord Carloway to give evidence, and also hear from Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for judges Public Petitions Committee 22 Dec 2016

MSP Angus MacDonald (SNP) moves to call Professor Alan Paterson to give evidence to the committee and for msps to consider evidence from the Professor then to contact the Lord President, Lord Carloway.

Professor Alan Paterson Petitions Committee PE1458 19th Jan 2017

Professor Alan Paterson evidence to Public Petitions Committee on creating a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

PE 1458 Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 30th March 2017

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee decide to invite Lord President Lord Carloway to provide evidence before the Committee at a future date, and to invite Alex Neil MSP to appear before the Committee at the same meeting. The decision was taken after Lord Carloway offered concessions on the recusal register of Scotland’s judiciary – created as a result of this petition.

Lord Carloway Register of Judges interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

Lord Carloway gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on a proposal to create a register of judicial interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The proposal has been investigated by the Scottish Parliament for five years, there is wide support for the register, from cross party msps to the media to both Judicial Complaints Reviewers.

The Petition will next be heard on Thursday 7 December 2017 where the Public Petitions Committee will be asked to consider taking evidence from Baroness Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court, and to seek further evidence on the operation of Norway’s Register of Judicial Interests.

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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JUDGE SCANDAL: Dark side of Scotland’s judiciary reveals how judges & courts covered up scandal hit judges – from fraud, tax avoidance, alcohol related violence to the wife-beating Sheriff – who all avoided action from Crown Office & Police

Judiciary, Police & prosecutors failed to act on retired scandal Sheriff. THE WAY in which the Judiciary of Scotland deal with allegations against their own members, was never more evident, and in remiss than when the wife of a now deceased Sheriff tried in vain to report her judge husband to Police and prosecutors.

The late Sheriff Lothian, who it turns out – was well known to judicial figures and even Scottish Court Service staff – for his visits to sauna parlours, rumours of mistreatment of his family and use of prostitutes – is one of the dark, yet not so far away chapters of Scotland’s legal circuit.

Yet to this day, snippets of similar behaviour by sheriffs & senior legal figures from unpublished court documents, hearings in chambers,quietly arranged divorces and even missing Police reports – is as shielded from the public today, as it was during Lothian’s reign in the Sheriff courts.

Far from the image of judicial figures cosying up to First Ministers, Lord Advocates and the reluctant ex top judges lecturing politicians and the public on morality, transparency and accountability – members of the judiciary have recently been caught up in all kinds of seedy accusations, ranging from mega millions in hedge fund linked financial impropriety, to carefully concealed court cases and even divorce, where allegations against judges range from wife battering to drunken rages and smashing objects.

Yet, the public learn very little, if usually nothing of these events – and mysteriously, the courts, prosecutors, even Police, all comply with a very judicial silence.

The “me too” #metoo movement – a campaign to denounce sexual assault and harassment – which has somehow mysteriously skipped Scotland under First Minister Nicola Sturgeon – certainly stands no chance against angry, embittered & wife beating members of the judiciary.

Nor does “me too” stand a chance against shady senior figures in Police Scotland– who support each other when reports of sexual assault or harassment end up buried with a ‘no action’ ticket at the Policeman’s ball.

The history of the demise of Sheriff Lothian – who died in 2016 – is well known.

However, the cover up by colleagues on the bench, who knew of Lothian (and other judicial figures) associations with prostitutes, sauna bars, and the attempts by Lothian’s wife to report her husband to the Police & Crown Office – stands to this day as an example of the dark side of Scotland’s judiciary.

A carefully crafted system of cover up, denial and protection of a 500 year old white male dominated judiciary – which runs from the lowly Justices of the Peace who have criminal records for shop lifting & assault, to the most senior levels of the bench where tax avoidance, failures to declare interests, wife beating & carefully denied allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace never see the inside of a court, the pages of a recusal register or the ink of a charge sheet.

It is also worth noting, many of Scotland’s current senior judges were on the judicial bench during Sheriff Lothian (among others) penchant for boozing, sexual assault, use of prostitutes & reign of terror at home. Yet, to this day, not one judge ever spoke out.

Sheriff Lothian quietly retired on a pension of £7,000 a month.

A Freedom of Information disclosure from the Scottish Government to DOI Journalists also revealed Sheriff Lothian received substantial payments from the Scottish Government & service awards.

Documents within the FOI disclosure reveal that under the Judicial Pensions Act 1981, Sheriff Lothian was entitled to a pension of £63,200.00 per annum and a lump sum of £84,547.00 and in addition Lothian would receive a service award of £50,560.00, based on a salary of £126,400.

Additionally, under the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, Sheriff Lothian was entitled to a pension of £62,627.00 per annum, and a lump sum of £84,547.00 together with a net service award of £52,920.00 – based on his pensionable pay of £125,253.33.

Exchanges within the documents disclosed by the Scottish Government also reveal the then Justice Secretary – Kenny MacAskill – was not informed of Sheriff Lothian’s sudden decision to quit the bench, and further emails between heads of the justice department show concern at enquiries from newspapers as to the conduct & status of Sheriff Lothian.

In relation to the allegations against Sheriff Lothian of wife beating and other reports to Police – no action was ever taken against him by the Crown Office or Lothian & Borders Police.

A report on the allegations against Sheriff Lothian and the suffering of his wife, which exposed brutality at a judicial level, featured in the former News of the World newspaper.

It may be a grim read for some, but a necessary read for all – and much further afield than Scotland:

SICK SECRETS OF SAUNA SHERIFF

Ex-missus claims Lothian’s obsession with vice girls and booze destroyed their marriage  Downed sprits daily  Begged for 3-way sex  Hit wife at Christmas

By MARCELLO MEGA News of the World 15 March 2009

SLEAZY sheriff Andrew Lothian is a wife-beating drunk who’s obsessed with prostitutes, his ex-wife reveals today.

The shamed 66-year-old was forced to quit the bench after claims he paid for spanking and whipping sessions with an Edinburgh hooker.

But today the News of the World can expose the SHOCKING secrets of his sordid private life.

According to long-suffering ex-wife Harriet Lothian, the twisted beak TRIED to make her have sex with strangers while he watched

ADMITTED using prostitutes during their marriage

DOWNED at least a bottle of spirits every day, and BATTERED her while their unsuspecting kids slept upstairs.

Speaking at length for the first time since her ex-husband’s sauna shame, disgusted Harriet, 57, said: “I’m surprised it took so long for his activities to be exposed.

“I tried repeatedly to alert the police and the Crown to his unsuitability for office because of his behaviour, but to no avail.

“I suffered greatly at his hands, both during our marriage and for many years after I divorced him.”

We told last November how Lothian quit his £125,000-a-year job after Crown Office bosses confronted him about allegations over his private life.

But, according to Harriet his obsession with sordid sex had been going on for YEARS.

Lothian’s wife of 19 years said: “Sexually, there were problems from an early stage in the marriage.

“I found it so unsettling that I sought advice from my father, who was a doctor, and who I could talk to about anything.

“Andrew was into kinky but fairly inadequate sex. He also had fantasies about introducing third parties, men or women, into the bedroom.

“I had no interest, but he kept asking me to do it to please him.

Repugnant

“I refused because I found the idea repulsive. He said he could pay people to make his fantasies come true.” Harriet suspected her hubby was using hookers DURING their marriage.

And she told how her elderly father was forced to confront Lothian about the sleazy claims.

Harriet said: “He confessed without any shame. He told me he had lost his virginity at 16 to a prostitute, and that he’d always been turned on by them.

