RSS

Tag Archives: Alex Neil

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Scottish Parliament move forward on FIVE YEAR judicial interests probe as Ex-Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil calls on MSPs to create legislation for a register of judges’ interests

Petitions Committee moves forward on judicial register. A COMMITTEE of MSPs conducting a FIVE YEAR Scottish Parliament investigation of Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – have decided to move ahead on proposals requiring judges to declare their interests in a publicly available register.

The move by Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee who met on Thursday 7 December to look for a way forward – comes after the petition secured powerful backing of former Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil MSP (SNP).

In an interview with The National newspaper, and a posting on Mr Neil’s Facebook page, Alex Neil said : “It is now time for the Petitions Committee itself to look at using the powers of parliamentary committees to introduce a Bill to set up a judicial register of interests.”

Alex Neil added: ““There is no doubt in my mind at all that it is long overdue. I do not see why judges should be any different from ministers or MSPs, and they should need to declare interests as most people in public service do these days.

“A Bill of this nature is badly needed, and if it can be done on an all-party basis through the Petitions Committee, then the committee’s members should not wait and should act now to sponsor a Bill.

“I am very supportive of the Petitions Committee, which I think is a very good committee, and it is now time for them to seriously consider bringing forward their own Bill on this matter, as I have no doubt that the case for such a register has been thoroughly made out.”

The Public Petitions Committee have now decided to consider the position in private at a later meeting – and formulate letters to Lord Carloway and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson which will be published in due course.

During the short hearing last Thursday, Deputy Convener Angus MacDonald MSP (SNP) who is known to support the petition, commented: “..we must move forward. We have been considering the petition for five years and Mr Cherbi’s latest submission shows a degree of frustration, which I share.”

The published decision states: PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on Register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to consider a letter to the Lord President and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in private at a future meeting.”

The latest developments in the 22nd hearing of Petition PE1458 on calls to create a register of judges’ interests comes after MSPs previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, including a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2017.

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

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1450 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary

A report on the Public Petitions Committee meeting of 7 December 2017 & video coverage follows:

Register of Judicial Interests – Petition PE 1458 Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 7 December 2017

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener: The fourth and final item today is consideration of five continued petitions. The first petition for consideration under this item is PE1458, from Peter Cherbi, on a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

We last considered the petition in June, when we took evidence from Lord Carloway, the Lord President. We agreed to reflect on that evidence and we have a briefing note that summarises the issues that came up in that evidence session. We also have two submissions from the petitioner that convey his response to the evidence and provide information about additional developments in relation to the recusal of judges.

As members are aware, the petition has been under consideration for five years and we have a good understanding of the arguments for and against the introduction of a register of interests for judges. There has been some movement on that.

Do members have any comments on what we should do next?

Angus MacDonald: As you say, convener, the petition has been on-going for five years. It is worth noting that it was originally based on the consideration of the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill in New Zealand, which was dropped after we started to take evidence on Peter Cherbi’s petition.

We have taken extensive evidence on the petition over the past five years, including from the former Lord President, Lord Gill, the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, as well as the former Judicial Complaints Reviewers Moi Ali and Gillian Thompson. We appreciate the time that they have all given to the committee.

The petition has already secured a result, to the extent that there is more transparency because judicial recusals are now published, which did not happen previously. It is worth pointing out that that still does not happen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We should be proud that the petition has achieved that.

However, I note that the petitioner has suggested that we take evidence from Baroness Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court, as well as from the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer. It would stretch the bounds of the petition to take evidence from Baroness Hale, as the petition urges the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests in Scotland. I am not sure that our remit extends to the UK Supreme Court. Mr Cherbi should perhaps take that aspect of the matter to the UK Parliament Petitions Committee, which may have the remit.

The Convener: I sense that we have agreement to the approach outlined by Angus MacDonald, which is not to take further evidence, but to bring together our conclusions and write to the Scottish Government, recognising that there has been some progress. Do we agree to draft a letter on our conclusions in private, although the final letter will be in the public domain?

Members indicated agreement.

Angus MacDonald: I agree, but we must move forward. We have been considering the petition for five years and Mr Cherbi’s latest submission shows a degree of frustration, which I share.

The Convener: We understand that, but there should also be recognition of the fact that there has been some progress.

Do members agree to send the letter to the Lord President as well as the cabinet secretary?

Members indicated agreement.

The National reported on the latest developments and support from former Cabinet Secretary Alex Neil MSP:

Call for Scottish judges to register interests gets backing from MSP

Martin Hannan Journalist 7th December 2017

A PETITION calling for judges to openly register their financial and other interests has received its biggest boost to date.

Five years to the day after it was lodged at the Scottish Parliament, former minister Alex Neil MSP will today call on Holyrood’s Petitions Committee to start the process of bringing a Bill before Parliament.

The transparency petition was lodged by legal affairs journalist and campaigner Peter Cherbi on December 7 2012, and it will be considered again today — the 22nd time it has gone in front of the Holyrood committee.

The SNP’s Alex Neil has followed the petition with interest and has actively campaigned for the judicial register of interests to be introduced.

He told The National yesterday: “It is now time for the Petitions Committee itself to look at using the powers of parliamentary committees to introduce a Bill to set up a judicial register of interests.

“There is no doubt in my mind at all that it is long overdue. I do not see why judges should be any different from ministers or MSPs, and they should need to declare interests as most people in public service do these days.

