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Category Archives: Law Society of Scotland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn.”

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

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

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

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

When responses are received, MSPs will consider further action.

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

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

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members indicated agreement.

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

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Lord Carloway,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register of recusals

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

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

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

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

Register of financial interests

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

These arguments have included—

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely: Johann Lamont MSP Convener

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

Judges register backed by MSPs to become law

Martin Hannan Journalist 23 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATTLE TO BRING IN JUDGES’ REGISTER

Sunday Mail 25 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUDGE LIST IS BACKED

Scottish Sun 23 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

A further report in The National newspaper:

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

Martin Hannan Journalist 22 March 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you find this information helpful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEATHER CAPITAL £28M CIVIL CLAIM ENDS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Records from the Court of Session reported:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE COURTS OF NORWAY:

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

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

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

What is registered?

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

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

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

  • One-off lectures and the like.

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

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

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

  • Employment in private or public sector companies.

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

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

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

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

How Norway’s Judiciary works:

Background:

Independence of the Courts

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

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

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

How independence is guaranteed

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judges cannot be dismissed

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

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

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

The Courts must have the people’s confidence

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

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

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

A brief history of the Norwegian courts

The Viking Age

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

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

The High Middle Ages

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

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

The Union period

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

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

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

The separation of powers and the Norwegian Constitution

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

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

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

The suspension came after Gill demanded sight of the writ.

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

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

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

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

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

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[21]      In the Levy Mcrae case:

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

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

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

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

Lord Glennie stated in his opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

COLLAPSE OF FIVE YEAR CROWN OFFICE PROBE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scottish Sun reports:

WRIT HITS THE FAN

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

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

By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 15 February 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bench ban for sheriff linked to fraud probe

Lawman, 61, suspended

By RUSSELL FINDLAY 25th February 2015, Scottish Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lawyer Peter Watson still suspended despite case ending

Martin Hannan Journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law.

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

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

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

 

 

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TOP COP SECRETS: Transparency lacking at Police Scotland as spy scandal cops refuse to disclose files on complaints & historical sexual assault case details involving Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone

Police Scotland refused to disclose secret files on top cop. SCOTLAND’S single national Police service – Police Scotland has refused to disclose details of secret files on a case involving allegations of sexual assault against the force’s most senior office – Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.

The force also refused to disclose any non-disclosure agreements which may have been part of any settlement of the case – which ultimately led to the female officer leaving her job,

And, the information has been categorised as so sensitive, Police Scotland refuse to confirm if the files even exist.

The move came in relation to Freedom of Information requests seeking details of information held by Police Scotland on accusations and allegations of sexual assault made by a female Police Officer against current DCC Iain Livingstone during his time in Lothian and Borders Police.

Also sought for disclosure was information contained in any discussions or misconduct hearings in relation to these allegations and information contained in any admissions by Iain Livingstone with regards to these allegations and, any information contained in any non-disclosure agreements, termination of employment, resignation or retirement of any persons or Police Officers making these allegations against Iain Livingstone.

However a statement from Police Scotland in response to the Freedom of Information request refused any form of disclosure or acknowledgement of the status of any files held by Scotland’s single national Police service – who said:

“Police Scotland endeavours to provide information whenever possible. However, under section 18(1) of the Act, a public authority may refuse a request where:

• if the information existed and was held by the authority, it would be exempt from release under any of Sections 28 to 35, 38, 39(1) or 41 of the Act; and

• the authority considers that to reveal whether the information exists, or is held by it, would be contrary to the public interest.

In this instance, it is considered that to reveal whether the information you have requested exists, or is held by Police Scotland, would be both exempt from release under the Act and contrary to the public interest. There is a strong public interest in protecting individuals’ privacy, and personal information is exempt from release into the public domain under section 38 of the Act if it would be unfair, unlawful or otherwise breach the Data Protection Act.

For these reasons, Police Scotland must refuse your request under section 18(1) of the Act.

This notice should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you have requested exists or is held.”

Issues surrounding the allegations of sexual assault made by a female Police Officer against Iain Livingstone while he served at Lothian & Borders Police in 2003 resurfaced during recent scrutiny of Police Scotland over the past year.

Livingstone was however, cleared of the allegations by a hearing chaired by another senior Police officer – John McLean, Strathclyde assistant chief constable. The Police led hearing on allegations against Police Superintendent Livingstone established there had been no sexual impropriety or intent on Mr Livingstone’s part.