“I was devastated. I told him I’d never have unprotected sex with him again but he was totally unrepentant.

“Once his obsession was out in the open, he became more demanding. If he was out at a dinner, he would bring men home and want me to have sex with them while he watched.

“I would have to throw them out, which was embarrassing. I found the idea repugnant. Apart from anything else, I had children in the house.

“My father was 68, but was very close to me and he had no hesitation in speaking to Andrew and telling him to shape up.”

The couple had married on December 28, 1983, after a whirlwind romance.

Lothian already had a son, also Andrew, from the first of two previous marriages, and Harriet had a young son, James, from a previous relationship.

Two years after their wedding, Harriet gave birth to their son Robert, but already the foundations of the marriage were beginning to crumble.

She says: “By the time Robert came along, I had serious concerns about his father’s alcoholism and how terribly ill it was making him.

“He was drinking at least a bottle of spirits a day, and that was just what I was witnessing. He was in a mess.

“I went home with Robert on New Year’s Day 1986 and Andrew was in such a terrible state that he became abusive. I threw a milk bottle at him and hit him on the side of the head.

“The next day, I insisted he saw a doctor, and he agreed because his mother was in the house.

Harriet tried to alert senior legal officals to her husband’s alcohol abuse but was snubbed at every turn.

Things spiralled further out of control and by Christmas 1996 Harriet demanded Lothian move out.

She said: “His language became more abusive. There were implied threats of violence and the odd punch to the side of the head where no visible marks were left, but I was still shocked by what happened then.”

Harriet told how their sons, James, now 27, and Robert, now 23, were in their bedrooms when a huge row erupted on Christmas Eve that year.

She claims Lothian slapped her hard in the face, before punching her full on the nose.

As their shocked mother took refuge in the bathroom, where she tried to stem the flow of blood, both sons plucked up the courage to leave their rooms and go to her aid.

Charade

With her face badly marked and her eyes beginning to blacken, the family went through the motions the next day, exchanging presents and eating dinner — but the mood was understandably bleak.

Harriet said: “Until that point, I’d been trying to hold things together for my sons, but I couldn’t go on with the charade.

No child should have to see their mother pouring with blood from a blow their father has struck.

It was a total nightmare.” Robert said: “I remember clearly what happened that night and it sickens me the way he behaved. It is more than ten years since I have spoken to him.

“When I was 12 I wrote him a letter telling him I wanted nothing to do with him.” Following the attack Harriet demanded that Lothian move out of the family home in Lauder, Berwickshire.

She wept: “I feared for the safety of our sons. I had no choice.”

But in SLEAZE: summer 2001 Lothian — then living in Edinburgh — launched a court bid to SELL the house.

She said: “The move was especially hurtful as Robert was about to start his Higher courses.

“It was also difficult to understand as Andrew had inherited a six-figure sum the previous year when his mother died.”

Lothian’s partner at that time, Eleanor Burns, daughter of Sir John and Lady Eleanor Burns, had also inherited a substantial sum on the death of her mother, just a week before Catriona Lothian’s death.

By 2002, when they finally divorced, Harriet claims exclusive that Lothian enjoyed a six-figure salary whilst Harriet took care of their children and could only work part-time as a rape crisis counsellor.

In the end she had to pay Lothian £28,000 to buy him out of the family home and finish the marriage.

Assault

Lothian and his brother Murdoch were subject to an Inland Revenue investigation in 2000 after claiming the contents of their late mother’s Stirling home were worth a mere £5,000.

This included antique furniture, jewellery, silver, paintings and pottery.

It’s understood the Inland Revenue later valued the list at £300,000.

But Harriet still wishes justice had been done for the assault she endured in 1996. She said: “Successive governments on both sides of the border have claimed to wage war on domestic violence.

“There was an opportunity for the Scottish establishment to show there was substance behind the platitudes by taking action against a senior lawyer. But typically, they covered his back.” Now self-employed in horticulture, Harriet added: “I have to work extremely hard to make a living.

Andrew’s disgrace has not made life any easier, but I feel vindicated.”

Lothian served on the Glasgow bench from 1979 to 1992 before moving to Edinburgh. He’s expected to keep his £7,000-a-month pension.

He was unavailable to comment on the allegations.

Read more articles about the Judiciary of Scotland here : Judiciary of Scotland – Previous articles

 

 

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IMMUNITY LORD: Conflict judge who failed to declare interest in case linked to his son – upholds Lord Advocate immunity from common law claims in £9M Rangers Admin action – which was initially to be heard by the Lord Advocate’s judge wife

Lord Malcolm rules Lord Advocate immune from parts of Rangers admin claim. A SENIOR Court of Session judge who failed to disclose he heard a case on eight occasions involving his own son – has now ruled the Lord Advocate has absolute immunity from being sued in connection with common law claims in relation to a £9million damages claim brought by former administrators for Rangers Football Club.

Lord Malcolm – real name Colin Campbell QC – made the ruling in an opinion published on Thursday in the case of “David John Whitehouse against Phil Gormley QPC & others”

The case – initially heard in the Court of Session in November 2017- was originally set to be decided by Lord Advocate James Wolffe’s own wife – Court of Session judge Lady Sarah Wolffe.

However, Lady Wolffe was switched at the last minute after questions were raised when her marital status and conflict of interest became apparent – reported here: CRY WOLFFE: Judicial Office hit with new conflict of interest claims as Court of Session papers reveal £9 million damages claim against Chief Constable & Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC was set to be heard by the Lord Advocate’s wife – Judge Lady Wolffe

In last week’s lengthy 107 page ruling by the Court of Session Judge & Privy Councillor – Lord Malcolm ruled in 2018 where Lady Wolffe could not in 2017 – and upheld the absolute immunity of Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC – in respect of the common law claims but rejected the Lord Advocate’s submission that the article 8 claim should be dismissed in advance of proof.

Lord Malcolm’s summary and decision states: “The pursuer, and separately his former co-administrator of Rangers Football Club, are claiming damages from those said to be responsible for allegedly wrongful detentions, arrests, and prosecutions. The claims are brought at common law and in terms of articles 5 and 8 of ECHR. The Lord Advocate’s submission that the article 8 claim should be dismissed in advance of proof is rejected. However his plea of absolute immunity in respect of the common law claims is upheld. It follows that the actions against him shall proceed in respect of only the ECHR claims”

While upholding the Lord Advocate’s immunity, Judge Lord Malcolm allowed Mr Whitehouse’ claim against Police Scotland to go ahead to a proof, stating: “So far as Mr Whitehouse’s claim against the police is concerned, the court is not prepared to uphold his submission that it can be decided on the pleadings that he need not prove malicious conduct on their part. The result is that the pursuer’s claim against the chief constable, and the defences to it, shall proceed to a proof before answer (as was agreed by the respective parties in Mr Clark’s action)”

A proof will now take place at a date to be decided, regarding claims that Whitehouse’s human rights were breached by prosecutors when he was arrested.

In allowing a proof to go ahead, Lord Malcolm also ruled that the hearing should also consider whether PoliceScotland exceeded their powers and acted maliciously in their investigation into Whitehouse.

The hearing will take place alongside another set of proceedings dealing with Clark’s claims.

The £9million damages claim came about after David Whitehouse and his colleague, Paul Clark, who worked for administrators Duff & Phelps, who faced criminal proceedings following the takeover of Rangers by Craig Whyte.