“A Bill of this nature is badly needed, and if it can be done on an all-party basis through the Petitions Committee, then the committee’s members should not wait and should act now to sponsor a Bill.

“I am very supportive of the Petitions Committee, which I think is a very good committee, and it is now time for them to seriously consider bringing forward their own Bill on this matter, as I have no doubt that the case for such a register has been thoroughly made out.”

Both Lord Carloway and Lord Gill, the current and former Lord Presidents of the Court of Session respectively — the senior judge position in Scotland — have opposed such a register of interests.

At least two High Court judges — Lord Carloway and Lady Smith — already declare their interests because they are members of the board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service.

They did so for the first time last month, along with Sheriff Duncan L Murray, after a Freedom of Information request.

Welcoming Alex Neil’s intervention, Cherbi said: “For five years, the Scottish Parliament has considered a petition calling for a register of judicial interests.

“In this time, the petition has generated more than 62 submissions of evidence, 21 committee hearings, a private meeting between MSPs and a top judge, 15 speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate, and two appearances by judicial investigators — who both support the petition.

“In two of those meetings, two top judges were left grasping at straws when asked why the judiciary should be above public expectations of transparency.

“This proposal to create a register of interests for judges applies the same level of transparency to the judiciary which already exists in other parts of the justice system such as the police, prosecutors and court administration and will bring judges into line with all others in public life who are required to register their interests.

“Along the way, the petition has gained wide cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament, wide support in the media, and the invaluable and fantastic support of two judicial complaints reviewers — Moi Ali, and Gillian Thompson.

“There is significant public interest in this petition going ahead into legislation, and if the Lord President is still against the idea of judges declaring their interests, our sovereign Parliament must act and set in law what the public expect — that judges register their interests.”

A further report from the National featured developments from the hearing and the decision to move ahead on the petition:

Committee nears decision on register of interests for judges five years after petition

Martin Hannan Journalist 9th December 2017

A PETITION to the Scottish Parliament calling for judges and sheriffs to publicly register their interests seems to be nearing a successful outcome – five years after it was submitted.

The Public Petitions Committee has agreed to finalise its conclusions on the list of signatories submitted in December 2012 by legal campaigner and journalist Peter Cherbi.

The Holyrood committee agreed to consider those conclusions in private at a future meeting before writing to Scotland’s senior judge, Lord Carloway, the Lord President, as well Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

Committee convener Johann Lamont said members would be aware the petition had been under consideration for five years and they had a “good understanding” of the arguments for and against a register.

Angus MacDonald, SNP MSP for Falkirk East, called for a “move forward” and told the committee: “This petition has been ongoing for five years to this date exactly. It’s fair to say we have taken extensive evidence on this petition over the last five years, not least from the former Lord President Lord Gill and the current Lord President Lord Carloway, as well as judicial complaints reviewers Moi Ali and Gillian Thompson.

“It’s fair to say this petition has already secured a result, to the extent that there is now more transparency, with the publication of judicial recusals [judges excusing themselves from a case due to conflict of interest] which didn’t happen before, and it’s worth pointing out that this still doesn’t happen in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, so Mr Cherbi should be proud that his petition has achieved that.”

Cherbi told The National: “It has taken five years for the petition to travel through 22 committee hearings and a full debate in 2014 – during which it was evident from the 15 speeches by MSPs that cross-party support exists for the creation of a register of judicial interests.

“The case has been made for judicial disclosures – there is no rational case against it – now it is time for Holyrood to legislate to require judges to register their interests. What struck me during the public debate and contact with people was that many thought judges already declared their interests and published their recusals.

“People I talked with over the course of these five years were genuinely shocked when they found out the judiciary did neither, instead preferring to duck and dive behind oaths and guidelines the judiciary wrote and approved themselves.

“The public are entitled to expect the highest standards of transparency from all those in public life, and the judiciary are no different.

“Judges must face up to the fact that those who hold the power to take away freedoms, to change or alter the lives of others, to overturn legislation from our elected parliaments – and to do all this without any reasonable scrutiny – must now be brought up to the same, or higher, levels of transparency and accountability as the public expect of those in public life, the justice system, and government.

“Perhaps the move to open up scrutiny of a very closed shop judiciary will also lead to the opening up of judicial appointments and an increased role for the Scottish Parliament in hearing in public from those who want to become members of the judiciary.”

JUDICIAL REGISTER MUST GO FORWARD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements
 

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

GOOD FOR LAWYERS: Challenging year for ‘toothless, waste of time’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as complaints against lawyers rise again amid claims regulator has little impact on rogues of the legal world

Lawyers regulator proves no deterrent to poor legal services. SCOTLAND’S ‘independent’ regulator of legal services has admitted complaints against rogue solicitors & law firms have again risen in the past “challenging year” according to the latest Annual Report 2016-17 of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC).

The SLCC’s past year was marked by the Anderson Strathern appeal, in which Court of Session judge Lord Malcolm – real name Colin Campbell QC – ruled unlawful the SLCC’s previous practice of classifying certain single issue complaints as hybrid (raising issues of both service and conduct).

However, an investigation of the ruling by Lord Malcolm – who is also a Privy Councillor – revealed a top QC who was identified in complaints relating to the acceptance of £5,000 a time cash payments  and accusations of misrepresenting clients in a case directly involving Lord Malcolm – escaped investigation as a result of the same Court of Session ruling on 31 August 2016.

