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Category Archives: Scottish Parliament

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Figures reveal Scotland’s judges received £471million since 2008 financial crash, benefit from extra £2billion on courts & legal aid – yet declare no wealth, assets or interests

Transparency register now essential for judges. THEY HAVE the power to strike down legislation from our elected Scottish Parliament, enact their own versions of the law with Acts of Sederunt, suspend your liberty, and dodge questions on their activities – yet figures reveal Scotland’s secretive judicial elite who control our courts – have received a staggering £471 million of public cash for salaries and judicial related ‘activities’ since the financial crash of 2008.

Judges on up to £230K a year – some holding judicial posts for well over twenty years, have also directly benefited from a massive £885 million of public cash thrown at Scotland’s courts since 2008 – including a £58 million taxpayer funded refit of Parliament House – the headquarters of Scotland’s current Lord President & Lord Justice General – Lord Carloway.

And, don’t forget the staggering £1.207 billion of legal aid – yet another public cash subsidy for the legal profession to prop up our creaking, expensive and exclusive billion pound courts who close their doors as soon as they hear the word “transparency”.

Yet – the collection of Senators of the Court of Session, temporary judges, sheriffs of varying titles, tribunal & land court judges – (around 265 in number) and an army of up to 450 justices of the peace – declare not one single interest, connection, item of wealth, property value, or paid outside work, outside of revelations in the media of judges’ links to big banks & dodgy businesses contained in the SCTS Board register.

There is no other group in society who are allowed such a privilege of secrecy – while benefiting directly from billions of pounds in public cash.

The weak, disabled and most vulnerable in society are strip searched and harassed day & night, whenever they dare ask for help.

Even an elected councillor, msp and all other public officials must tally up their stationery costs and claims for rubber bands.

Yet there are no questions, requirements of transparency or accountability for the judiciary – who jet set at-will around the world on taxpayers cash, operate a judicial version of a diplomatic service and rake in cash for speeches, conference attendance, and legal work – without fear of having to declare one single item of their wealth, connections to despots, the rich & powerful and links to big business – in public.

By any stretch of the imagination, this scenario, is shocking.

The figures – sourced from the Scottish budget on judicial salaries, travel, junkets, ‘training’ and various enterprises operated by the Judicial Office for Scotland falling under the term “Courts Group” to various related courts & tribunal support entities- reveal the total spend on Scotland’s judiciary since 2008 stands at £470.6m.

Budget spend on judiciary: 2007-2008: £41.8m, 2008-2009: £44.3m, 2009-2010: £46.3m, 2010-2011: £51.1m, 2011-2012: £50.0m,2012-2013: £52.4m, 2013-2014:£52.1m,2014-2015: £51.6m, 2015-2016: £40.5m (missing £11.1 switched to SCTS budget), 2016-2017: £40.5m  (missing £11.1 plus – switched to SCTS budget)

Courts Group had overall responsibility for financing the cost of the Judiciary, including Scottish Government contribution to the superannuation costs of the judiciary, for the fees to part-time judiciary, for the running costs of a number of small departments and other judicial expenses (training and travel etc).

Judicial salaries are defined as non-voted spending which is met from the Scottish Consolidated Fund but is also part of the Departmental spending limit.

Courts group was renamed Courts, Judiciary and Scottish Tribunals Service during 2012. In the latest Scottish Government 2016-2017 budget, the designation defining judicial costs is tagged as “Judiciary”.

Figures sourced from the Scottish Budget reveal the total spend on Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) since 2008 stands at £884.7m with the added-in £58m for the Parliament House refit.

Budget spend on courts: 2007-2008: £79.4m, 2008-2009: £81.3m, 2009-2010: £94.7m, 2010-2011: £93.5m, 2011-2012: £79.9m, 2012-2013: £77.0m, 2013-2014: £72.3m, 2014-2015: £72.3m,2015-2016: £87.4m (includes missing £11.1m from courts group responsible for Judiciary), 2016-2017: £88.9m (includes missing £11.1m plus – from courts group responsible for Judiciary).

As you read these facts and figures, remember – this is about how public cash to the tune of half a billion pounds is spent by a group of the most powerful people in the land – who resist declaring their interests, how the judiciary operate, create umbrella institutions without accountability and outwith the scope of Freedom of Information laws, make policy on their own and operate without any oversight.

The existing lack of judicial transparency and accountability allows this to continue, unchecked and unchallenged.

There is a proposal to create a new layer of transparency and accountability to the judiciary as exists in all other areas of public life.

In an effort to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

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

The proposal to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judges’ is also backed by the highly talented individuals who were appointed to provide oversight of judicial complaints – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali, and the current JCR – Gillian Thompson OBE.

The full transcript of evidence from former JCR Moi Ali to the Scottish Parliament during her term as Judicial Complaints Reviewer can be found here: Evidence from Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali to Public Petitions Committee on Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary, video footage of the hearing can be viewed here:  JCR Moi Ali gives evidence to Scottish Parliament on a proposed Register of Judicial Interests.

Read the full report & transcript of JCR Gillian Thompson’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee here: REGISTER, M’LORD: Former top judge Brian Gill called to Scottish Parliament as Judicial watchdog tells MSPs – Judges should declare their interests in public register.

JUDICIAL REGISTER: What interests are currently declared by Scottish judges?

The latest declarations by a select few powerful judges who control the running of Scotland’s Courts – is more revealing in what is missing from the limited disclosures in the 2016 annual report of Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

Ruling over our courts in their ermine robes – in some cases decades longer than any Prime Minister could hope to remain in office – the handful of judicial declarations after years on the bench and millions in taxpayers cash – are even less than newly minted msps cobble together in their first few weeks at Holyrood.

Decades of near £200K taxpayer funded salaries produce singular declarations for a handful of judges, while the other 700 members of Scotland’s judiciary declare not one single item.

This year, Scotland’s current top judge, the Lord President & Lord Justice General – Lord Carloway – (real name Colin Sutherland), has but one declaration (Trustee, Scottish Arts Club) – dwarfing the vast listing of directorships & positions of his predecessor – Lord Brian Gill.

Lord Carloway (62) was appointed to the Court of Session since 2000. Sixteen years later, and now in the top job – his salary is currently listed in the UK Government guidance on judicial salaries as of 1 April 2016 as £222,862.00.

Another judicial member of the SCTS Board – Lady Smith (61) was appointed to the Court of Session in 2001. Fifteen years later, her salary as a judge of the inner house of the Court of Session is listed by the UK Government as £204, 695.00.

Lord Brian Gill (74) – appointed to the Court of Session in 1994, ‘retired’ from his judicial tenure in Scotland as Lord President 21 years later in June 2015 – on a salary of £220,665.00.