However, interest in the 2003 case and details surrounding it has resurfaced – after the single Police service – created by the Scottish Government in 2013 – was hit by several scandals including numerous suspensions of senior officers, allegations of Ministerial meddling with ultimately led to the ousting of Chief Constable Phil Gormley, and the ongoing probe into senior officers use of a surveillance unit within Police Scotland to illegally spy on journalists & cops.

At the time of the sexual assault allegations in 2003, Iain Livingstone, 37, was working as an aide to Scotland’s most senior police officer, Sir Roy Cameron, at Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, when he was suspended in February 2003 over the claims – which arose from a drunken party at the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan.

It was reported at the time that Iain Livingstone – previously a solicitor and member of the Law Society of Scotland – had been suspended for 17 months after the WPC claimed she had been sexually assaulted during the party.

Five allegations of serious sexual assault made by the female Police officer against Livingstone were dismissed – but, at an internal misconduct hearing, Mr Livingstone admitted less serious allegations, including being in the woman’s room overnight after falling asleep.

A qualified lawyer and member of the Law society of Scotland, Mr Livingstone switched careers in 1992, joining Lothian and Borders Police. In just 10 years, he reached the rank of superintendent.

Livingstone was ultimately demoted from superintendent to constable following the disciplinary hearing, although is now in the position of caretaker Chief Constable of Police Scotland, while the Scottish Government attempt to find another ‘suitable’ candidate to fill the Chief Constable post vacated by Phil Gormley.

However, recent interest in the case surfaced after it emerged DCC Iain Livingston was being promoted to fill the Chief Constable slot vacated by Gormley – who had effectively been ousted from his job after Justice Secretary Michael Matheson intervened in a decision taken by the Scottish Police Authority to allow Mr Gormley to return to work

And, it later emerged that during evidence given by Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, neither Livingstone or the Justice Sub Committee Convener John Finnie declared they knew each other, after papers revealed Mr Finnie had represented Mr Livingstone when he was cleared of the sexual misconduct claims in 2003.

In a further refusal to disclose information on the current top cop in Scotland, Police Scotland refused to reveal any information in relation to additional complaints made against Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone.

And, again, Police Scotland refused even to confirm if such information was held – this despite information already available in the public arena including discussions on social media platforms relating to additional complaints made against DCC Livingstone by Police Officers.

A request for information relating to numbers of complaints, subject of complaints, and identities (not name, but by rank, status as Police Officer, civilian employee, member of the public or other) – who have made complaints (and the numbers of complaints) against current DCC Iain Livingstone from 1 April 2013 to the date of this FOI request and the status, and outcomes of these complaints – resulted in the following response from Police Scotland, with a refusal to disclose:

“Police Scotland endeavours to provide information whenever possible. However, under section 18(1) of the Act, a public authority may refuse a request where:

• if the information existed and was held by the authority, it would be exempt from release under any of Sections 28 to 35, 38, 39(1) or 41 of the Act; and

• the authority considers that to reveal whether the information exists, or is held by it, would be contrary to the public interest.

In this instance, it is considered that to reveal whether the information you have requested exists, or is held by Police Scotland, would be both exempt from release under the Act and contrary to the public interest. There is a strong public interest in protecting individuals’ privacy, and personal information is exempt from release into the public domain under section 38 of the Act if it would be unfair, unlawful or otherwise breach the Data Protection Act.

For these reasons, Police Scotland must refuse your request under section 18(1) of the Act.

This notice should not be taken as conclusive evidence that the information you have requested exists or is held.”

And, it emerged in February of this year that during evidence given by Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee, neither Livingstone or the Justice Sub Committee Convener John Finnie declared any previous links to each other while Livingstone testified before MSPs.

A report in the Sunday Mail newspaper in February revealed Mr Finnie – previously a serving Police Officer and representative for the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) – had represented Mr Livingstone when he was cleared of the sexual misconduct claims in 2003.

The issue was reported by the Sunday Mail newspaper here:

Green MSP under fire after failing to reveal sex case link to top cop Iain Livingstone

John Finnie failed to tell MSPs he represented the acting chief constable when he was cleared of sexual misconduct.