Earlier this year, the SLCC was branded a “toothless waste of time” by Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) – who called for major reform of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission after a Sunday Mail investigation revealed the SLCC refused to investigate serious complaints & cash payments involving ‘top’ planning law QC John Campbell (67) of Hastie Stable & Trinity Chambers.

Speaking to the Sunday Mail, Alex Neil said: “These technicalities show the SLCC as it stands is a waste of time. It’s not up to the job and we need major change.”

Mr Neil continued: “Parliament’s justice committee should have an urgent and comprehensive look at this and rewrite the legislation so people have a reasonable time to register legitimate complaints.”

“People need assurance that the legal profession isn’t just looking after itself all the time. People have no confidence in the system.”

A full report on the John Campbell case impacted on by Lord Malcolm’s ruling can be found here: CASH ADVANCE: QC says ‘Can I have £5k cash on the way to the Law Society?’ – MSP calls for reform of ‘toothless’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission as regulator turns blind eye on Advocates cash payments scandal.

Further litigation occurred with the Law Society of Scotland over the SLCC’s power to then reclassify cases, in which the court eventually found for the Legal Complaints Commission but resulted in a large number of complaints being suspended, with no progress made until the ruling in June.

Over the year, complaints received rose from 1,132 to 1,155, up 2% on top of the previous year’s 12% rise.

However, an analysis of the complaints statistics, and contact with persons raising complaints with the pro-lawyer Scottish Legal Complaints Commission reveal the SLCC is more often than not – too eager to knock back complaints against solicitors – in a similar manner once practiced by the Law Society of Scotland.

In the past year, a total of 414 cases were accepted for conduct or service investigation, or a combination of the two (previous year 408), and 171 (compared with 226) were deemed ineligible as time barred or being “frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit”.

A further 251 cases (previous year 188) were resolved, withdrawn or discontinued without a formal investigation.

Solicitors accounted for 410 of the complaints accepted while 4 of the cases related to members of the Faculty of Advocates.

However, this year, the success rate of mediation was much lower – indicating perhaps complainants have become wise to a process dubbed as “rigged” by some, after it was discovered some ‘independent’ mediators have connections to some of the law firms facing complaints investigations.

In the past year, mediated resolutions were achieved in only 27 complaints (44 the previous year), a lower success rate than previously at 58%.

Sixty three cases were resolved during or at the conclusion of the investigation stage (down from 128), and the number receiving a final determination by a committee of commissioners fell from 102 to 95, of which 44 (down from 58) were upheld in whole or part.

The number of investigations in hand at the year end rose from 664 to 807, having jumped from 473 at the start of the previous year.

Residential conveyancing was again the most frequent area of complaint, at 22% of those received, closely followed by litigation (21%), then executries, wills and trusts (14%), family law (10%) and crime (7%). Commercial property and leasing accounted for 4%, as did “personal conduct”. Other categories of work, each comprising fewer than 3% of complaints, accounted for the remaining 18%.

Regarding the nature of the complaint, however, failure to communicate effectively was a clear leader at 26% (but down from 43%), followed by failure to advise adequately (20%, up from 14%), failure to provide information (14%, down from 15%), failure to prepare adequately (11%, up from 6%), failure to follow instructions (10%, up from 6%), and delay (unchanged at 8%). Other categories made up 6% of cases.

The accounts for the year, also published today, disclose a net operating loss up from £114,000 to £194,000, though income rose from £2.714m to £2.763m. Net assets fell from £675,000 to £421,000.

This year the current Chair, Bill Brackenridge, comments on coming to the end of his statutory term after five years as well as this year’s performance: “the SLCC has sought to drive efficiency within the current statutory process whilst making bold calls for reform.  This year we were pleased to see the Scottish Government announce an Independent Review of the Regulation of Legal Services, and we will continue to contribute to work to improve the regulatory and complaints system for consumers and lawyers”

“This year complaints against lawyers continued to rise, a further 2% on top of 12% last year.  We recognise that complaints form a tiny proportion of overall transactions in which lawyers support clients, but increasing case load continues to be a key factor in performance and costs.  This year we have also seen a continuing trend towards more complaints entering the later stages of our process.  To tackle this we’ve worked to support consumers and the sector with guides to reduce the common causes of complaints.”

SLCC Chief Executive Neil Stevenson added “this has been a challenging year, with significant litigation that has driven delays and costs and which was outwith our control.  We are delighted the court upheld our position, and hope we can now move beyond some of these challenges to work with others in the sector to improve confidence in regulation.

On a personal level one of the organisational achievements we all contributed to, and which I am most proud of, is a significant improvement on our staff engagement survey results. I’m also delighted that we are in the rare position of gender pay parity.”

The SLCC’s Annual Report and Annual Accounts are laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs.

In the past NINE years since the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was created in 2008, the Law Society backed ‘independent’ regulator of complaints against legal practitioners in Scotland – including solicitors and advocates – has more often than not seen year on year rises in complaints while becoming involved in protracted orchestrated arguments with lawyers over funding for the legal quango.

In reality, funding for the SLCC – running at around £3million a year – is secured from a client sourced complaints levy – where hikes in solicitors legal fees to clients & consumers are used to pay for the upkeep and operation of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission.