However, criminal charges against both Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark were later dismissed following a hearing at the High Court in Glasgow in June 2016 – amid a clear lack of evidence for a case to proceed, and widely shared views the charges were motivated more out of headline hunting PR by the Crown Office & Police Scotland.

Both Whitehouse and Clark claimed in the court action that the Lord Advocate’s prosecutors pursued a wrongful prosecution against them and there was no evidential basis for the charges brought against them.

Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark also claimed that PoliceScotland acted maliciously against them and they should be entitled to damages from the Chief Constable – who was at the time – Phil Gormley.

Both of the former Rangers administrators believe detectives breached their legal powers during the investigation.

Gerry Moynihan QC – acting for Lord Advocate James Wolffe –  told the court that his client, the Lord Advocate enjoyed absolute immunity from being sued in a civil court.

The issues surrounding the Lord Advocate’s immunity were discussed earlier this year during a debate at the Court of Session – after the case had been passed around a number of judges – beginning with the Lord Advocate’s own wife – Lady Sarah Wolffe QC – who was initially scheduled to head the case and decide on it during November 2017.

Legal representatives of Mr Whitehouse claimed their client’s ECHR human rights were breached and that PoliceScotland should pay compensation to Mr Whitehouse

Rangers went into administration in February 2012, shortly after they were bought by Whyte, and Clark and Whitehouse were appointed as administrators.

Six days later Whitehouse contacted the police to raise concerns, particularly about Whyte, said Moynihan. Later that year the Crown Office announced that it had instructed Strathclyde Police to investigate. Lawyers for the two men believe that the crown was “the directing influence” in the probe.

Rangers later went into liquidation before being sold to a consortium led by Charles Green.

In 2014 Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark were detained by PoliceScotland and held overnight, and the following year – both appeared in court on a second petition – then the case collapsed.

Craig Whyte later stood trial on criminal charges, however, he was acquitted by a jury at the High Court in Glasgow in June 2017.

In the current action, both Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark say their arrest  and detention was wrongful, that their ECHR rights were infringed, and their professional reputations were damaged as a result of the case.

At a hearing held earlier this year, Whitehouse’s lawyers told Lord Malcolm that they didn’t believe that a hearing had to be held into whether the police breached their powers when investigating their client.

It was claimed that on the evidence made available to the court, Lord Malcolm was able to rule that PoliceScotland should be required to compensate Mr Whitehouse.

Whitehouse’s lawyer Heriot Currie QC told the court that his client’s arrest had affected his ability to make a living.

He added: “For 18 months the pursuer was subject to very serious, we say wholly unfounded allegations with a significant adverse effect on him, his family and his professional career.”

Gerry Moynihan QC, acting for the Lord Advocate, argued that the law stated that the Lord Advocate enjoyed immunity and that Lord Malcolm was bound to follow this.

However, Lord Malcolm refused the motion, concluding he couldn’t issue a ruling ordering PoliceScotland to hand over compensation to Whitehouse.

Lord Malcolm said the matter could only be decided following another hearing in the Court of Session.

Further hearings and a proof will take place at a date yet to be decided.

The circumstances and the parties’ contentions in the action are set out in the pleadings – which also mention the episode of the “Charlotte Fakes” emails, and reference to Craig Whyte – who initially faced charges – which were later dropped by the Lord Advocate.

PURSUERS PLEADINGS from the full Court of Session opinion by Lord Malcolm:

[1] At the outset it is necessary to describe the background to and the circumstances of the present action. The pleadings extend to over 250 pages, therefore what follows should be understood as a summary of what is a detailed and complicated picture. In late 2010 a Scottish businessman, Craig Whyte, expressed interest in acquiring Rangers Football Club.

In March 2011 he engaged David Grier of MCR, a corporate restructuring advisory firm of which the pursuer was a partner (prior to MCR’s acquisition by Duff & Phelps in October 2011), to assist in negotiations with the club’s lenders, Lloyds Banking Group. In May 2011 Craig Whyte, through an acquisition vehicle, Wavetower Limited, entered into an agreement for the purchase of a controlling shareholding in the club and was appointed as a director. The club struggled to meet its liabilities. In February 2012 it entered administration. The pursuer and his colleague were appointed joint administrators. Later that month the pursuer met with senior officers from Strathclyde Police and informed them that preliminary investigations suggested that the acquisition of the club by Wavetower may have involved illegal financial assistance. The administrators initiated proceedings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London seeking payment of sums due to the club held by Collyer Bristow, a firm of solicitors acting for Wavetower. Subsequently the administrators raised proceedings for payment claiming an unlawful means conspiracy, on the basis that Craig

Whyte and Gary Withey (Mr Whyte’s legal advisor and a partner at Collyer Bristow) had made false representations to the previous owners as to the availability of funds to finance the acquisition, and had acquired the controlling shareholding by fraud. The police were notified of these allegations.

[2] On 25 June 2012 the Crown Office issued a press statement in the following terms:

“The Crown Office has today instructed Strathclyde Police to conduct a criminal investigation into the acquisition of Rangers Football Club in May 2011 and the subsequent financial management of the Club. The investigation into alleged criminality follows a preliminary police examination of information passed to them in February this year by the Club administrators. The Procurator Fiscal for the west of Scotland will now work with Strathclyde Police to fully investigate the acquisition and financial management of Rangers Football Club and any related reports of alleged criminality during that process.”

At the hearing it was confirmed that the press release was issued on the instructions of and with the authority of the then Lord Advocate.

[3] The club was marketed for sale by the administrators. In May 2012 a consortium led by Charles Green entered into an agreement with the administrators. It obliged him to pursue a company voluntary arrangement, with funding of £8.5 million, which failing to purchase the business and assets of the club for £5.5 million. In June 2012 the creditors rejected the CVA proposal. Mr Green’s acquisition vehicle, Sevco (Scotland) Limited, acquired the business and assets of the club and paid £5.5 million to the administrators. In October 2012 Jane Stephen and Malcolm Cohen of BDO were appointed joint liquidators, with the pursuer and his colleague vacating office.

[4] During the police inquiry officers recovered materials by executing search warrants at a range of locations, including the premises of banks and professional advisors involved in the transaction. It is averred that the second defender, through his deputes, and the Lord Advocate at all times directed the police investigation. They were made aware of all evidence recovered and approved all lines of inquiry. In August 2013 officers from Police Scotland attended at the London and Manchester premises of Duff & Phelps, the pursuer’s employers, and executed search warrants previously granted by a sheriff at Glasgow Sheriff Court. Many documents were seized, including material over which privilege was claimed, and material which was said to be beyond the scope of the warrant. Duff & Phelps instructed their solicitors to liaise with the police in relation to this matter. It is averred that in February 2014 the Crown assured Duff & Phelps that the police had not reviewed or intromitted with material subject to the privilege claim, however officers had carried out a preliminary sift of all such material. The fact of that sift was not revealed at the time. In November 2014 Duff & Phelps’ solicitor attended a meeting at Crown Office in Edinburgh with a procurator fiscal depute and James Keegan QC, the allocated depute of the Lord Advocate. The solicitor was informed that his clients were to be treated as suspects and would be detained. It is averred that the advocate depute asked him whether that would change his position on privilege. It is stated that it was erroneously believed that the privilege dispute would be resolved by the appearance of the pursuer and his colleague on petition.