By Mark Aitken 18 FEB 2018

John Finnie failed to tell MSPs he represented Iain Livingstone

A Green MSP is facing questions over his connection with Scotland’s acting chief constable.

Former police officer John Finnie failed to tell fellow MSPs he had represented Iain Livingstone when he was cleared of sexual misconduct.

He failed to declare the link at a meeting of Holyrood’s justice committee when Livingstone was being questioned.

Finnie spent 14 years as an official for the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) – the organisation who represent police officers up to the rank of chief inspector.

Livingstone, the frontrunner to replace Phil Gormley as Scotland’s chief constable, was acccused in 2004 of sexually assaulting a female police officer.

Livingstone admitted falling asleep in the woman’s room at the Scottish Police College in Tulliallan, Fife, after a drunken party in 2000.

Iain Livingstone was accused of sexually assaulting a female police officer in 2004

At an internal hearing, more serious allegations were dropped.

Livingstone, who was then a superintendent, was demoted to constable but won his job back on appeal. Livingstone’s appeal was backed by the SPF.

Finnie said at the time that the case had highlighted “the ease with which the system can be abused and the punitive consequences which affect not only the officer but their family”.

At Holyrood’s justice committee in January, Finnie quizzed Livingstone about staffing levels and said losing chief officers was one of the benefits of creating a single police force.

Scottish Labour justice spokesman Daniel Johnson said: “John is a valued colleague on the justice committee but I am alarmed that he did not see fit to declare this link with the acting chief constable.

“Police Scotland are in desperate need of scrutiny – and the public will expect such scrutiny to be conducted professionally.

“I would urge him to correct the record and to ensure he declares interests fully and promptly in future.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives added: “He also owes parliament an explanation as to why he neglected to mention this very important link.”

Finnie began his career with Lothian and Borders Police in 1976 and moved to Northern Constabulary three years later.

He served as a full-time officer with the SPF from 1992 to 2006.

Finnie was elected as an SNP MSP in 2011 but quit the party the following year in protest at the decision to end their long-standing opposition to Nato membership.

Finnie and the Greens failed to respond to the Sunday Mail’s calls.

It has since come to light there are a number of non disclosure agreements in force which relate to Police Officers and others connected to Policing in Scotland, a matter now being probed by the media for further reporting.

 

 

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LOOK AFTER THE LAWYERS: Law Society proposals to pro-lawyer legal review seek to reclaim control of regulation & complaints, appoint ‘window dressing’ ombudsman & criminalise ‘misuse’ of the word “lawyer”

Law Society proposal retakes control of regulating lawyers. AMID a series of failures by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) to clean up poor standards of legal services and deal with complaints against solicitors, the Law Society of Scotland are proposing the return of control of regulation to the legal profession.

Earlier this week, and with sights set firmly on retaking control of the floundering SLCC,- the Law Society of Scotland submitted a series of proposals for ‘reforming regulation’ to the ‘independent’ review of legal services regulation – set up by the Scottish Government last year.

The move by the Law Society of Scotland comes amid a string of court setbacks for the SLCC involving Law Society backed challenges to the single regulator’s authority to hold solicitors to account for dishonesty, poor standards of legal service, overcharging & asset stripping of clients on an industrial scale.

However, the Scottish Government backed legal review group now hearing the Law Society’s proposals – was actually created in consultation with the Law Society itself, and is comprised of pro-lawyer decision makers from the world of ‘public appointments’ along with lawyers & advocates from the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates & Crown Office.

The ‘independent’ review panel – complete with an ‘independent’ chair are:  Christine McLintock – immediate past president Law Society of Scotland, Alistair Morris – chief executive of the management board, Pagan Osborne (Law Society of Scotland), Laura Dunlop QC – Hastie Stables (Faculty of Advocates), Derek Ogg QC – MacKinnon Advocates (Faculty of Advocates), Neil Stevenson – chief executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, Nicholas Whyte – chair of Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, Ray Macfarlane –  chair of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, Jim Martin – outgoing Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Dr Dame Denise Coia – chair of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Prof Lorne Crerar – chairman, Harper Macleod LLP, Prof Russel Griggs – chair of the Scottish Government’s Independent Regulatory Review Group.

