RSS

Category Archives: Scottish Law

DISHONESTY, LORD: Files reveal Lord Carloway misled Holyrood Committee on involvement of judges’ relative in Court of Session claim – witness statement exposes direct role of Ewen Campbell in £6M land case heard by his father – judge & privy councillor Lord Malcolm

Lord Carloway misled MSPs on judicial probe. DOCUMENTS released to an ongoing probe of claims made by Scotland’s top judge at Holyrood – now reveal Lord Carloway deliberately misled MSPs in evidence relating to the involvement of a relative of a senior Court of Session judge in a £6million court case.

The files – in the form of a witness statement from Advocate Ewen Campbell – who is Lord Malcolm’s son –  directly contradict statements by Lord Carloway – to the Public Petitions Committee and MSP Alex Neil in a hearing on 29 June 2017.

During the evidence session – Lord Carloway faced questions from Mr Neil on the Court of Session case – where judge & Privy Councillor Lord Malcolm (real name Colin Campbell QC) – heard a land contamination case – up to EIGHT TIMES while his own son represented the defenders – Advance Construction Scotland Ltd in the same court room.

In response to questions from the MSP, Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) furiously claimed that Lord Malcolm’s son DID NOT have any “active involvement with the case whatsoever.”

However – a witness statement dated May 2013 – signed by Ewen Campbell – covering the time Campbell worked for Glasgow law firm Levy & Mcrae – contains a written admission Mr Campbell confirming he did in-fact represented the construction company, alongside lawyer Peter Black Watson – who was at the time a Sheriff and partner at the same law firm.

During the hearing, Alex Neil – MSP for Airdrie & Shotts – asked Lord Carloway: “If, in any case—without referring to a specific case—a close relative of a judge is participating in the case, rightly or wrongly, the perception is that there may be a degree of prejudice.”

Mr Neil said there were concerns the reputation of the judiciary should be protected and added: “I would argue that, certainly in at least one case recently, which we have referred to briefly, the perception is that there may have been unfairness and prejudice in the way in which the matter was conducted, particularly as the judge concerned was involved in the case not once but on a number of occasions.”

In response – a clearly flustered Lord Carloway claimed no such events had taken place.

Carloway took a strong line against the questions, and replied to the MSP stating: “I disagree entirely with your analysis of that particular case and I repeat what I said earlier. The case that you refer to did not involve the judge’s son having any active involvement with the case whatsoever.”

However – on page one of the released witness statement of Ewen Campbell – Mr Campbell confirms he did work for the defenders – Advance Construction.

Ewen Campbell states: “In September 2011 I was asked by Professor Peter Watson (witness) to assist in a new case in which we were to act for Advance Construction (Scotland) Limited (“Advance”).”

Ewen Campbell goes on to admit he worked on the case for nearly a year: “I assisted with this case until Friday 15th June 2012. At this point I ceased assisting Professor Watson as I was informed by Senior Counsel that I was a potential witness in the matter.”

The exchange between Alex Neil and Lord Carloway can be viewed here:

Alex Neil & Lord Carloway on conflict of interest case Scottish Parliament June 29 2017

The released witness statement of Ewen Campbell – the contents of which call into question the honesty of Lord Carloway’s evidence to MSPs, can be found here: Ewen Campbell – Witness Statement – Nolan v Advance Construction

Within the statement, Lord Malcolm’s son – who Carloway told MSPs had no involvement in the case – goes on at length to document numerous on-site visits he undertook at the behest of Carloway’s then judicial colleague – ex Sheriff Peter Watson, and on behalf of the client – Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

In just one example, Ewen Campbell states: “At approximately 4 p.m. I left Levy and McRae’s offices and attended at Branchal Road. I was driven by Ian Butler, a colleague at Levy Sc McRae. On arrival at the site I observed that a number of vehicles were at the gate of the site. Mr Butler and I therefore parked our vehicle just round the comer from the entrance of the site.”

Ewen Campbell is later forced to account for allegations a Grangemouth based firm – IKM Consulting Ltd – employed by Levy and Mcrae as their ‘experts’ in the case – dumped contaminated materials at a site owned by the pursuer – Mr Nolan.

Despite Lord Carloway’s abrupt statement that Lord Malcolm’s son did not have “any active involvement with the case whatsoever” – Ewen Campbell goes on to say in his witness statement he personally talked to a legal representative of the pursuer – and talked the solicitor down from his client’s initial allegation IKM Consulting Ltd dumped contaminated material during their on-site activities for Levy and Mcrae & Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

Ewen Campbell states: “I contacted [solicitor] regarding this who detailed that his clients had originally stated to him that IKM had dumped contaminated materials on the site but after further questioning reduced the allegation to having dumped soil like materials on site.”

Bizarrely, Lord Malcolm’s son adds within his statement he did not instruct IKM Consulting Ltd to dump any materials during their on-site activities under his supervision.

Campbell also admits to accepting additional instructions to work on the case in which Carloway claimed he played no active role in.

Ewen Campbell further stated: “Before I ceased assisting Professor Peter Watson in relation to this case, I was instructed on a number of occasions to prepare and send letters and emails to those acting on behalf of Mr Nolan.”

It should be noted that despite Ewen Campbell’s ‘account’ of events around the IKM Consulting incident – Advance Construction were subsequently forced to admit in the Court of Session before Lord Woolman that they had in-fact illegally dumped contaminated materials on Mr Nolan’s land.

Melanie Collins, partner of Mr Donal Nolan – who was the pursuer in Nolan v Advance – said: “I found Lord Carloway’s evidence to be entirely dishonest during his responses to out MSP Alex Neil. I was astounded by how he misled Mr Neil and the entire committee on what happened in our case and how we were treated very badly by Lord Malcolm and others.”

Last night, a legal expert who viewed the material and video footage from the Committee hearing, suggested it was difficult to see how Lord Carloway could make such a false statement to the Scottish Parliament and not expect to be asked to explain himself.

Commenting on the new evidence, the legal expert said: “I am concerned Scotland’s top judge feels secure enough in the environment of a Scottish Parliament hearing – and public expectation of transparency – to make such false and egregiously misleading claims.”

He continued: “The written evidence and records of multiple court hearings suggest Lord Carloway is entirely wrong, and is determinedly at odds with the facts of this case, in his account of events to the Public Petitions Committee and Mr Alex Neil.”

Now, Carloway’s account of events to Mr Neil and the Petitions Committee is to be submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee alongside a report on conflicts of interest of key stakeholders in Scotland’s justice system.

A full investigation into Ewen Campbells’s father – Lord Malcolm – and his  role in the Nolan v Advance case – including serious failures to declare conflicts of interest, is reported in further detail here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders.

The further revelations of Lord Carloway’s links to the land contamination case come after an earlier investigation revealed Lord Carloway failed to declare his own son – Alexander Colin Maclean Sutherland – also worked for the merged law firm of Addleshaw Goddard-HBJ Gateley – which was trying to evict a couple at the centre of the case raised by Mr Alex Neil during the Committee hearing in 2017.

Mr Neil was invited to attend Committee hearing to quiz Lord Carloway on what legal experts say is one of the most serious cases of judicial conflict of interest in Scotland’s courts – Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11.

In the outburst from the top judge, Lord Carloway said to Mr Neil: “The suggestion is that we should start registering what our relatives are doing, where they are working and matters of that sort, which I suspect would go way beyond even what is expected of politicians.”

Alex Neil replied to Lord Carloway, stating: “No—we have to register what close relatives do.”

Lord Carloway – clearly rattled by questions from Alex Neil and fellow MSPs about another top judge who concealed he heard a case involving his own son – hit out at Mr Neil and members of the Public Petitions Committee in video footage which can be viewed here: Lord Carloway –  Judges should not declare relatives interests   Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

The terse exchange – one of many in the evidence session – led to material obtained during a probe by journalists which revealed Lord Carloway’s son – Colin Alexander Maclean Sutherland – worked at the time for the merged law firm Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley – who became key players in the aftermath of Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

However – Lord Carloway did not declare this conflict of interest during the Holyrood hearing.

Instead; the top judge went on to attack other Committee members and Mr Neil – over their backing for a cross party supported petition to require judges to declare and register all their interests.

Minutes before the exchange, Carloway had even denied even receiving any communications from the couple at the centre of the case – however records show Carloway’s legal secretary – Roddy Flinn – now himself a Sheriff – sent acknowledgements to the couple on 24 May 2016.

Papers show Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley were acting on behalf of Kenneth Pattullo of insolvency practitioners Begbies Traynor – who were appointed by Advance Construction’s lawyers – Levy and Mcrae – to seize the home, land, a farm, and all assets of Ms Melanie Collins & retired National Hunt jockey Donal Nolan.

The couple took on Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd – over a land contamination incident on their land in Wishaw.

The construction company – owned by businessman Seamus Shields was ultimately forced to admit illegal dumping of material in the Court of Session case before judge Lord Woolman.

Roderick William Dunlop QC of Axiom AdvocatesEwen Campbell of Axiom Advocates and Peter Watson – now formerly of Glasgow based Levy & Mcrae – represented Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

It should be noted Peter Watson – who ran the case for Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd was later suspended for a record three years plus over his links to a £28M writ involving the £400M Heather Capital Hedge Fund collapse – and then resigned in 2019.

An earlier investigation of this case revealed when Lord Woolman (who heard the proof after the case was passed to him by Lord Malcolm) – stated in court papers that Mr Nolan had a case, John Campbell QC removed – without instruction – most of his client’s own case including over £4million and a claim for legal costs – after he had discussions with the current vice dean of the Faculty of Advocates – Roddy Dunlop QC.

A full report on how the couple’s legal representative in court – John Campbell QC reduced his own client’s financial claim almost to zero and without any instruction or consultation – can be found here: CASHBACK QC: Legal regulator’s files reveal senior QC reduced claim without instructions, withheld key evidence & witnesses including Cabinet Secretary from Court of Session case

A full report on Watson’s suspension from the judicial bench can be found here: CAPITAL JUDGE: As top judge suspends sheriff over £28m law firm writ alleging links to £400m Heather Capital collapse, what now for Lord Gill’s battle against a register of interests & transparency for Scotland’s judiciary

Watson’s suspension from the judicial bench lasted for over three years – a record term of suspension of a member of Scotland’s judiciary and ended with Watson’s resignation in 2019, reported in further detail here: SHERIFF WALKS: Scottish Courts confirm lawyer & part-time Sheriff Peter Watson – who was named in £28M Heather Capital writ linked to collapsed £400M hedge fund – resigned from the judiciary in 2018

The full exchange between Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) and Alex Neil MSP at the Public Petitions Committee can be viewed, with transcript, below:

Alex Neil questions to Lord Carloway Register of Judges interests Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): I apologise for being slightly late. I had to go to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. I apologise in advance if I cover ground that has already been covered.

Lord Carloway, as an issue of principle, do you think that it should be left only to a judge to decide whether they are going to recuse themselves, or should you or the keeper of the rolls be able to insist on recusal if you believe that there is a potential conflict of interest?

Lord Carloway: The short answer is that I do not believe that there is any problem with the current system, which is that the judge, who knows what his connection is to the case or the parties to it, should make the initial decision. That decision is made in open court, when the parties are present, and it is subject to review on appeal. In other words, if somebody is dissatisfied with that decision and if the litigant eventually loses the case, the decision will come before three judges who will review whether it was correct. If it was incorrect, the decision on the case would fall.

Alex Neil: The person bringing the case to court may not be aware of any conflict of interest that the judge may have and may never find out that there was one, but the judge may well have been influenced by a particular interest. Surely that is not right. If there is any potential conflict of interest, surely there should be a declaration or commitment by the judge, making an explicit statement that there is no conflict of interest. People may not have the resources to appeal, for example. Is the system not balanced against people who come to court for justice?

Lord Carloway: No, it is not. I go back to something that I mentioned earlier, which is very important. Scotland does not have a corrupt judiciary. The matter has been examined by independent persons, notably the GRECO anti-corruption body that operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe, which examined the UK judiciary, including the Scottish judiciary. It was clear that, fortunately, we, as distinct from many other countries, do not suffer from corruption in the judiciary. For that reason, it did not consider that a register of interests was necessary. If one introduces such a measure, one has to be satisfied that it is necessary and also that it is proportionate. If one analyses its proportionality, one has to look at what exactly we are guarding against. If the situation were to be that there was corruption in the Scottish judiciary—which we would discover at some point or another—of course we would have to consider measures to prevent that, one of which might be a register of certain interests. Until such time as it is demonstrated that there is corruption in the Scottish judiciary, I am entirely satisfied that there is no requirement for a register of interests and that it would be positively detrimental to the administration of justice, particularly in relation to the recruitment of judges and especially at the higher level of the judiciary.

Alex Neil: I want to draw a parallel with the register of interests that members of the Scottish Parliament have to sign and regularly update. That came about not because of any allegations or belief that the system was corrupt or that members of the Scottish Parliament are corrupt. In the 18 years that we have been here, I have not heard one allegation of corruption. The register is there not because of allegations of corruption but to ensure that there is no prejudice. If I participate in a debate and I have an interest that I have not declared, I will be open to an allegation not of corruption but of prejudice. Because there is a register of interests and because I have to declare interests in a debate or in a committee meeting such as this one, there is a transparency to ensure that I do not act in a prejudicial fashion.

To go back to the case that Mr MacDonald cited as I came in—the case of Advance Construction and Donal Nolan, in which Lord Malcolm’s son was involved as a lawyer for one of the parties—the issue there was not an allegation of corruption but one of possible prejudice or perception of prejudice. That is a very good example of why either a register of interests or a more robust system of recusal—or perhaps both—might serve the judiciary very well.

Lord Carloway: I am satisfied that Lord Malcolm’s actions were entirely honourable and that he acted in accordance with the code of judicial ethics. I am not sure what is—

Alex Neil: Have you investigated it?

Lord Carloway: I am aware of the background to it.

Alex Neil: No, but have you investigated it?

Lord Carloway: I have read the papers that it involves.

Alex Neil: With all due respect, Melanie Collins and Donal Nolan have written to you on numerous occasions, and at no time have you replied to them, let alone met them, so you have not heard the other side of the case.

Lord Carloway: I am sorry, but I am not aware of letters to me by those particular persons.

Alex Neil: Your office—

The Convener: Alex, let us be careful that we do not get into anything specific on that.

Alex Neil: Yes—absolutely. My point is about how Lord Carloway can reach that conclusion if he has not heard the other side.

Lord Carloway: I have read documents emanating from the persons that you have mentioned. As far as I am aware, they were not addressed to me, but I could be wrong about that. The position is that I am aware of the circumstances of the case. I am satisfied that Lord Malcolm’s conduct was entirely correct in the circumstances. That is part of the problem that you have perhaps highlighted. That case has nothing to do with a register of pecuniary interests. The suggestion is that we should start registering what our relatives are doing, where they are working and matters of that sort, which I suspect would go way beyond even what is expected of politicians.

Alex Neil: No—we have to register what close relatives do.

Lord Carloway: Can I deal with the difference between MSPs and the judiciary, which I think I dealt with earlier this morning? It is quite a different function. A politician is by nature someone who is not independent in the sense that the public expect the judiciary to be. That is not a criticism; it is a reality. As a generality, judges do not deal with the type of issues that politicians deal with. Politicians have executive power. They are dealing with major economic interests of one sort or another. As a generality, judges are not dealing with that type of thing. They are dealing with issues that are usually between private individuals but can be between private individuals and Government or others. Judges are not dealing with the type of issues that politicians are dealing with such as planning inquiries and so on at a local level or major economic development in society as a whole.