[5] At dawn on Friday 14 November 2014 the pursuer was detained at his home in Cheshire by officers from Police Scotland. This was said to be in terms of section 14 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 (the 1995 Act). The pursuer was informed that the basis for his detention was “fraudulent scheme and attempt to pervert the course of justice”. He was taken to Helen Street Police Office in Glasgow where he was interviewed, arrested and charged. He was held in police custody until Monday 17 November 2014 when he appeared in Glasgow Sheriff Court. Requests for him to be released or liberated on an undertaking were declined, the police citing direction by the Crown. On 17 November he was committed for further examination and admitted to bail. It is averred that there were no reasonable grounds to suspect that the pursuer had committed an offence. In any event the detention was unnecessary.

[6] The pleadings set out lengthy averments and counter-averments in connection with the proposition that there was no reasonable foundation for what occurred. For example, averments are made as to the basis upon which the reporting officer, DCI Robertson, was of the opinion that there was a sufficiency of evidence available to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that Mr Whyte’s allegedly fraudulent transaction could not have been completed without the involvement, knowledge or advice of the pursuer and his colleagues, and that the pursuer had misled the police about his knowledge of and advice as to the financing of the transaction (sometimes referred to as the “Ticketus deal”). It is stated that DCI Robertson suspected that crimes of fraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice had been committed by the pursuer. He provided a briefing to the detaining, interviewing and arresting officers prior to the executive action being taken, which included reference to the matters which informed his suspicion. It is averred on behalf of the chief constable that the totality of material available was sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion such as to justify interviewing the pursuer and others under caution and in detention. It was not appropriate to seek to make arrangements for voluntary attendance at a police station by multiple accused in which the offences suspected included an attempt to pervert the course of justice. It should be understood that the intention was to detain the pursuer, Mr Clark, and others as part of executive action to detain a number of suspects at the same time.

[7] At 7.15 pm on 14 November 2014 the pursuer was informed by the arresting officer that he was charged with a fraudulent scheme and an attempt to pervert the course of justice. The fraudulent scheme arose because of the false pretence which had been proffered, namely that Craig Whyte was a wealthy man who was investing his own capital in the acquisition of the club, when in fact he was using funds advanced by Ticketus. The practical result of the fraudulent pretence was that Mr Whyte was able to gain control of the club, and then force an administration, to the financial benefit of the pursuer whose firm was appointed administrators. Without the false pretence, Sir David Murray, the controlling shareholder of the club, would not have been willing to sell his shares to Mr Whyte. It was suspected that the pursuer had known of the criminal nature of this enterprise and had actively joined in it. It was further suspected that he had attempted to pervert the course of justice in providing statements to police in which he had deliberately omitted key information which he knew to be relevant to their inquiry. The arresting officer was satisfied that there were reasonable grounds for this course of action and sufficient evidence to charge the pursuer on the basis of information provided to her in the interview pack prepared by the reporting officer, the detailed briefing from him, and the interview of the pursuer and his responses.

[8] The decision for the pursuer to remain in custody pending court appearance on the next court day was taken by the custody sergeant in the police station whose function it was to make such decisions in respect of all arrestees at that station at that time. She had regard to the Lord Advocate’s guidelines, the Crown Office decision that he would be appearing on petition, and the nature and gravity of the offences with which the pursuer was charged. It is averred that the police officers acted in good faith. While the pursuer no doubt disagreed and disagrees with the decisions taken, that does not render them unlawful or unreasonable or actionable. Reliance is placed upon the terms of section 22 of the 1995 Act.

[9] These averments are answered in detail by the pursuer in support of the proposition that there was no basis for any suspicion that he had engaged in criminal activity. For example, it is averred that Ticketus were known to be an existing provider of working capital to Rangers. The existing owners of the club had suggested that the purchaser should continue to use Ticketus. A key issue for the club’s board was that there should be sufficient working capital to finance the club’s operations post-acquisition. An email exchange relied upon by the first defender did not suggest knowledge of the actual arrangement entered into between the club (under the control of Whyte/Wavetower) and Ticketus. This gives a flavour of the issues which would be addressed in any evidential hearing. In general it is the pursuer’s position that he had no knowledge of any intention on Mr Whyte’s part to use Ticketus funds in the purchase of the club or to misrepresent the true position as to the funding of the acquisition.

[10] In the course of the hearing it was explained that the critical part of the alleged fraud was not the use of the Ticketus funds, but the misrepresentation as to the financing of the acquisition. The pursuer avers that if Craig Whyte claimed that “Duff & Phelps knew everything”, which is denied, that claim provided no basis for suspicion or arrest of the pursuer as an individual. In any event such a claim was wholly at odds with the available documentary evidence which clearly demonstrated deliberate concealment of information from MCR. When in November 2014 the pursuer appeared on petition in respect of charges of fraud (relating to the acquisition and subsequent management of the club) and attempting to pervert the course of justice, he was served with a summary of evidence by the Crown, which it is said made no reference to any evidence supporting his involvement in fraud. It is claimed that there was insufficient evidence to support the decision to place the pursuer on petition.

[11] In June 2015 the Crown informed the defence that the focus of the inquiry had changed, and that any subsequent indictment was likely to include charges relating to the administration and disposal of the assets of the club. On 12 August 2015 DCI Robertson delivered a letter to the pursuer’s solicitor indicating, amongst other things, that the inquiry concerning the administration period and sale to Mr Green was a live police investigation. On 26 August 2015 the Crown applied to the sheriff at Glasgow for an extension of the time limit set out in section 65 of the 1995 Act.

[12] At dawn on Tuesday 1 September 2015 the pursuer was again detained at his home in Cheshire by officers of Police Scotland. He was conveyed to Helen Street Police Office in Glasgow where he was interviewed, arrested and charged. He was told that he would be held pending a court appearance the following day. It is averred that the Crown directed the police to keep the pursuer in custody. He appeared on petition at Glasgow Sheriff Court on 2 September when he was committed for further examination and admitted to bail. It is stated that at no point were there any reasonable grounds to suspect that the pursuer had committed an offence and that his detention was in any event unnecessary. There was insufficient evidence to justify a charge. Other suspects, specifically Craig Whyte and Charles Green, were permitted to attend police stations by arrangement.

[13] On behalf of the chief constable it is averred that there was an investigation into the acquisition of the club by Charles Green and the possible involvement of Craig Whyte in that transaction. Police inquiries established a reasonable suspicion that the pursuer, along with Mr Clark, Mr Whyte, Mr Green and a Mr Ahmad, had formed a fraudulent scheme or conspired to enable Mr Whyte to acquire the club from the administrators. The pleadings set out the alleged circumstances relied upon, for example it is said that when

DCI Robertson asked the pursuer about his knowledge of Charles Green and any links he had to Craig Whyte, the officer formed the view that the pursuer was evasive. The fee for the exclusivity agreement with Sevco 5088 Limited signed by the administrators was partly funded by Mr Whyte. In April 2013 Mr Whyte was quoted in a newspaper saying, amongst other things, that Mr Green acted as a “frontman” for him in connection with the purchase of the club. It is averred that Mr Whyte had introduced Mr Green to the administrators. These are but examples of the various factors said to have been relied upon at this time. The pursuer was charged with involvement in a fraudulent scheme in terms of which the club had been acquired by Craig Whyte at an undervalue as a result of a false pretence, namely the concealment of the connection between Mr Whyte and Mr Green. Again reference is made to section 22 of the 1995 Act and to the decision of the custody sergeant on duty.