There is one sole ‘consumer representative’ on the review panel, listed as – Trisha McAuley OBE – independent consumer expert

Now, eager to wrestle power back from the SLCC on dealing with client complaints & consistent media coverage of woefully poor regulation of lawyers, the Law Society of Scotland has told the Scottish Government’s lawyer dominated review group that the current regulatory framework is “in drastic need of modernisation” and is “no longer fit for purpose”.

One of the key proposals from the Law Society, calls for the creation of yet another ‘independent legal role’ which would have oversight of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

The SLCC was created by the Scotitsh Government in 2008, with this year marking it’s tenth year in the role of single regulator of the legal profession.

However, the single regulation model has cost the Scots public dear – with the legal regulator burning through £30 million in complaints levies from solicitors – which are recovered from huge hikes in legal fees to clients.

The newly proposed role of Ombudsman – harking back to the vile days of the “Scottish Legal Services Ombudsman” would in practice – have to be filled by a person who is approved by the Law Society of Scotland and other vested legal interests.

The comparison with the former SLSO – which lacked any real powers and frequently backed away from holding the Law Society to account for mistakes, would render the newly proposed Ombudsman position of little real use to consumers, and more of a rubber stamp to lawyers eager to look after their colleagues in the face of complaints investigations.

The Law Society is also calling for the term “lawyer” to be protected in law –  in the same way the title “solicitor” is – where currently, it is a criminal offence for anybody to pretend to be a solicitor.

The move comes in the face of increased competition in business from companies & individuals who can call themselves a “lawyer” but are not qualified to the point of being a solicitor.

However, there are a number of cases were suspended or struck off solicitors have, or currently are still using the term “solicitor” to con unsuspecting members of the public out of tens of thousands of pounds of legal fees – including legal aid – yet the Law Society and SLCC have taken no action against these “solicitors” who still claim to be on the solicitors roll.

A press release from the Law Society of Scotland claims the wide-ranging reforms it has submitted, on behalf of it’s own members, will allow it to keep pace with global developments within the sector and improve consumer protection.

However, over the ten years since the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission came into being, at a cost of around £30 million pounds in complaints levies recouped from hikes in legal fees to clients, the SLCC, Law Society and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal have all miserably failed to protect consumers from rogues in the legal profession who are the cause of over 1000 complaints every year to legal regulators.

The latest proposals from the Law Society – which in actuality seek to retake control of regulation – set out a series of recommendations in its submission to an independent review of legal services regulation which lawyers claim include expanding consumer protections to currently unregulated areas of legal services, regulating firms operating beyond Scotland and overhauling the legal complaints system, which it says is overly complex, expensive and lacks proper oversight.

The recommendations by the Law Society to the legal review panel whose members were approved by the Law Society, include:

  • expanding consumer protections to currently unregulated areas of legal services
  • better regulation of legal firms as entities in addition to the regulation of individual solicitors to better protect consumers
  • new powers to suspend solicitors suspected of serious wrongdoing
  • widening the Law Society’s membership to improve standards amongst other legal professionals
  • protection of the term ‘lawyer’ to mean those who are legally trained and are regulated

Graham Matthews, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “The Scottish legal sector is highly successful. It provides for over 20,000 high quality jobs and generates over £1.2 billion for the Scottish economy annually. However we have long argued for the need for reform to the current patchwork of regulation that governs legal services in Scotland.

“There has been enormous change within the sector in recent years and the current system – some of which is almost 40 years old – is struggling to meet the demands of today’s fast-changing legal market. That’s why we have called for completely new, flexible legislation which will allow much needed reforms and ensure we have a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose, addresses the challenges of modern legal practice – from cross-border working to technological advances enabling AI legal advice – and which puts protecting consumers at its core over the long term.

“We believe the scale of the changes needed justifies a new, single piece of enabling and permissible legislation that can adapt to changes within the sector over the next four decades and beyond. Any new prescriptive legislation, or simply making further amendments to existing legislation will quickly be outdated.”

The Law Society is seeking the ability to regulate law firms operating beyond Scotland and to strengthen its regulation of firms as entities, as well as its individual solicitor members.

Mr Matthews said: “There is a strong economic case for the Law Society being able to seek to become a regulator of legal services beyond Scotland, as having a single regulatory model for cross-border firms could make Scotland a more attractive jurisdiction for a firm to base its operations. Additionally, as firms must meet robust financial compliance and new anti-money laundering requirements are due to come into effect in June, it makes sense to extend the regulatory regime on a firm-wide basis to help improve consumer protection.”