The need for independence in the judiciary is different from the kind of independence that a politician requires, because with a politician it is primarily, as Alex Neil has pointed out, about issues of a pecuniary nature. Those are not the issues that arise in most of the recusal cases with which we are concerned. What we are concerned with as judges is that we appear to be independent of all connection with the case. It is not a question of having a pecuniary interest.

If one looks at the register of recusals in the past year, I do not think that any of them were to do with pecuniary interest at all. They were to do with social connections with people—whether someone is a friend; whether a party to the litigation is a friend of a friend; and matters of that sort. Those are the types of situations that are raised by people in the practical reality of litigation and those are the issues that are being dealt with. Unless you are suggesting a register of one’s friends—and presumably, therefore, one’s enemies—the real issue with recusal in the judicial system would not be addressed.

The Convener: Last question, please, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil: If I can just finally draw the parallel between our register and what has been talked about in terms of either recusal or financial interest, MSPs—as individuals and collectively—do not have executive power per se unless they are ministers, but what is very important is the perception of fairness and the perception that justice is being carried out.

If, in any case—without referring to a specific case—a close relative of a judge is participating in the case, rightly or wrongly, the perception is that there may be a degree of prejudice. It might be very unfair, but the point is to try to ensure that the excellent reputation of the judiciary down the years in Scotland is retained. That reputation is not just for not being corrupt, which we all accept—we are not accusing anybody of corruption. The perception of fairness and the perception of not being prejudiced are also extremely important. I would argue that, certainly in at least one case recently, which we have referred to briefly, the perception is that there may have been unfairness and prejudice in the way in which the matter was conducted, particularly as the judge concerned was involved in the case not once but on a number of occasions.

Lord Carloway: I disagree entirely with your analysis of that particular case and I repeat what I said earlier. The case that you refer to did not involve the judge’s son having any active involvement with the case whatsoever. We have very clear rules in our statement of principles of judicial ethics on how to deal with such matters and it is made very clear in that statement that if a relative is the advocate in the case before one, the modern approach is that the judge should not hear the case, or one could put it another way round—the relative should not be presenting the case. Whichever way it happens to be put, the situation that we had 20 or 30 years ago, when it was commonplace for the relatives of judges of one sort or another to be advocating the case, no longer exists.

That practice no longer exists not because it was thought that there was any actual problem with the decision making but, as you say, because of a perception of unfairness. There is a clear judicial rule about that and I am not aware of any case in which it has been breached. I myself have been in a situation in which my son was involved in a firm that was litigating before me. In such a case, the judge would be expected to declare it and the parties would then decide whether to take the point. However, if they took the point and the relative just happened to be a member of the same firm operating in a different department, I would not encourage the judge to recuse himself.

The Convener: There are no final questions, so I thank you very much for your evidence. It has been helpful to clarify many of the issues that you presented to us in written evidence and to have an opportunity to explore some of the issues around prejudice, for instance.

An earlier investigation revealed Lord Carloway failed to declare his son was linked to the same case: JUDGE OF CONFLICT: Top judge who attacked MSPs over judicial interests probe – failed to declare relative’s role at law firm targeting MSP’s constituents’ home & farm in £6M court case linked to Lord Malcolm conflict of interest scandal

A report being compiled for an investigation of judges’ conflicts of interest by Holyrood’s Justice Committee –  has revealed Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway –  concealed a critical conflict of interest while giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament on a proposal to create a register of judges’ interests.

Lord Carloway’s failure to declare his own link to a case he initially claimed to know little of – while answering questions from MSP Alex Neil – was made all the more serious after the top judge himself openly attacked Mr Neil and other members of a Holyrood committee –  for daring to suggest judges should declare their relatives interests in a planned register of judges’ interests.

The report on Lord Carloway’s testimony to Holryood’s Public Petitions Committee will reveal that Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) did NOT declare to MSPs that his own son – Alexander Colin Maclean Sutherland – also worked for the merged law firm of Addleshaw Goddard-HBJ Gateley – which was trying to evict a couple at the centre of the case raised by Mr Alex Neil during the Committee hearing in 2017.

The exchange between Lord Carloway and Alex Neil – one of many in the evidence session – led to material obtained during a probe by journalists which revealed Lord Carloway’s son – Colin Alexander Maclean Sutherland – worked at the time for the merged law firm Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley – who became key players in the aftermath of Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

However – Lord Carloway did not declare this conflict of interest during the Holyrood hearing.

Instead; the top judge went on to attack other Committee members and Mr Neil – over their backing for a cross party supported petition to require judges to declare and register all their interests.

Minutes before the exchange, Carloway had even denied even receiving any communications from the couple at the centre of the case – however records show Carloway’s legal secretary – Roddy Flinn – now himself a Sheriff – sent acknowledgements to the couple on 24 May 2016.

Papers show Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley were acting on behalf of Kenneth Pattullo of insolvancy practitioners Begbies Traynor – who were appointed by Advance Construction’s lawyers – Levy and Mcrae – to seize the home, land, a farm, and all assets of Ms Melanie Collins & retired National Hunt jockey Donal Nolan.

A recent perusal of Mr Sutherland’s online legal biography at Ampersand Advocates and the Faculty of Advocates – does not mention his time at the merged firm of Addleshaw Goddard-HBJ Gateley in his online legal career:

Alexander Colin MacLean Sutherland BIO:

Year of Call: 2018; Since calling to the Bar in June 2018, Alex has developed a general practice centred on commercial law and public law, including judicial review and planning. He has appeared in the Court of Session, sheriff court and Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. He has also provided Opinions on a wide range of matters, including contractual disputes, insolvency and property.

Before calling to the Bar, Alex trained with a commercial firm in Edinburgh. He completed his LLB at Glasgow University in 2014 and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at Edinburgh University in 2015. Before then, he studied German and English Language at Edinburgh University, during which time he spent a year studying in Vienna.

He speaks fluent French and German and is well placed to undertake work involving consideration of documents in those languages.

Selected recent cases: Community Windpower Ltd v Scottish Ministers (ongoing): Inner House, Court of Session; For the appellants. Appeal against a Reporter’s decision. With Ailsa Wilson QC.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh v (1) Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal and (2) Council of the Law Society of Scotland [2019] CSOH 104; 2020 SLT 1: Outer House, Court of Session; For the petitioner. Judicial review of the first respondent’s decision on expenses.

Saadi v Whiterock Investments Ltd: Outer House, Court of Session; For the defenders. Pursuer seeking reduction of the decree awarding his sequestration.

Ford v The Firm of W&AS Bruce [2020] SC KIR 9: Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court; For the pursuer. Action of damages against a firm of solicitors for failing to advise the pursuer to include a survivorship destination when disponing half of his property to his partner. Debate on prescription.

NCS Office Services (Scotland) Ltd v Emtelle UK Ltd: Glasgow Sheriff Court (Commercial Action); For the defenders. Proof before answer on whether one of the defenders’ employees had authority to enter into a contract with the pursuers on behalf of the defenders.

Law Society of Scotland v WM: Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal; For the respondent. Preliminary hearing on whether the complaint should be dismissed due to excessive delay.

However, when Ampersand Advocates welcomed Alexander Sutherland to their stable in 2018 – Mr Sutherlands spell at Addleshaw Goddard did gain a mention, without reference to his father being Scotland’s top judge – here: Ampersand welcomes Alexander Sutherland

Ampersand is delighted to welcome Alexander Sutherland to the stable who called at the Bar today.

HOLYROOD SUPPORT FOR  REGISTER OF JUDGES’ INTERESTS:

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – originally lodged at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all 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.

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JUDGE OF CONFLICT: Top judge who attacked MSPs over judicial interests probe – failed to declare relative’s role at law firm targeting MSP’s constituents’ home & farm in £6M court case linked to Lord Malcolm conflict of interest scandal

Lord Carloway failed to declare link to judicial conflict case. A REPORT being compiled for an investigation of judges’ conflicts of interest by Holyrood’s Justice Committee – will reveal Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway –  concealed a critical conflict of interest while giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament on a proposal to create a register of judges’ interests.

Lord Carloway’s failure to declare his own link to a case he initially claimed to know little of – while answering questions from MSP Alex Neil – was made all the more serious after the top judge himself openly attacked Mr Neil and other members of a Holyrood committee –  for daring to suggest judges should declare their relatives interests in a planned register of judges’ interests.

The report on Lord Carloway’s testimony to Holryood’s Public Petitions Committee will reveal that Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) did NOT declare to MSPs that his own son – Alexander Colin Maclean Sutherland – also worked for the merged law firm of Addleshaw Goddard-HBJ Gateley – which was trying to evict a couple at the centre of the case raised by Mr Alex Neil during the Committee hearing in 2017.

Mr Neil was invited to attend Committee hearing to quiz Lord Carloway on what legal experts say is one of the most serious cases of judicial conflict of interest in Scotland’s courts – Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11.

In the outburst from the top judge, Lord Carloway said to Mr Neil: “The suggestion is that we should start registering what our relatives are doing, where they are working and matters of that sort, which I suspect would go way beyond even what is expected of politicians.”

Alex Neil replied to Lord Carloway, stating: “No—we have to register what close relatives do.”

Lord Carloway – clearly rattled by questions from Alex Neil and fellow MSPs about another top judge who concealed he heard a case involving his own son – hit out at Mr Neil and members of the Public Petitions Committee in video footage which can be viewed here:

Lord Carloway –  Judges should not declare relatives interests   Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

The terse exchange – one of many in the evidence session – led to material obtained during a probe by journalists which revealed Lord Carloway’s son – Colin Alexander Maclean Sutherland – worked at the time for the merged law firm Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley – who became key players in the aftermath of Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

However – Lord Carloway did not declare this conflict of interest during the Holyrood hearing.

Instead; the top judge went on to attack other Committee members and Mr Neil – over their backing for a cross party supported petition to require judges to declare and register all their interests.

Minutes before the exchange, Carloway had even denied even receiving any communications from the couple at the centre of the case – however records show Carloway’s legal secretary – Roddy Flinn – now himself a Sheriff – sent acknowledgements to the couple on 24 May 2016.

Papers show Addleshaw Goddard & HBJ Gateley were acting on behalf of Kenneth Pattullo of insolvancy practitioners Begbies Traynor – who were appointed by Advance Construction’s lawyers – Levy and Mcrae – to seize the home, land, a farm, and all assets of Ms Melanie Collins & retired National Hunt jockey Donal Nolan.

The couple took on Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd – over a land contamination incident on their land in Wishaw.

The construction company – owned by businessman Seamus Shields was ultimately forced to admit illegal dumping of material in the Court of Session case before judge Lord Woolman.

However – the couple’s £6million damages claim – led by John Campbell QC – ended badly after a series of undeclared conflicts of interest by some of Scotland’s most senior judicial figures, instances where judges were switched from hearing to hearing, a series of refusals of legal costs claims, and denied requests to appeal in Edinburgh, and at the UK Supreme Court in London.

In a sequence of discussions and a meeting between Campbell and defenders counsel Roddy Dunlop QC which took place after Lord Woolman stated in court that Mr Nolan had a valid claim – John Campbell QC embarked on a series of unauthorised actions – and destroyed his own client’s case – by removing most of the financial claim – without consultation or obtaining permission to do so.

A recent probe established John Campbell – who agreed to act on a no-win-no-fee basis in the case – then went on to scam his client Mr Nolan for hundreds of thousands of pounds in unexpected legal fees, while also demanding thousands of pounds at a time – in cash – which the senior QC and now Edinburgh Quaich Project Charity Boss insisted on collecting in person

A full investigation of Campbell’s fee scam and the Faculty of Advocates role in concealing undeclared cash payments to Campbell is reported in further detail here: CASH ADVOCATE: £9K consultations & £75K meetings – Edinburgh Quaich Project Charity QC Boss scammed clients on no-win-no-fee deal – Faculty of Advocates files reveal extent of Advocates cash-for-fees HMRC tax dodge scam

Mr Nolan and his partner remain constituents of MSP Alex Neil – who has followed and supports their efforts to have the case re-opened, as well as an investigation into events.

Since the sequestration of Mr Nolan and his partner took place, after the conclusion of their court case, the couple have been the victim – of what some view as revenge for daring to take on a company with public contracts who illegally dumped hazardous waste on their land, where this same company was and is represented by law firms directly linked to senior figures in Scotland’s judiciary.

Mr Nolan and his partner have been evicted from their own home, lost their farm and land.

And – a deliberate, targeted fire attack on Mr Nolan’s stables at a farm in 2019 which resulted in the death of several horses –  is still under investigation by Police Scotland.

Sources believe the deliberate arson attack on the couple’s Morningside Farm which featured in news reports of the tragic discovery of burned bodies of dead horses – is linked to the couple’s sequestration and setbacks in court.

And, recently, evidence has come to light of burned out vehicles possibly connected to the incident which were photographed located at a premises linked to potential suspects.

Now, there are calls for an independent, public inquiry into events which occurred during the case, the role of Advance Construction, and events in the Court of Session including involvement of certain law firms and members of the judiciary who – according to court files – deliberately concealed conflicts of interest across multiple court hearings in the case.

The case – Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd has attracted significant publicity in the press and is part ongoing probe into judicial conflicts of interest – resulting in the naming of several judges who failed to declare documented conflicts of interest in the case

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee, and recently, the Justice Committee have received and considered evidence in relation to the actions of Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC) who himself failed to declare he heard the case up to eight times while his own son – Ewen Campbell – was in the same court, representing the defenders – Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

The investigation into the Lord Malcolm case of serious failures to declare conflicts of interest, is reported in further detail here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders.

Minutes before Lord Carloway hit out at Alex Neil over suggestions judges declare links to their relatives interests, the top judge snapped at the MSP stating: “I am satisfied that Lord Malcolm’s actions were entirely honourable and that he acted in accordance with the code of judicial ethics.”

However, the court record does show Lord Malcolm heard the case on multiple occasions while his son was in court – and new evidence has emerged from witness statements indicating Lord Malcolm’s son had also visited the site of the land contamination incident – which contradicts claims from the top judge & judicial office that Ewen Campbell had nothing to do with the case.

The original papers from Hamilton Sheriff Court in 2011 indicate that when a Sheriff Millar transferred the case to the Court of Session to be heard by Lord Malcolm – Ewen Campbell – Lord Malcolm’s son – was also present at that same hearing on 30 September 2011, along with Gavin Walker – who is a QC at Axiom Advocates.

An ongoing investigation into the case has now revealed Levy and Mcrae, representing Advance Construction in their pursuit of Mr Nolan & his partner – then sought a hearing on 14 April 2015 – to swap the original appointment of the Accountant in Bankruptcy in the sequestration of the elderly couple – to Begbies Traynor and Mr Pattullo.

That hearing took place at Hamilton Sheriff Court before the SAME Sheriff Millar – who heard the couple’s initial claim against Advance Construction in 2011 and then transferred it to be heard by Lord Malcolm in the Court of Session.

However, records show that by the time of this hearing in 2015 – accountants KPMG had already been appointed by the Accountant in Bankruptcy to handle the sequestration of Mr Nolan and his partner Ms Collins – and it can not be easily explained away by the Accountant in Bankruptcy as to why KPMG were swapped out of the sequestration for Levy and Mcrae’s choice of Begbies Traynor and Kenneth Pattullo.

Events around Levy & Mcrae’s motivated appointment of Begbies Traynor and Mr Pattullo – are now the subject of calls for an investigation by the couple’s MSP and legal experts – after it emerged assets owned by the couple which were held by the Clydesdale Bank, were transferred without notification to an offshore vulture fund known as Promantoria Ltd.

And – information has now come to light that land and assets formerly owned by the couple which were seized by Mr Pattullo & Begbies Traynor on behalf of Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd – are now in the ownership of several persons of interest in relation to ongoing investigations of events which have occurred around Mr Nolan and his partner as a result of the collapse of their valid Court of Session claim.