[15] In answer, amongst other things, the pursuer avers that in respect of the offer from Sevco 5088 Limited, there was nothing to suggest any involvement of Craig Whyte. The pursuer provided three witness statements to the police, all in 2012. He was not asked about Charles Green, other than in relation to proof of funds checks carried out by the administrators, nor about any links Green may have had to Whyte. The subject report submitted by DCI Robertson to the Crown in on or about 20 August 2015 made no reference to him having formed the view that the pursuer had been evasive in interview or that he had regarded the pursuer’s responses as suspicious. Again these are but examples of the counter-averments made on behalf of the pursuer, all of which will form the context of any evidential hearing. It is said that the totality of the evidence ingathered by the police prior to the second detention clearly demonstrated that Whyte’s claim to ownership of Sevco 5088 Limited was false. In any event, there was no evidence to suggest that the pursuer was aware of any involvement by Whyte in the Green bid; rather the evidence available to the police suggested the reverse. In any event there was no evidence that the true market value of the club at the point of the sale of the business and assets to Green was greater than had been represented.

[16] On Wednesday 2 September 2015 the pursuer appeared on a petition at Glasgow Sheriff Court containing charges of conspiracy to defraud and a contravention of section 28 of the 2010 Act. The procurator fiscal’s motion for committal was opposed on the basis that the charges did not represent new allegations, but were reformulations of those which had appeared in the November 2014 petition. The procurator fiscal insisted that the charges were distinct and had arisen from a separate police investigation. In the result the sheriff granted the Crown motion, and admitted the pursuer to bail. It is stated that there was insufficient evidence to place the pursuer on petition. On behalf of the second and third defenders it is averred that the service of the second petition was a considered and appropriate response to the further information being uncovered in relation to the acquisition of the club, its management, the conduct of its administration, and the disposal to Charles Green. Its service at this point avoided the risk of having two trials on related issues involving the same parties. The decision to include the pursuer was taken by experienced fiscals in good faith and in light of the evidence available against him. They had a reasonable suspicion that the pursuer had participated in the alleged crimes.

[17] The above summarises the first 100 pages of the pleadings. The next chapter concentrates, in the main, on the conduct of the second and third defenders. From time to time these defenders are referred to in a composite manner as “the Crown”. It is averred that on 3 September 2015 the court considered a Crown application for an extension of statutory time limits in which it was asserted that Duff & Phelps had recently produced a large quantity of material to the police which ought to have been made available during the August 2013 searches. At a continued hearing the advocate depute intimated that, having checked matters, there had been no such late production of material by Duff & Phelps. Instead it was asserted that Clyde & Co, a firm of solicitors who had acted for Collyer

Bristow, had recently produced 39 boxes of material that ought to have been produced in response to a warrant executed in August 2013. The sheriff granted the Crown’s application, but restricted the extension to a period of three months. The defence then sought further information about the 39 boxes, the existence of which had not previously been disclosed. In answer it is averred that the reference to the 39 boxes was made in error on the basis of internal misunderstandings within Crown Office and in communications with the police. The court was advised of this at the preliminary hearing on 16 October 2015 and an apology was tendered. At an appeal against the extension the appeal court was provided with a full explanation as to the mistaken reference to 39 boxes. Relying upon other factors the appeal court considered that the extension was justified. In response the pursuer avers that it is believed that the second petition was brought in order to influence the outcome of the contested section 65 application.

[18] On 16 September 2015, within the original time limits, the Crown issued an indictment (the first indictment) charging the pursuer with conspiracy to defraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice, and citing him to appear at a preliminary hearing on 16 October 2015. Several of the charges related to the matters dealt with in the second petition. The pursuer lodged a range of preliminary minutes, including an objection to the relevancy and competency of the charges, and a plea in bar of trial on the grounds of oppression and abuse of process. The judge continued the preliminary hearing to 11 January 2016 and fixed a debate on the preliminary minutes for the week commencing 7 December 2015. On behalf of the Lord Advocate it is averred that the decision to serve the first indictment was made because it was reasonably anticipated that the pursuer, Mr Clark, or both, might appeal the grant of the section 65 extension and, if the appeal was successful, there would be a real risk that the matters covered in the first petition would have become time barred. The Crown had recovered relevant evidence in relation to the period of administration. The indictment was drafted on the basis of this and other relevant evidence by experienced indicters acting in good faith. The pursuer avers that until the preliminary hearing the Crown adhered to the representations as to the 39 boxes.

[19] On 2 December 2015, which was the day before the appeal hearing in respect of the extension of time limits, the Crown served another indictment. At the hearing the advocate depute explained that it was to supersede the first indictment. He submitted that if the appeal was allowed, it would cause the new indictment to fall, meaning that the new charges would no longer be before the court. It is averred that no prior notice of this indictment was given. It replicated the charges on the first indictment and included additional charges. The pursuer faced a total of seven charges. The Crown states that including all charges on the second indictment was designed to ensure that the accused faced only one trial.

[20] At a preliminary hearing on 5 January 2016 the court assigned a debate on all preliminary pleas for the week commencing 1 February. After submissions were made on the pursuer’s behalf the Crown sought leave to make substantial amendments to the indictment. It was accepted that the first charge did not clearly set out the alleged criminality. In the result five of the seven charges directed against the pursuer were deleted, including all of those derived from the November 2014 petition. The advocate depute unequivocally renounced the Crown’s right to prosecute the pursuer on those charges, and the remaining charges were the subject of further debate. On 22 February the court upheld the pursuer’s plea to the relevancy and dismissed the remaining charges against him. The advocate depute informed the court that the Crown would consider whether to bring a further indictment against the pursuer. Later that day Crown Office issued a press statement, carried in the national and business press, that further proceedings would be brought against the pursuer. On 3 June 2016 the Crown confirmed that all proceedings against the pursuer were at an end. It is averred that at no point was there any justification for the detention, committal, prosecution or indictment of the pursuer. The second and third defenders never had a sufficient evidential basis for any of the charges directed against him. The Crown avers that the press statement was corrected the day after its publication to reflect the terms of the advocate depute’s advice to the court.

[21] The pursuer pleads that throughout the course of the prosecution, the conduct of the second defender’s deputes and of the third defender was marked by a disregard for their obligations. This is denied and it is explained that at all times the third defender’s predecessor in office, his deputes and procurators fiscal were aware of their obligations and sought to discharge them in good faith. In response to certain averments concerning the Crown’s disclosure obligations it is stated that the prosecution of the pursuer and his co-accused was an exceptional case involving quantities of documents and issues of legal and practical complexity not encountered in an ordinary case. The pursuer complains that disclosure was limited and sporadic. By the end of May 2015 only a third of all available productions had been disclosed to the defence. By the time of the debate in February 2016 approximately 1,000 Crown productions remained undisclosed. Certain undertakings were given in this regard on 19 April 2016, however by the time of the conclusion of the criminal proceedings several key witness statements and labels remained undisclosed, including recordings of police interviews of Charles Green, emails and other documents relating to the actions of Mr Whyte’s associate Aidan Earley, and statements of solicitors involved in the sale of the clubs assets out of administration, all of which, it is said, the pursuer reasonably anticipated would be supportive of his defence. The defence was never made aware of the total number of productions held by the Crown; such disclosure schedules as were provided were incomplete. The Crown contends that at all times it endeavoured to meet its disclosure obligations. At no point was any material wrongfully withheld. Various issues with the disclosure process made it unusually lengthy and complex, including competing claims of legal professional privilege and existing and anticipated civil actions in England. The number of documents involved necessitated the purchase of industrial scanners and the employment of additional staff members.