The full list of declarations for the few judges who declare ‘some’ of their interests are as follows:

Rt. Hon. Lord Gill: (from 1 April to 31 May 2015) Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884), Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg’d No 250031), President of the Royal Society for Home Relief to Incurable, Edinburgh, Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Endowment Trust: a trust for the benefit of RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust: a trust for the benefit of the RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music: a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828) Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Chairman of Council, Royal School of Church Music

Rt. Hon. Lord Carloway: Trustee, Scottish Arts Club

Rt. Hon. Lady Smith:  Chair and Trustee – Royal Scottish National Orchestra Foundation, President and Trustee – Friends of the Music of St Giles Cathedral, Honorary Bencher – Gray’s Inn

Sheriff Principal Duncan Murray: Commissioner, Northern Lighthouse Board, Trustee Kibble Education and Care Centre

Sheriff Iona McDonald: Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran, Partner in property rental firm

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Chair West Fife Education Trust, Chair Relationship Scotland – Couple Counselling Fife, Committee Member Cammo Residents Association, Chair – Discipline Committee ICAS

Johan Findlay JP OBE Honorary Sheriff Justice of the Peace

Dr Joseph Morrow QC: Lord Lyon King of Arms, Member of Judicial Council, Trustee, Munday Trust, Dundee Trustee, Kidney Trust, Dundee Trustee, Tealing Community Hall Legal Assessor, South Episcopal Church President, Society of Messengers at Arms President, Scottish Genealogical Society Patron, Scottish Family History Society

Dr Kirsty J Hood QC: Self Employed Advocate Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Edinburgh – delivering seminars on one of the LLB courses, Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Glasgow – delivering lectures/seminars on one of the LLB courses, Contributor of updates to “Scottish Lawyers Factbook” (W Green. Publishers), Clerk of Faculty – Faculty of Advocates (non-remunerated) Member of the Scottish Committee of Franco-British Lawyers Society (non- remunerated)

Simon J D Catto: Member Gateley (Scotland) LLP: Head of Litigation, Member of Cornerstone Exchange LLP, Member of Cornerstone Exchange No2 LLP

Professor R Hugh MacDougall: None Eriska Trust, Cunningham Trust, Cross Trust, St Columba’s Hospice, Visiting Professor University of Edinburgh

Joe Al-Gharabally: Ernst & Young

Anthony McGrath: (from 1 April 2015 to 31 December 2015) Saltire Taverns Ltd, Consultation and mentoring assignment with Cantrell & Cochrane PLC. This includes sitting on the commercial Board of a subsidiary called The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill based in Somerset.

Col. David McIlroy: (from 1 January 2016) Independent Prison Monitor

Eric McQueen: Member of the Scottish Civil Justice Council

In August this year, DOI reported on the shareholdings of members of the same SCTS Board, in an article here: STILL BANKING, M’LORDS: Judicial quango in charge of Scotland’s Courts & Tribunals remains mired in financial links to Banks, investment funds, insurance, property & corporate vested interests

The current Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Board Register of Shareholdings reveals the following declarations of shareholdings:

Lord President – Rt Hon Lord Carloway: None
Lord Justice Clerk – Rt Hon Lady Dorrian: None
President of Scottish Tribunals – Rt Hon Lady Smith: Artemis Fund Managers, Barclays, Blackrock AM, Brown Advisory, Goldman Sachs, Global Access, Henderson Investment, Ishares PLC, JP Morgan, Lazard Fund Managers, Pimco Global, Vanguard Funds PLC, Fundrock Management CO Gsquaretrix.
Sheriff Principal Duncan L Murray: None
Sheriff Iona McDonald: None
Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: None
Johan Findlay OBE JP: Aviva, Vodaphone, Santander, Unilever, Norwich Union, Legal & General, Fidelity Funds Network, Lloyds Banking Group, Thus Group, HBOS, Trafficmaster, Standard Life.
Dr Joseph Morrow QC: None
Lord President – Rt Hon Lord Gill (note: Lord Gill retired on 31 May 2015 and was succeed by Lord Carloway). :Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Newton Global Equity Fund, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Scottish Widows UK Growth Sub-Fund, HSBC Balanced Fund (Retail Acc), Royal Mail Plc, TSB Group Plc, Urban and Civil Plc, Vestry Court Ltd.

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

 

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LEGAL COSTS: Ask your solicitor ten questions about costs before your legal expenses run up thousands in unnecessary work & bills – or result in your lawyer taking your home & savings to pay for it

Questions to ask your solicitor – walk if you don’t like the replies. IN SCOTLAND, there are few, if any non lawyer controlled sources of advice to legal services consumers on how to manage client relationships with solicitors, how to control legal costs, and what to do when something goes wrong and your lawyer rips you off.

Client protection – is a myth. Given three decades of evidence that thousands of clients have been ripped off every year by their once trusted solicitors, the only people who believe a complaints system run by lawyers, managed by lawyers and protected by lawyers –  are fantasists, and the Law Society of Scotland.

There are no background record checks available on Scottish solicitors, and the only ‘help’ on offer to clients when their relationship with their solicitor breaks down – is provided by the pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), a regulator backed by the Law Society of Scotland, staffed by members of the Law Society of Scotland. You get the picture.

However, in England & Wales, the landscape is a little more consumer friendly, with the Legal Ombudsman (LeO) and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) providing a more independent form of advice and help to consumers.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority also publish complaints and regulatory data on solicitors and law firms – a must have service for anyone considering using a solicitor which does not currently exist in Scotland.

As things currently stand in Scotland – if you are unable to check up on your solicitor’s regulatory history via an independent source, the best advice is to walk away – or what happens next is your own fault.

Self regulation by lawyers, pleas to the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament for help will not put right your legal problems or what your solicitor did to you.

A handy guide published by the Legal Ombudsman, reprinted by DOI in this article, gives a list of ten questions consumers and clients of solicitors should ask their legal representatives before taking on representation and expensive legal services.

There are further tips in the full LeO leaflet, so please download it and read thoroughly before engaging legal representation.

This guide was written for the English legal services market, and you may be an English reader, so go right ahead and ask you solicitor these ten basic questions on costs.

However, the same questions apply as much in Scotland as anywhere else –  and anyone using a Scottish solicitor should consider asking these same questions.

If you don’t like the answers you receive, or don’t get any answers at all – then the best consumer advice possible is to protect yourself and walk away.

At the very least, you will have saved yourself hundreds, or thousands or tens of thousands of pounds for something involving a lawyer which may well have ended up going wrong anyway.

Why put yourselves through a five year heartache losing your savings to a lawyer, when ten little questions and answers may save you a whole lot of trouble.

The introduction to the leaflet from the Legal Ombudsman states: “If you use a lawyer, he or she should talk to you about the cost of their services. But you should also understand their charges. We have come up with ten questions to ask your lawyer about the cost of your service. We’ve also included some top tips and explained the terms used to help you get the most from conversations with lawyers about costs.

As a consumer, you have the right to expect your lawyer to be clear about how much they are likely to charge you, and for the final bill to be clearly explained and in the range you expected.

Legal services can be complex and the final cost can depend on things such as the type of service, individual details of the case, and how events develop. The expertise and experience of the lawyer may affect things too. However, most services are straightforward and your lawyer should give you a clear idea of what you will be charged from the start. Even if things do get complicated, your lawyer should warn you when this happens, so there shouldn’t be any surprises in your final bill.

A lawyer who values good service will happily answer your cost-related questions. Lawyers also have a duty to provide you with a client care letter when you appoint them. This letter should clearly explain the costs for the service and any terms and conditions that may affect the final price.”

Question 1  Will I be charged for a consultation?

Finding the lawyer who is right for you and the service you need is important. A consultation by phone, face-to-face, letter or online can help you make your decision. A lawyer can charge you for a consultation but they should tell you before you book and explain any conditions. For example, they may offer the first 30 minutes free but charge for time above that.

A lawyer should speak to you about costs and provide the best possible information so you can make an informed choice.

If you have a consultation, make the most of the opportunity. Do your research to find the right lawyer – you can check online, talk to friends and family, or speak to consumer organisations to help you make your choice.

Question 2  “How do you cost your service?”

This question can help you shop around to get best value for money. Two lawyers may provide very different estimates for the same service. Understanding why the quotes differ can help you make the right decision. For example, one lawyer may be more experienced or an expert in the area of law your case involves. If you have a complex case, you might think it’s better to pay more as it may improve the outcome and cost you less in the long run. With a fairly simple case you might decide you don’t need that level of expertise, so it may be better value to go with the cheaper estimate.