The Judicial Office for Scotland were asked for comment on the following media enquiry:

“In relation to claims made by Lord Carloway to MSP Alex Neil at yesterday’s Public Petitions Committee in relation to declaring the interests of close relatives, and Lord Carloway’s mention of a son in the legal profession, can the Judicial Office confirm if Lord Carloway’s son currently works at Addleshaw Goddard LLP which has merged with HBJ Gateley.”

“On being provided with information HBJ Gateley is a pursuer in relation to obtaining decree with a view to evicting a Ms Melanie Collins & a Mr Donal Nolan from properties in Wishaw, does the Judicial Office or Lord President wish to comment on Lord Carloway’s testimony yesterday that entering the details of close relatives work in a register is going way beyond what is being proposed in terms of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary.”

“And, in view of the claims made in relation to above, does the Judicial Office or Lord President see this as a matter which should be made clearer to the Petitions Committee after yesterday’s mention of the case during open session and Lord Carloway’s comments?”

“Finally, does the Judicial Office or Lord President have any further comment on Lord Carloway’s evidence to the Petitions Committee, and any further comment on the Petition itself?

Baktosch Gillan, who was the Acting Head of Judicial Communications at the time, gave the following reply: “In relation to your first question, the Judicial Office does not hold that information.”

Mr Gillan added: “We have nothing further to add to the Lord President’s evidence to the committee.”

To confirm Mr Sutherland’s position at Addleshaw Goddard during the time Lord Carloway gave his evidence to Holyrood in 2017, a search of the Law Society of Scotland’s online database of solicitors was made.

Days before the query to the Judicial Office in relation to Lord Carloway’s son – the name of Alexander Sutherland appeared in the Law Society of Scotland’s online search results.

However, some time after the Judicial Office issued the statement denying they held any information on the Lord President’s son’s involvement with HBJ Gateley & Addleshaw Goddard, and a potential conflict of interest – a new search of the Law Society of Scotland’s database revealed they had removed the name of Alexander Sutherland and references to his service at Addleshaw Goddard from their online database search results – which are now published as part of this report here:

The full exchange between Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) and Alex Neil MSP at the Public Petitions Committee can be viewed, with transcript, below:

Alex Neil questions to Lord Carloway Register of Judges interests Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): I apologise for being slightly late. I had to go to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee. I apologise in advance if I cover ground that has already been covered.

Lord Carloway, as an issue of principle, do you think that it should be left only to a judge to decide whether they are going to recuse themselves, or should you or the keeper of the rolls be able to insist on recusal if you believe that there is a potential conflict of interest?

Lord Carloway: The short answer is that I do not believe that there is any problem with the current system, which is that the judge, who knows what his connection is to the case or the parties to it, should make the initial decision. That decision is made in open court, when the parties are present, and it is subject to review on appeal. In other words, if somebody is dissatisfied with that decision and if the litigant eventually loses the case, the decision will come before three judges who will review whether it was correct. If it was incorrect, the decision on the case would fall.

Alex Neil: The person bringing the case to court may not be aware of any conflict of interest that the judge may have and may never find out that there was one, but the judge may well have been influenced by a particular interest. Surely that is not right. If there is any potential conflict of interest, surely there should be a declaration or commitment by the judge, making an explicit statement that there is no conflict of interest. People may not have the resources to appeal, for example. Is the system not balanced against people who come to court for justice?

Lord Carloway: No, it is not. I go back to something that I mentioned earlier, which is very important. Scotland does not have a corrupt judiciary. The matter has been examined by independent persons, notably the GRECO anti-corruption body that operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe, which examined the UK judiciary, including the Scottish judiciary. It was clear that, fortunately, we, as distinct from many other countries, do not suffer from corruption in the judiciary. For that reason, it did not consider that a register of interests was necessary. If one introduces such a measure, one has to be satisfied that it is necessary and also that it is proportionate. If one analyses its proportionality, one has to look at what exactly we are guarding against. If the situation were to be that there was corruption in the Scottish judiciary—which we would discover at some point or another—of course we would have to consider measures to prevent that, one of which might be a register of certain interests. Until such time as it is demonstrated that there is corruption in the Scottish judiciary, I am entirely satisfied that there is no requirement for a register of interests and that it would be positively detrimental to the administration of justice, particularly in relation to the recruitment of judges and especially at the higher level of the judiciary.

Alex Neil: I want to draw a parallel with the register of interests that members of the Scottish Parliament have to sign and regularly update. That came about not because of any allegations or belief that the system was corrupt or that members of the Scottish Parliament are corrupt. In the 18 years that we have been here, I have not heard one allegation of corruption. The register is there not because of allegations of corruption but to ensure that there is no prejudice. If I participate in a debate and I have an interest that I have not declared, I will be open to an allegation not of corruption but of prejudice. Because there is a register of interests and because I have to declare interests in a debate or in a committee meeting such as this one, there is a transparency to ensure that I do not act in a prejudicial fashion.

To go back to the case that Mr MacDonald cited as I came in—the case of Advance Construction and Donal Nolan, in which Lord Malcolm’s son was involved as a lawyer for one of the parties—the issue there was not an allegation of corruption but one of possible prejudice or perception of prejudice. That is a very good example of why either a register of interests or a more robust system of recusal—or perhaps both—might serve the judiciary very well.

Lord Carloway: I am satisfied that Lord Malcolm’s actions were entirely honourable and that he acted in accordance with the code of judicial ethics. I am not sure what is—

Alex Neil: Have you investigated it?

Lord Carloway: I am aware of the background to it.

Alex Neil: No, but have you investigated it?

Lord Carloway: I have read the papers that it involves.

Alex Neil: With all due respect, Melanie Collins and Donal Nolan have written to you on numerous occasions, and at no time have you replied to them, let alone met them, so you have not heard the other side of the case.

Lord Carloway: I am sorry, but I am not aware of letters to me by those particular persons.

Alex Neil: Your office—

The Convener: Alex, let us be careful that we do not get into anything specific on that.

Alex Neil: Yes—absolutely. My point is about how Lord Carloway can reach that conclusion if he has not heard the other side.

Lord Carloway: I have read documents emanating from the persons that you have mentioned. As far as I am aware, they were not addressed to me, but I could be wrong about that. The position is that I am aware of the circumstances of the case. I am satisfied that Lord Malcolm’s conduct was entirely correct in the circumstances. That is part of the problem that you have perhaps highlighted. That case has nothing to do with a register of pecuniary interests. The suggestion is that we should start registering what our relatives are doing, where they are working and matters of that sort, which I suspect would go way beyond even what is expected of politicians.

Alex Neil: No—we have to register what close relatives do.

Lord Carloway: Can I deal with the difference between MSPs and the judiciary, which I think I dealt with earlier this morning? It is quite a different function. A politician is by nature someone who is not independent in the sense that the public expect the judiciary to be. That is not a criticism; it is a reality. As a generality, judges do not deal with the type of issues that politicians deal with. Politicians have executive power. They are dealing with major economic interests of one sort or another. As a generality, judges are not dealing with that type of thing. They are dealing with issues that are usually between private individuals but can be between private individuals and Government or others. Judges are not dealing with the type of issues that politicians are dealing with such as planning inquiries and so on at a local level or major economic development in society as a whole.

The need for independence in the judiciary is different from the kind of independence that a politician requires, because with a politician it is primarily, as Alex Neil has pointed out, about issues of a pecuniary nature. Those are not the issues that arise in most of the recusal cases with which we are concerned. What we are concerned with as judges is that we appear to be independent of all connection with the case. It is not a question of having a pecuniary interest.

If one looks at the register of recusals in the past year, I do not think that any of them were to do with pecuniary interest at all. They were to do with social connections with people—whether someone is a friend; whether a party to the litigation is a friend of a friend; and matters of that sort. Those are the types of situations that are raised by people in the practical reality of litigation and those are the issues that are being dealt with. Unless you are suggesting a register of one’s friends—and presumably, therefore, one’s enemies—the real issue with recusal in the judicial system would not be addressed.

The Convener: Last question, please, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil: If I can just finally draw the parallel between our register and what has been talked about in terms of either recusal or financial interest, MSPs—as individuals and collectively—do not have executive power per se unless they are ministers, but what is very important is the perception of fairness and the perception that justice is being carried out.

If, in any case—without referring to a specific case—a close relative of a judge is participating in the case, rightly or wrongly, the perception is that there may be a degree of prejudice. It might be very unfair, but the point is to try to ensure that the excellent reputation of the judiciary down the years in Scotland is retained. That reputation is not just for not being corrupt, which we all accept—we are not accusing anybody of corruption. The perception of fairness and the perception of not being prejudiced are also extremely important. I would argue that, certainly in at least one case recently, which we have referred to briefly, the perception is that there may have been unfairness and prejudice in the way in which the matter was conducted, particularly as the judge concerned was involved in the case not once but on a number of occasions.

Lord Carloway: I disagree entirely with your analysis of that particular case and I repeat what I said earlier. The case that you refer to did not involve the judge’s son having any active involvement with the case whatsoever. We have very clear rules in our statement of principles of judicial ethics on how to deal with such matters and it is made very clear in that statement that if a relative is the advocate in the case before one, the modern approach is that the judge should not hear the case, or one could put it another way round—the relative should not be presenting the case. Whichever way it happens to be put, the situation that we had 20 or 30 years ago, when it was commonplace for the relatives of judges of one sort or another to be advocating the case, no longer exists.

That practice no longer exists not because it was thought that there was any actual problem with the decision making but, as you say, because of a perception of unfairness. There is a clear judicial rule about that and I am not aware of any case in which it has been breached. I myself have been in a situation in which my son was involved in a firm that was litigating before me. In such a case, the judge would be expected to declare it and the parties would then decide whether to take the point. However, if they took the point and the relative just happened to be a member of the same firm operating in a different department, I would not encourage the judge to recuse himself.

The Convener: There are no final questions, so I thank you very much for your evidence. It has been helpful to clarify many of the issues that you presented to us in written evidence and to have an opportunity to explore some of the issues around prejudice, for instance.

A recent perusal of Mr Sutherland’s online legal biography at Ampersand Advocates and the Faculty of Advocates – does not mention his time at the merged firm of Addleshaw Goddard-HBJ Gateley in his online legal career:

Alexander Colin MacLean Sutherland BIO:

Year of Call: 2018; Since calling to the Bar in June 2018, Alex has developed a general practice centred on commercial law and public law, including judicial review and planning. He has appeared in the Court of Session, sheriff court and Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal. He has also provided Opinions on a wide range of matters, including contractual disputes, insolvency and property.

Before calling to the Bar, Alex trained with a commercial firm in Edinburgh. He completed his LLB at Glasgow University in 2014 and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at Edinburgh University in 2015. Before then, he studied German and English Language at Edinburgh University, during which time he spent a year studying in Vienna.

He speaks fluent French and German and is well placed to undertake work involving consideration of documents in those languages.

Selected recent cases:
Community Windpower Ltd v Scottish Ministers (ongoing):
Inner House, Court of Session;
For the appellants. Appeal against a Reporter’s decision. With Ailsa Wilson QC.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh v (1) Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal and (2) Council of the Law Society of Scotland [2019] CSOH 104; 2020 SLT 1:
Outer House, Court of Session;
For the petitioner. Judicial review of the first respondent’s decision on expenses.

Saadi v Whiterock Investments Ltd:
Outer House, Court of Session;
For the defenders. Pursuer seeking reduction of the decree awarding his sequestration.

Ford v The Firm of W&AS Bruce [2020] SC KIR 9:
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court;
For the pursuer. Action of damages against a firm of solicitors for failing to advise the pursuer to include a survivorship destination when disponing half of his property to his partner. Debate on prescription.

NCS Office Services (Scotland) Ltd v Emtelle UK Ltd:
Glasgow Sheriff Court (Commercial Action);
For the defenders. Proof before answer on whether one of the defenders’ employees had authority to enter into a contract with the pursuers on behalf of the defenders.

Law Society of Scotland v WM:
Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal;
For the respondent. Preliminary hearing on whether the complaint should be dismissed due to excessive delay.

However, when Ampersand Advocates welcomed Alexander Sutherland to their stable in 2018 – Mr Sutherlands spell at Addleshaw Goddard did gain a mention, without reference to his father being Scotland’s top judge – here: Ampersand welcomes Alexander Sutherland

Ampersand is delighted to welcome Alexander Sutherland to the stable who called at the Bar today.

Before calling to the Bar, Alex trained with Addleshaw Goddard LLP, formerly HBJ Gateley. During his seat in the firm’s dispute resolution department, he gained experience of a wide range of litigation in both the Court of Session and the sheriff court, including real estate and insolvency litigation. He also had seats in the real estate and corporate recovery departments.

Alex completed his LLB at Glasgow University in 2014 and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice at Edinburgh University in 2015. Before then, he studied German and English Language at Edinburgh University, during which time he spent a year studying in Vienna.

Alex’s interests lie primarily in the fields of commercial and public law. As a devil he also gained experience of planning. His principal devilmaster was Ampersand’s Laura-Anne van der Westhuizen.

He speaks fluent French and German and is well placed to undertake work involving consideration of documents in those languages.

On Alex’s arrival, Head Clerk Alan Moffat said “I am delighted that Alex has joined us. He comes with a great reputation from his time at a top firm and has been highly praised during his time on the devils course. I am very sure he will continue to impress at the Bar and expect him to be a great addition to the stable.”

In the first part of the time-honoured two-stage admission ceremony, the Dean of Faculty, Gordon Jackson, QC, said the public office of advocate carried real privileges and corresponding responsibilities.

“You have become part of a great national institution which has played, throughout its existence, a very significant role in the legal and cultural life of this nation. As a member of Faculty you will play your own particular part in the future of that institution,” he added.

In the second part of the ceremony, before Lord Clark in the Court of Session, Alex along with 6 other new calls made the declaration of allegiance.

Lord Clark said: “It is a genuine pleasure and a privilege to welcome you as members of the Faculty of Advocates and to congratulate you on this great achievement. The Faculty has long been an important and distinguished organisation. It has commonly attracted some of the ablest minds of each generation, and it continues to thrive.

“It is truly one of the great features of our society that the general public, businesses and other organisations have at their disposal people like you – independently-minded advocates who will take on and fight their causes.

“I very much hope that you thoroughly enjoy your work at the Bar and the camaraderie of your colleagues.”

Alex is a welcome addition to the depth of counsel on offer at Ampersand.

HOLYROOD QUEST FOR A REGISTER OF JUDGES’ INTERESTS

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – originally lodged at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all 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.

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

CASH ADVOCATE: £9K consultations & £75K meetings – Edinburgh Quaich Project Charity QC Boss scammed clients on no-win-no-fee deal – Faculty of Advocates files reveal extent of Advocates cash-for-fees HMRC tax dodge scam

John Campbell no fee no win court deal was turned against client. A TOP QC recently appointed to head an Edinburgh Charity £25million scheme redeveloping Princes St Gardens – is at the centre of calls for a tax probe – after newly released files reveal he used the Faculty of Advocates to demand huge fees – on a case he originally agreed to work on a no-win-no-fee basis.

Documents recovered from Faculty Services Ltd reveal John Campbell QC – of Themis Advocates – demanded payments of well over £100,000 – for a land contamination claim – contrary to an earlier agreement Campbell made with his clients where the fee would ONLY be taken from any settlement upon success in the Court of Session case.

However – the £6million claim led by John Campbell QC – ended badly after a series of undeclared conflicts of interest by some of Scotland’s most senior judicial figures, instances where judges were switched from hearing to hearing, denial of legal costs claims & denied appeals.

