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ADVANCE, SHERIFF: Lord Carloway’s evidence to Holyrood faces probe – Statement of ex- sheriff suspended for Heather Capital writ confirms Lord Malcolm’s son worked on Court of Session judicial conflict of interest case linked to top judge

Ex-Sheriff Watson statement confirms judges’ son on conflict case. COURT PAPERS obtained in an ongoing probe of claims made by Scotland’s top judge at Holyrood – now reveal Peter Watson – a judicial colleague of Lord Carloway – ran the case for a construction company at the centre of a land contamination scandal linked to Court of Session judges who concealed conflicts of interest in court.

The court-sourced witness statement of solicitor and ex-Sheriff Peter Black Watson to the Court of Session – confirms Watson employed the son of Lord Malcolm in the case to represent the client – Advance Construction Scotland Ltd – which ended up being heard by Lord Malcolm – who concealed his link to his son during multiple court hearings.

The new material is a further blow to Lord Carloway – who demanded MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee accept his version of events in that there was no active involvement of Lord Malcolm’s son in the case whatsoever – a claim also contradiced by a witness statement from Lord Malcolm’s son: Ewen Campbell – Witness Statement – Nolan v Advance Construction

In the opening lines of Watson’s witness statement – ex Sheriff Peter Watson states: “I have been instructed by Advance Construction (Scotland) Limited (“Advance”) in relation to Mr Nolan’s action against the company. I have been running this case and acting on behalf of Advance since. I was approached by Advance in relation to defending an action raised against them by the Pursuer in this case Mr.Donal Nolan and accepted those instructions.”

Critical to the ongoing probe of Lord Carloway – Watson goes on to confirm he asked Lord Malcolm’s son – Ewen Campbell – to work alongside him in representing Advance Construction.

Watson states: ”Throughout these proceedings, I have been assisted by Mr. Ewen Malcolm Campbell and latterly, Mr. James Anthony Robb. During their involvement, both Mr Campbell and Mr Robb were also enrolled solicitors employed by the firm.”

Curiously, at no point in Mr Watson’s witness statement to the Court of Session does he refer to himself as a Sheriff and member of Scotland’s judiciary. Instead, Mr Watson refers to himself as “Professor Peter Black Watson”.

However, the admission by Watson that he employed Lord Malcolm’s son on a case in which Lord Carloway claimed Ewen Campbell had no active involvement – raises more questions of the Lord President’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee at a crucial hearing during their six year probe of judicial interests and the creation of a register of judges’ declarations of interests.

At the time of the case – Nolan v Advance Construction Scotland Ltd [2014] CSOH 4 CA132/11 – Peter Watson was a Sheriff on the judicial bench alongside Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) – and Lord Malcolm (Colin Campbell QC).

Working alongside Peter Watson on the same case was Roderick William Dunlop QC of Axiom Advocates, and Ewen Campbell of Axiom Advocates – who was employed by Levy and Mcrae during the events of Nolan v Advance.

Lord Malcolm’s son later left Levy and Mcrae to join the current Vice Dean of the Faculty of Advocates Roddy Dunlop QC in Axiom Advocates.

Watson was later suspended for a record three years plus over his links to a £28M writ involving the £400M Heather Capital Hedge Fund collapse in an order issued by former Lord President Brian Gill in February 2015

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

In an earlier article – DOJ revealed Lord Carloway had made false and misleading claims to the Public Petitions Committee and a guest MSP – Alex Neil – during a hearing where Lord Justice General Lord Carloway – as he prefers to be known – demanded an end to calls for judicial transparency. The report is featured here: 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

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 and 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 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.

The video footage and transcript of Alex Neil’s questions to Lord Carloway can be found here:

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.

ADVANCE SHERIFF AT COURT: Ex-Sheriff Peter Watson resigned from judicial bench in 2018

Peter Black Watson a former partner in Glasgow based law firm Levy and Mcrae – who was named in a £28million writ linked to the collapse of bust hedge fund Heather Capital – resigned his commission as a part time Sheriff on 10 October 2018.

The information was released by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in response to a Freedom of Information request in 2019 – SCTS – Sheriff Watson resignation

The SCTS stated: “I can advise that Mr Peter Watson resigned his commission as a part-time sheriff on 10 October 2018. Mr Watson did not hear any cases between the lifting of the suspension on 12 July 2018 and his resignation. Mr Watson has not submitted any claims for expenses, nor attended any events, nor carried out any judicial functions, since the suspension was lifted.”