Mr Matthews added that new legislation should encompass the unregulated legal advice sector.

He said: “No one knows the full scale of the unregulated legal sector, but many consumers who believe that they have obtained advice from a qualified, regulated legal professional only find out they have no recourse to redress when things go wrong. As we look to the future, there is no doubt that technological advances will mean increasing use of artificial intelligence in delivering legal services around the globe and it’s our view that any new regulatory framework must be flexible enough to make provision for this.”

In its submission, the Law Society has criticised the current legal complaints system as being complex and confusing and has called for the creation of an independent legal ombuds which would have oversight of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). Unlike the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates, the professional bodies for Scottish solicitors and advocates, which are overseen by the SLCC, there is nothing in law to stipulate oversight of the SLCC itself.

Mr Matthews said: “We want to streamline the complaints system, which for many is slow and overly bureaucratic, and have recommended that while the SLCC would continue to handle service complaints and the Law Society would continue to deal with all matters of professional discipline of Scottish solicitors, a key difference would be to allow either organisation to receive complaints and pass on those relevant to the other body to create a simpler, speedier and more cost effective process.

“Another critical improvement would be to introduce proper oversight of the SLCC. While the SLCC must submit its draft budget to the Scottish Parliament each year and ministers can make recommendations, they do not actually have the power to interfere with its budget or operation. This has led to significant, above-inflation hikes in the annual levy on Scottish solicitors for the past two years. Having an independent ombudsman would also simplify the appeals process and make it much less costly than the current process of taking appeals to the Court of Session.”

Summary of recommendations

  • The repeal of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 and those parts of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 which relate to the regulation of legal services and for the introduction of new enabling and permissible legislation for the regulation of legal services in Scotland and the Scottish solicitor profession, with the flexibility to move with the times and which allows for proactive regulation to ensure consumer protections remain robust.
  • Amending those sections of the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010 which relate to the regulation of legal services and the Scottish solicitor profession to address the difficulties in interpretation and application.
  • A new regulatory framework allowing for the flexibility for the Society to seek approval from the Legal Services Board to be an authorised regulator for those multi-national practices operating in Scotland. 
  • That any new regulatory framework makes provision for the regulation of legal services provided remotely by artificial intelligence.
  • Retaining an independent professional body for the regulation and professional support of the Scottish solicitor profession.
  • Retaining a separate and independent discipline tribunal for decisions in serious cases of professional misconduct.
  • That all legal service providers providing services direct to the consumer be regulated, strengthening consumer protections and enhancing consumer confidence in the Scottish legal sector.
  • That the term ‘lawyer’ be a protected term, in the same way as solicitor, and only those able to demonstrate recognised legal qualifications, and who are regulated, are permitted to use the term.
  • That primary legislation provides the permissible powers for the Law Society of Scotland to extend entity regulation to those firms wholly owned by solicitors.
  • That a new system for dealing with complaints about legal services and solicitors is introduced, recognising the paramount aim to protect consumers whilst allowing the Society to continue to deal with the professional discipline of its members, and adopting relevant processes to make the system speedy, effective and efficient whilst recognising the differences between consumer redress and professional discipline.
  • That primary legislation provides for the permissible power for the Law Society of Scotland to open up membership to non-solicitors.

In the Law Society of Scotland’s Public Relations  strategy to retake control of complaints – Leading Legal Excellence, the legal profession sets out their ambition to secure what they call a modern, flexible and enabling legislative framework.

The Law Society Press Release also states: “Most of the legislation covering the operation and regulation of the legal market is over 35 years old. It’s increasingly out of date and unfit for purpose.  Whilst some reforms were brought in 2007 and 2010, the whole framework can be confusing and, in some cases, contradictory.

“That is why we believe new legislation is needed to better protect consumers and allow the Scottish legal services market to thrive.”

REGULATION REVIEW:

An independent review of the regulation of legal services was announced by the Minister of Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Annabelle Ewing on 25 April 2017.

The purpose of the review will be to make independent recommendations to reform and modernise the framework for the regulation of legal services and complaints handling.  The review is intended to ensure a proportionate approach to regulation that supports growth in the legal services sector.  It should also place consumer interests firmly at the heart of any system of regulation, including the competitive provision of legal services.  The review will focus on the current regulatory framework, the complaints and redress process for providers of legal services including solicitors and advocates, and ongoing market issues such as investigating the benefits of regulating firms as well as individual solicitors.