Since 2008, the SLCC has received nearly £30 million of client sourced funds – yet it is now clear the pro-lawyer quango has had little impact on the generally poor standards of expensive legal services available in Scotland.

Currently the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is involved in lobbying against a Scottish Parliament investigation into self regulation of the legal profession, a full report on this 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.

The SLCC, along with the Law Society of Scotland and other legal interests have made submissions to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee calling for MSPs to hold off on hearing petitions calling for independent regulation – until a Scottish Government review on regulation of legal services reports back at the end of 2018. The ‘independent’ review, is in actuality being run by lawyers.

ANOTHER DAY IN COURT – Unidentified Law firm accused in client complaints fails in bid to overturn investigation

The Court of Session recently ruled in favour of the SLCC in refusing an application by a firm of solicitors for leave to appeal one of the Commission’s decisions. The application came from a firm seeking leave to appeal a decision that a number of issues of complaint were accepted as eligible services complaints and were not frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit. It was unusual in that only some issues of complaint accepted were being appealed.

The full findings – by Lord Glennie are available here: NOTE OF REASONS delivered by LORD GLENNIE in the application for leave to appeal by X LLP AND OTHERS (Appellant) against SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION (Respondent).

However, it should be noted the Court ruling does not identify the law firm involved.

The SLCC’s eligibility determination that some issues of complaint should be accepted for investigation represents what is essentially a sifting function to establish whether issues of complaint require investigation. The Court endorsed the already established view that at this stage there is a low bar for accepting issues of complaint, Lord Glennie’s Notes of Reasons stating “the Commission has to decide in respect of each complaint whether it is frivolous, vexatious or totally without merit; and if it decides the complaint is any or all of these things, it must reject the complaint and notify the relevant parties.  That is a high test to be applied or, to put it another way, is a low threshold to be crossed.”

Mark Paxton, one of the SLCC’s Case Investigation Managers, explained “there can be misconceptions about the eligibility test, one of the most complex stages within the process prescribed in statute.  We have seen comments in the past that ‘too many complaints’ are let in, but the courts are once again making clear there is a high test to be met if complaints are dismissed at this stage.  We know others can think the eligibility decision is an early indication of eventual substantive outcome, which is not the case – it is simply a decision that matters need formally investigated to have sufficient information to make a decision. We are also aware that, for practitioners, the fact that this is a formal “decision”, appealable to the Court of Session, suggests that it is somehow already a stain on the practitioner’s record – which again is just not the case.”

Lord Glennie went on to reiterate that “the nature and extent of the investigation to be carried out by the Commission, and how they go about it, is pre-eminently a matter for the Commission itself.”  Having considered that there was no basis for establishing that the SLCC had erred in law or acted irrationally the Court refused leave to appeal the decision.

What was also highlighted in this case was the time and resource expended by the SLCC in carrying out this sifting function. The Court also made reference to the detail in which the SLCC had dealt with this determination, stating “The Commission’s decision in the present case is very fully reasoned… The decision deals with each complaint individually and over a number of paragraphs”.

The resources expended by the SLCC in relation to appeals bears a significant financial cost to the organisation. In this particular case, costs will be recovered following the decision of the Court to award expenses. However such an award is unlikely to recompense the full cost of all work done in relation to the appeal, and the process of contesting appeals continues to be a significant factor which the SLCC has to contend with in managing its budget.

Neil Stevenson, CEO added: “The expense of appeals has been a key driver of increasing cost in the last two years. Looking at other complaints bodies and ombuds it is very unusual for a right of appeal, especially to such a senior court, to be provided for in a complaints process on a decision simply that something needs investigated.  Our current proposals for statutory reform recommend that a more proportionate approach should be considered.”

The SLCC itself was created at a cost of over £2 million pounds of public cash in 2008 – by a Scottish Government team led by Angela McArthur – who was since appointed as Chief Executive of the Parole Board of Scotland from 2009 to present day.

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

REGISTER THE JUDGE: Transcript reveals weak & evasive evidence of Scotland’s top judge to Holyrood judicial probe on widely supported proposals calling for judges to declare & register their interests

Lord Carloway failed to make any convicting argument against judicial register. PUBLICATION of a transcript of evidence given by Scotland’s top judge before the Scottish Parliament – has reveal how poorly Lord Carloway faired in attempts to close a five year Holyrood probe on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The now published written report of the meeting at Holyrood – depicts a blundering, weak & evasive performance from Lord Carloway – who gave evidence to members of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee on 29 June 2017 – in connection with calls to require judges to declare their interests in a publicly available register similar to MSPs and other branches of Government.

The written transcript of the surprisingly short 36 minute hearing – along with video footage – illustrates how Lord Carloway – lashed out transparency, court users, litigants the press, public, the internet and even social media – as reasons the judiciary should remain exempt from declaring their interests.

Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland)- who earns over £220,000 a year – also declared to MSPs that creating a register of interests for judges would deter recruitment of ‘talented’ lawyers – reported in more detail by The National newspaper and across the media..

During the evidence session, the transcript reveals the full extent of how Carloway dodged question after question – with claims of ignorance on key points of judicial administration in Scotland – and even on the workings of foreign jurisdictions which Carloway himself has links to.

In response to questions from MSPs on comparisons between US judges declarations of interest and the refusal of Scotland’s judiciary to do likewise – Lord Carloway said he had no idea how US judges and their judicial system operated.