Experience and skill are just two reasons why costs may differ. There are now more ways than ever to provide a legal service which can have an impact on what you pay. For example, you can now buy services that are phone or web based rather than face-to-face. Providers who offer this type of service may save on rent and backroom costs and might therefore offer a cheaper price to customers. Understanding if this type of service works for you will help you decide if it is, or isn’t, value for money.

Estimates may vary for a whole host of reasons. Ask questions until you understand enough about the services on offer so you can pick one that suits you.

Question 3 “Can you tell me more about the way you charge?”

Lawyers have different ways of charging and their charging method may also vary according to the service. For example, they may offer a fixed fee for writing a will, but an hourly rate for a probate service (the administration of a will when someone has died). Find out what charging method the lawyer will use and ask them to explain it to you in detail. Questions 4 and 5 help with understanding fixed fee and hourly rate charges.

Conditional fee arrangements (CFAs) are also known as ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements. If you lose, you won’t, in general, have to pay your lawyer’s fees, but may need to pay some out of pocket expenses such as barrister’s fees or court fees. You may also be liable to pay some of the other side’s costs but it is possible to get insurance to protect against this. If you win, you will have to pay your lawyer’s fees and in addition there is usually a success fee which is intended to cover the risk that the firm are entering into with this type of agreement. You should in most cases, however, be able to recover your fees (including any success fee) from the other side. If you are thinking about entering into one of these arrangements, make sure you ask detailed questions so that you fully understand the terms and conditions.

Contingency fee agreements are also a type of ‘no win no fee’ agreement. If your lawyer agrees to represent you under a contingency fee agreement — which should not be confused with a conditional fee arrangement – they will be able to claim a percentage of any money they win on your behalf plus expenses. If you lose the case, you won’t be charged a fee, but you might still have to pay other costs (which could include the other side’s legal costs too).

The contingency fee percentage must be agreed in advance. You should also check whether the lawyer will deduct any expenses before they take their contingency fee or after as this can make a significant difference to the amount you finally receive. If the percentage you are asked to pay is very high, you could end up with very little – even if you win.

Question 4 “What is a fixed fee and what does it cover?  Will I be charged for any other costs?

The term ‘fixed fee’ can be used in different ways. It can be easy to assume that it covers all costs for the service you need. In some cases that may be true, but it may also just refer to the lawyer’s fees. For example, a ‘fixed fee’ in a property case may, or may not, include charges related to searches. Sometimes a lawyer may offer a ‘fixed fee’ for a stage of the case, so don’t feel embarrassed about asking your lawyer exactly what they mean by ‘fixed fee’. It’s not a silly question; the term isn’t self-explanatory.

Lawyers will sometimes give you an estimate of the costs. This isn’t the same as a ‘fixed fee’, so check what your lawyer means. This can be important as sometimes a lawyer may charge a fixed fee for a particular stage but give an estimate for the next stage. If that happens, or you aren’t sure, check what your lawyer means and ask for an estimate for the total cost of the case.

Question 5  “You charge an hourly rate but I’d like an estimate for the cost of the whole service. What will my final bill look like?”

If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, they must give you an estimate of how much the overall service will be. This should compare reasonably with your final bill. If you aren’t sure, then ask your lawyer to give you an estimate for the whole service. Sometimes it can be hard to predict how much it will all cost. Ask so you know how certain the estimate is. Having a range of costs might be more helpful than a single number, which could shift up or down. The important thing is to understand how much the total bill could be.

You are entitled to ask the lawyer to set a limit on the costs. This means your lawyer has to check that you are happy to continue if the spend approaches the agreed threshold. Setting a limit can help you make sure you don’t spend more than you can afford.

Ask questions to understand exactly when the clock starts. For example, if you call your lawyer for an update on your case will you be charged for the call? Ask if, and how, your lawyer rounds up their charges. Many lawyers charge in six minute blocks – check if that’s how your lawyer works. Make sure you feel comfortable with the way they charge.

As with ‘fixed fees’, ask if there are any other costs that won’t be covered in the hourly rate.

Question 6 “Could my costs change? How will you let me know if they do?”

There may be circumstances where costs do change. This is most likely if new information or developments make a case more difficult. For example, in a divorce case much is dependent on the other person’s cooperation to resolve it quickly. Even if both people intend to behave amicably, sometimes that resolve breaks down. If your costs look like they are changing, ask your lawyer about it. In general, your lawyer should tell you as soon as they are aware of any changes, but you don’t have to wait to ask for an explanation. Another option is to ask, when you choose your lawyer, if their original estimate is likely to be breached. If you have agreed a spending limit (see question 5), then your lawyer should stop work until you confirm that you want to continue.

If a case gets complicated even a ‘fixed fee’ arrangement can change. Your lawyer should explain when this might happen and also set out the terms and conditions in your client care letter. Make sure you understand and ask if there is a ‘get out’ clause to say if additional costs can be charged.

Remember, you always have options, even in the middle of a legal transaction. If there is a big hike in the costs of using a lawyer, then your lawyer should tell you about them and let you know what your options are. You could use a different specialist who might cost less but take longer, or only use email to contact your lawyer. There might also be some stages in the process that can be missed out. Ask your lawyer how you can work with them to reduce costs.

Question 7 Are there any extra costs?

This really is a catch-all question to help you budget for your service. You are basically asking your lawyer if they have given you all the information they reasonably can to make sure there aren’t any nasty surprises in the future. Examples of the sort of information this question might raise are additional costs for things like expert reports (such as from a doctor), or photocopying. Some firms use premium rate phone numbers, which could add unexpected costs to the final amount you spend for your service. Use these examples as a prompt to discuss this issue. Your lawyer should also tell you if you are likely to incur any bank charges. For example, you might need to make a CHAPs payment (same day electronic transfer) which can cost over £20 in a property transaction.

Finally, don’t forget to check if your estimate is inclusive of VAT. Your lawyer should tell you, but check so that you don’t get a higher bill than you’re expecting.

Question 8 “Can I get help with the cost of my legal service?”

A lawyer should always talk to you about how the service will be paid for and discuss options such as insurance or membership of a union that might help cover the costs. There can be some fine-print with different insurance options that you need to understand, so ask lots of questions to make sure you know what you are signing up to. Some insurances, like ‘after the event’ or ‘before the event’ insurance, could cover you for some things but not for others. Ask your lawyer for more information.

If you receive benefits or are on a low income you might qualify for help that may reduce or cover all of your costs. There are different programmes for different types of help but the best known is legal aid, which provides free legal advice from lawyers who are registered with the service. Even if your lawyer isn’t registered to provide legal aid they should tell you about it so you have the option of going to a lawyer who can.

Question 9 “When will I be billed and how long will I have to pay? Do you offer payment options?”

A lawyer should give you clear information on their billing process and offer reasonable time for you to make payments. They should also let you know if there are penalty charges if you don’t pay on time. You may be asked to pay some money at the start either to cover certain expenses or as an advance payment of fees. Lawyers aren’t obliged to offer you payment options, but some may be willing to negotiate. Asking the question might help you find a lawyer whose service fits your personal circumstances.

Question 10 “What happens if I disagree with the amount I’ve been charged?”

Your lawyer should tell you their approach to resolving billing disagreements. Every lawyer should have a complaints handling system in place, so find out how their system works. You should not be charged by a lawyer for looking at your complaint – it is very poor service if they do. When you appoint a lawyer they are also obliged to let you know about the Legal Ombudsman who can help you to resolve your complaint if you and your lawyer can’t reach an agreement.

Note – if you disagree with legal bills in Scotland, cases have revealed solicitors often employ threats and legal action for demands to be met within seven days. In some cases solicitors have applied to sequestrate their clients for disagreements on legal bills, and willing, compliant local sheriff courts staffed by familiar clerks and members of the judiciary often grant such orders with little regard for the facts or any representations from clients who question the integrity of legal fees.