[22] The next chapter concerns non-disclosure of what are described as the “Charlotte Fakes” recordings. They are said to be part of a wider group of recordings made by Craig Whyte, and include conversations involving Craig Whyte and Charles Green. For the Crown it is averred that there were technical difficulties in opening and listening to the recordings which impeded assessment. Transcripts were disclosed on 29 January 2016. The pursuer avers that no audio recordings were provided nor any information as to provenance. The recordings had been in the possession of the police from at least July 2014, several months before the pursuer’s first appearance on petition. Transcripts had been available to the defenders by 2 December 2015, which was before the first preliminary hearing, and were put to Charles Green in his police interview on that date. On behalf of the first defender it is admitted that the recordings had been in the possession of the police. The Crown states that there were issues of admissibility in respect of the recordings. The pursuer avers that the recordings of conversations between alleged conspirators at the time of the alleged offences were material. They were exculpatory of the pursuer. They demonstrate that essential information, including Mr Whyte’s proposed participation in the Green bid, was withheld from the administrators; that Whyte was anxious about whether the administrators would accept the Green bid; and that third parties were to be encouraged to put financial pressure on the Club to encourage the administrators to accept the Green proposals. It is said that the recordings cannot be reconciled with the Crown’s claim that the pursuer was party to a conspiracy. The allegations in the second petition were entirely predicated upon a claim by Craig Whyte that he had acquired the business and assets of the club out of administration under the proxy of Green. It is also averred that on 4 May 2018 the pursuer’s agents recovered a series of subject sheets – communications from the police to the Crown – relating to the criminal investigation. These revealed that by June 2014 the police had recovered – as part of the Charlotte Fakes materials and from other sources – the contents of email accounts belonging to Craig Whyte. The police estimated the accounts to contain approximately 100,000 emails. On 19 June 2014 the reporting officer advised the Crown of the recovery of the emails, and as to their extent. On 4 August 2014 he advised the Crown that the emails related, inter alia, to the periods around the acquisition and administration of the Club. On 9 February 2015 the reporting officer advised the Crown as to the terms of certain emails which were assessed as being incriminatory of Craig Whyte. It is said that these emails were of central relevance to the allegations against the pursuer, and in particular his knowledge of and participation in any criminal conduct by Craig Whyte. On behalf of the Crown it is claimed that much of the Charlotte Fakes material did not impact upon the pursuer but, to the extent that it did, it included incriminating material. In response it is averred that the discussions involving the pursuer were in no way incriminatory, but were indicative of nothing more than the pursuer discharging his obligations as administrator.

[23] The pleadings continue by reference to disclosure issues surrounding a report by Pinsent Masons solicitors and the evidence of Aidan Earley, a business associate of Craig Whyte. For example it is averred that in July 2015 the defence asked the Crown for disclosure of various witness statements provided by Mr Earley. On 28 April 2016, after the dismissal of the remaining charges against the pursuer, the Crown disclosed a transcript of a series of text messages taken from Earley’s phone. These included a number of communications between himself and Craig Whyte at the time of the administration of the Club, which are said to be entirely exculpatory of the pursuer. The source material for the transcripts had been in the possession of the police since at least 13 April 2015, well before the September 2015 petition and the service of the first indictment. The text messages were put to Charles Green in his police interview on 1 September 2015, details of which were never disclosed to the pursuer.

[24] The pursuer then sets out various issues concerning what is described as the Crown’s obligation to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry. For example, it is said that before indicting the pursuer, the Crown failed to interview staff of the pursuer and his co-administrator who had worked on the administration, the preparation of valuations, and the sale negotiations with other parties. It is averred that at no time did the Crown have an evidential basis for the claim that the assets of the club had been sold at an undervalue.

[25] The pursuer avers that the Crown failed to respond to requests for information and other correspondence from his agents. On several occasions the Crown was careless as to the accuracy of information given to the pursuer and to the court. Statements were made to the court which were misleading and lacked candour. DCI Robertson acted recklessly and without reasonable cause at various stages during the investigation and the criminal prosecution. He made unwarranted accusations to solicitors. He told Duff & Phelps that he would “shut down the Shard” (a reference to their headquarters in London) if they did not produce required material. Again by way of example of the complaints in this section of the pleadings, it is averred that the court was invited to grant a warrant on the basis of one-

sided information. The exercise of the warrant in London involved officers wearing bulletproof vests and tasers interrupting a client reception. An emergency injunction was then granted to the firm of solicitors concerned by the High Court in London. On 5 February 2016 the High Court of Justiciary granted suspension of the warrant on grounds of oppression. On 6 October 2016 the Queen’s Bench division of the High Court of Justice ordered the first and third defenders to pay the firm of solicitors’ costs on an indemnity basis, the court noting that the actions of the first and third defenders were “an abuse of state power”.

[26] It is averred that DCI Robertson sought to interfere with legitimate defence investigations. For example, it is stated that he threatened witnesses with imprisonment unless they changed their accounts. He amended draft statements provided by witnesses.

In response, amongst other things it is said that DCI Robertson did not consider that he received full cooperation from a number of witnesses. In order to progress the investigation applications were made properly by the Crown for warrants to recover documentation. The warrant relating to the solicitors’ premises had been drafted by the Crown. It was granted by a sheriff in Glasgow. Steps were taken to minimise disruption. DCI Robertson and his officers were not in uniform, and he had not requested uniform presence, but this is what was provided by the local police. At all times he acted in good faith. He was required to investigate matters robustly, probe inconsistencies, require truthful answers from witnesses, recover evidence, and be authoritative when executing court orders.

[27] It is averred that the Crown instructed forensic accountants to prepare reports in the hope that they would provide an evidential basis for the charges against the pursuer, however they were not given all of the relevant factual material, in particular material which did not support the Crown case. The experts were invited to reach conclusions on the basis of “one sided information”.

[28] In addition to the common law claim, the pursuer avers infringements of his rights under articles 5 and 8 of ECHR. So far as article 5 is concerned, it is stated that the actings of the defenders and each of them was a disproportionate interference with the pursuer’s liberty. A time bar plea is taken in respect of the events in November 2014.

[29] The pursuer’s pleadings then revert to general averments as to wrongful conduct, for example that the detentions were “outwith the competence of the officers” and accordingly unlawful; that they lacked probable cause; that the instructions from the Crown were actuated by an ulterior motive, namely the desire to allow evidence over which privilege had been asserted to be relied upon in the erroneous belief that detention would allow the criminal purpose exception to be invoked; and that the absence of reasonable grounds for suspicion demonstrated a degree of recklessness on the part of the Crown amounting to malice. It is averred that the timing of instructions was related to concerns about the whereabouts of Craig Whyte. Similar averments as to lack of probable cause and ulterior motives are made in respect of the second detention, for example a desire to maintain a purported justification for the proceedings against the pursuer. Similar averments are made in relation to the alleged wrongful prosecution in terms of petitions, committals, and the service of indictments. For example it is averred that in the first petition, the only matter directed against the pursuer on charge one, relating to fraud in respect of the acquisition and management of the club, was that he, together with two colleagues, had prepared a letter in the knowledge that it would be used to induce Ticketus to pay out a sum in excess of £18 million. However there was no evidence to show that the pursuer had been involved in the preparation of that letter, nor that it was in any way inaccurate or misleading, and nor that it had been relied upon by Ticketus. The evidence showed that Ticketus had already paid out the sum by the time the letter was issued, and that they had taken advice on all relevant matters from their solicitors. Again by way of example, charge six stated that the pursuer had made false statements in a report to the Court of Session; however the charge materially misrepresented the wording of the report. On various occasions the pursuer’s agents wrote to the Crown detailing errors in the charges, referring to the absence of supporting evidence, and pointing to exculpatory material which had been disclosed, however no substantive response was received.