However – records of declared judicial overseas travel show Carloway has jetted to North America many times at taxpayers expense for ‘legal conferences’ alongside lawyers & judges from the US, Canada & other nations – reported in more detail here: EXCESS BAGGAGE: Lord Carloway’s £4K trip to Washington DC, Lady Dorrian’s £6K trip to Melbourne – Judicial overseas junkets rocket to £43k as new Lord President abandons Brian Gill’s edict on public cash for judicial jollies

As the top judge fumbled response after response, it became evident MSPs were not buying into Lord Carloway’s dismal, widely criticised stance against the proposals calling for judicial transparency and bringing judges into line with other branches of the Executive – who are all required to declare and register their interests.

Evidence from the top judge reached a low point in the hearing – when Lord Carloway claimed a register of judicial interests is not required – unless scandal or corruption ‘is discovered’ – by the judiciary – and and investigated from within their own ranks.

Lord Carloway’s stuttering performance was brought to a swift end by the Convener after detailed lines of questions from Alex Neil MSP saw Scotland’s top judge bounce from subject to subject, unable to offer a single clear reason as to why judges should be treated any differently from others in public life.

The Scottish Sun newspaper reported Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) slammed Lord Carloway’s “extremely unconvincing” argument. Mr Neil added: “He put no rational case against.”

Lord Carloway’s appearance before MSPs was rated as “poor” by legal insiders, comparing the session to that of his predecessor Lord Brian Gill, who gave evidence to MSPs in November 2015 – after resigning earlier from the post of Lord President in May 2015.

Gill, who had waged a three year battle against the petition, refused to attend the Scottish Parliament on several occasions – a refusal resulting in heavy criticism in the press and from politicians who said Gill had insulted Holyrood.

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

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

The move to create a register of judicial interests has also secured the support of two Judicial Complaints Reviewers.

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013.

At the hearing, Ms Ali supported the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

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

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

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

Meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee 29 June 2017

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener (Johann Lamont): I welcome you all to this meeting of the Public Petitions Committee. I remind people to switch their mobiles and other devices to silent.

At agenda item 1, we are dealing with a continued petition, PE1458, which calls for a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. We will take evidence from the Lord President, Lord Carloway, who is accompanied by Roddy Flinn, the legal secretary to the Lord President. I thank you both for joining us this morning.

We have copies of a number of recent submissions, including the most recent correspondence from Lord Carloway. In order to make the most efficient use of our time, I suggest that we move straight to questions from members. I will open the questioning.

I want to explore some of the issues that you have identified as potential risks or inhibitions to the administration of justice should a register of financial interests be introduced. One of those is the risk of retaliation by a dissatisfied litigant by way of online fraud. You have commented that that has not, to the best of your knowledge, happened in respect of those judges who are currently required to disclose interest, but that the sample size of those judges is too small to derive comfort from.

In identifying that potential risk, have you given consideration to the experience of other holders of public office who have to declare their financial interests? For example, members of the Scottish Parliament, local authority councillors and members of public bodies all have a role in making decisions that may leave people dissatisfied. Are you aware of any individuals in those categories who have been victims of retaliation by way of online fraud?

Lord Carloway (Lord President of the Court of Session): I am not aware of details of members of other public institutions being subjected to online fraud, but judges are in a peculiar position in relation to this matter. They make decisions that inevitably cause disappointment to one party to a litigation, and those people are, or can be, resentful. I appreciate that that can happen in wider public life, but it is a particular problem for the judiciary.

The losing party can, in some extreme cases, blame the judge for the failure of their case and seek to find a reason beyond the actual decision as to why the judge found against them. It is not unknown for persons to form a malicious or hostile intent towards a judge, or even judges in general, if they are disappointed with the outcome of their case. They can become paranoid or suspicious about the reasons for what is a simple finding of fact in law by the judge, and I would be concerned if they were to source, and potentially damage, the judge’s personal or pecuniary interests.

The Convener: Do you think that there is a general culture of people looking for explanations beyond the decision? Do people do that already, not necessarily in respect of financial matters but by interrogating any connections that judges might have that might explain a decision?

Lord Carloway: It is a relatively common phenomenon, especially with party litigants, who, if they lose their case or a particular aspect of it, may search for reasons as to why that has happened. They will search for reasons that are outwith the obvious—in other words, that they lost the case because they were wrong in law or in fact. They will seek reasons as to why the judge found against them, and they will search for things that are peripheral to the case. That is a problem that we have to deal with—“put up with” is perhaps the wrong expression.

The Convener: Do you think that that is compounded by the world of online communication? Is online fraud now a particular issue?

Lord Carloway: As followers of blogs and so on in relation to judges will know, there is quite a lot on the internet that is, shall I say, not terribly complimentary about particular judges. Again, that is something that we have to put up with on a daily basis. We are subject to basic abuse by litigants of one sort or another on the internet, and that should be guarded against.

In the First Minister’s letter to the convener of the predecessor committee, she specifically referred to the particular need to consider

“judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by aggressive media or hostile individuals, including dissatisfied litigants.”

That is exactly the type of thing that I am talking about.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): Good morning, Lord Carloway and Mr Flinn. I very much appreciate your attendance at the meeting.