Watson’s resignation came less than three months after Lord Carloway had lifted Mr Watson’s record suspension from judicial office of over three years – imposted by Lord Brian Gill in February 2015

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

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

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

The suspension came after Gill demanded sight of the writ.

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

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

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

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

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

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

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

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

A fulll report on Mr Watson’s suspension from the judiciary in 2015 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

In 2018, after matters relating to the Heather Capital writ came to a conclusion, it fell to Scotland’s current top judge – Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) to consider the ongoing suspension of Watson – reported in further detail here: CAPITAL NUDGE: Scotland’s top judge Lord Carloway to consider status of de-benched Sheriff Peter Watson – suspended for a record THREE YEARS over £28million writ linked to collapsed £400m hedge fund Heather Capital

Later in July 2018. a statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland on the continuing suspension of part-time sheriff Peter Watson stated:

Following the extra judicial settlement of the Heather Capital action in which part-time sheriff Peter Watson was named as one of the defenders, the Lord President has lifted the suspension imposed upon him in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008. Sheriff Watson will resume part-time judicial duties with effect from 12 July 2018.

Sheriff Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watson subsequently resigned from the judicial bench.

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

[21]      In the Levy Mcrae case:

  • On 4 January 2007, HC transferred £19 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • On 24 January 2007, HC transferred £9.412 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • The money was intended to be loaned to a first level SPV Westernbrook Properties Ltd (WBP) for onward lending to second level SPVs (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • On 9 January 2007, LM transferred £19 million to a Panamanian company (Niblick) owned and controlled by Mr Levene:the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).

  • By a memorandum dated 17 March 2007, HC’s auditors KPMG “identified a number of concerns relating to the documentation provided in respect of these loans”.Further work and information was required (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).

  • On 29 March 2007, LM transferred £9.142 million to Hassans, solicitors, Gibraltar, under the reference “Rosecliff Limited” (a company controlled by Mr King):the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).

  • In April to June 2007, amounts equivalent to the loans thought to have been made to WBP (including accrued interest) were “repaid” to HC via Cannons, solicitors, Glasgow.The directors were unable to ascertain the source of these repayments (Lord Doherty paragraph [7]).

  • Approaches made by HC to Mr Volpe and Triay & Triay, a firm of solicitors in Gibraltar, were met with a total lack of co-operation (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).

  • At a board meeting on 6 September 2007, “KPMG could not approve HC’s accounts … Santo Volpe had executed certain loans to SPV companies where non‑standard procedures had been followed which meant that inadequate security had been given for some loans … Gregory King stated that the loans to the SPVs had been repaid in full in May 2007” (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).

  • By email to a non‑executive director of HC (Mr Bourbon) dated 7 September 2007, Mr McGarry of KPMG referred to the previous day’s board meeting, and expressed concerns about the situation.He asked for further information, namely “all possible evidence regarding the movement of monies out of Heather Capital into these SPVs and onwards to whatever purpose the funds were applied – ie, sight of bank statements, payment/remittance instructions, certified extracts from solicitors clients’ money accounts etc”.(It should be noted that, contrary to HC’s averment in Condescendence 5 at page 13C‑D of LM reclaiming print, the email did not restrict the inquiries requested to “explaining what information was required from Santo Volpe”:the request was much broader.)

  • In October 2007 the non‑executive directors of HC met with the Isle of Man Financial Services Commission (FSC) to discuss “the issues” (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).A director also disclosed the suspicious activity and Mr Volpe’s obstruction to the Isle of Man Financial Crime Unit (FCU), who said they would investigate (Condescendence 5 page 14 of LM reclaiming print).The auditors KPMG carried out an additional full scope audit.

  • By letter dated 18 October 2007, FSC wrote to the directors of HC setting out further information which they required.

  • By letter dated 26 November 2007 Mr King advised the HC board that “some sort of fraud had been deliberately introduced with invalid land registry details on a number of the loans”.He stated that he had applied pressure to Mr Volpe and Mr Cannon, whereupon there had been “full repayment of the loans with relevant interest” which meant that “investors were secure”.