[30] In response to the Crown’s plea of absolute privilege, the pursuer avers that if any such privilege is enjoyed (which is denied) it extends only to the actions of the third defender in prosecuting crimes on indictment and to the actions of the second defender in conducting a prosecution on indictment in the name of the third defender. Any such privilege does not extend to events prior to the service of an indictment. In any event, the second and third defenders have “surrendered” any right to claim absolute privilege by virtue of their conduct. In the event that their actings do not attract absolute immunity (which is denied) the second and third defenders plead that there can be no liability at common law unless acts were done maliciously and without probable cause. It is averred that at all times the second and third defenders, and those acting on their behalf, acted in good faith on the evidence available to them.

[31] As to the article 8 claim, the pursuer avers that his private life was interfered with by his detention and subsequent bail conditions. In the whole circumstances the interference was neither necessary nor in accordance with the law. As a result of the defenders’ actions he was unable to practice as an insolvency practitioner. He has suffered financial and reputational loss. In response it is averred that if article 8 is engaged (which is denied) any interference was necessary, in accordance with the law, and proportionate. Again a time bar plea is taken in relation to the earlier events. For present purposes it is not necessary to refer to the averments concerning the pursuer’s alleged loss, injury and damage.

PASS THE PARCEL: Court of Session judges merry go round on case involving Lord Advocate James Wolffe

In January of this year it was reported that a series of judge swaps on this case, from Lady Sarah Wolffe, to Lady Morag Wise, then Lord Paul Arthurson – led to a FOURTH judge – Lord Sidney Neil Brailsford – presiding over hearings in a case which could also decide the fate of the Lord Advocate’s immunity from legal action in cases of wrongful arrest.

The NINE million pound damages claim against Scotland’s top cop and top prosecutor was lodged in the final months of 2017 by David Whitehouse – a former administrator at Rangers FC – who is seeking financial damages from Police Scotland’s Philip Gormley and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

However, it emerged at a hearing in November the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) had quietly scheduled Lady Wolffe to preside over a crucial hearing in the case against her own husband – James Wolffe QC.

A copy of the Court Rolls handed to the media revealed Lady Sarah Wolffe QC – an outer house senator of the Court of Session – was scheduled to hear the case involving the claim involving the Lord Advocate – her own husband – A295/16 David Whitehouse (represented by Urquharts) v Liam Murphy &c (represented by Ledingham Chambers for SGLD – Scottish Government Legal Directorate) – on November 15 2017.

Prosecutor Liam Murphy  who is named in the action – is currently listed as a Crown Office Procurator Fiscal on “Specialist Casework”.

However, Lady Wolffe was removed from the hearing with no official comment from the Judicial Office.

Claims surfaced at the time Lady Wolffe was suddenly dropped from the case when it ‘emerged at the last minute’ her husband – Lord Advocate James Wolffe – was involved in the case.

A second Court of Session Judge – Lady Morag Wise QC – was then scheduled to hear the case.

For reasons which have not been fully explained, Lady Wise was also dropped from the hearing on Wednesday 15 November which saw the case handed to a third judge – Lord Paul Arthurson QC – who set dates for  a four day hearing of legal arguments.

However, when the £9m damages claim returned to court in mid December, yet another judge – Lord Sidney Neil Brailsford had been assigned to the case, replacing Lord Arthurson.

During a hearing at Edinburgh’s Court of Session on 14 December 2017, judge Lord Brailsford arranged for a debate on legal issues surrounding the case to take place over four days in May 2018.

Lord Brailsford said: “I acknowledge that this is a very serious litigation relating to matters of substance.”

After Lord Brailsford departed from the case, Lord Malcolm took the case.

Lord Malcolm is chiefly known for failing to reveal a conflict of interest in relation to a £6million damages claim against construction firm Advance Construction Ltd (Scotland) – who was represented by none other than the judge’s own son – Ewen Campbell, a suspended but now reinstated Sheriff – Peter Watson, and the Glasgow based law firm – Levy and Mcrae who were previously accused in connection with a £28million pound writ by the liquidators of Heather Capital.

A full report on Lord Malcolm’s conflict of interest in the claim against Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd can be found here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders

The trail of judge swapping – leading to at least four judges who have now heard this case in the Court of Session, and the silent replacement of Lady Wolffe with Lady Wise, and then Lord Arthurson – continues to raise serious questions as to why there are no written references to any note of recusal made by Lady Wolffe in the Register of Recusals published by the Judicial Office.

Given the fact Lady Wolffe clearly holds a conflict of interest in the case – in which one of the core participants in the action is her own husband – the Lord Advocate – the public are entitled to see a note of recusal entered into the Register of Recusals referring to a case in which she was scheduled to hear and decide on legal action against her own husband.

Both the Judicial Office and Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service did not issue any comment prior to DOI’s report on developments in the case, which can be viewed here: CRY WOLFFE: Judicial Office hit with new conflict of interest claims as Court of Session papers reveal £9 million damages claim against Chief Constable & Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC was set to be heard by the Lord Advocate’s wife – Judge Lady Wolffe

A report on Lady Sarah Wolffe’s role in the sequence of events and her initial appointment to decide on the claim against her own husband, featured in aSunday Mail newspaper investigation, here:

Lord Advocate’s judge wife was set to oversee case brought against him by former Rangers administrator

Lady Sarah Wolffe was originally scheduled to oversee a hearing in David Whitehouse’s £9m lawsuit against Lord Advocate James Wolffe.

By Craig McDonald 24 DEC 2017

A former Rangers administrator’s £9million lawsuit against Lord Advocate James Wolffe was given an emergency judge swap – after it emerged the case was originally handed to his wife.

David Whitehouse, 51, is suing Wolffe, Police Scotland chief Phil Gormley and prosecutor Liam Murphy amid claims he was “unlawfully detained” during an investigation into Craig Whyte’s doomed 2011 club takeover.

Court officials had to draft in a replacement judge when they realised Wolffe’s wife Lady Sarah Wolffe was scheduled to sit on the bench for a procedural hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last month.

The late switch from Lady Wolffe was ordered after the conflict was discovered.

Lady Morag Wise was asked to take her place, although the hearing eventually went ahead in front of Lord Paul Arthurson.

Yet another judge, Lord Neil Brailsford, was on the bench when the case was called again earlier this month. It is scheduled to go ahead next year.

The removal of Lady Wolffe is not noted in the official list of judicial recusals – where a judge declines jurisdiction – as it was reallocated before it was called in court.

A Scottish courts spokesman said: “Lady Wolffe was assigned to hear procedural matters in a number of cases on November 15.

“One of those cases was listed on the court rolls as David Whitehouse v Liam Murphy and others.

“Subsequently, when the papers were checked by the Keeper’s office, it became apparent the Lord Advocate was the third defender and, accordingly, the case was reallocated to a different judge.

“The case was initially reallocated to Lady Wise but, having regard to the level of business and in order to avoid unnecessary delay to the parties, was ultimately dealt with by Lord Arthurson.”

Whitehouse and colleague Paul Clark were arrested during the Rangers probe but charges against the pair were later dropped.

They worked for Duff & Phelps, who were appointed as administrators of the club in February 2012. The business and assets of The Rangers Football Club plc, who entered liquidation later that year, were sold to a consortium led by Charles Green for £5.5million.

Police launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the takeover. Whyte was cleared of fraud by a jury at the High Court in Glasgow in June.