You have identified a possible risk to the inhibition of justice in judicial recruitment or in judges starting to decline positions on bodies such as the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in the event that judges are required to disclose financial interests. Given the principles that guide conduct in public life, why should a requirement for transparency act as a disincentive for judicial office-holders but not for other people who hold public office, such as MSPs?

Lord Carloway: A judge or a sheriff is, indeed, like many people, a holder of a public office. The critical distinction between a judge and an MSP, for example, is, of course, that the judge has to be independent of any form of Government. That is what we are looking at. A judge is therefore in exactly the opposite position from those whose work has a political dimension.

I hasten to add that the system here has an international reputation for fairness and not being corrupt, and we are extremely keen to protect that reputation. Members might have seen in the papers that the Council of Europe has an anti-corruption organisation called GRECO, which has specifically examined the potential for corruption in the United Kingdom judiciary, including the Scottish judiciary, in recent years. Its findings, which I think I quoted in the papers, were fairly clear. It did not find “any element of corruption in relation to judges” in the United Kingdom, “nor was there any evidence of” judicial “decisions being influenced in an inappropriate manner.”

Because of that, it did not see any necessity to introduce a register of interests specific to the judiciary.

To answer Angus MacDonald’s question a little more directly, we in Scotland do not have a career judiciary in the sense that we have judges who begin their judicial life at the point of leaving university, as judges in many countries on the continent do. We recruit our judges and sheriffs from people who are generally, although not exclusively, in private practice. They are recruited in their 40s and 50s, and perhaps sometimes even a little later as far as the senior judiciary is concerned. We have a relatively small pool of lawyers of excellence who are capable of taking on the job of being a member of our senior judiciary.

Members may be aware that there are currently certain problems with the recruitment of the senior judiciary in particular because of certain steps that have been taken relative to pay and pensions generally. We have particular difficulties with recruitment at the moment and, if I were to say to senior members of the profession, which they are before they are recruited into the judiciary, “By the way, if you wish to become a judge, you will have to declare all your pecuniary interests and open them to public scrutiny,” I have no doubt whatsoever that that would act as a powerful disincentive for lawyers of experience and skill to become members of the judiciary. I assure the committee that we need them more than they need us.

Angus MacDonald: You mentioned the career judiciary. You will be aware that we took evidence from your predecessor, Lord Gill. It is probably fair to say that he did not have a high regard for the system in the United States, where there has been a register of judicial interests, as you will be aware. What is your view of the fact that the United States has successfully introduced a register of judicial interests? Do you agree that it has helped to increase confidence in the judiciary in that part of the world?

Lord Carloway: I am not in a position to make any comment whatsoever about the United States judiciary. I simply do not know enough about it to make a meaningful comment. You will be aware that there are problems in relation to the United States judiciary, but I am simply not qualified to comment on the depth of the situation.

I can comment on something that I am sure that the committee is aware of, which is that the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom considered this matter because, previously, as members of the House of Lords, its members were required to have a register of interests. It was decided that members of the Supreme Court should not have to have a register of interests, and I would have thought that, if that is the view of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, we should give some consideration to it, even if, of course, we are not bound by its decisions in that regard.

Brian Whittle (South Scotland) (Con): Good morning. In relation to any changes to the current system of recusal whereby it is for a judge to decide whether to recuse, you have commented on the inefficient disposal of business in the courts. I would like to explore the balance between the efficient disposal of business and having systems in place that ensure there is trust in judicial decisions. In that respect, is there any way of quantifying the risks to the efficient disposal of business and, if so, whether your office has carried out an assessment of that?

Lord Carloway: Are you talking about the process of declining jurisdiction, or recusal, as it is put?

Brian Whittle: Yes.

Lord Carloway: I preface my remarks by saying that, as far as I have a concern about this topic, it is not that judges are failing to recuse themselves in particular situations, because I am quite satisfied that they do so when they should. My concern—this is also to do with the disruption of business—is to do with judges or sheriffs who are recusing themselves unnecessarily in circumstances in which they should not do so. That is a much more common phenomenon.

One has to bear in mind that we have litigants who will effectively try to forum shop—that is to say that they will encounter a judge or sheriff who is not to their liking, and they will attempt to remove that judge from the proceedings on pretexts such as their having some remote connection with the case or the people involved in it. That type of thing can cause major problems in the management of business.

In normal cases in which someone is represented by a member of the legal profession, if there is a genuine concern that the judge or sheriff has an interest in the case, that will be raised informally with the clerk of court and, in practical terms, the sheriff court judge will simply decide not to be involved in that particular case. Again, that is not something that can be done in every court—particularly not in courts that only have one sheriff, and especially if it is not raised in advance.

What happens, in the sense of practicalities and reality, is that civil business—which, again, is primarily what we are talking about here—can be allocated relatively late in the day, and a sheriff or a judge might only on the day in question be faced with an application formally in court to decline jurisdiction in that case. If he does so, it is likely that that case will simply have to go off, with all the inconvenience that that involves.

There was a specific point about whether we think that judges should not deal with this question but should pass to another judge. Do you wish me to deal with that point?

Brian Whittle: Yes, please.