  • On 17 December 2007, KPMG signed the accounts and added a completion note using language such as “The risk of fraud increased to high as a result of the documentation issues surrounding the SPVs, where some form of fraud appeared to have been attempted”.In their audit report opinion, they stated “We have been unable to verify where funds advanced to the SPVs were invested.In addition, we were supplied with false documentation in relation to the SPVs which appears to have been a deliberate attempt to mislead us.Given these loans were repaid in the period, we consider that the effect of this is not so material and pervasive that we are unable to form an opinion on the financial statements [opting instead for express qualifications that loan and security documentation could not be validated] … There is uncertainty as to where the monies lent to the [SPVs] were then subsequently invested … Investigations continue to determine what party (or parties) were involved in and were accountable for these events, and whether any action should be taken against them …” (Lord Doherty paragraph [9]).

  • By letter to HC dated 4 January 2008, KPMG gave serious warnings about their inability to validate loan and security documentation, and lack of evidence as to the purpose for which the money advanced to SPVs was applied.In their words:

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

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

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

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

WRIT HITS THE FAN

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

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

By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 15 February 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bench ban for sheriff linked to fraud probe

Lawman, 61, suspended

By RUSSELL FINDLAY 25th February 2015, Scottish Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watson subsequently resigned from the judiciary later in October 2018 – which was confirmed in an FOI response from the Judicial Office in 2019.Earlier reports on the Heather Capital writ, and subsequent collapse of prosecutions in the collapsed £400M hedge fund can be viewed here: The collapsed £400M Hedge Fund with direct links to Scotland’s judiciary

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of recommendations

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

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

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

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

REGULATION REVIEW:

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

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

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

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

*Two former Presidents of the Law Society of Scotland;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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MEET THE KREMLIN: Former chair of Scottish Police Authority evidence to MSPs challenges Justice Secretary’s account of ‘no notes taken’ meetings to discuss Chief Constable’s return to work amid misconduct investigation

MSPs heard evidence from former SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan. THE former chair of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has told a Scottish Parliament Committee he felt he was left with “no choice” but to halt plans for Chief Constable Phil Gormley to return to work – after meeting the Justice Secretary & officials.

Appearing before the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) earlier today, Ex SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan told MSPs that the Justice Secretary – Michael  Matheson – told him during a meeting it would be “bad decision” to let Chief Constable Phil Gormley return to duty.

In evidence to the Committee, Mr Flanagan said of the November meeting with the Justice Secretary “I think he indicated that he thought it was a risk to the stability of the senior team.”

Mr Flanagan went on to say that when a second meeting took place –  an hour later – Mr Matheson – now with three officials alongside him – changed and focused on the “process” behind the decision instead.

Mr Flanagan told MSPs: “I explained the circumstances and he told me that he thought it was a bad decision.”

“It was clear to me that he did not want the chief constable to return at that point.”

“We had a discussion about the stability of the senior team, because that was a consideration that the SPA had had.”

Mr Flanagan said that after an hour’s break in which he attended a committee, he was was recalled to Mr Matheson’s office, where three officials had joined the Justice Secretary.

He said: “It was clear that the Cabinet Secretary was still very unhappy, but he changed to discuss the process rather than the decision itself.

“I reminded him of his comment earlier that it had been a ‘bad decision’. He told me not to bother with that. We then went on to discuss some of the process itself.”

Alex Neil MSP (SNP) asked Mr Flanagan whether he had “lied” to Mr Livingstone he deflected a query about Mr Gormley’s return – after the SPA had decided in favour – with a text message saying “deliberations were ongoing”.

Mr Flanagan said: “No, I don’t think I did.”

Mr Neil added: “The amnesia around the Scottish Police Authority is beyond belief.”

Mr Neil also excoriated the whole SPA board’s handling of the matter, saying its non-executive directors had “utterly failed in their duty” and should fall on their swords.

Andrew Flanagan’s evidence to the PAPLS Committee has now cast doubt over Mr Matheson’s version of events which the Justice Secretary gave to MSPs earlier this week.

The differing accounts of Mr Flanagan & Justice Secretary Michael Matheson of what happened during their meeting relate to discussions around the Scottish Police Authority’s decision to allow Chief Constable Phil Gormley – who is currently on ‘special leave’ to return to his post last November.

The SPA Board had decided Mr Gormley could resume his duties, and had compiled draft Press Releases announcing their decision – but the decision was reversed after the meeting between Andrew Flanagan & Michael Matheson.

It also emerged the Scottish Police Authority did not consult the watchdog investigating complaints against Mr Gormley – which led to him being put on special lave, nor was the acting Chief Constable – DCC Iain Livingstone, told in advance of the SPA’s decision to return Mr Gormley to work.