SCOTLAND – Consumer protection against rogue solicitors and law firms does not exist.

How bad is the Law Society of Scotland when it comes to protecting consumers? The answer is  very bad. The Law Society of Scotland is a lobby group for the legal profession which puts lawyers interests first, before clients, the public, or anyone else. Do not expect client protection from a system where lawyers regulate themselves.

Read previous articles on the Law Society of Scotland here: Law Society of Scotland – A history of control of the legal profession, and no client protection.

Previous reports on the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal – The pro-lawyer tribunal which determines ‘punishments’ for solicitors after complaints have endured an eternity at the Law Society & SLCC, can be found here: Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal – Pro-lawyer protection against client complaints

Previous media investigations, reports and coverage of issues relating to the pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) can be found here: Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – A history of pro-lawyer regulation.

 

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PARLIAMENT ACCOUNTS: How Scotland’s judiciary & courts blew £58 million of taxpayers cash on ‘improvements’ to the Court of Session & Parliament House

‘Sundries’ befitting courts & judges: £2.78m. SCOTLAND’S top judges and their attendants at the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) don’t do detail when it comes to accounting for a £58 million raid on taxpayers cash – to fund ‘improvements’ to Parliament House – seat of the Court of Session.

According to documents released by the SCTS in response to a Freedom of Information request, the staggering £57,517,062.82 splurge on the well known, if rotting, bleak and life ending Parliament House gives little detail to public eyes on exactly what work took place.

In one accounts category, a grand total of £2,780,612.72 of public cash falls under the heading of “Sundries under £100K” – reminiscent of an entry from the ledger of Al Capone’s not so fabled book keeper in the days of  “The Untouchables”.

And, ironically, the City of Edinburgh Council – who used to own the building before Scottish Ministers took the titles for themselves – were paid the sum of £2,436,439.45 as part of the works plan – small compensation for the loss of a building right in the centre of Edinburgh, valued potentially as a site in the hundreds of millions of pounds.

The ‘full’ figures released in documents provided by the SCTS in terms of where the money went reveal the following: Aedas ARCHITECTS £3,014,605.06, Amec Initial building contractor £101,669.52, Archibald McKellar Ltd furniture £259,024.15, City of Edinburgh Council Costs for decant to 1a during works  £2,436,439.45, Currie and Brown Project managers £3,292,438.75, Davis Langdon Cost consultants £554,067.40, Dinardo Partnership Services consultant  £112,672.00, GHI Fit out contractor £858,338.19, Guardian  Storage and removals £269,646.09, Hands of Wycombe  furniture £377,036.41, Heriot Video AV AV court kit £219,729.81, Interserve  Main contractor £42,030,146.95, Thomas Johnstone Limited Fit out contractor £1,021,776.27, W Stewart Client advisor £188,860.05, Sundries under £100k Miscellaneous £2,780,612.72, TOTAL £57,517,062.82

In truth, and to those who have passed through the unfriendly halls of this intimidating structure – which also serves as the command post of Scotland’s Lord President & Lord Justice General – currently Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland), Parliament House differs little from the mid 1990’s.

Just how was this multi million pound judicial gorge on the public purse explained to the public and Scottish Parliament? Watch the following:

SCTS Chief Eric McQueen to MSPs – We spent £58 million of public cash on Parliament House

During questions from Justice Committee MSPs, SCS Chief Executive Eric McQueen gave evidence on the massive £60 million taxpayer funded spend on Parliament House.

The Court Service Chief told MSPs: “We are just coming to the end of the Parliament house contract; in total, the budget for it was £65 million and I think that we expect the final spend to be in the low £60 millions. The project has been delivered on budget, on time and on quality. How it has been delivered is a tribute to the Scottish Court Service.

McQueen continued: “I will give a potted history of the Parliament house situation. About 10 years ago, a scheme was in place that was going to run to way over £120 million. That was brought to a stop to allow us to reassess things and to consider the best strategy. At the same time, we looked at a business case for moving away from Parliament house altogether and having a development on a greenfield or brownfield site on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The major problem with Parliament house is that it is a grade A listed building and is a site of special historical interest. It should be a landmark building for the whole of Scotland.”

In an intervention, the Convener of the Justice Committee – Christine Grahame MSP said: “I am glad that you did not move to a greenfield site. It would have been a bit like going to B&Q. I do not mean to malign B&Q, but I like the old Parliament house building.”

Eric McQueen replied : “Had the decision been taken to move out of Parliament house, that asset would have been left with the Scottish Government. The infrastructure and the services were shot, and there was no fire certificate in place for the building. It would have cost as much to move out as to redevelop the building. From the point of view of the benefit to the nation and to the Scottish Government’s purse, the investment of the £65 million in Parliament house over that five or six year period was quite a sensible business case decision.”

Sitting beside Eric McQueen was Lord President Brian Gill, who did not at any stage of the meeting volunteer information to the Justice Committee in relation to the titles arrangements of Parliament House, despite the multi million pound taxpayer funded refurbishment.

Last year Diary of Injustice reported on the City of Edinburgh Council’s efforts to recover the titles to Parliament House after land reform campaigner Andy Wightman – now an MSP – revealed land titles to the buildings of Scotland’s top courts were ‘gifted’ by Scottish Ministers to the Faculty of Advocates.

A disclosure of eighty eight pages of documents released to DOI under Freedom of Information legislation – revealed at the time the Scottish Government had no plans to act over their handing over of the Parliament Hall land titles to the Faculty of Advocates.

Documents released by the Scottish Government and published by DOI also revealed the former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates – James Wolffe QC (now Lord Advocate) – refused to give any expectation of success on attempts by Edinburgh Council to recover public ownership of titles to Parliament House and the Laigh Hall.

In a separate 47 page Freedom of Information document release by Registers of Scotland (RoS)– the body charged with registering land ownership in Scotland – several documents highlight Scottish Government civil servants scrambling to protect Ministers from questions over the titles loss in the Scottish Parliament while vested legal interests are of a clear persuasion titles should be handed over to the Faculty of Advocates. Attempts by Edinburgh Council to recover the Parliament Hall titles ended in a failed legal action, reported here: WOLFFE HALL: Papers reveal Council’s legal action ‘abandoned’, £320K Faculty refurbishment of Laigh Hall.

Previous reports on the loss of public ownership of Scotland’s top court – Parliament House can be found here: Parliament House – The lost titles to the City of Edinburgh

 

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THE JUDICIAL SERVICE: How Scotland’s secretive judicial elite peddle their influence in jurisdictions around the world, and where judges go – corporate vested interests follow

Scots judges ‘influence’ building – Lord Gill. ONE ITEM which stood out in evidence given by former top judge Lord Brian Gill to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee last November, was the ‘influence’ Scotland’s judiciary pride themselves in being able to exert over courts and judges in other jurisdictions across the world.

As the top judge muddled through his evidence, rants on transparency, aggression, and accusing US justices of basing their careers on corporate cash, Brian Gill told MSPs “It is important that the public should know that the Scottish judiciary enjoys a reputation throughout the judicial world that is out of all proportion to the size of our small nation.”

Gill, who was answering questions on his opposition to judicial transparency, continued: “The influence that it exerts in judicial thinking is enormous. The Scottish judiciary is admired, is respected and plays its part in the international world of judicial affairs.”

And the former Lord President was not kidding in what he said.

At least, not the part about meddling and peddling influence in other countries – which appears to emanate from members of the Judicial Office for Scotland who often award themselves off-the-books diplomatic roles, backed up by wads of taxpayers cash.