Lord Carloway: The answer to that particular problem is this: if a judge does not recuse himself in circumstances in which he should have done, any litigant who is dissatisfied with that and loses the case can appeal that and the matter will be reviewed by three judges. Therefore, there is a form of open, public scrutiny of the decision not to recuse a judge. If there were a system whereby that judge could not decide that matter himself or herself—after all, it is he or she who knows whether he or she has a direct connection with the litigation or the persons involved in it—and that person had passed on the matter to another judge or sheriff, the business in that case would be ceased for the period until that matter was decided. The business that is scheduled for the other sheriff or judge would also be ceased in order that the other judge could take the decision. That other judge is likely to find the decision difficult if he or she does not know the particular facts.

I hope that I am, in a realistic sense, explaining the disruption to business that such decisions can involve. The simplest way to deal with them is the way in which we are dealing with them at the moment. First of all there is the informal route, which means that the judge or the sheriff is not hearing the case in the first place; if that judge decides that he or she should hear the case in any event and is faced with a formal motion to recuse himself, that matter is dealt with transparently in open court and is subject to the appeal process.

Angus MacDonald: We have received a submission on this petition from Melanie Collins, in which she highlights a recusal that had, for whatever reason, not been added to the register of recusals. That was only noticed, or challenged, one year after the omission.

When Lord Gill gave evidence to the committee, said: “To the best of my knowledge, the clerks of court are scrupulously accurate in keeping the register and therefore, wherever there is a recusal, you may depend upon its being recorded in the register.”—[Official Report, Public Petitions Committee, 10 November 2015; c 3.]

Does it not concern you that, in the past, recusals have failed to be listed in the register of recusals? Are you not also concerned that the register is being altered—in some circumstances, years later—and only when members of the public, the media or litigants point out that there are gaps in it?

Lord Carloway: I note that there was an error in not recording one incidence. I am not particularly concerned about that. The position is that all recusals that appear in the register are as a result of events that occur in open court, in a public forum, and they are recorded in the interlocutor of the court concerned. I think that committee members have a copy of the interlocutor of the court order that deals with the recusal. That is a public document, which is open to public scrutiny. It is a result of the hearing in open court in which the parties would be well aware of the decision and they would have a record of it. Therefore, it does not particularly concern me that there was an unfortunate error in transposing that information into a register of recusals, which is for a different purpose.

Angus MacDonald: Is that the only error that you are aware of?

Lord Carloway: It is the only error that I am aware of. The judge or the sheriff will make a decision in open court. The direction to the clerks of court is that they should transmit that to the judicial office, so that it can be recorded in the register. If that was not done—it was not done in this case—that is regrettable, but it is not a matter of deep concern to me. One mistake in many instances does not cause me a concern about the general system.

Angus MacDonald: But you can understand how Melanie Collins would not feel that it was—

Lord Carloway: She was involved in the litigation. She must have known that the decision had been made, because she is the person who was presumably in court at the time. She, or her representatives, would have received a copy of the court order dealing with the recusal.

Angus MacDonald: Okay. Thank you.

The Convener: I welcome Alex Neil MSP to the meeting. He, too, has an interest in this item. I will take committee members first and if Alex Neil wants to ask a question after that he may do so.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): Good morning, Lord Carloway and Mr Flinn. You talked about problems that you perceive there would be with recruitment should a register be introduced. I may have missed a discussion of this in our background briefing, but what is the Law Society’s view on a register of interests?

Lord Carloway: I do not know the answer to that.

Rona Mackay: Fair enough.

Maurice Corry (West Scotland) (Con): Good morning, Lord Carloway and Mr Flinn. I welcome your indication that you would have no problem extending the register of recusals to cover instances where judges have considered recusal but have made the decision not to recuse. You indicated that what you considered may provide additional transparency—that follows on from Angus MacDonald’s comment. Have you considered options for the ways in which the register could be made transparent when any additions or amendments are made to it?

Lord Carloway: Sorry, what is that in relation to?

Maurice Corry: Options to make it more transparent.

Lord Carloway: Do you mean that we could, for example, put the parties’ names in?

Maurice Corry: Yes.

Lord Carloway: That has been considered, but it is not thought to be particularly necessary or helpful. I return to the fact that all decisions whether to recuse are done in the public forum—they are done in open court. If anyone has an interest in seeing a particular court interlocutor, they can do so. For example, if someone was looking at the register of interests and wanted more details of that, I am sure that we could provide them with those details. However, we are often anxious not to put parties’ names in registers of a public nature such as this, because it is usual for cases to involve considerable sensitivities, such as children and so forth. Therefore, we would be reluctant to do that, but it could be done.

Maurice Corry: It could be done, but it would have to be looked at very carefully.

Lord Carloway: Yes.

Angus MacDonald: Would you be content to see information about the date on which an entry is made or a way of noting amendments to entries in the register, such as to correct clerical errors, which we are aware happened on at least one occasion? Would that enhance transparency?

Lord Carloway: Yes. That is a fair point. We could have a protocol that, if an entry was made after a fortnight, there should be a footnote to say, “Entered on such and such a date.”

Angus MacDonald: That is good.

You will be aware that there was a similar petition in New Zealand two or three years ago, which was eventually withdrawn.

Lord Carloway: I thought that it was defeated.

Angus MacDonald: Yes. Are you aware of whether any register was introduced in New Zealand, along the lines of a register of recusals or a register of interests, after that?

Lord Carloway: I am not. I thought that the matter ended with the defeat in Parliament.

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.