A full report on the Scottish Government’s review of legal services – unmasked as a lawyer dominated pro-self regulation panel – can be found here: REGULATED REVIEW: Scottish Government panel to look at self regulation of lawyers – Former Cabinet Minister calls for review to include judiciary, and panel membership to strike ‘better balance between lawyers & non-lawyers’

The panel members who make up the so-called ‘independent’ review of legal services include:

*Two former Presidents of the Law Society of Scotland;

* The current Chief Executive of the pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission;

* An outgoing Scottish Public Services Ombudsman widely criticised for ineptitude;

* The current chair of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT) – who struck off only six solicitors last year;

* The chair of a law firm whose partners have regularly appeared before the SSDT;

* A QC from an advocates stable where colleagues have been linked to a cash payments scandal;

* A former Crown Office Prosecutor & QC linked to events in the David Goodwillie rape case – where the victim was forced to sue her assailant through the civil courts after the Lord Advocate refused to prosecute the footballer.

More recently, MSPs who sit on the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee were subject to calls to delay their investigation of petitions calling for fully independent regulation of the legal profession in Scotland.

Proposals before the Scottish Parliament calling for views on scrapping self regulation of the legal profession in Scotland received representations from Scottish Ministers , the Chair of a pro-lawyer review panel and a Law Society-backed legal regulator – calling for MSPs to back off from investigating regulation of legal services.

Unsigned letters from the Scottish Government, the Chair of an ‘independent’ review group dominated by lawyers, and the pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) – call on members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee to wait until the end of a two year review – conducted by lawyers – before MSPs conduct any independent investigation of lawyers investigating themselves.

However, when the Scottish Government created the ‘independent’ review last April, 2017, former Cabinet Minister Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) said the ‘independent’ review created by the Scottish Government, should include judges – and the membership of the review team should be expanded to balance up the panel’s current top heavy legal interests membership.

And, in a case related to significant failures of legal regulation, Alex Neil  branded the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC)  “a toothless waste of time” – after the legal services regulator failed to act in a high profile case involving a senior QC – John Campbell – who is caught up in a cash payments scandal – which has since led to information provided to journalists on other Advocates & QCs who have demanded & pocketed substantial and apparently undeclared cash sums from clients.

Video footage of the Petitions Committee’s deliberations on proposals submitted by the public to reform regulation of legal services in Scotland, can be viewed here:

Regulation of legal profession reform – Public Petitions Committee 21 September 2017

A full report on recent submissions to the Public Petitions Committee can be found here: LOOKING OUT FOR LAWYERS: Scottish Ministers unite with lawyer dominated review panel & pro-lawyer legal regulator – to urge Holyrood MSPs delay probe on proposals for independent regulation of legal services

 

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TRIBUNAL INTERESTS: As MSPs consider way forward for Judicial Interests Register, calls grow to include wealthy, well connected Tribunal members as Lord Carloway appoints 28 Tribunal judges

Tribunals – dominated by wealthy, powerful individuals & professional groups. AMID recent moves in a Scottish Parliament investigation considering a way forward for judges to register their interests, an ongoing media probe of individuals and professional groups who dominate tribunals has revealed ties between tribunal judges and solicitors found guilty of professional misconduct.

In one case, an employment tribunal judge who has featured in several controversial tribunal decisions has been found to have links to a lawyer found guilty of  professional misconduct by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT).

The lawyer, who escaped penalty was found guilty by the SSDT in respect of misleading the Royal Bank of Scotland as to the purpose of obtaining loan funds from the Bank on the basis that they were required to purchase a property in Scotland when the truth was that they were required to purchase a property in an EU country.

The solicitor involved in the deception case , and now linked to the Employment tribunal judge – advertises himself as an “employment law specialist”.

In a further case currently being probed by the media, a second tribunal judge has been found to have links to an Edinburgh law firm accused of embezzling tens of thousands of pounds from client accounts, in a complaint which is currently under investigation by legal regulators.

The two cases of potential conflicts of interest for Tribunal judges, and emerging cases of other conflicts of interest at tribunals come as the Judicial Office announced in January the appointment of twenty eight Tribunal judges – without any declarations of interest or background.