Campbell then effectively destroyed his own client’s case – by removing most of the financial claims without consultation or permission to do so.

Now – there are now calls for a full investigation by tax authorities of all transactions involving Scottish Advocates – after new evidence indicates fee documents from the Faculty of Advocates were altered – to cover up a series of undeclared cash payments Campbell demanded from his clients.

In one of a series of Faculty Services statements – files reveal John Campbell demanded £75,000 for ‘unspecified’ meetings on the case he had already agreed to work on the no-win-no-fee arrangement in Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11.

In another entry on the same statement – the senior Campbell QC – sometimes described as a ‘leading Scots legal figure’ – demands a staggering £9,000 for ONE single consultation.

Campbell also inserts a demand for £33,360 for ‘reviewing productions’ and preparing his fee – even though he had already agreed there would be NO fee if he didn’t win the case.

Another £6,300 is then charged up by Campbell for a further review of papers and ‘preparation of case’.

Given the outcome of the case, and what has since happened to Campbell’s clients as a result of his role as their legal representative – the fee statements appear to contravene the no-win-no-fee deal agreement between John Campbell and his clients.

And – in digital evidence now held by journalists, Campbell states the payments he pocketed from clients despite the no win no fee deal – include work undertaken by his Junior Counsel Craig Murray.

Craig Murray now works as a barrister in London at 12 King’s Bench Walk Chambers – and maintains a seat at Compass Chambers in Edinburgh.

A full report on Craig Murray’s involvement in the case, and his role in writing two versions of evidence to legal regulators can be found here: ADVOCATE PROBE: How legal regulators covered up for top QC – Files show Scots Advocate now working as Barrister in London – authored two versions of SAME letter for Faculty probe of cash scandal QC who failed clients in £6M Court of Session case

It should be noted – despite accounts from Campbell and the Faculty of Advocates demanding hundreds of thousands of pounds from Mr Campbell’s clients – on a case Campbell himself destroyed in court – both John Campbell QC and Craig Murray have now DELETED all references to the Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd case from their online biographies documenting their respective legal careers.

A study of additional statements from Faculty Services Ltd currently being undertaken by a law accountant – highlights references in the newly released files to ‘undated’ sums, and credit notes for payments which were in fact – never made.

In one credit note from Faculty Services Ltd – the sum of £5000 – without any date reference is stated as paid.

However, a solicitor dealing directly with the case DENIED the undated £5,000 amount had been paid to Faculty Services Ltd – and a review of the accounts confirm NO such payment was ever made.

The undated £5K credit note listed in the documents – and other unexplained entries – appear to have been created by Faculty Services Ltd with a deliberate intention to conceal tens of thousands of pounds in undeclared cash payments Campbell demanded from his clients.

The fee statements & accounts from Faculty Services Ltd now raise serious questions of how far up the involvement of figures in the Faculty of Advocates in this case stretches – after an earlier investigation established Campbell was pocketing large payments he personally insisted on collecting in cash filled envelopes from his clients in £5,000 bundles.

Written evidence recovered from files held by legal regulators revealed Campbell himself sent emails to his clients – demanding large payments in cash to pay himself and junior counsel Craig Murray.

An email from John Campbell to his clients revealed Campbell demanded £5,000 in cash – while he was on the way to a meeting at Airdrie Sheriff Court followed by a dinner with the Law Society of Scotland.

The email from Campbell states: “A little better information about timing. I am due in Airdrie at 4.30. The meeting is in the Sheriff Court, which closes at 6.30. The Law Society is taking me and a colleague for dinner, but I have no idera where. There isn’t a huge number of restaurants in Airdrie, but we’ll find somewhere. This means I won’t be at Bonkle Road until about 8. Is that OK?”

“I have asked JC [John Carruthers] for a breakdown of the £5000. I will explain to you how a spec case works. I have checked; both John and I are willing to take on a spec case for Donal, but only if he signs up to it. There will be two conditions; one is that you keep the Edinburgh agent fed and watered, and the second is the size of the uplift at the end of the day, as I explained to you.”

A Sunday Mail investigation into the case established John Campbell sent multiple emails to clients – in some cases, demanding cash “in any form except beads” to pay for legal services.

An additional email from John Campbell QC to his client stated: “I’m writing to confirm that we agreed at our meeting on Friday that we will meet in Dalkeith on TUESDAY morning, when you will give me £5000 towards the fees of your legal team” … “Please let me know if it’s OK to meet at the Mulsanne Garage, which is at 137 High Street, and what time would suit you?”

Campbell then collected the cash in envelopes – in locations such as restaurants, a garage specialising in servicing Bentley cars, and on land at Branchal in Wishaw.

John Campbell has refused to make any statement to the media on the written evidence published in the media of his demands for undeclared cash payments from clients.

Commenting on Campbell’s emails and some of the Faculty Services fee statements, a Criminal Defence solicitor who did not wish to be named – claimed the practice of QCs and Advocates demanding fee top ups in cash is widespread and needs to be looked at.

In one case quoted by a legal source, a senior member of the Faculty of Advocates who recently appeared in the news – is alleged to have demanded a six figure sum in cash from an accused person to ensure a non-custodial sentence in a criminal prosecution.

The legal source who provided the information said “Given the seniority of the accused’s legal representation it is difficult to believe others in court were not involved in the cash for freedom deal.”

In another case of a similar nature, an accused person refused to pay a similar sum of cash demanded by a high profile QC who also guaranteed a non-custodial sentence. The accused person went on to receive a custodial sentence after being found guilty at a criminal trial.

The rules on how payments to Advocates and Queens Counsel are collected from clients by Faculty Services Ltd –  the fees collection arm of the Faculty of Advocates which is currently chaired by Geoff Clarke QC – are very clear.

Section 9.9 of the Faculty of Advocates Code of Conduct states: “Counsel should not under any circumstances whatever discuss or negotiate fees with or receive fees directly from the lay client.”

Further rules from the Code of Conduct state clearly that fees to QCs and Advocates acting as counsel can only be collected by solicitors, and then paid over to clerks and Faculty Services.

“Normally Counsel’s fees are negotiated between the clerk and the solicitor. All fees should be paid to Counsel’s clerk.”

Additional guidance designed to cover over any direct payments ‘collected’ by Advocates states: “If any fee happens to be paid direct to Counsel, Counsel must account for it forthwith to his or her clerk.”

CASE BROKE ALL JUDICIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST RULES:

Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11 is the same case which exposed serious conflicts of interest in Scotland’s judiciary – notably where Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC) failed to disclose on multiple occasions – the fact Lord Malcolm’s son – Ewen Campell – represented the defenders in the same court.

The investigation into the Lord Malcolm case of serious failures to declare conflicts of interest, is reported in further detail here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders.

It is also worth noting the Nolan v Advance (Scotland) Ltd case drew in a series of sheriffs and judges – from not easily explained hearings at Hamilton Sheriff Court involving Sheriff Millar, Peter Watson & Levy & Mcrae – and Lord Malcolm’s son – Ewen Campbell – to Court of Session judges including Lord Brodie, Lord Menzies, Lord Woolman, Lord Bracadale (and a concealed recusal) and Lord Hodge – who later prevented the case being appealed to the UK Supreme Court without declaring he had already ruled on the case while in Edinburgh on multiple occasions.

A full report on Lord Hodge, his undeclared conflicts of interest and his role in denying an appeal to the UK Supreme Court can be found here: CONFLICT OF JUSTICE: Deputy President of UK Supreme Court Lord Hodge blocked appeal to UKSC on damages case he previously heard 16 times – where fellow judge Lord Malcolm failed to declare his own son represented defenders in same court

An earlier investigation of this case revealed that when Lord Woolman stated in court papers that Mr Nolan had a case, John Campbell QC removed – without instruction – most of his client’s own case including over £4million and a claim for legal costs – after he had discussions with the current vice dean of the Faculty of Advocates – Roddy Dunlop QC.

A full report on how John Campbell QC reduced his own client’s financial claim almost to zero and without any instruction or consultation – can be found here: CASHBACK QC: Legal regulator’s files reveal senior QC reduced claim without instructions, withheld key evidence & witnesses including Cabinet Secretary from Court of Session case

Roderick William Dunlop QC of Axiom Advocates along with Lord Malcolm’s son who is now at the same Advocates Stables as Dunlop – Ewen Campbell of Axiom Advocates – and Peter Watson – now formerly of Glasgow based Levy & Mcrae – represented Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd.

At the time – Peter Watson was a member of Scotland’s judiciary – and held various positions and directorships in relation to a hedge fund run by Greg King.

However – Peter Watson’s involvement in the collapsed £400million Heather Capital Hedge fund was beginning to trickle out into the media – and in 2015 after questions were put to Scotland’s top judge by the Scottish Sun newspaper – Lord Brian Gill suspended Peter Watson from sitting as a judge “to maintain public confidence in the judiciary”.

A full report on Watson’s suspension from the judicial bench can be found here: CAPITAL JUDGE: As top judge suspends sheriff over £28m law firm writ alleging links to £400m Heather Capital collapse, what now for Lord Gill’s battle against a register of interests & transparency for Scotland’s judiciary

Watson’s suspension as a judge lasted for over three years – a record term of suspension of a member of Scotland’s judiciary and ended with Watson’s resignation in 2019, reported in further detail here: SHERIFF WALKS: Scottish Courts confirm lawyer & part-time Sheriff Peter Watson – who was named in £28M Heather Capital writ linked to collapsed £400M hedge fund – resigned from the judiciary in 2018

JOHN CAMPBELL QC & THE EDINBURGH CHARITY PROJECT:

Recently, and in a blaze of public relations, John Campbell QC was appointed as Chairman of The Ross Development Trust – a charity created to lead a redesign of West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

However, Campbell’s appointment as Chairman of the project comes amid a scandal where big businesses, vested interests and wealthy donors were promised access to high-profile celebrities, international publicity at VIP events tickets for high-profile concerts, exclusive drinks parties and dinners under a secret fundraising drive by the Quaich Project – which Campbell now chairs.

Leaked details published last month by the media suggest corporate backers will be able to advertise their brands all across the redeveloped Princes Street gardens and the new amphitheatre which will replace the current Ross Bandstand.

Campbell’s reaction to the publication was an aggressive response, attacking critics of the public-private partnership project for “scaremongering” over “completely untrue” claims that it would lead to over-commercialisation and privatisation of the gardens.

It was reported in the media that John Campbell insisted there was “absolutely no evidence” to support claims that Princes Street gardens would be turned into a “private playground” reserved for wealthy donors and for commercial companies – yet the documents detailing the funding drive & secret promise of sponsorship to big business and vested interests – are now widely circulating in the public domain after being leaked to the press.

Eerily – the plan to redevelop Princes Street Gardens – dubbed the ‘Quaich project’- is developing a similar theme to how parts of the Court of Session ended up in the ownership of the Faculty of Advocates, after legal figures targeted the Laigh Hall complex, claiming ownership of the hall via a series of dubious titles and a lobbying campaign to take possession of the court buildings.

The Laigh Hall scandal resulted in a secretive deal after a bitter campaign by the Faculty of Advocates to usurp possession of parts of the Court of Session building for their ownership, adding it to their asset portfolio under a trust chaired by Court of Session judge Lord Brailsford.

The Scottish Government eventually caved in and  ‘gifted’ parts of the Court of Session to the Faculty of Advocates – even though the building belonged to the City of Edinburgh Council.

A full report on what happened to the Laigh Hall – which now hosts many exclusive events for lawyers & their businesses, and the transfer of ownership to the Faculty of Advocates can be found here: WOLFFE HALL: Edinburgh Council racks up £53K legal bill in failed bid to recover ownership of Parliament House – as papers reveal Faculty of Advocates “occupied” Laigh Hall for 150 years without recorded title deeds

Campbell is also a Trustee of the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust, and of Planning Aid Scotland, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS)

Former Cabinet Minister Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) – who is backing his constituents in their quest to obtain justice, has now called for a full probe into the allegations against Campbell.

The Sunday Mail reported on the development & political backing in an investigation, here: MSP brands legal watchdog a ‘toothless waste of time’ after top QC avoids censure over cash payments

The Sunday Mail’s original Investigation and report on John Campbell QC and his cash demands from clients can be found here:

‘We gave top QC £5000 cash in an envelope four times’ Couple claim law expert broke guidelines as MSP calls for probe

By Craig McDonald Sunday Mail 2 APR 2017

A couple claim one of Scotland’s leading QCs breached strict guidelines and asked for legal fees to be paid direct to him in cash.

Melanie Collins and partner Donal Nolan said they made the unusual payment after John Campbell told them he needed “£5000 from you in any form”.

Melanie said she and a friend met Campbell, who once represented Donald Trump’s Scottish business, in a restaurant in Dalkeith where she handed over the sum in banknotes.

She said she paid the QC – one of Scotland’s top planning law experts – three further sums of £5000 in cash at other meetings.

The method of payment is a breach of strict guidelines issued by the Faculty of Advocates – the ­professional body all advocates and QCs belong to.

The couple’s MSP last week called for a probe into the payments.

Campbell wrote in an email to Melanie on October 10, 2012: “Tomorrow, I am looking forward to a serious talk with you and John but I need to collect £5000 from you in any form.”

The man referred to is solicitor advocate John Carruthers, who assisted in the case.

Four days later, Melanie received another email from Campbell which said: “I’m writing to confirm that we agreed at our meeting on Friday that we will meet at Dalkeith on Tuesday morning when you will give me £5000 towards the fees of your legal team.”

Melanie, 62, a former land developer, of Bonkle, Lanarkshire, said: “I and a friend met with Mr Campbell at a restaurant in Dalkeith where I gave him an envelope containing £5000.

“There were three other ­occasions when I paid him £5000 cash in envelopes.

“One was at the Dakota hotel in Lanarkshire, one was at my home in Bonkle and one was a site in Cambusnethan in Wishaw relating to the court case. Looking back it might seem odd – but I had never had any dealings with a QC before and just assumed this was the way they worked.

“I paid two further cheques, one to Mr Campbell and one to a law firm, of £5000 and £4000. The total was £29,000.”

The payments related to a civil case Donal initially planned against a construction firm in 2011. The case was heard at the Court of Session in 2013.

Melanie said: “We won the case but were awarded £20,000. Our total legal fees were in the hundreds of thousands.”

She reported the cash payments claims to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in 2014.

The SLCC said at the time: “The complaint has been considered carefully by the SLCC. It has been decided … will not be investigated as it has not been made within time limits, for the reasons set out in the attached determination.”

The couple’s MSP, Alex Neil, the SNP member for Airdrie and Shotts, said: “All these allegations have to be investigated.

“If there has been malpractice at any stage this has to be dealt with by the appropriate ­authorities. Donal and Melanie’s problem up until now is that they’ve not been listened to when they have made the complaints.”

The SLCC could not be contacted for comment.

The Faculty of Advocates’ guide to conduct states: “Counsel should not under any circumstances whatever discuss or negotiate fees with or receive fees directly from the lay client.”

Their disciplinary tribunal can hand out fines of up to £15,000. A member can also be suspended or expelled from the faculty.

The Faculty of Advocates refused to comment last week.

Campbell, 67, said: “I have no comment to make.”

JOHN CAMPBELL QC BIOGRAPHY:

During the span of his legal representation provided in Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd, John Campell was based at the former Hasties Stables of Advocates, which rebranded themselves earlier this year as Themis Advocates.

The rebrand of Hasties Stables after Advocates in the former Hastie Stable announced they were to re-emerge under the new brand of Themis Advocates – on the appointment of new senior clerk Kiera Johnston who will work alongside depute clerks Sara Mauriello and Liz Archibald.