As for admired and respected, well, not really. Headlines on how judges look down upon the community they are paid to serve – reveal little proof of Lord Gill’s ‘world respected’ Scottish judiciary.

Though, of course, it is a good thing those from far off jurisdictions come to Scotland to learn of our legal system. Who would deny that.

But, when someone with close judicial ties hints to a visiting legal figure – they know a company who can provide a “must have” legal service, anyone looking in realises the whole gathering is just about money, rather than sharing experience, building influence and enduring a boring legal conference.

And, spare a thought for foreign companies who are handed the line they can only do business in Scotland’s courts, if they pay a certain legal firm vast legal fees to do so – a legal firm who just happen to employ members of the judiciary in various causes.

As a parliamentary probe and media investigation into judicial influence rumbles on, documents on judicial ‘seminars’ released by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service shed a little more light on the closed off world of judicial influence peddled by such bodies as the Judicial Institute for Scotland.

Via palm pressing, plush taxpayer funded dinners, unpublished hospitality, trinkets and ‘lectures’ to visiting foreign judges, Scotland’s judiciary has indeed, as Lord Gill said himself – built up a finger in every pie, from courts in China and links to wealthy elite, to influence across justice systems around the world.

However, it is not too difficult to notice where our judges go, business follows – eager to lobby for legal services contracts abroad, sometimes in countries which can ill afford such ‘luxuries’ and in many cases, could well do without.

The column of corporate vested interests following in the wake of Scotland’s judicial ermine is so obvious, it stands out like a line of tanks against a violent orange-red sunset.

And these same corporations, among others, appear in the Judicial Rich List investigation – the very same companies and vested interests doing business in Scotland’s courts, and in which our judges hold undisclosed financial stakes they are scared to death of declaring in a register of interests – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Not too difficult to spot, if you know what to look for. Company note pads in a far off distant rural court, a judge or civil servant in a legal department who develops lifestyle changes and expensive tastes – after schmoozing with Scots judges & the legal profession. Gotcha.

The more obvious ones such as a public official now promoting a huge corporate legal services contract to his colleagues in an area of a developing country where it does not make sense to spend millions on a commercial legal service a judge in Scotland advocates as a “must have”, solely due to the fact that very same judge in Scotland holds shares in the company.

But, let us remind ourselves, we are, after all, talking about influence peddling by Scotland’s judiciary – a judiciary that spent four years battling proposals in the Scottish Parliament to create a register of judicial interests. Just imagine for a second how this looks to the outside world.

Remember, for this was a Lord President who preached ‘Transparency is insidious’ to a gathering of ‘respected’ lawyers and judges.

Gill’s exact words at the 2015 Commonwealth Law Conference in Edinburgh were: “The threats to judicial independence do not always come with a knock on the door in the middle of the night.  In a society that prides itself on the independence of its judiciary, the threat may come in insidious ways, even at the hands of well-meaning governments and legislators, in the name of efficiency and, ironically, in the name of  transparency.”

Those present, laughed, and agreed. The legal profession and justice system is supreme over all. Governments – They are subordinate to all things law, and the judiciary write the law.

Gill, was on a roll. Managing a quip to his esteemed legal audience about the execution of protestors in the centre of Edinburgh, Lord Gill said: “Two years ago, I was crossing the square outside my court when I noticed two individuals standing, perhaps appropriately, at the Heart of Midlothian, the scene of public executions in Edinburgh in former times. They were holding a large banner. It caught my eye. It said “Lord Gill – Resign!” I never discovered what their reasons were; but I thought what a privilege it was to be a judge in a society where the public could make a constructive suggestion of that nature without being taken away by the police.”

The Speech given by Lord Gill to Commonwealth Law Conference Glasgow 2015, which could be described as more of an assault on free thinking & expectation of judicial transparency, was given just before Brian Gill led a column of judges including Lord Neuberger out of the conference, desperate to flee the earth shaking sight of Julian Assange on a giant screen.

Assange, Wikileaks, the media, even the Scottish Parliament – exist to represent transparency, openness, and ensure the public know what is going on.

Yet Scotland’s judiciary view transparency as insidious, and fear a knock on the door at night. Brian Gill, the Lord President, said so himself – to cheers, and perhaps the odd gasp of shock.

Many of the events listed are run by the Judicial Institute for Scotland – a quango created by Lord Brian Gill to give on the job training to Scotland’s judiciary.

Diary of Injustice reported on the creation of the Judicial Institute by Lord Gill during his first few months as Lord President, in January 2013, here: Teaching old dogs new tricks – Judicial Institute for Scotland aims to drag Judges out of “Victorian” era ways with training, technology, & business as usual.

In a speech detailing the creation of the quango, Lord Gill, emphasised the importance he placed on providing judges in Scotland with high quality training in order to ensure that they are in a position to deal with the raft of new legislation and case law, and that they are fully conversant with courtroom technology and case-management expectations.

Gill said: “Judicial training is not simply an optional extra for the judiciary. We have an obligation individually and collectively to ensure that we maintain a professional approach throughout our judicial life.  This new learning suite will enable us to ensure that judges in Scotland benefit from the latest technology in helping them to meet the challenges that lay ahead”

However, what was initially claimed to be little more than a meeting place for Sheriffs and more senior judges to meet and exchange views, the Judicial Institute for Scotland quickly turned into a cover for largesse, hospitality and travel junkets including overseas trips, conferences at expensive venues & hotels, and posh dinners for judges and their guests – all paid for by taxpayers cash.

As journalists continue an investigation into judicial connections around the world, the scale of judicial meddling & peddling around the world in the past two years becomes more apparent in documents obtained via Freedom of Information legislation.

Bear in mind these events are dressed up as legal gatherings. But as they say, it if’s worth doing, it’s worth doing for money, M’Lord.

And, rather than spending their days in the Court of Session, the judges you pay £40 million a year of public cash, are busy operating their own business and influence peddling machine:

4 April 2014 Sheriff T Welsh QC (Director of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Duff (Deputy Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Bosnia and Herzegovina: The delegation spent the morning with the Institute, during which we demonstrated and discussed Scotland’s support technology for vulnerable witnesses. Held in Edinburgh £28

8 April 2014 Sheriff T Welsh QC (Director of the Judicial Institute) THEMIS Competition Europe-wide debating competition for trainee judges and prosecutors and Judicial Institute contributed towards cost of reception Held in Glasgow. £541.20

14-16 April 2014 Lord Gill Visit to Qatar Lord Gill was invited to address the judges of the Supreme Court on developing a judicial code of conduct. £2,855.52 (overall cost of the visit) The visit actually lasted five days, according to travel expense claims.

16-22 April 2014 Sheriff T Welsh QC (Director of the Judicial Conference) Sheriff Duff (deputy director of Judicial Institute) International: The director and deputy director of the JI presented a session at the conference entitled ‘The Role of the Judiciary in Promotion of a Culture of Tolerance’. Held in Islamabad, Pakistan. All costs met by host country.

9 May 2014 Sheriff T Welsh QC (Director of the Judicial Institute) Lord Brodie Visit by delegation from the China University of Political Science and law and the Baowei Corporation: The main purpose of the visit was to gain an insight into the Court of Session and the public law litigation system in Scotland, in light of China’s recent revision of its Administrative Litigation Law Held in Edinburg. £103.35

22-26 June 2014 Sheriff McFadyen International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law Conference in Vancouver, Canada: Sheriff McFadyen was invited to address Crimes and Punishments from Beccaria to Present on preventing crime and promoting speedy trial: what would Beccaria think of us? Held in Vancouver, Canada £1,408.31 (overall cost of attending the conference).