Earlier this month, the Judicial Office announced the appointment of fourteen new Employment Judges to the panel of judges of Employment Tribunals (Scotland).

By virtue of the power conferred upon the Lord President by regulation 8 of the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013, Lord Carloway appointed Claire Marie McManus, Muriel Robison and Mark David Whitcombe as salaried Employment Judges.

Ms McManus and Ms Robison were appointed with effect from 1 January 2018, while Mr Whitcombe’s appointment will take effect from 5 March 2018.

The Lord President has also appointed the following 11 persons as Employment Judges on a fee-paid basis, for the five-year period from 15 January 2018 until 15 January 2023: Neil Antony Buzzard, Sally Emma Cowen, David William Hoey, Amanda Crawford Jones, Paul Dominic McMahon, Roderick Murdoch McPherson, Declan John O’Dempsey, Peter George O’Donnell, Melanie Jane Sangster, Michelle Diane Sutherland, Giles Ian Woolfson

A further round of appointments of Pensions Tribunal judges was made earlier today, revealing another fourteen new members have been appointed by Lord Carloway to the Pensions Appeal Tribunal for Scotland.

The Lord President appointed David McNaughtan, advocate; Robert Milligan QC; David Short, solicitor; and Nick Gardiner, advocate, as Legal Members.

Lord Carloway has also appointed the following persons to the tribunal: Service Members: Col. Stuart Campbell, Lt. Col. William Lindsay, Col. Pat Wellington, Ft.-Lt. Lee Bryden

Medical Members: General Medical: Dr. James O’Neill, Dr. Richard Hardie, Dr. Taru Patel

Psychiatric: Dr. Tim Dalkin, Dr. Paul Cavanagh, Dr. Ross Hamilton

The appointments came into effect on 11 January 2018 under the powers conferred upon the Lord President by paragraph 2 of the Schedule to the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act 1943.

The selection process for both round of appointments followed a closed-doors recruitment exercise calling for applications from suitably qualified individuals who wished to be considered for appointment.

Currently, not one member of any tribunal is required to declare their interests in a published register of interests – despite their position as a judge, deciding on cases before them where they could have a vested interest in the outcome.

a call has been made for all tribunal members to declare and register their interests.

The manner in which tribunals are created and governed in Scotland, is a familiar model of professionals within the same groups and spheres of influence – awarding jobs to colleagues, the favoured, and vested interests.

A no expenses spared approach for tribunal members who tow the line is often the case, enhanced with office accommodation such as the new tribunals centre being created in Glasgow at 3 Atlantic Quay, a high-quality office development close to the River Clyde in the centre of the city.

In October 2017, the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) confirmed they and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have decided to rationalise their accommodation and move jointly into the new centre – which is being rented out at nearly £2million a year from the Moorfield Group and partners Resonance Capital.

The moves planned to start next year will also mean that accommodation is ready for the tribunals that are going to be devolved to the SCTS.

Members of tribunals are recruited by the Judicial Appointments Board (JAB) during appointments rounds regularly held to fill vacancies in the murky world of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and Judiciary of Scotland.

Applicants face interviews from their peers across the legal, professional, charitable and public service world & industries awash with public cash, junkets, charity interests, coaching, arbitration & consultancy profits.

Successful candidates are subsequently appointed by Scottish Ministers.

An example of a recent appointments round run by the Judicial Appointments Board saw 30 new Legal Members and 19 Ordinary Members appointed by the Scottish Ministers to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland and assigned to the Housing and Property Chamber by the President of Scottish Tribunals, Lady Smith.

A full report on the earlier appointments round can be found here: TRIBUNAL REGISTER: Calls for transparency as legal & wealthy, well connected interests dominate Tribunals system membership – Register of Recusals & Interests should be extended to cover all Tribunals in Scotland.

Coverage of recent calls to create a full register of interests for all tribunal members can be found in an earlier report here: TRIBUNAL INTERESTS: Calls for wealthy, well connected interests & professions who dominate tribunals & appeals system to be brought into line with transparency & declarations in published register of interests

The National reported on the issue of creating a register of interests for tribunal members in October 2017:

Call for change to tribunals – Legal campaigner says recusal register myst be extended

Martin Hannan Journalist 14 October 2017 The National

THE man who is leading the transparency campaign for Scotland’s judges to register their interests now says the idea should be extended to everyone who sits on a public tribunal.