Sitting alongside John D. Campbell QC in Themis Advocates are members of Scotland’s judiciary – including Mungo Bovey QC – who has sat as a part time Sheriff since 2009.

Themis Advocates describe themselves in the following terms: “Themis Advocates is a generalist stable, of which our advocates cover all areas of the law well. Within the stable, solicitors can find counsel able to handle a very broad range of inquiries, both in the range of subject matter and in the nature of the task requiring to be undertaken. We can provide competent advocates at all levels for any item of work. For ease of use we have arranged the Areas of Practice under the headings listed on the left. Click on any one of these headings for a breakdown of specialist topics within that heading.”

Alongside John Campbell QC at Themis Advocates are the following QCs: Mungo Bovey QC ;Andrew Brown QC ; Laura Dunlop QC ; Bruce Erroch QC ; Leo Hofford QC, FCIArb ; Kirsty Hood QC Gavin MacColl QC ; Alan McLean QC, FCIArb ; Brian Napier QC ; Steven Walker QC ; Andrew Webster QC

Juniors at Themis called for over seven years include the following: David F Ballantyne ; Mike Bell Joe Bryce  Alan Caskie  Maria Clarke  Gerry Coll  Donald Davidson  Andrew Devlin  Kenneth Forrest  Robert Frazer  Kenny Gibson  Alasdair Hardman  Ewan Hawthorn  Graeme Henderson  Jeya Irvine  David Leighton  Catherine MacColl  David McLean  Fintan McShane  John Moir  Ross Pilkington  Chris Pirie  Michael Upton

Juniors at Themis called for under seven years include the following: Tracey Brown  Andrew Crawford  Michael Dempsey  Tim Haddow  Chris Jones  Ann MacNeill  Julie McKinlay  Graham Middleton  Safeena Rashid  Katerina Stein

John Campbell also maintains a role at Trinity Chambers in England, alongside: Toby Hedworth Q.C.   John Campbell Q.C.  Andrew Stafford Q.C.  Francis FitzGibbon Q.C.   Nicholas Stonor Q.C.   Caroline Goodwin Q.C.

Barristers at Trinity Chambers can be found here: Trinity Chambers – Barristers a-z

The Trinity Chambers website describes their practice in the following terms: Trinity Chambers is proud of its reputation as being one of the leading sets of barristers’ chambers in the North of England, endorsed by the Chambers and Partners and Legal 500 Directories – “Trinity Chambers’ ‘expertise, professionalism and empathy are second to none’”, the “extremely efficient” clerks are “always keen to assist” Legal 500 2019, ‘One of the most renowned sets in the North East for good reason’ Legal 500 2020.

This is a reputation we have won by investing in staff, services and facilities, by implementing a robust administration and clerking structure, and, crucially, by supplying high quality legal advice and advocacy.

Trinity were the first chambers north of London, and only the fourth in the country, to be awarded the General Council of the Bar’s BarMark which is an annual review of all aspects of practice management, client care and regulatory compliance as assessed and reported upon by the British Standards Institution.

We were the first BarMark chambers in the country to be awarded Investors in People. Trinity were among the first six chambers to be awarded the Legal Services Commission’s Quality Mark. Since our establishment in 1954, we have consistently grown so that we now offer a broad spectrum of specialisation, expertise and experience, with consistently high quality across the board.

John Campbell QC Trinity Chambers Biography

John Campbell Q.C. CASES – with no reference to his role in Nolan v Advance Constuction (Scotland) Ltd:

About 200 windfarm and other planning cases at Committee, in writing, on appeal to Inspectors and Reporters, and on Appeal and Judicial Review in Scotland, Cumbria, Northumberland, East Yorkshire, North Wales, West Wales, and Norfolk; Avich & Kilchrenan Community Council – appearance before UN Economic Committee for Europe’s Åarhus Convention Compliance Committee, Geneva, Switzerland; Beauly to Denny OHL Inquiry – major power line inquiry from Beauly (Inverness-shire) to Denny (Stirlingshire); Bilfinger Berger Siemens CAF Joint Venture – training for Edinburgh Trams Mediation; Coastal Regeneration Alliance – Community Right to Buy under Land reform (S) Act 2003 – wrongful refusal to register lawful interest by Scottish Ministers; David Bines v CNES – [2010] Otter control at a fish farm; Gloag v Perth and Kinross Council and The Ramblers Association – right to roam – right to erect a fence with out planning permission; Gordon & Macphail v The Moray Council – Land Tribunal Valuation dispute for loss of use of a spring feeding a malt whisky distillery; Gordons Trustees – landlord’s resistance to an informally created agricultural tenancy; Grantown on Spey Caravan Park – Certificate of Lawful Use and Development against Planning Authority; success and costs awarded; HMA: v Hyslop – farmer carrying shotgun and allegedly threatening ‘lampers’ on his own ground – unanimous acquittal; HMA v Reid – shaken baby death; ICE v Addison – professional body wrongfully expelling Chartered Engineer; Laird v Scottish Borders Council – Planning consent invalidated for ambiguity; Lidl Stores – Nine public inquiries for new stores; Macaskill Stornoway [2009] Lorry noise nuisance case; Mearns Residents Association – flooding – correct interpretation of Council’s obligations to regulate housing permissions; Nairn v Fife Council [2008] Listed Buildings and ransom strip at large Country House; Newton Mearns Residents Association [2014] CSOH – flooding issues, Protective Expenses Order; Packard v Scottish Ministers [2012] – judicial review of windfarm Planning decision – bias and pre-determination by Scottish Ministers alleged; Parry v Highland Council – Contested certificate of lawful use for a fish farm; Pentland-Clark v Maclehose and Others – [2013] 10 year long Will dispute; Pirie and another v NEC – unlawful contract termination of TV distributor’s agreements; Q-Park – Access through designated bridge Airspace valuation; RIAS v Mays – unlawful expulsion of architect from membership of professional body – compensation; S and others – prolonged family dispute among four brothers following sale of a waste recovery business; Scott v McTear – auction house denying liability for compensation after burglary; TMSL v Rannoch Club – unlawful contract termination – compensation; Scottish Parliament Inquiry – 2004 – Inquiry into overspend on the Scottish Parliament Building; Trump International v Scottish Ministers UKSC [2015] judicial review of decision about the correct interpretation of a term in Electricity Act 1989;William Grant & Sons, Distillers [2013] – judicial review of Planning Decision; Wilson v Morton Fraser – Solicitors negligence claim, contested valuation of loss of profit

APPOINTMENTS: Member of the Scottish Bar since 1981, QC Scotland since 1998
;Member, Dispute Review Board, Mersey Gateway Crossing 2015-

LECTURES & SEMINARS: Regularly gives talks on Planning law and Arbitration to solicitors, local authority staff, students, clients and others and has written a number of articles on Listed Buildings and Built and Natural Heritage issues

EDUCATION: LLB Edinburgh 1972

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: John Campbell is a Scottish Queen’s Counsel, qualified to practice throughout the UK.

He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1972, and worked as a solicitor in Scotland until 1978. He was appointed as an Assistant Director of Legal Aid in Hong Kong where he worked in a range of public service legal jobs until appointed a Magistrate in 1980. He returned to Scotland in 1981.He passed Advocate that year, was called to Lincolns Inn in 1990, and took silk in 1998. He was a member of 40 King Street Chambers in Manchester throughout the 1990s.

He has worked in Family Law, both claimant and defendant Personal Injury and industrial disease work, and much earlier, in Crime. He has acquired a lot of agricultural experience, particularly for estates, farms and tenants and in landlord and tenant issues, and has worked widely in promoting arbitration and mediation for farmers, and in rent reviews both in Scotland and around the world. He has been a registered Construction Adjudicator and is currently a Member of a DRB.

He has worked in Town and Country Planning since the mid 1990s and has developed that speciality to include Environmental Law and some Construction Law. He is particularly active in Renewable Energy work on behalf of communities, NGOs, third parties, developers and councils.

His practice today is mainly in Planning and Environmental Law, property and land law, and agriculture and energy work, and he has a specialised practice in all kinds of ADR work and its promotion. He has carried out about 200 public inquiries and a number of related judicial reviews. Outside the law, he is Chairman of Scotland’s largest Building Preservation Trust, and of a University Research Advisory Board.

DO you have a complaint or case where a QC or Advocate has not provided fair legal services? What are your experiences of dealing with the Faculty of Advocates?

Has your solicitor, advocate or QC demanded cash payments from you at any stage of a civil or criminal case? Tell us more about it in confidence, by email to scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Top judge failed to provide convincing argument against register of judges’ interests, Justice Committee evidence calls into question Justice Secretary’s misleading explanation of Scottish judges serving in Scotland and Gulf States courts

Lord Carloway failed to provide convincing reason against judicial register. EVIDENCE heard by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee during MSPs recent consideration of a cross party plan to create a register of judges’ interests – reveals Scotland’s top judge again failed to provide any convincing arguments against a proposal to require Scotland’s judges to declare all their interests.

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – originally lodged at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all 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 Register of Judicial Recusals was created in April 2014 by now former Lord President – Lord Brian Gill – in an attempt to persuade to drop their investigation of a proposal to create a fully published register of judges interests.

However, after eight years of investigation by the Public Petitions Committee and now the Justice Committee – the proposal – which has cross party backing, media support, support from independent former Judicial regulators and has sparked wide public debate on the state of Scotland’s judiciary – has now earned the backing of Justice Committee MSPs who believe the proposal should go forward to create a full register of interests – putting judges on the same level of transparency as elected members of the Scottish Parliament.

During the hearing, John Finnie MSP said: “The debate seems to be polarised. The petition has been open for a considerable number of years, and an issue remains. The public would expect some measure of accountability.”

James Kelly MSP said: “Over the period for which the committee has been examining the issue, I have become convinced by the case for a register of interests for the judiciary.”

“I note the responses from the cabinet secretary and Lord Carloway; there is clearly a bit of a stand-off here. Members’ suggestions of taking additional evidence to take the issue forward are sensible. We should not park the issue; it is important and we should continue to press it.”

Upon consideration of written evidence and material provided by the Petitioner in response to: letter from Lord Carloway, letter from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and letter from Scottish Justices Association – members of the Justice Committee decided to seek evidence from constitutional and academic witnesses – and briefings on the extent of conflicts of interest relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish justice system. Video footage of the hearing can be viewed here: Register of Judges Interests Petition PE1458 Justice Committee 10 March 2020

Minutes of the meeting concluded with the following decision: Public petition PE1458: The Committee considered various pieces of correspondence received in relation to its ongoing consideration of the petition. The Committee agreed to keep the petition open and to seek further oral evidence in due course, in round-table formal, from constitutional and academic witnesses.

The Committee also agreed to seek further written briefings from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) in relation to other potential conflicts of interests relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish judicial system. The Committee will consider the scheduling of this work as part of its work programming up to spring 2021.

Response to Lord Carloway’s letter of 29 January 2020 – The letter from Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway to the Justice Committee in which Lord Carloway refused for the second time to give evidence to MSPs on the petition, was reported in further detail here: JUDGE JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge refuses to face MSPs on judiciary’s EIGHT YEAR battle against register of judges’ interests – Lord Carloway says he will not attend Holyrood to ‘rehearse the same arguments which have not apparently found favour’

Responding to Lord Carloway’s letter of 29 January 2020 – evidence submitted in written form by the petitioner to the Justice Committee stated:

Noting the terms of Lord Carloway’s letter, the Lord President’s earlier evidence to the Petitions Committee on 29 June 2017 is available in video format here Lord Carloway evidence on Register of Judges interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017 for members interest.

I would encourage the Justice Committee to engage with Alex Neil MSP, who attended that hearing and asked pertinent questions of the Lord President. I believe the Committee could gain further insight into the issue of judicial interests, and failures of judges to declare recusals, by hearing from Mr Neil.

Lord Carloway states in his letter that “Elected office and judicial office are not comparable”

I believe anyone watching the evidence session where Lord Carloway faced questions from Mr Neil, would disagree with the Lord President’s statement.

Transparency is, a public expectation of public office. A necessary guardian of fair hearing, truth, and a form which holds everyone accountable. Transparency can many times, be the foundation of public trust in politics, public life, and even the courts – where – without transparency, where would justice be?

The judiciary are the most powerful branch of the executive and therefore must be held to be the most accountable and adhere to the same level of transparency which applies to all other branches of public service.

Importantly, transparency does not impede independence of the judiciary, or even any other branch of the Executive. Rather transparency enhances public trust, and adherence to public service.

Lord Carloway states the following:I remain of the view that, from the constitutional perspective, the extent of any monitoring of judicial conduct, including judges’ interests relative to the performance of their duties, should remain a matter for the Judiciary and not for Government or Parliament.”

The policy adopted by the judiciary of ‘judges judging judges’ is what ended up blunting any meaningful powers to the office of the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to oversee judicial complaints in Scotland.

These issues involving a lack of oversight of judicial complaints powers have been widely reported in the media: My position is window-dressing, says legal watchdog with budget of £2000

Judicial Conduct, judicial interests and related issues are certainly a matter for primary legislation, and it is worth noting the office of the Judicial Complaints Reviewer was established by Section 30 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008

In terms of a failure to declare interests or to maintain a register of interests, I draw to the attention of members – the issue of Lord Hoffmann’s failure to declare interests in Regina v Bow Street Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate, ex parte Pinochet Ugarte (1999), commonly referenced as “Hoffmann/Pinochet”

Hoffmann/Pinochet tainted the Law Lords over the question of declarations of interest despite their requirement to declare in a register, and subsequently the UK Supreme Court was created in the Constitution Reform Act 2005 Part 3 Section 23

Importantly the previous requirements of Law Lords to declare interests when they sat as Law Lords in the House of Lords, was omitted from the 2005 Uk legislation and set the stage where to this day – the Justices of UKSC have stated they themselves judge they do not require to declare their interests.

The UKSC’s position on judicial interests UKSC Judges Expenses and Interests

The statement from the UKSC justices which has been quoted by two Lord Presidents previously, reads as follows: “Against this background the Justices have decided that it would not be appropriate or indeed feasible for them to have a comprehensive Register of Interests, as it would be impossible for them to identify all the interests, which might conceivably arise, in any future case that came before them. To draw up a Register of Interests, which people believed to be complete, could potentially be misleading.”

Lord Hoffmann’s failure to declare his interests and the impact of such on public confidence could be summarised by Lord Hutton in his ruling on Hoffmann/Pinochet:

Lord Hutton said: ‘there could be cases where the interest of the judge in the subject matter of the proceedings arising from his strong commitment to some cause or belief or his association with a person or body involved in the proceedings could shake public confidence in the administration of justice as much as a shareholding (which might be small) in a public company involved in the litigation.’

While no one has been willing to discuss exactly why UKSC judges lost the previous Law Lords requirement to declare and register interests – Lord Hoffmann’s failure to declare his interests in the Pinochet case, set a standard for judges to declare interests – which even Professor Paterson in his testimony to the Public Petitions Committee agreed with.

The judiciary’s position on declarations of interests and creating a register of judicial interests, is contrary to the wider public interest and expectation of transparency – especially in our courts.

While noting the Lord President’s repeat of his earlier comments in relation to issues involving the Council of Europe, and the Judicial Council in Scotland, Lord Carloway has not provided any convincing argument against creating a register of judicial interests.

It is also very clear from Lord Carloway’s letter, the judiciary continue to maintain resistance to the very notion of a register of judicial interests, and will not create one on their own.