Lawyers acting for Whitehouse claimed their client was “unlawfully detained” by detectives in November 2014. They also said that, throughout the period of detention, there were no reasonable grounds to suspect he had broken the law.

Whitehouse claims police and prosecutors didn’t follow correct legal procedure and his arrest damaged his reputation and caused him significant loss of income.

The defenders in the action, including the chief constable and Lord Advocate, claim correct legal procedure was followed and want his case to be dismissed.

 

 

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JUDGE THE JUDGE: In public and on camera, Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh demonstrate public, media & elected politicians have a right to know & question views of candidates for the judiciary

Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces Senate Committee. FOR THREE days this week, citizens in the United States of America, and anyone across the globe has been able to tune into the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary nomination hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh – for a position on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)

The hearings, broadcast via C-SPAN – the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network – have been a regular occurrence for several years now, airing to the public hearings where elected senators of the US Senate are able to quiz nominees for judicial posts in the US – including those nominated by the sitting President for a position on America’s top court.

After the death of Justice Anthony Scalia in in 2016, and the blocking of former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to join the US Supreme Court, President Trump has already succeeded in adding one Justice – Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – in April 2017.

Now, President Trump’s second nomination to SCOTUS – Judge Brett Kavanaugh – who has stirred up significant controversy amid allegations of thousands of papers being withheld from scrutiny during his involvement in previous White House administrations – looks likely to be confirmed, despite concerns on Kavanaugh’s responses to significant issues of public concern raised by the minority Democratic Party Senator members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without examining who did what and when – and there is a lot of this to consider – the fact these hearings take place in public, where members of the judiciary are rightly quizzed by democratically elected representatives in a national legislature as to their views on law, legal precedents, their past work, experience, and so on – is a bonus to transparency, public awareness of the law, the courts, and the role of the judiciary,

The Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh are available at the following links, for viewing:

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 1)

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 2)

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 3)

Among several shorter clips of the hearings posted by C-Span, is the series of questions from Senator Kamala Harris to Judge Kavanaugh – which is well worth watching – here:

Exchange between Sen. Harris and Judge Kavanaugh on Mueller Investigation (C-SPAN)

For more on the hearings, events at the US Supreme Court, and campaigning groups calling for reform of accountability and transparency at the US Supreme Court, please visit the excellent website of FIX THE COURT.

Fix the Court is a national, non-partisan grassroots organization created to take the Supreme Court to task for its lack of accountability and transparency and to push Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s eight associate justices to enact basic yet critical reforms to make the court more open and honest.

It educates the American people about the many problems plaguing the court and its justices and is building a movement of conservatives, independents and progressives demanding change with a common voice.

For more information on the reforms Fix the Court is pursuing, click here.

An interview with Fix the Court’s Executive Director – Gabe Roth – can be found online here: US Supreme Court: Is life tenure too long?

JUDICIAL SELECTION IN SCOTLAND – SECRECY RULES:

A world away from the United States & Senate Committees quizzing members of the judiciary, here in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, judicial recruitment and appointments more or less come down to members of the judiciary appointing members of the legal profession, often personally known to them – to plush, well salaried, powerful positions within Scotland’s judiciary.

Judicial Appointments in Scotland – as demonstrated by the appointment of Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) to what became little more than a simple elevation of Carloway as Lord Justice Clerk to that of the grandiose title of Lord President and Lord Justice General – aka Scotland’s top judge – are a behind closed doors process which the public, media, elected representatives have absolutely no role to play, or right to see.

All that the public, Scottish Parliament MSPs and media were able to inspect of Carloway’s appointment, were disclosed in a Freedom of Information request, published by DOI in April 2016

SECRETLY SELECTING A PRESIDENT, SO SECRETLY:

How judges select Scotland’s judges – in secret The selection panel for the office of Lord President – of which Lady Dorrian was a member – considered five candidates for the position of Scotland’s top judge – according to papers released by the Scottish Government in response to a Freedom of Information request by the media.

While there was significant speculation during 2015 that a female judge would be appointed to the top judicial post of Lord President, the unpredicted shift away from a male only top judge did not happen this time around.

Responding to queries, the Scottish Government refused to disclose the genders & diversity information relating to any of the candidates for the top job, citing privacy concerns.

Written exchanges between civil servants and the selection panel reveal a short listing meeting was held on 1 September 2015. The panel considered that two applicants Lord Carloway  [Redacted] merited an interview on the basis of the quality of their applications.

The panel agreed that given the level of appointment, candidates needed to be able to demonstrate that they met the criteria to an exceptional degree [Redacted].

The content of the selection panel’s report recommending Lord Carloway for the nomination of Lord President, was completely censored by the Scottish Government.

Emails between Scottish Government show First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had decided on Lord Carloway’s nomination as Lord President around 18 November 2015. Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President was finally made public a month later in December 2015.

The disclosure, heavily redacted, and composed of twenty two short pages of meagre detail – are a far cry from public judicial nominations in the United States, handled by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

And, there is a reason for this – revealed by none other than Lord Carloway’s former boss – Lord Brian Gill – who was described by Lord Neuberger during a valedictory speech in London as an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ – just weeks before Gill’s secret divorce of his long time wife was revealed in the Scottish Sun newspaper.

During early November 2015, Lord Gill – who had stood down after a testy, tumultuous three year term as Lord President in which he battled overwhelming backing for a register of judicial interests – finally gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament, and on the subject of judicial recruitment, Brian Gill told MSPs of his complete disdain for the US Justice system, attacking the way in which judicial nominees had to face questions from those outside the judiciary’s carefully closeted world.

A full report on Gill’s ‘brass neck’ attack on how US Justices are nominated, was published in 2016 here: OPENNESS? LORD, NO: The day Scotland’s former top judge lashed out at America’s justice system, accusing US judges of financial ties to corporations & vested interests

Gill went a step further, slating the US Justice system itself in his response to MSP Angus MacDonald – in video footage available here:

Lord Brian Gill slams US judges – Top Scots judge claims US judiciary elected by vested interests

Official Record: Petitions Committee 10 November 2015

Angus MacDonald: Thank you. It was important to get that fundamental view on the record.

What is your view of the fact that the United States of America has successfully introduced a register of judicial interests? Has the system in the States increased public confidence in the judiciary?

Lord Gill: I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.

Angus MacDonald: I will not pick up on that particular point.

Has there been any evidence on the impact that the US system has had on the independence of judges or the way in which the media treats judges in the USA?

Lord Gill: I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates’ election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts. I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.

The full evidence session held at the Scottish Parliament with Lord Gill on 7 November 2015 can be viewed here: Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015 with a full report and transcript of the meeting here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests.

In between refusing to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament, Lord Brian Gill spent his time on international travel, and giving a lecture on judicial ethics while on a taxpayer funded state visit to Qatar – a country not known as a haven of transparency or human rights.

Lord Gill’s Qatar expedition funded by public cash is reported in further detail here: LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree.

A year on from the confrontation between Lord Gill and the Scottish Parliament – only after two refusals to give evidence – MSPs await to hear from Scotland’s current top judge Lord Carloway – who, like his predecessor, given an equally hostile opinion on the very notion of judicial transparency and requirements of judges to declare their interests.

A recent report on Lord Carloway’s opposition to judicial transparency can be found here: Top judge Lord Carloway hits out at judicial interests register proposal.

The proposals before the Scottish Parliament received cross party backing from MSPs during a full debate at Holyrood during October 2014 – Debating the Judges – call for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, 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.

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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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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