Peter Cherbi will shortly pass the five-year mark in his campaign via the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee for there to be a judicial register of interests, similar to those registers already in existence to which all elected politicians and police officers must conform.

The register proposal has been strongly resisted by senior judges and other top lawyers, but is supported by politicians from all parties – the Petitions Committee has taken considerable amounts of evidence and is due to debate the plan again shortly.

Now Cherbi, who is well-known in Scottish legal circles for his blogging and campaigning for reform of the Scots law system, says that tribunal members should also have to declare their interests.

Under the present system of appointments to tribunals it is up to members themselves to declare an interest if, for example, they have personal relationships with those appearing before them, and step aside from a case – known as recusal.

There has been considerable re-organisation of the tribunal system in Scotland since the Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 simplified the statutory framework.

The First-tier Tribunal is organised into a series of chambers. From December 1, 2016, the Housing and Property Chamber was established and took on the functions of the former Home Owner and Housing Panel and the Private Rented Housing Panel.

From April 24 this year, the Tax Chamber was established and took on the functions of the former Tax Tribunals for Scotland.

The Upper Tribunal hears appeals from the First-tier Tribunals and the head of the whole system is Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord President, Lord Carloway, with the Rt Hon Lady Smith as president of the Scottish Tribunals.

Others tribunals include the Mental Health Tribunal, the Additional Support Needs Tribunal, the Council Tax Reduction Review Panel and the Lands Tribunal. More tribunals will come with greater devolved powers but employment tribunals are still under the control of the Westminster Government.

Cherbi says all such public tribunals should be open and transparent about their members’ interests and points out that there is no register of recusals for any of the tribunals.

He said: “As should the judiciary now declare their interests in a publicly available register, members of tribunals who are engaged in the business of judging others should declare their full interests and any instances of recusals in a publicly available register.

“The business of judging others – for it surely has become a business over the years – must now be subject to the same public expectation of transparency and accountability as tribunals apply to those appearing before them.

“The public, the media and our democratically elected politicians in our Parliament, as well as those who are judged, have the right to view, be informed about, and inspect those who judge society with unchallenged power in equal light.

“And this is not just about Scottish Tribunals. Take for instance DLA appeals and PIP appeals. The tribunal structure which covers those are riven with huge, wealthy interests, yet there is no register and no ability for those appearing before them to inspect those who sit in judgement upon their claims.

“I looked at a Department of Work and Pensions Tribunal comprising a surgeon, a lawyer and a ‘disabled’ tribunal member – accumulated wealth between the three, their partners and businesses and properties totalled well into the millions, yet claimants, some with no limbs who are struggling to claim an extra £30 a month, get knocked back while tribunal members are paid expenses and remuneration and we know nothing of it.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We consider that a specific register of interests is not needed. Existing safeguards, including the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Interests and the system of complaints against the judiciary, are sufficient to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary in Scotland.”

YOUR TRIBUNAL: A publicly funded adversarial environment full of vested interests:

Next year, tribunals will move to an expensive new home in the centre of Glasgow.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) are to rationalise accommodation in Glasgow and the new Tribunals Centre will be located at 3 Atlantic Quay.

The SCTS claim the 34 hearing rooms for cases to be heard, the design of the centre will provide excellent facilities for all tribunal users, and specific  support for young users with additional support needs.  Additionally, the centre will provide facilities for vulnerable witnesses to give evidence to both Glasgow Sheriff Court and the High Court.

During 2018, the SCTS-supported Housing and Property and Health and Education Tribunal Chambers will move into the new Centre. The HMCTS-operated social security tribunal will move at a similar time with other tribunals HMCTS services to follow at a later date.

The SCTS provides support to many of Scotland’s devolved tribunals and is making preparations for the future transfer of the UK reserved tribunals operations in Scotland, currently provided by HMCTS.

If you have any experience before any of these Tribunals, or information in relation to cases, Diary of Injustice journalists would like to hear about it. All information and sources will be treated in strict confidence, contact us at scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

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.

Previous reports on moves to publish judicial recusals in Scotland and a media investigation which prompted further reforms of the Scottish Register of Judicial Recusals can be found here: Judicial Recusals in Scotland – Cases where judges have stood down over conflicts of interest

 

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