As the Public Petitions Committee have already found the petition’s proposal of a Register of Judicial Interests to be “workable”, and there has been consistent support including media and public interest and for the petition since it was filed in 2012 – and given the Justice Committee are minded to advance this matter as no convincing argument against this proposal has been made, I urge members to take the petition forward and advance PE1458 to primary legislation, to ensure all members of Scotland’s judiciary declare and register their interests, in the same way as all others in public life, including all 129 MSPs of the Scottish Parliament register and declare their interests.

Further evidence submitted to the Justice Committee in response to the Justice Secretary’s continuing opposition to the creation of a register of judges’ interests, noted serious discrepancies in the Justice Secretary’s claims regarding Scottish judges serving in middle east Gulf States – reported in an earlier article here: NO, MINISTER: Justice Secretary claims Holyrood transparency legislation for register of judges’ interests – would undermine top judge who refused to meet Justice Committee on EIGHT YEAR judicial register petition

The Justice Committee have previously heard and viewed detailed evidence identifying several Scottish judges who served in Scottish courts while also serving in the Gulf States. MSP John Finnie made several observations on this in an earlier Justice Committee hearing here: John Finnie MSP – Scots Judges serving in Gulf States – Justice Committee 28 May 2019

Responding to the Cabinet Secretary’s letter of 7 February 2020 – evidence submitted in written form by the petitioner to the Justice Committee stated:

Noting the Cabinet Secretary’s response, I wish to point out one of the two Scottish judges in articles submitted to the Justice Committee, was indeed serving in Scotland at the time of his service in the UAE, – dates on court opinions delivered by Lord McGhie in Scotland and previously provided to the Justice Committee show this to be the case.7

The newspaper investigation stated “Our investigation found that Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.” – This was accurately reported in the media: Scottish judges slammed for being on payroll of oppressive regimes abroad

Regarding Lord Hope of Craighead, members will be aware Lord Hope serves in the UAE and has done for some time, while also remaining a cross bench peer in the House of Lords, and therefore being required to declare his interests: Lord Hope of Craighead Register of Interests

As well as having a continuing effect on public life in the UK and Scotland as a peer, Lord Hope’s House of Lords register of interests list “Chief Justice of the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts (commercial court system in Abu Dhabi)” – necessitating the swearing of a judicial oath in Abu Dhabi, Council Member and Trustee, Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association” & “Door Tenant, Brick Court Chambers, London, as an arbitrator”.

Members of the Justice Committee will be aware many retired Scottish judges are brought back into service in the Scottish Courts, or for the purposes of heading inquiries and other public service roles – such as Lord Bracadale , and others such as retired Lord President Brian Gill, who is also listed as working as a Judicial Commissioner (along Lord Bracadale) for the UK Surveillance Commissioner: Appointment of 13 Judicial Commissioners

Lord Gill is also involved in calling for a major inquiry into the land tenure system in Scotland – and therefore still maintains an influence on legislation and public life in Scotland.

Clearly, where retired judges are brought back into service, for court duty or inquiries, the Judiciary of Scotland should maintain their register of interests, given these judges are again, serving either the courts or the Scottish Government, and therefore contributing to public life in Scotland.

On the issue of recusals – in relation to financial interests (although the petition does seek to include all interests & links of members of the judiciary) for some reason there have never been any requirements for judges to disclose financial links which may result in a recusal published in the register of recusals.

And, I would draw to the attention of the Justice Committee – reports of a Sheriff heard a case involving a supermarket in which he had shareholdings, and then refused to recuse himself from the case – reported by the Herald newspaper: Pressure grows for register of judges’ interests as sheriff hears Tesco case while holding shares in company

A further report on the same Sheriff revealed he also held shares in a company which was the subject of Scotland’s biggest Proceeds of Crime order in connection with activities in Iraq, reported by the Scottish Sun: Judge has Shares in Bribe Firm

I have previously drawn members attention to the promotion of former top prosecutor Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland to the position of a Senator of the Court of Session. It is a matter of record Lord Mulholland supported Lord Carloway’s review to abolish corroboration and previously appeared before the Justice Committee as Lord Advocate, as a witness expressing such support.

The fact Scotland’s top prosecutor was given a position as a top judge in the Court of Session, is a matter of public interest, and as anyone may conclude, could create multiple conflicts of interest particularly given the short gap between Lord Mulholland’s retirement as Lord Advocate and elevation to the judiciary.

These are issues which are clearly of relevance to a register of judges interests and should be included in such a register, given there are clear examples of cases in the past where prosecutors, promoted to members of the judiciary have heard cases and appeals by persons they previously prosecuted, but failed to declare any interest in court.

Over the course of six years of investigation and consideration by the Public Petitions Committee of evidence and hearings, every opportunity was given to myself and others, to respond to hearings, evidence and submissions from others in relation to Petition PE1458.

There is a stark contrast in these submissions, where only the judiciary and vested legal interests have taken an opposite view to transparency and declarations of interest – to the point Lord Gill refused twice to appear before the Petitions Committee, and now Lord Carloway has refused to appear before the Justice Committee on this petition.

Everyone else, and including two Judicial Complaints Reviewers who filed submissions with the Public Petitions Committee, and the Justice Committee, support the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Given the Cabinet Secretary’s comments and the lack of any further arguments advanced by the Scottish Government and Lord President against the creation of a register of judicial interests, I would urge the Justice Committee to move forward and advance the petition to primary legislation.

An earlier article featured new material presented to the Justice Committee on the issue of how Justices of the Peace were deliberately excluded from the recusals register created by Lord Gill in April 2014 – reported in further detail here: INJUSTICE OF THE PEACE: Judge admits Scottish Courts concealed conflict of interest recusals – Justices of the Peace were told by Court staff any cases where JP judges decided to step down from court hearings – would NOT be recorded in official register of judicial recusals

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

ADVOCATE PROBE: How legal regulators covered up for top QC – Files show Scots Advocate now working as Barrister in London – authored two versions of SAME letter for Faculty probe of cash scandal QC who failed clients in £6M Court of Session case

Craig Murray – re-written evidence removed bribes claim. AN INVESTIGATION of how the Faculty of Advocates and Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) covered up complaints against a top QC – show the inadequacies of the same legal regulators who will now consider allegations against Gordon Jackson QC.

Documents uncovered from Court of Session case files reveal the Faculty of Advocates and Scottish Legal Complaints Commission failed to act on evidence where a Scottish Advocate now working as a Barrister in London – Craig Murray of 12 Kings Bench Walk – submitted two versions of written evidence in connection with an investigation of a senior QC – John Campbell QC.

John Campbell – a well known figure in Scottish legal circles – was found to have demanded cash payments direct from clients for legal work at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

However, while Campbell was receiving cash from his clients – a move strictly forbidden by the Faculty of Advocates – court files also revealed Campbell removed – without instruction – over £4million and a costs claim from the same Court of Session case where he had also sought cash payments from his clients.

Now –  a fresh consideration of the same court files which identify Craig Murray as junior counsel to Campbell in the same Court of Session damages claim – show Craig Murray was also paid for his own work from the same irregular cash payments Campbell demanded from his clients.

Material previously obtained by the media established Advocate Craig Murray as the author of two versions of the same letter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) in connection with their investigation of serious allegations against John Campbell QC.

And, while Mr Murray communicated to his clients by email he was writing a letter of evidence in connection with their complaints against Campbell – it transpired Murray’s second version of the same letter was used by the Faculty of Advocates to dodge taking any action against John Campbell.

Critically – Records from the Faculty of Advocates reveal Gordon Jackson QC was Vice Dean of the Faculty of Advocates – and Scotland’s current top prosecutor – Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC was the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates – during the time of the Faculty of Advocates investigation of John Campbell.

Gordon Jackson & James Wolffe’s terms of office at the Faculty of Advocates also match up with Craig Murray’s two versions of the same letter to legal regulators in connection with the probe against John Campbell.

The media investigation prompted by papers obtained from legal regulators focused on Craig Murray’s role as Junior Counsel in Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd, and the conduct of legal figures in the case – spanning eight Court of Session judges – one a member of the privy Council, several Sheriffs, high profile QCs and Levy & Mcrae  – the law firm identified in the £400million collapse of a Gibraltar based hedge fund – Heather Capital.

The letter was sent by Mr Murray to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in relation to a complaint against John Campbell QC – who lists Planning law as a speciality.

Crucially, however, a significantly altered version of the letter – still bearing the name of Advocate Craig Murray as the author – removes references to ‘offers of a bribe’ to elected councillors at a Scottish local authority, and detailed references to evidence in a high value civil damages claim in the Court of Session – Nolan v. Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11.

Enquiries by the media established the version of Murray’s letter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, on the subject of  John Campbell’s role in Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd – was sent to the Faculty of Advocates via the law firm Clyde & Co (formerly, Simpson & Marwick) – who are known to represent members of the legal profession who are subject to complaints, allegations of dishonesty, corruption and negligence claims.

The complaint against John Campbell QC arose from his provision of legal services and representation to former National Hunt jockey & trainer Donal Nolan, who was the pursuer in – Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd – a case which exposed serious conflicts of interest in Scotland’s judiciary where Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC) failed on multiple occasions to disclose the fact his own son was representing the defenders in the same court.

The investigation into the Lord Malcolm case of serious failures to declare conflicts of interest, was reported here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times – where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders

Upon scrutiny of the two letters sent by Craig Murray to legal regulators – serious questions arose regarding the extensive differences between Murray’s two versions of the same letter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the version which was eventually sent to the Faculty of Advocates.

It is important to note both versions of the same letter used by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and the Faculty of Advocates – identify Craig Murray as the author.

Significantly, certain references to allegations of bribery involving employees of a construction company and elected councillors, have been altered in a second version of Mr Murray’s letter – which bears no date.

Advocate Craig Murray’s letter to SLCC (Text marked in pink shows extent of deletions in Faculty’s version). In a letter dated 22 July 2014 to the SLCC, Craig Murray writes: “The most accurate account of Councillor Taggart’s position will be in that statement. My recollection of Ms Moore’s summary is that a person, whose identity was unknown to Mr Taggart, telephoned him about this case and offered a bribe. There was nothing to identify that person or connect that person to the defenders.”

However, the second version of the letter, has the references to bribery removed from the end of the sentence.

The undated letter still bearing Craig Murray’s name and Advocates address, then reads: The most accurate account of Councillor Taggart’s position will be in that statement. My recollection of Ms Moore’s summary is that a person, whose identity was unknown to Mr Taggart, telephoned him about this case. There was nothing to connect that person to the defenders.”

Then, both versions of the letter from Craig Murray to the SLCC continue: “An allegation that the defenders had been involved in bribing an elected public official to commit perjury in court would have been extremely serious. There was no basis upon which an allegation of that sort could have been made by a responsible solicitor or advocate. There could also be no further investigation (particularly in the midst of the proof diet) as it was not known who made the telephone call.”

Councillor John Taggart – who is referred to by Murray, was interviewed late last week.

Councillor Taggart’s role in discovering the dumping of contaminated waste by Advance Construction Ltd, and his further efforts to assist Mr Nolan, and constituents affected by events, was crucial in bringing the case to court and into the public eye.

In discussions with a journalist, Councillor Taggart made clear in his own view, the evidence in relation to the offer of an inducement related to an event occurred at the opening of Calderbridge Primary School (former site of Coltness Primary School), and NOT in a telephone conversation as Mr Murray claimed in his letter to the SLCC.

Further, Councillor Taggart indicated the “person, whose identity was unknown to Mr Taggart” – according to Craig Murray’s statement, had in fact handed his business card to the Councillor during the school opening event.

The Councillor further alluded to the identity of the person as an employee of a main contractor for North Lanarkshire Council.

It has since been established both Advocate Craig Murray, and Fiona Moore of Drummond Miller were present with the Councillor when his precognition of evidence was taken.

Further enquiries by journalists have now revealed the person who allegedly offered the inducement is an employee of a major construction contractor on North Lanarkshire Council’s list of approved contractors.

When it became known the incident involving the inducement was to be used in evidence, the person who approached the councillor left Scotland for Ireland and did not return for a number of months – despite being cited as a witness to attend court to give evidence in the Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd case.

The record later shows – John Campbell QC – failed to call the witness even though the individual alleged to have offered the inducement to the councillor appears on the final witness list for the proof hearing before Lord Woolman in 2014..

If the evidence of bribery had emerged during lines of questioning at the Court of Session, the testimony may well have had a significant impact on the case, and most probably initiated a Police Scotland investigation into the companies involved, and North Lanarkshire Council.

However, Senior Counsel for Mr Nolan – John Campbell QC – chose not to introduce the conversation about the allegations of bribery in court.

Undated, altered version of Advocate Craig Murray’s letter to SLCC. The removal of references to a bribe, and swathes of material removed from the second, ‘undated’ version of Craig Murray’s letter to the SLCC – raises further questions over the written testimony offered by the Advocate & some time Prosecutor to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Curiously, the undated version of Murray’s letter then surfaces at the Faculty of Advocates – who chose to rely on this heavily altered version of Murray’s original letter – in relation to an investigation which ultimately dismissed the complaint against John Campbell QC.

In a letter dated 7 October 2015 from the Faculty of Advocates to Melanie Collins, Iain WF Fergusson QC confirmed the Faculty of Advocates preferred the lesser content of the undated letter to be used in the complaint against the QC.

Fergusson wrote: ”The earlier of your two e-mails refers to two versions of a letter by Mr Craig Murray, Advocate to the SLCC. The committee relied on the undated version of the letter as support for Mr John Campbell QC’s version of events. This has brought to light an administrative error – the version of the letter dated 22 July 2015 was not before the committee when it considered and determined your complaint”

In a letter of 2 May 2016 to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, law firm Clyde & Co – acting as legal agent for John Campbell QC against the complaint attempted to explain the discrepancy between the two versions of Craig Murray’s letter and how the undated version ended up at the Faculty of Advocates.

Anne Kentish, of Clyde & Co wrote: “We have reviewed our files and have ascertained the sequence of events surrounding the letter. When the complaint was originally made against Mr Campbell, we were provided with a copy of the undated version of the letter from Craig Murray to the SLCC. It was provided to us on the basis that it set out the background to the complaint and Mr Murray’s recollection of events.. We did not, at that time appreciate that the letter was in draft. It resembled a file copy letter.”

“When senior counsel for Mr Campbell, Alistair Duncan QC prepared the response to the complaint on behalf of Mr Campbell, he indicated that Mr Murray’s letter to the SLCC should be included in the appendix to the response. When we prepared the appendix, we used the version of the letter that we had within our files which was the undated version. We did not at that time appreciate that the final, dated version, existed.”

“Later that day, Mr Duncan forwarded to us some emails which happened to have the dated version of the letter attached. We understand that Mr Duncan had been provided with the final version of the letter by Mr Murray. Neither we nor Mr Duncan realised that we were working from slightly different versions of the same letter (one being a draft and one being a final version)”

“As soon as we realised a final dated version of the letter existed (the day after the response was submitted to the Faculty) we provided Faculty with the final dated version of the letter and asked it to replace the undated version.”

“Mr Murray has confirmed that the undated version is a draft version of the final version dated 22 July 2014.”

However, the lengthy and laboured explanation from Clyde & Co to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and the email from Iain Fergusson QC are completely at odds with a written explanation provided by Advocate Craig Murray to Mr Nolan’s partner, Ms Collins.

Seeking to explain the situation regarding his letter, an email dated 23 June 2015 from Craig Murray to Mr Nolan’s partner, Melanie Collins, stated the following: “I finished writing this letter on 22 July 2014. I signed it and sent it to the SLCC that day. Copies were also sent to you and to John Campbell QC. I did not submit one to the Faculty of Advocates, nor did any Office-bearer or member of Faculty staff see the letter before it was sent (or for that matter have I passed a copy to any Office-bearer or member of Faculty staff since). I do not know how the Faculty of Advocates came to have a copy of the letter. Could you possibly provide me with a copy of the letter or email from the Faculty of Advocates, enclosing my copy letter?”