19 August 2014 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Punjabi Judicial Academy Via Skype Participation in training course being delivered to Pakistani judiciary No costs

5 September 2014 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit by Norwegian delegation of judges and court staff To observe court proceedings and judicial training in Scotland. Held in Edinburgh. No costs

16 – 17 September 2014 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit to High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina: To demonstrate the Scottish approach to the issue of witness protection and the giving of evidence by vulnerable witnesses.Held in Bosnia and Herzegovina All costs paid by host country £21.00

14 Nov 2014 The Judicial Institute Board – Lord Malcolm (Chairman of the Judicial Institute) Lord Woolman (Vice Chairman, of the Judicial Institute)Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Cubie (Deputy Director of the Judicial Institute)  UK and Ireland Judicial Studies Council annual meeting Edinburgh: The UKIJSC consists of representatives of the judicial training institutions throughout the UK and Ireland. It meets annually to exchange ideas and information about judicial training £249.50

26 March 2015 Lady Scott Visit by Japanese Supreme Court Justice Takehiko Otani The Judicial Institute hosted an afternoon visit to the Sheriff court and High Court Held in Edinburgh. No costs

12 April 2015 Lord Gill Commonwealth Chief Justices Association Conference Scotland’s turn to host the event Held in Glasgow £1741.56

22 June 2015 Lord Malcolm (Chairman of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Jiangxi, China: The Judicial Institute welcomed a delegation from Jiangxi for a half day visit to learn about Scotland’s legal system. Held in Edinburgh. No costs

24 June 2015 Lord Carloway International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law Conference: Lord Carloway delivered a speech on the use of digital technology in the fair and efficient presentation of evidence. Held in Edinburgh. No costs

2 July 2015 Lord Woolman (Vice Chairman of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Seoul Central District Court, South Korea The Judicial Institute for Scotland hosted a visit from Judge Dohyoung Kim who wished to learn about warrants in the Scottish legal system. Held in Edinburgh. No costs.

31 August – 4 September 2015 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) EJTN Exchange Visit The Judicial Institute hosted a visit from Judge Frieda San Jose Arrongo who visited the Judicial Institute for Scotland as part of the EJTN exchange programme. Held in Edinburgh All costs met by EJTN

4 September 2015 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Cubie (Deputy Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Hubei High People’s Court, China: The Judicial Institute hosted a half-day visit of senior judges who wished to discuss areas including the management and supervision of judges as well as alternative dispute resolution and IT. Held in Edinburgh. No costs.

14 September 2015 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Fredrikstad District Court, Norway: The Judicial Institute coordinated a visit by judges and staff who observed criminal trials, and took part in a panel discussion on a wide range of subjects. Held in Edinburgh, £262

16 October 2015 Lord Woolman (Chairman of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Beijing The Judicial Institute hosted a late afternoon visit of judges from Beijing High Peoples Court who wished to learn more about judicial training. Held in Edinburgh, No costs

8 – 14 December 2015 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Sheriff A Cubie (Deputy Director of the Judicial Institute) Visit from Pakistan Judicial Training Academies: The Judicial Institute hosted a visit of two judges from the Punjab Judicial Academy who wished to learn more about the Scottish legal system and judicial training in Scotland. Held in Edinburgh. No costs

26 January 2016 Sheriff A Duff (Director of the Judicial Institute) Punjabi Judicial Academy Participation in training course being delivered to Pakistani judiciary Held via SKYPE. No costs

14 April 2016 Lord Carloway World Bar Conference: Lord Carloway was invited to speak at the World Bar Conference. This event brings together the members of independent boards of International Council of Advocates and Barristers. Held in Edinburgh. No costs recorded.

30 May to 2 June 2016 Lady Dorian Lord Pentland Lord Brodie Lord Menzies Lord Bannatyne Lord Woolman Lady Scott Sheriff A Duff JI AMB INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS: Members of Scottish Judiciary presented sessions on the Scottish Legal System over the 4 day conference and hosted a reception for the 180 Brazilian judges plus 70 invited guests Held in Edinburgh. £7,010.40

6 July 2016 Lord Pentland China Law Society Visit from members of the China Law Society which conducts research into all areas of legal and judicial reform Held in Edinburgh, No costs

So, next time you see a protest in another country, against a justice system which serves itself, rather than delivers justice for the community it serves, spare a minute and think, did our judges cause that mess to happen? The odds are, if you believe our own Lord President – Yes.

BRAZIL JUDICIARY’S £7K SUPPER: Scottish reception as investigation reveals UK & Scots judiciary’s links to bribe companies:

Scotland’s Judiciary serenaded Brazil judges while a major ongoing investigation by Brazilian authorities continues into British Companies who bribed their way round Brazil industry and government.

A recent investigation by the Guardian Newspaper and BBC Panorama has established one of the companies  – Rolls Royce – may have benefited from use of alleged payments by network of intermediaries for years Rolls Royce – may have benefited from use of alleged payments by network of intermediaries for years

The latest investigation comes after the Guardian newspaper revealed last year Rolls-Royce was facing further scrutiny over bribery allegations in Brazil after a high-level congressional commission told the newspaper it will investigate the company in connection with a sprawling corruption scandal.

The Guardian further reported Rolls Royce  were involved in two investigations in Brazil after the company admitted last it is cooperating with investigating bodies, believed to include Brazil’s federal anti-corruption authority. The commission confirmed the inquiry intends to examine Rolls-Royce’s relationship with Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, currently ensnared in a multibillion-dollar bribery scandal which has prompted political turmoil in the country.

However, any prosecutions or legal action taken as a result of evidence accrued by investigators and authorities in Brazil – is likely to come before members of the AMB Association of Brazilian Magistrates – Brazil’s Judges Association – who were recently in Scotland on public cash junkets to ‘study’ the Scots judicial system and attend ‘law conferences’.

The Association of Brazilian Magistrates held their second International Congress in the United Kingdom from 23 May to 2 June, 2016. After a series of events in London, up to 200 delegates headed to Scotland as guests of events in Parliament House, the WS Library, Edinburgh University and Stirling University.

Information disclosed by the Judicial Office confirmed 180 judges from Brazil were serenaded at plush conferences and expensive dinners by Scottish judges who themselves hold financial stakes in companies also accused of bribery and inciting corruption around the world.

Also on Scottish judges shareholdings list is mining favourite BHP Biliton, who are linked to a massive lawsuit for $44 billion over the collapse of iron ore tailings dam in Bento Rodrigues, a subdistrict of Mariana, Brazil – which killed at least 17 people.

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

 

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OPENNESS? LORD, NO: The day Scotland’s former top judge lashed out at America’s justice system, accusing US judges of financial ties to corporations & vested interests

US justices base their careers on corporate funds – Lord Gill. DURING a meeting at the Scottish Parliament almost one year ago, Scotland’s former Lord President & Lord Justice General launched a scathing attack on the judiciary of the United States of America, accusing top US judges of harbouring financial ties to corporations & vested interests – in order to ensure their election to judicial office.

The damning accusations against top US Justices – aired in an open session of the Scottish Parliament by Scotland’s longest serving judge – Lord Brian Gill (74) – were not in response to an international incident or some complicated round of diplomacy and trade negotiations.

Rather, Brian Gill’s pulverising attack on the integrity of the judiciary of the United States – looked upon by many as the world’s most powerful democracy – were in response to a proposal for Scottish judges to register their interests – in the very same way judges in the United States and other international jurisdictions are required to register their interests.

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

Responding to some measure of astonishment, Gill charged in and blew apart the integrity of his judicial colleagues in the US, stating: “I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates’ election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts.”