In an earlier account of events to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Matheson said s his concern was with the process behind the decision to allow the Chief Constable to return to work, rather than the decision itself.

Mr Matheson claimed he had and he had merely requested the SPA “reconsider” the decision to return Mr Gormley to his duties.

Michael Matheson had earlier told MSPs at Holyrood: “This is not about an operational decision-making matter, but about the SPA’s process in making a decision… I am very clear that it is not the outcome of the SPA’s future decision on the chief constable’s leave situation but the process that the SPA goes through in making it that needs to be robust and defendable.”

During Matheson’s account of events, it also transpired there was no notes or minutes taken of the meeting with Andrew Flanagan – a habit of secrecy now often indulged in by Scottish Ministers to avoid disclosure and potential Freedom of Information requests.

The full evidence session from the PAPLS Committee hearing today can be viewed here:

Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee – 25 January 2018

Coverage of questions from PAPLS Committee member Alex Neil can be viewed here:

Alex Neil questions to SPA at Public Audit and Post legislative Scrutiny Committee 25 Jan 2018

A debate in the Scottish Parliament on the circumstances of the Justice Secretary’s role in what led to the reversal of the SPA’s decision to allow the Chief Constable to return to work, can be viewed here:

Debate: Justice – 24 January 2018

and on Tuesday, the acting Chief Constable of Police Scotland – DCC Iain Livingstone, appeared alongside Susan Deacon, the new Chair of the Scottish Police Authority at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee to give evidence on what he had not been told of the SPA’s decision to return Phil Gormley to work.

Coverage of the Justice Committee meeting on Tuesday can  be viewed here:

Justice Committee – 23 January 2018

While the battle over who said what to who, between Scottish Ministers & former bosses at the Scottish Police Authority continues, readers will be well aware of a number of suspensions of senior offices at Police Scotland, and a drip drip feed of complaints against current Chief Constable Phil Gormley, the latest of which appears to have been made by the Scottish Police Federation.

Why exactly, many may wonder, is this debate around suspensions of top cops & dodgy decisions at the SPA relevant.

Well, the answer is that what has come out in this debate, shows a train of Ministerial intervention on the sly, without using the powers of Ministerial direction.

And, perhaps more importantly for the community at large, the amount of backstabbing, allegations & counter allegations against other senior Police officers has revealed the highly factional management of Police Scotland, where ambition and power is just as prevalent as in politics and other sectors of public life, and the corporate world.

An earlier report by DOI on events which led to the resignation of Andrew Flanagan and John Foley can be found here GONE EXEC’IN: Scottish Police Authority Chief Executive takes early retirement with pay-off, following resignation of ‘Kremlin’ Chair Andrew Flanagan – discredited board & Vice Chair who backed secretive top duo remain in posts

and here: GONE KREMLIN: Chair of Scottish Police Authority resigns, lingers in office ‘until replacement found’ for discredited Police watchdog – focus now moves to ‘collective amnesia’ board who failed to support transparency crusading colleague

A full report of today’s hearing at Holyrood and the events leading up to it, can be found on the Herald newspaper here : Matheson accused of misleading parliament and urged to consider his position

Further reports in the media tonight feature comments from a spokesperson for Mr Gormley’s legal team – who criticised the “unnecessarily protracted process” and the fact that that the chief constable has yet to be interviewed, seven months after he volunteered to step aside to allow the Pirc to secure evidence.

A spokesperson for the Chief Constable’s legal team commented: “Throughout this unnecessarily protracted process Chief Constable Phil Gormley has co-operated fully with all parties to allow this matter to reach a fair and proper conclusion, whilst maintaining his denial of all of the allegations against him. It should be remembered that it was the Chief Constable who volunteered to step aside temporarily to enable the evidence required to be secured by the PIRC.

No-one could have anticipated that, seven months on, the Chief Constable himself would not yet have been interviewed to put his evidence forward in oral representations.

The evidence this morning at the Scottish Parliament Public Audit Committee of the disagreement between the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the SPA regarding his return to full operational duties (which has still yet to be implemented), is of serious concern. 

The Chief Constable’s professional reputation, career and welfare have been eclipsed by a public battle of wills between the SPA and the Scottish Government.

It demonstrates that the present system for investigating complaints against the Chief Constable is unworkable and requires a fundamental review. It is hard to see how any fair process can now follow given such public disagreement.”

 

 

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