“I note that you have provided two copies of the letter. One is dated 22 July 2014 and has page numbers and footnotes. That is the letter I submitted to the SLCC and copied to you. The letter you have labelled 5B has no date, no page numbers and no footnotes. This letter is not in a form which I saved on my computer or sent to anyone else. It appears to have the same content, font and (roughly) layout as the dated version, but I have not checked on a line-by-line basis.”

It is unusual for such material to be made public as papers submitted to the SLCC remain unreleased due to confidentiality rules.

However, the papers have been made available to journalists who are investigating the litigation process of Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd – after the case was brought to the attention of MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

And, given the author of the letter – Craig Murray also works as an ad hoc Advocate Depute prosecutor in Scotland’s courts, concerns were raised over the implications of a Prosecutor writing various versions of the same letter – where one version contained alterations to witness testimony in relation to criminal acts –  and references to evidence in what has now become a key case of judicial failures to recuse, and accusations of bias in the courts.

The Crown Office were previously asked for comment on the matter and the impact on Murray’s role as a prosecutor when the court files first came to light in 2017,

Initially, the Crown Office refused to comment, and demanded any request for media reaction be put in the form of a Freedom of Information request.

Pressed on the matter, a spokesperson for the Crown Office then suggested: “..as Mr Murray is not a COPFS employee any request for formal comment in relation to his professional conduct as an Advocate should be submitted to Mr Murray himself, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates or the SLCC. Any allegations of criminal conduct should be raised with Police Service of Scotland.”

However, there are clearly public interest questions in relation to a prosecutor named as the author of a letter where one version, used by a law firm with direct connections to the judiciary – removed evidence in relation to criminal acts and bribery.

The Crown Office was then asked if the Lord Advocate intends to act to protect public confidence in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service by ordering an investigation into the use of altered versions of Mr Murray’s letter to the SLCC, and act on the status of Mr Murray as an Advocate Depute.

No reply was received.

However, the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates during the sequence of events which lead to the Faculty of Advocates investigation of John Campbell – is the current Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

As part of his current role as Lord Advocate – James Wolffe QC can call Craig Murray to prosecute criminal cases while acting as an ad hoc Advocate Depute.

The National newspaper carried an exclusive investigation into the Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd case, here: Couple’s human rights breach claim raises questions about how judicial conflicts of interest are policed.

Papers from the court files, and digital evidence now being considered by journalists indicate the legal team of John Campbell QC, Advocate Craig Murray & Gregor McPhail who acted for Mr Nolan in Nolan v Advance Construction (Scotland) Ltd – received disbursements from John Campbell from funds Campbell obtained by personally collecting substantial cash sums from clients.

The payments – outwith the normal procedure of paying advocate’s fees via a solicitor and to faculty services – have previously been reported in the media and Diary of Justice due to concerns in relation to irregularities and potential tax avoidance issues.

During the earlier media investigation, Craig Murray was contacted for his comments on material handed to the press.

Craig Murray was asked why there were significant differences between two versions of his letter to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, one dated, the other undated.

Craig Murray refused to comment.

Craig Murray was asked to confirm if his letter was altered by someone other than himself.

Craig Murray refused to comment

Craig Murray was asked if he was aware of Lord Malcolm’s true identity (Colin Malcolm Campbell) and his relationship to solicitor Ewen Campbell, one of the legal agents working for the defenders.

Craig Murray refused to comment.

Lastly, Craig Murray was asked to comment on both versions of the letter he sent to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. He was asked which one he wrote and if he was aware anyone altered the second undated version of his letter.

Craig Murray refused to give any comment.

A billing document from Craig Murray’s Compass Chambers to the client, revealed he was to be paid £800 +VAT per day for proof preparation and £1,250 + VAT per day for Court, which ran to 8 days. A bill was subsequently received from Mr Murray’s stables for around £39,000.

It has since been established, the SLCC relied on the dated version of Murray’s letter, while the Faculty of Advocates relied on the heavily altered undated version of Murray’s letter regarding their consideration of a complaint against John Campbell QC.

Papers obtained from case files and published in this investigation confirm the second, undated version of Craig Murray’s letter appears to have originated from the Edinburgh law firm – Clyde & Co (formerly Simpson & Marwick).

The letter from Clyde & Co also confirms the second, undated version of Murray’s letter was sent to the Faculty of Advocates, on the instructions of Alistair Duncan QC.

Duncan was tasked with defending John Campbell QC in relation to the complaint investigatoin launched by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

However, Court papers record the same Alistair Duncan QC – who went on to defend John Campbell QC against the legal regulator’s complaints investigation – once appeared for the defenders against Mr Nolan – in the Nolan v Advance Construction case – on 9 November 2011.

Previously – the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was provided with the two versions of Craig Murray’s letter, and a copy of a letter from Clyde & Co, admitting their role in providing the second, undated version with alterations to the Faculty of Advocates.

The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission were asked for a statement on the existence of the two versions of Craig Murray’s letter in connection with the investigation of John Campbell QC – and what action the regulator intended to take.

The SLCC refused to comment.

However, the SLCC confirmed a meeting had taken place between their Chief Executive – Neil Stevenson – and former Cabinet Minister Alex Neil MSP – who has provided powerful backing for his constituent – Donal Nolan.

A spokesperson for the SLCC said: “I can confirm that a meeting between our CEO and Alex Neil MSP took place.   The meeting was to discuss the SLCC’s process: what powers we have; actions we can take; and what we can’t do.”

The case involving Murray was brought to the attention of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who are probing judicial interests, failures of judges to recuse over conflicts of interest, and opposition of Scotland’s current Lord President – Lord Carloway – to calls for the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Had a comprehensive and publicly available register of judicial interests existed at the time of the Nolan v Advance Construction Ltd case, details of judicial links in the register could have prevented injustice in the Nolan case – and many others in the courts – from the very outset.

Scrutiny of publicly available legal profiles for Advocate & barrister Craig Murray now reveal there are NO REFERENCES on his current work profiles to his role and legal representation in Nolan v. Advance Construction [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11 –  the same land contamination case he served with senior counsel John Campbell QC – which led to investigations by two legal regulators in Scotland, and evidence Murray was paid from secret cash payments collected by John Campbell QC.

Craig Murray currently maintains a practice at Compass Chambers in Edinburgh while also working as a barrister in London. Murray also continues to advertise his work as a Prosecutor for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

GLOWING LEGAL PROFILE: Craig Murray – Advocate, Barrister & Advocate Depute:

Craig Murray – Year called: 2008

Qualifications: LLM in Commercial Law (Distinction),University of Edinburgh Member, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Faculty Scholar, Faculty of Advocates LLM in Human Rights Law, University of Strathclyde, Dip Forensic Medical Sciences, Society of Apothecaries, Dip Legal Practice, University of Edinburgh LLB (Hons), University of Edinburgh.

Craig has a busy defender personal injury practice in the Court of Session, representing insurers and local authorities. A substantial practice part of his practice is in defending fraudulent claims at all levels, in particular employers’ liability cases and road traffic claims.Craig also represents claimants in medical and dental negligence claims.

Craig has been instructed in a number of complex product liability cases, including pharmaceutical cases (Vioxx and Celebrex) and medical products (mesh surgical implants and PIP silicone implants).

Craig has substantial experience in property damage claims and other aspects of reparation.Craig occasionally acts in public law and human rights cases, including judicial review, mental health appeals and immigration.Craig has previously been a tutor on the Diploma in Regulatory Occupational Health & Safety at the University of Warwick and on the Civil Court Practice course at the University of Edinburgh.

Craig was appointed as an Advocate Depute ad hoc in July 2015. He is a member of the Children’s Panel for the Scottish Borders.

Craig Murray – Biography 12 Kings Bench Walk

Craig Murray Call: 2017 Areas of expertise Personal Injury Clinical Negligence Product Liability Industrial Disease Public Authority Liability Fraud

Call: 2017 – Bar of England and Wales 2008 – Scottish Bar

Craig joined 12 King’s Bench Walk as a tenant in December 2018, having successfully completed a practising pupillage at these Chambers.

Craig has been an Advocate at the Scottish Bar for over 10 years, where he has considerable experience in a full range of personal injury and clinical negligence work. He has appeared in the Supreme Court (Campbell v. Peter Gordon Joiners Ltd [2016] UKSC 38) and has conducted a civil jury trial without a leader (Bridges v. Alpha Insurance 2016 SLT 859). He has appeared in an 8-day trial against experienced senior and junior counsel (Pocock v. Highland Council [2017] CSOH 40 (aff’d [2017] CSIH 76). He has appeared in numerous appeals to the Inner House of the Court of Session, with and without a leader. He has prosecuted serious crime (including attempted murder) in the High Court of Justiciary. Craig is primarily instructed by UK-wide insurers and local authorities, but accepts instructions to act for claimants, particularly in clinical and professional negligence cases. He is regularly instructed in high-value RTA claims involving fatalities or brain injury. He has considerable experience in defending stress at work, harassment and assault claims, in particular those arising in schools and care establishments. Craig has an interest in local authority liability and issues of justiciability. During his pupillage, Craig had experience of motor insurance law. Craig is available to accept instructions throughout the jurisdiction. He maintains a practice at Compass Chambers in Edinburgh.

Personal Injury: Craig has experience in all aspects of personal injury law, including high value road traffic accidents, employers’ liability claims, occupiers’ liability claims, disease cases and common law liability.

He has acted for defendants and claimants in high value RTA claims involving vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. He is familiar with preparing and leading evidence on driver perception, conspicuity and accident reconstruction. He regularly prepares and leads evidence from motor engineers and forensic collision investigators.
He has experience of a full range of employer liability claims, including: work equipment cases, accidents at height, accidents on construction sites, and fatal diving accidents.
Craig has successfully defended occupiers’ liability claims concerning listed buildings (Brown v. Lakeland 2012 Rep LR 140; Norgate v. Britannia Hotels [2018] 8 WLUK 71).
Craig has acted for claimants and defendants in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease cases. He has acted for claimants in noise-induced hearing loss cases, HAVS cases and silicosis claims. He has acted for claimants and defendants in Legionella claims.
Craig is regularly instructed by Scottish local authorities. He has succeeded in novel arguments concerning the non-justiciability of certain claims (Ryder v. Highland Council [2013] CSOH 95; Macdonald v. Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar [2015] CSOH 132) and recently appeared in the important appeal of Bowes v. Highland Council [2018] CSIH 757.

Clinical Negligence: Craig has a keen interest in clinical negligence and the wider aspects of medical law. He holds a Diploma in Forensic Medical Sciences. He has acted for claimants in clinical negligence and dental negligence cases in Scotland for 10 years. He has also acted for defendants in clinical negligence and ophthalmic negligence cases.

Recent cases include:A fatal claim concerning a failure to diagnose lung cancer.
A substantial claim by a young competition dancer for a failure to diagnose a mid-foot fracture, leading to 5 operations, arthrodesis and life-long disability.
A failure to diagnose deep vein thrombosis, leading to amputation of a lower leg.

Product Liability: Craig has been instructed in some of the largest group litigations in Scotland concerning product liability, including:

Medicines. In a claim against Merck relating to Vioxx, an NSAID painkiller, 6.5 million documents were produced by the defendant. Claims concerning the drug Celebrex are ongoing (see Richards & Jarvie v. Pharmacia [2017] CSOH 77 (aff’d [2018] CSIH 31).

Surgical mesh products. PIP implants. Metal on metal hips. Craig also has experience of claims arising from motor vehicles and surgical stents.

Industrial Disease: Craig regularly acts for claimants and defendants in mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease cases in Scotland. He is familiar with the aetiology of lung disease and the latency period of asbestos-related disease. He has acted for claimants in noise-induced hearing loss cases, both cumulative exposure and ‘acoustic shock’ cases. Craig has been involved in HAVS cases and silicosis claims. He has acted for claimants and defendants in Legionella claims.

Public Authority Liability: Craig is regularly instructed by Scottish local authorities. He has succeeded in novel arguments concerning the non-justiciability of certain claims (Ryder v. Highland Council [2013] CSOH 95; Macdonald v. Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar [2015] CSOH 132) and recently appeared in the important appeal of Bowes v. Highland Council [2018] CSIH 757. Craig has represented Scottish police forces in a number of cases.

Fraud: Craig is regularly instructed in Scotland to represent insurers in personal injury claims arising from road traffic accidents where fraud is suspected. He has run several trials of 4 days’ duration or more, in which fraud has been pled on the basis of contrived accidents, fictitious accidents or phantom passengers.

Agricultural Accidents: Craig has a particular interest in personal injury claims arising from agricultural accidents.

Recent cases include: Defending numerous claims of injuries caused by cattle at market.
Defending landowners in respect of accidents involving trees (Craig holds a LANTRA tree felling qualification)
Defending a claim by a worker who lost an arm in a thresher (ongoing)
Road traffic accident involving a tractor, in which Craig was trained on a John Deere 6930 tractor
Work equipment cases involving JCBs, grain dryers, crushers and fence post drivers.

Qualifications & Awards: LLB (Hons), University of Edinburgh LLM (DIst), Commercial Law, University of Edinburgh LLM, Human Rights Law, University of Strathclyde Dip Legal Practice, University of Edinburgh Dip Forensic Medical Sciences, Worshipful Society of Apothecaries Member Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Faculty of Advocates Scholarship (2007)

Appointments & Memberships: Personal Injuries Bar Association Chartered Institute of Arbitrators

Directories: Legal 500, Leading Individual, 2019 “His written work is of an impeccably high standard.” Legal 500, 2019 “His attention to detail is phenomenal; he has an excellent legal mind. He always gives advice in a clear manner and is very pragmatic and thorough. He also has very good negotiation skills.” Chambers & Partners, 2020

DO you have a complaint with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission or Faculty of Advocates?

What is your experiences of dealing with the SLCC or the Faculty? Has your solicitor, advocate or QC demanded cash payments from you at any stage of a civil or criminal case? Tell us more about it in confidence, by email to scottishlawreporters@gmail.com

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP JUDGE – SCRAP JURIES: Scottish Government’s attempt to abolish jury trials during coronavirus outbreak put on hold after outcry from legal profession & politicians

Lord Carloway – scrap most juries during virus outbreak. AN ATTEMPT by Scotland’s top judge and the Scottish Government to ‘temporarily’ axe jury trials as part of emergency Coronavirus legislation – was withdrawn from legislation passing Holyrood today – after the legal profession & politicians criticised the move.

However – the plan to axe juries in many trials – which Scotland’s Lord Justice General Lord Carloway attempted to justify as a method of ‘speeding up’ justice – has not been totally dropped by the Scottish Government.

Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell told the Scottish Parliament that Ministers will revisit the issue of pushing through emergency reforms of the justice system at a later date.

Mr Russell  said further discussions would “allow an intensive and wide-ranging discussion by all interested parties, including victims, whose voice has not yet been fully heard, about the right way to ensure that justice continues to be done in Scotland”.

The emergency legislation being heard today (Wednesday) at Holyrood had proposed allowing judge-only trials for the most serious charges to “ensure that criminal justice systems can continue to operate during the coronavirus restrictions”.

Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) claimed axing juries would speed up justice and prevent a “monumental backlog”.

Lord Carloway said in a statement: “We will be facing a monumental backlog of solemn criminal trials once the current restrictions are lifted and trials can recommence. Unless action is taken to mitigate the impact of this, there will be substantial delays in bringing accused persons to trial. These are likely to stretch into years rather than months. The delays will be unprecedented in Scottish legal history. This will have many adverse impacts, including uncertainty for the accused, complainers and witnesses. Such delays will have a highly disruptive effect on their lives, and potentially on the wider system.”