Judicial Transparency, US style, or for that – judicial transparency from any other jurisdiction, was not welcome in Scotland – according to Lord Gill.

And Gill was the expert. For as one of the shortest term serving Lord Presidents’ of modern times – he spent much of his three year term battling against proposals to require Scotland’s elite, secretive judiciary to declare their significant wealth and connections to the professions & big business as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

However, worse was to come from the notoriously anti-transparency judge, who once threatened to deny journalists access to court documents.

Lord Gill – who has since relocated to a posh seat on the UK Supreme Court based in London – was not content with lambasting US justices he accused of cuddling up to corporations for campaign cash.

In response to further questions from the Petitions Committee, Lord Gill opened up another sneering line of attack on US judges, castigating the highly valued nomination hearings of US Supreme Court justices which form a key part of the judicial process in America and are widely available to watch online, with examples such as the nomination process for famed Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Lashing out again at the almost alien concept of judicial transparency coming to Scotland, Lord Gill recoiled: “I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.”

However, only weeks before Gill made his outburst against the judicial selection process in the United States, the behind closed doors approach to selecting Scottish judges – who dodge questions on their own ties to vested interests inside and outside the legal profession, was revealed in a media investigation here: TO PLAY THE PRESIDENT: Transparency, diversity & judicial reform on the cards as hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge & Lord President of the Court of Session.

And, investigations by DOI revealed Scotland’s judiciary are themselves, no stranger to financial ties to vested interests and big banks, reported in further detail here: JUDICIAL RICH LIST: Register reveals top judges investments in dodgy justice system providers, companies linked to international bribes scandals and here: COURT BANKING, M’LORD: ‘Unworkable’ register of judicial interests reveals top judges’ financial links to world of big money, insurance giants, vested interests.

No one would ever claim the US justice system, or any justice system was perfect.

It is true, US justices do have links to corporations, and regular coverage appears in the media.

However at least in the United States and other international jurisdictions where registers of interests are required of the judiciary, court users, elected politicians, the media and public have the opportunity by right of law and expectation of transparency – to inspect their judiciary on a much more detailed level than in Scotland.

And, this is what makes the difference. Transparency. An altogether simple case to present. Nothing more complicated than openness itself.

Beware then, those who answer questions on transparency with hand gestures, demands on how to frame the questions being put to them, or using an underlying tone of aggression.

Video footage of Lord Gill’s meticulous, if short derision of judicial colleagues in the United States made clear the former Lord President’s opinion of judges who are required by law and due process to follow a path more transparent than his, and his colleagues within the Judiciary of Scotland.

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

Official Record: Petitions Committee 10 November 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The proposals before the Scottish Parliament received cross party backing from MSPs during a full debate at Holyrood during October 2014 – Debating the Judges – call for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

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

 

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Calls for Republic of Ireland to create a register of judges’ interests – Senator to table motion on “culture of openness & transparency” for judiciary

Ireland’s Parliament to hear motion calling for judges’ register. THE REPUBLIC of Ireland’s Parliament – the upper house Seanad of the Houses of the Oireachtas – will be the setting for a motion calling for Ireland’s judiciary to be subject to a full register of interests, similar in nature to widely backed proposals currently being investigated by the Scottish Parliament – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The Irish Times recently reported on moves to create more judicial transparency in Ireland, led by independent Senator Victor Boyhan – who intends to table a motion calling for the introduction of a register of judges’ interests to “foster a culture of openness and transparency”as well as confidence –  in the judiciary.

At present in Ireland, as is in Scotland, there is no requirement for members of the judiciary to declare their interests.

Court users in Ireland must, like those in Scotland, rely on a system of archaic oaths written by the judiciary – where judges promise [themselves] to execute their office “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will towards any man”.

The proposal by Senator Boyhan – to increase judicial transparency in the Republic of Ireland come after Ireland’s top judge – Chief Justice Mrs Justice Susan Denham – recommended the establishment of a judicial council – first suggested by the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Ethics in 2000.

The creation of such a council for Ireland, would be similar to the ruling Scottish Court & Tribunal Service Board – the powerful judge-led legal vested interests quango which controls Scotland’s courts and must approve all policy or changes in relation to how courts and tribunals function.

Proposals currently on the table envisage the membership of any newly created ‘Judicial Council’ in the Republic of Ireland would consist of the Chief Justice and ordinary judges of the Supreme Court; and the Presidents of the High Court, Circuit Court and District Court and ordinary judges of those courts.

The Judicial Council will be tasked to “develop a code of conduct for judges, as well as oversee and support their training and develop a complaint structure for litigants” and promote “excellence in the exercise by judges of their judicial functions”.

Speaking to the Irish Times, Senator Boyhan said the Government should introduce such a council, as well as a judicial appointments commission, promised in the programme for government, and intended to reform the selection of judges.

He called for a consultation process to begin with the judiciary on the establishment of a register of interests for judges. “I, personally, would be uncomfortable if a judge was a member of a Masonic lodge, for example, or other secret society, and I think that should be declared, as should shares in financial institutions,” he said.

Mr Boyhan said, in the UK, judges have been found to have conflicts of interest in some cases.

Earlier this week, Senator Boyhan gave a speech in the Irish Parliament on the creation of a Judicial Council: Senator Victor Boyhan – Creation of Judicial Council

A report by Diary of Injustice last week revealed links between Scotland’s current top judge – Lord Carloway – who opposes a judicial transparency register – and members of Ireland’s judiciary.

A Freedom of Information disclosure from the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS) revealed details of a junket taken by Lord Carloway and Lady Dorrian to Ireland – to meet senior figures of the judicial establishment in 2014 – IT’S DUBLIN, M’LADY: FOI probe results in Judicial Office adding Lady Dorrian to Lord Carloway’s ‘research’ junket on Ireland’s criminal justice system

A programme for the visit also revealed Lord Carloway met up with two senior Irish judges in a Chinese restaurant to discuss the ‘efficiencies of courts’.

And a powerful editorial in The Sunday Times newspaper of 28 June 2015, supports the creation of a register of judicial interests in the Republic of Ireland.

The editorial states: “Ireland, as a nation, is a great deal more sceptical than it used to be, hardened by corruption in the body politic, irresponsible behaviour on the part of banks, and appalling revelations of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. There are a few professions, however, whose reputations have emerged largely unscathed from the non-stop diet of negative news engulfing the country for the past decade. The medical profession, teachers and professors consistently score highly with the public. So does the judiciary, and that is why potential conflicts of interest involving judges is an important issue.

The Sunday Times has identified a number of judges who hold shares in companies traded on the stock exchange. There is no law preventing judges from holding investments, nor should there be, but we are long overdue regulations requiring them to declare their interests and those of their close family members. We know from experience that conflicts of interest do arise.”

Within it’s editorial, the Sunday Times – a powerful supporter of transparency alluded to further evidence access international jurisdictions – where asset declaring registers for judges already exist.

The editorial continued: “We cannot think of a single reason why judges should not be required to sign up to a register of interests in the same way that elected politicians must make public their interests through the Standards in Public Office Commission. Indeed, Ireland is a laggard in this regard. Of 137 jurisdictions surveyed by the World Bank, almost 58% had asset-declaration regimes in place for all levels of judges and prosecutors.

Judges, quite rightly, are independent of the executive, so any system of asset declaration would most likely be self-regulating. So long as a register was transparent, robust and available for scrutiny by the public, this should not be an issue.

The ideal base for such a register would be the long-promised Judicial Council. An interim council has been established but the coalition has not prioritised legislation that would formalise the body. This delay does the profession a disservice. The Judicial Council is a priority, as is a judicial register of interests that would copperfasten the profession’s reputation for operating to the highest ethical standards.”