However, the plan drew ire from many quarters, including even SNP politicians where Justice spokeswoman Joanna Cherry criticised the plan in a tweet – stating: “I don’t believe this is necessary. Trials being delayed is enough. This is the obvious compromise. The reality is that life is on hold for everyone.”

Last night, John Mulholland, President of the Law Society of Scotland said: “We respect the fact that the public health threat posed by Covid-19 has presented government with an unprecedented challenge. However, it should not limit our responsibility for ensuring proper scrutiny of measures proposed and an understanding of the impact they may have.

“Juries have been an important principle of the Scottish Criminal Justice system for hundreds of years. To remove this provision for the most serious of crimes would be a significant step and have major implications. We fully appreciate the desire to avoid any backlog in cases which might interfere with the proper administration of justice. However, we have not reached that point and so there is not sufficient justification to warrant trials without jury for serious criminal offences. We believe the case for taking such an extraordinary measure has not been made.

“We have taken this view after consulting with many of the most experienced solicitors in criminal law and those with direct experience of serious criminal cases. There is deep concern, right across the legal profession, at the reform being proposed.

“We want to continue to work positively with the Scottish Government around the changes which are necessary to our justice system to deal with the spread of Covid-19. The past few weeks have proved that we need to be flexible and responsive to emerging situations and creative in our solutions. There are provisions within current legislation which allow flexibility and it is important that these are explored fully before additional measures are introduced.”

And in an updated statement today, the Law Society of Scotland President said: “I am reassured that the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns raised by the Law Society on behalf of our members about the possibility of allowing trials to take place without a jury in the most serious of cases. I would like to thank all our members who took the time to provide their views on this fundamental issue. We look forward to engaging positively with the Scottish Government and partners as they investigate practical ways to ensure that justice can continue to be carried out effectively during the outbreak.”

responded to the withdrawal of the jury axe proposal, saying: “I am reassured that the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns raised by the Law Society on behalf of our members about the possibility of allowing trials to take place without a jury in the most serious of cases.”

The Scottish Government also took the opportunity to use the Coronavirus bill to extend deadlines for Freedom of Information responses – from 20 days to 60 days – however in another concession from the Scottish Government after criticism from the Libdems & Scottish Greens – Europe minister Jenny Gilruth announced amendments will be tabled to address concerns over the extension of the deadline for FOI requests.

The ‘temporary’ nature of the measures announced today can be legally enforced for the next 18 months, a term that would include the need for Parliament to agree to two separate six-month extensions.

Lord Carloway’s proposal to axe juries in most trials can be read in full, below: LJG response to Coronavirus Bill

The Lord Justice General has made a statement in response to the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament today.

In his statement, the Lord Justice General said: “The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill introduced in the Scottish Parliament today contains provisions relating to the justice system. Some of these measures impact on long-standing and well-established elements of the system designed, in normal times, to form part of a suite of protections and safeguards for all those participating in, or affected by, the administration of justice. They are not to be altered lightly.

“These are not normal times. My overriding concern is to ensure that, in these extreme circumstances, we can continue to preserve the fair, effective, and efficient administration of justice, in the hope that we can facilitate the return to normal operations as early as is possible.

“The most noteworthy proposal in the Bill is that which would allow for solemn trials to be heard without a jury; with the verdict determined instead by a judge or sheriff. This would represent a significant, if temporary, change to the way the courts conduct business.

“I would like to set out the rationale for this, from the perspective of the judiciary and courts. We will be facing a monumental backlog of solemn criminal trials once the current restrictions are lifted and trials can recommence. Unless action is taken to mitigate the impact of this, there will be substantial delays in bringing accused persons to trial. These are likely to stretch into years rather than months. The delays will be unprecedented in Scottish legal history. This will have many adverse impacts, including uncertainty for the accused, complainers and witnesses. Such delays will have a highly disruptive effect on their lives, and potentially on the wider system.

“The scale of the potential backlog is very daunting. At a conservative estimate, the backlog will be over 1000 trials, on the optimistic assumption that the restrictions are lifted by the start of the summer. Before the current crisis began, measures were already being put in place to help the High Court process an unprecedented number of new indictments each year. The increasing levels of prosecution would have stretched the Court’s capacity to its limits. This new challenge threatens to overwhelm the system. Jury citation will prove difficult and take longer, in a country recovering from high sickness rates, schools and public services re-commencing, business recovering after lengthy staff absences and people taking missed holidays after lengthy restrictions.

“Anything that can be done, therefore, to address the forthcoming backlog will help avert a critical logjam in the system in the period of recovery once restrictions are lifted. Of course some form of time limitation on this measure is required, although it would be needed for all of the period during which the country recovers from the full effects of the current suspension of trial business in the courts.

“Ultimately, Parliament must decide how it wishes to maintain public confidence in our justice system and allows the courts to continue to administer justice effectively. This means balancing the legitimate concerns about removing juries for a time-limited period against the potential for excessive delay and disruption of the system that the backlog will cause. My concern is that the potential delay and disruption, if mitigatory measures are not taken, may be so severe that it will compromise the effective administration of justice for some years to come.”

Media Notes:

This is a Parliamentary Bill introduced by the Scottish Ministers and it will be for them to draft any regulations further to the Bill’s passage, including when and how the measure discussed in the statement might be used.

The Lord Justice General has explained that “ultimately Parliament must decide how it wishes to maintain public confidence in our justice system and allows the courts to continue to administer justice effectively”.

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Justice Committee to continue work on register of judges’ interests – MSPs to seek evidence from constitutional experts & info on conflicts of interest of key stakeholders in the justice system

MSPs to continue work on judicial register. THE Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee will continue work on a cross-party backed petition calling for the creation of a register of interests for all Scottish judges: Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

On Tuesday, members of the Justice Committee voiced their support for the plan to create a judges’ register of interests – despite intense opposition from Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway – who refused to face questions from MSPs on judges’ interests .

Justice Committee members also decided to seek evidence from constitutional and academic witnesses – and briefings on the extent of conflicts of interest relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish justice system.

During the hearing, John Finnie MSP said: “The debate seems to be polarised. The petition has been open for a considerable number of years, and an issue remains. The public would expect some measure of accountability.”

“I note the comments about intrusion into the independence of the judiciary, and I wonder if there is any opportunity to investigate that further as a way forward. I am conscious that the petition has been around for a long time.”

James Kelly MSP said: “Over the period for which the committee has been examining the issue, I have become convinced by the case for a register of interests for the judiciary.”

“I note the responses from the cabinet secretary and Lord Carloway; there is clearly a bit of a stand-off here. Members’ suggestions of taking additional evidence to take the issue forward are sensible. We should not park the issue; it is important and we should continue to press it.”

Rona Mackay MSP said: “It is a very important issue, and it will not just disappear. As a committee, we should investigate it further and take some wider evidence to inform our views. I would be in favour of doing that at this stage. Albeit that we have—as John Finnie says—reached an impasse, it is incumbent on us to take a wider look.”

The move by the Justice Committee comes amid strong and continued opposition to the judicial transparency proposal from Scotland’s top judge – Lord Carloway, and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf who both oppose any moves to require judges to disclose their interests in the same way others in branches of government, boards and all 129 MSPs disclose and register their interests.

Earlier this week, MSPs were provided with evidence from a senior Justice of the Peace that the official Register of Judicial Recusals – created by former Lord President Lord Brian Gill – was an incomplete record of conflicts of interest in Scotland’s courts.

Writing in a letter to the Justice Committee Convener, Justice of the Peace Dennis Barr said: “We have been advised by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff, that in instances where the JP has initiated the recusal themselves, it is treated as an informal administrative decision not to sit in a particular case, and as such is not recorded.”

The startling admission from Mr Barr – that judges were told by Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) staff – that any cases where Justices of the Peace stood down from a court case due to conflict of interest – would NOT be recorded – completely undermines assurances to MSPs from retired top judge Brian Gill, and current Lord President Lord Carloway – that the recusals register was an accurate register of Scottish judges standing aside from cases due to conflicts of interest.

Mr Barr’s evidence to the Justice Committee was reported in further detail here: INJUSTICE OF THE PEACE: Judge admits Scottish Courts concealed conflict of interest recusals – Justices of the Peace were told by Court staff any cases where JP judges decided to step down from court hearings – would NOT be recorded in official register of judicial recusals

Continued opposition from the Scottish Government to the judicial transparency proposal – in the form of a letter from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to the Justice Committee, is reported in further detail here: NO, MINISTER: Justice Secretary claims Holyrood transparency legislation for register of judges’ interests – would undermine top judge who refused to meet Justice Committee on EIGHT YEAR judicial register petition

The Justice Secretary claimed that adding the requirement of judges to declare their interests could undermine Scotland’s top judge and intrude on the judiciary’s independence – similar arguments which have been constantly put forward by the Scottish Government & judiciary to the Public Petitions Committee – who investigated the petition for over six years and backed the plan to create the judicial register.

Further reporting on the register of judges’ interests petition and conflicts of interest of Scottish judges can be found on STV News here: Judging for ourselves if conflict of interest in courts and here: Scots judges facing pressure to declare their interests

The cross party backed judicial register petition filed at the Scottish Parliament in 2012 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on all 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.

Minutes of the meeting of Tuesday’s Justice Committee reveal the following decision:

Public petition PE1458: The Committee considered various pieces of correspondence received in relation to its ongoing consideration of the petition. The Committee agreed to keep the petition open and to seek further oral evidence in due course, in round-table formal, from constitutional and academic witnesses.

The Committee also agreed to seek further written briefings from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) in relation to other potential conflicts of interests relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish judicial system. The Committee will consider the scheduling of this work as part of its work programming up to spring 2021.

Video footage of Tuesday’s hearing can be viewed here:

Register of Judges Interests Petition PE1458 Justice Committee 10 March 2020

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

Margaret Mitchell (Central Scotland) (Conservative) Convener:  Agenda item 7 is consideration of petition PE1458, which is a proposal to establish a register of judicial interests. I refer members to paper 4, which is a note by the clerk. Do members have any questions or comments?

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green): We have had some very interesting contributions from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and from various representatives of the judiciary, as well as comments on each of those from the petitioner.

The debate seems to be polarised. The petition has been open for a considerable number of years, and an issue remains. The public would expect some measure of accountability. I note the comments about intrusion into the independence of the judiciary, and I wonder if there is any opportunity to investigate that further as a way forward. I am conscious that the petition has been around for a long time.

I am supportive of the principle, and I note everything that has been said. However, we seem to have hit an impasse. I am keen to hear the views of different people—constitutional lawyers, for example.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD): I agree with John Finnie. Intuitively, I am supportive of the idea of a register. However, I do not underestimate some of the concerns that have been raised by the cabinet secretary and representatives of the judiciary—particularly on the independence of the judiciary.

The debate is rather polarised, and it is difficult to see where compromise might be possible. However, I wonder whether we might proactively elicit views from academics in the area, with a view to testing some of the arguments that they made to us in their helpful evidence.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): It is a very important issue, and it will not just disappear. As a committee, we should investigate it further and take some wider evidence to inform our views. I would be in favour of doing that at this stage. Albeit that we have—as John Finnie says—reached an impasse, it is incumbent on us to take a wider look.

Dr Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): It is clearly an important issue, which merits our having a conversation or a discussion about it in the committee.

On principle, as the petition has been in the system for eight years, we should take evidence with a view to bringing the matter to a conclusion. It is not fair to have petitions in the system for that length of time without bringing them to some kind of conclusion. However, I would be happy to hear evidence on it.

James Kelly (Glasgow) (Lab): Over the period for which the committee has been examining the issue, I have become convinced by the case for a register of interests for the judiciary. I note the responses from the cabinet secretary and Lord Carloway; there is clearly a bit of a stand-off here. Members’ suggestions of taking additional evidence to take the issue forward are sensible. We should not park the issue; it is important and we should continue to press it.

The Convener: I should note that there is a petition that we have been dealing with for in excess of eight years—the Megrahi case petition. However, as members have said, it is not an ideal situation. Given the impasse and the diametrically opposed views, does the committee wish to seek further information on the record in a formal meeting with constitutional lawyers and others, in an effort to move forward and with a view to looking at the pros and cons of the petition? We could then take a formal decision on it. We could also ask the Scottish Parliament information centre and the clerks for a note on the wider issues, perhaps even taking into account any conflict-of-interest issues that might have a bearing on how court decisions are taken.

Liam McArthur: I agree with that. Such an evidence session might be better using a round-table format, rather than having a more traditional evidence session. Due to the fact that the cabinet secretary and, previously, the petitioner referred to the situation in New Zealand, which has now taken a different course, it would certainly be useful in the information that is to be provided by SPICe to have an understanding of the thought process that the New Zealand Parliament went through to arrive at the decision that it reached in relation to the same issue.

The Convener: Are we all agreed that that is the way forward?

Members indicated agreement.

The National reported on developments at the Justice Committee here:

 Scottish judges and government on collision course over interests register

By Martin Hannan The National 11 March 2020

THE Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament is on a collision course with the Scottish Government and leading Scottish judges after the Committee voted to continue its inquiries into the possibility of legislation to set up a register of the financial and other interests of judges.

Lord Carloway, Scotland’s senior judge, and justice secretary Humza Yousaf both told the committee by letter yesterday that they were opposed to such a register, indicating that the petition for such a register raised in 2012 by journalist and law blogger Peter Cherbi should now be dropped.

The Committee decided otherwise, however, and agreed to keep the petition open and to “seek further oral evidence in due course, in round-table formal, from constitutional and academic witnesses”.

The Committee also agreed to seek further written briefings from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) in relation to “other potential conflicts of interests relating to key stakeholders in the Scottish judicial system”.

In a surprise move directly against the wishes of Yousaf and Carloway, the Committee agreed to consider the scheduling of this work as part of its work programming up to spring 2021.

Yousaf had told the Committee: “I would caution however that if such a register were to be established by way of legislation, rather than through the powers of the Lord President, this may be perceived as undermining the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers between the judiciary and other branches of government.”

Yet Carloway, the Lord President and Lord Justice General, has long made known his opposition to such a register, and he told the Committee in his letter that he would not be attending to give his views.

Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, John Finnie MSP said the debate on the issue had become “polarised”.

He said: “There is an issue here that remains to be dealt with and I think the public would anticipate that there is some measure of accountability.”

Peter Cherbi told The National: “Noting the Justice Committee meeting today I am grateful to those MSPs who declared their support for the register of judicial interests – and all the MSPs who have previously worked on this petition to support it and advance the issue of judicial transparency

“Clearly the debate has become very polarised as John Finnie said during the hearing. This polarisation has come about because the judiciary are entrenched in their opposition to the same level of transparency which applies to all other branches of the executive.

“It is no accident this petition has lasted eight long years, where at every turn the judiciary have sought to undermine the petition at every hearing, invoke anyone, from government ministers to vested legal interests in an effort to shut down the petition and any debate on judicial transparency.

Sadly, the effort expended by judges against this petition, is an indication judges have something to hide and fear disclosure.”

UNCONVINCING TOP  SCOTS JUDGES WHO REFUSED TO BE TRANSPARENT:

Scotland’s recent two top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for Scotland’s judiciary

Former Lord President Brian Gill, and current Lord President Lord Carloway consistently argued the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by  judges negate any requirement for further transparency in the judiciary.

However, both the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who investigated the judicial interests petition for six years, and the Justice Committee – who have considered the petition since 2018, found the judiciary’s arguments against transparency to be “unconvincing”.

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

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.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,