Editorials from Scottish Newspapers have also featured judicial transparency supporting editorials on proposals to create a register of judicial interests in Scotland – available to readers here: Sunday Mail – No justice if it cannot be seen and here: Sunday Herald – Judges should not be above scrutiny

HOLYROOD PROBE ON JUDICIAL INTEREST REGISTER CONTINUES:

Scotland’s top judge – Lord President Lord Carloway has been invited to appear before the Scottish Parliament to face questions on his opposition to proposals requiring the judiciary to declare their interests.

The invitation to Lord Carloway has been issued by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who are conducting a four year investigation on a proposal calling for judges to be required to declare their vast and varied interests including their backgrounds, personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land interests, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full debate held at the Scottish Parliament in October 2014 saw MSPs from across the political spectrum support a motion backing the judicial transparency proposals, reported with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges

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

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

 

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AXIS TO JUSTICE: ‘Treat lawyers like Hospitals & Police’, Democracy ‘at risk’ if state refuses to fund litigants – Law Society & Faculty of Advocates attack plans to make secretive, slow Scots courts self funding

Fund lawyers like nurses & public services – say lawyers. DURING TIMES of financial crisis, Brexit woes and growing demands on nurses, doctors, the NHS, Police, education and everything else. public services should be forced to take an equal seat to the spiralling billions of pounds of public cash lavished on lawyers, the courts and legal aid – according to claims from the legal profession.

The demand for equal treatment to public cash comes from the Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates – who, along with other legal vested interests – are calling for the state to fund all court actions and treat lawyers in the same ‘deserving of public funds’ category as medical care provided by the National Health Service, education, social care and Police.

The latest call from the Law Society of Scotland to increase – by millions more – the flow of public cash into legal business and struggling lawyers pockets – comes in answer to plans by the Scottish Government to hike court fees by up to 25% and turn the closed shop, secretive, slow and unjustly expensive Scottish courts run by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) into a self funding operation.

However, under the guise of defending ‘access to justice’ – loosely translated to ‘public cash for lawyers’ – the Law Society state in their response: “Plans to introduce the full recovery of civil court costs in Scotland would be damaging to access to justice, particularly for those bringing forward personal injury cases and more vulnerable people.”

The Law Society of Scotland’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on Court Fees goes on to state “any move towards full cost recovery should be avoided” and “that the state has a duty to help people in achieve ‘equality of arms’ in the courtroom.”

The Law Society also claims that a proposal to introduce a 24% rise in court fees would be ‘unjust and unjustifiable’.

Syd Smith, from the Law Society of Scotland’s Remuneration Committee, representing the views of pursuers’ solicitors, said: “We believe it is essential that the courts should provide an independent and impartial forum for resolving disputes between people or organisations and that the state has a duty to help those involved have equality of arms when their cases go to court.”

The Law Society has said that any new system for court fees would have to ensure they were proportionate, taking into account Lord Gill’s Review of the Scottish Civil Courts, and the findings of Sheriff Taylor in his Review of Expenses and Funding of Civil Litigation in Scotland.

Mr Smith said: “We think the focus of any review of court fees should be on redressing the balance between claimants and defenders in personal injury cases. However if the government’s aim is to have a system where 100% of the cost of the courts are covered by fees paid by those involved in the actions lodged, it will be vital to have proportionate fee levels.

“The consultation option to introduce a 24% rise in court fees would represent an unjust and unjustifiable increase which would create a very real barrier to access to justice for claimants especially vulnerable people who have suffered life changing personal injuries.

“Any change to the current system also needs to recognise that there is not a level playing field between personal injury claimants and the insurance companies who are the defenders in those claims. Any changes which fail to recognise this problem risk widening the existing gap.”

Going a little further, and backing up their legal vested interest colleagues, the Faculty of Advocates response to the Court Fees consultation claims democracy could not function if the state did not pay for litigants to sue everyone under the sun in the same way convicted mass murderers and fraudsters empty hundreds of millions of pounds of Criminal legal aid from the public purse.

A submission from the Faculty of Advocates to the Court Fees consultation states: “The civil justice system should be funded by the state from general taxation…(it) is a cornerstone of a democratic state…(and) is vital to every citizen, whether or not he or she ever becomes a litigant,”

“No part of our democratic society could function without our civil law being maintained by the operation of our courts. There is no warrant to shift the cost of the courts entirely on to litigants when the whole of society benefits from them,”

“As a matter of principle, the civil justice system should be funded by the state, not litigants,” it said.

“The civil justice system is a cornerstone of a democratic state. It is the duty of the state to provide an accessible civil justice system…To the benefit of society at large, the law is made, declared or clarified daily by the civil courts. The civil justice system is vital to every citizen, whether or not he or she ever becomes a litigant. The benefits to society justify it being funded in full from general taxation.

“Many state-provided services are funded from general revenue, on the basis that these services benefit the whole of society, and not just those in immediate need of them. Our society accepts that, without regard to their means to pay, individuals should have access to medical care, and that every sort of person should be served by the police and emergency services.

“The Scottish Government has recognised that charging tuition fees to students limits access to higher education for many and that charging for prescriptions might deter people from seeking medical assistance. The Faculty considers that access to the courts is of equal importance.”

The Faculty believed that the proposed increases would be likely to impede access to justice, and that requiring a person to pay expensive court fees could be a breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects access to a court.

“The funding of the civil justice system by litigants rather than the state does not protect access to justice, it hinders it.

“If even a few people are deterred from litigating a good claim or defence, that is seriously damaging justice. There may be many more than a few who are so deterred, of course,” said the Faculty.

“The system of court fees exemptions is inadequate to protect access to justice…the thresholds for exemptions are set very low.”

So, the next time you need emergency medical care, the Police, education for your children, help with homelessness or any other public service – remember not to call the well trained and dedicated people who staff these vital arteries of life.

Instead, call a lawyer and insist your taxes, your hard earned savings (if any) and dwindling assets are handed over to fund a solicitor, court clerks, a struggling Sheriff on £160K a year or a £230K a year Court of Session judge – just like the Law Society of Scotland said – because you know – lawyers have your interests and ‘access to justice’ as their priority.

GIVE CROWN OFFICE MORE MONEY – Law Society to MSPs.

In a second take on the more public cash for lawyers approach, earlier this week the Law Society of Scotland also demanded more public cash be given to the struggling Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – who are forced to eek out an existence on a staggering £112 million a year.

In written evidence to a Scottish Parliament Justice Committee inquiry into the workings of Scotland’s “Institutionally corrupt” Crown Office, the Law Society of Scotland has said that consideration will be needed to ensure that the service provided by Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and others is accessible and inclusive for all members of society.

In its response to an Inquiry on the role and purpose of the COPFS, the Society also stated that all participants involved in the criminal justice system have responded to a number of reforms during a time of significant financial pressure.

Ian Cruickshank, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Criminal Law Committee, said: “It’s important that the criminal justice system evolves and makes use of new technology which can help improve the service particularly when there continues to be financial pressures alongside increasing numbers of serious crime reported to the COPFS and legislative developments.

“However it is important to be aware of the potential impact on core services at a local level and on access to justice. There will need to be careful consideration on how best to ensure the service provided by the COPFS and others within the criminal justice system is accessible and inclusive to all member of society.

“Lack of resources has had an impact on the preparation and the time available for presenting criminal prosecutions in our courts. The number of prosecutions resulting in court disposals has decreased in the past five years, however the complexity of the impact of recent legislation, and the complexity of certain types of cases reported, means more preparation and court time is required.”

Previous reports on how much the Law Society of Scotland values your ‘access to justice’ and their vested interests, can be found in the archive of reports, here: Law Society of Scotland

 

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