We might ask the petitioners to respond in writing to the evidence to allow us the opportunity to reflect on it, if members are so minded. When we consider the petition at a future meeting, we can consider any further actions that members might deem appropriate having read that response. We might want to make recommendations or suggestions to the relevant decision makers, but it is not within the committee’s powers to implement the action that is called for in the petition. However, we will take a view on the petition and dispose of it to somebody else who will make that decision. Today’s evidence has clarified many of the issues in my mind. Are members agreed to take the action proposed?

Members indicated agreement.

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

 

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

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

Chief Exec. John Foley retires from discredited Police quango. THE Chief Executive of the embattled Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is to take ‘early retirement’ – with an as-yet undisclosed pay off for leaving the crisis hit Police governance quango which oversees the running of Police Scotland.

John Foley – who faced heavy criticism along with SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan for running the SPA like the “Kremlin” in sessions before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee in April of this year will depart in October after the SPA’s year end accounts are signed off.

Ironically – Foley – whose retirement was announced earlier today by the SPA – will leave the discredited Police watchdog quango months before the eventual departure of Chief Executive Andrew Flanagan, who announced his resignation earlier in June.

However, Andrew Flanagan is to remain in the £70,000 a year post – while the Scottish Government look for a successor.

A recruitment round for the role of SPA Chair was only announced earlier this week, with a closing date for applications of Thursday 21 September 2017.

Commenting on Foley’s decision to take early retirement, and a payoff, Chair Andrew Flanagan said: “This new reporting arrangement is a further tangible step in strengthening oversight of forensic services, and will support work to develop a long-term strategy for forensics to complement the 2026 strategy for Police Scotland.”

“I want to pay tribute to the professionalism which he has shown throughout our consideration of this, and indeed for the valued service he has given to SPA and policing over what has been a period of unprecedented change.”

Commenting on his own departure, CEO John Foley said: “The SPA has continued to evolve and improve since its inception in 2013 and strengthening the governance of Forensic Services is the next stage of that journey and one I fully support. Clearly the revised arrangements have significant implications for the CEO role I currently hold and following detailed discussions with the Board since the start of the year I have chosen to seek early retirement.

“It has been an honour and privilege to have served as the first permanent CEO of the SPA for the past four years. I am confident that the Authority and policing will continue to improve in the coming years and I want to thank all of the staff and officers who I have had the pleasure of working with over the past four years.”

The SPA board said Foley would be paid in lieu of his contractual notice period as part of his overall settlement – but gave no figure on what the substantial payoff is likely to be.

The SPA stated: “While it is not possible at this stage to calculate a definitive figure on the overall financial settlement until Mr Foley’s formal leaving date is confirmed, SPA has agreed with Mr Foley that the costs of his financial package will be made publicly available as soon as practical after that leaving date.”

The SPA said it will now conduct a process seeking a 12-month secondee to act as chief officer for the SPA. A 12-month tenure will allow the review underway of the SPA’s wider executive requirements to be completed, the HMICS thematic inspection of the SPA to report next spring, and for a new SPA Chair to be appointed.

John Foley joined SPA in August 2013 as interim Chief Executive with management responsibilities for both the SPA’s governance and statutory forensic services responsibilities, and was formally appointed permanent CEO later that year.

Mr Foley’s early retirement comes under the terms of the approved SPA Voluntary Redundancy and Early Retirement scheme applicable to all eligible staff affected by a material change to their role, and commensurate with his age (over 55) and length of service (4 years).

Although the CEO role becomes redundant from 1 September 2017, the existing Board members – who were castigated by MSPs for a collective amnesia in their attempts to answer questions before Parliamentary Committees – has decided to keep John Foley on as Chief Executive until the SPA’s 2016-2017 annual accounts are signed off in late October 2017.

The board – which comprises members who have already taken large payoffs from other public bodies under terms of being “too ill to work” – stated they had consulted Audit Scotland – the equally discredited accounts body which counts among it’s duties a responsibility to audit public finances in Scotland and ensure value for money.

However, it has come to light the same Audit Scotland recently swept a £2.4 million loss at Scottish Borders Council under the carpet – the very same local authority which paid off SPA board member David Hume a total of £318,434 in 2012 after claims of bullying at the South of Scotland local authority.

In 2012 it was reported David Hume took a £318,434 secret “too ill to work again” secret legal deal from the corruption ridden south of Scotland local authority.

Hume then joined the SPA while also working for the Scottish Government in a position on Children’s Hearings Scotland. Hume’s salary for the CHS work was funnelled through his consultancy company – Enlighten: David Hume Consulting Ltd.

Hume’s term as SBC Chief Executive span dark years at the local authority, financial scandals with the loss of £4million from the education budget, consistent allegations of a culture of backhanders at the council, and a lack of duty of care.

Scottish Borders Council had been caught up in the Miss X Rape scandal, resulting in a Scottish Parliament inquiry which heard the Council had covered up a years long case where a severely disabled woman who lived close to the Council’s St Boswell’s HQ was repeatedly raped and abused. It transpired Scottish Borders Council held a written admission of rape from the man a full two years before the case came to light. A man was later jailed for 10 years for the crimes.

Scottish Borders Council decided not to discipline any social worker, despite the fact that Miss X, a woman with learning disabilities, had been subjected to an appalling catalogue of violent physical and sexual abuse.

The remaining text of the statement issued today from the SPA focussed on changes in reporting, reminiscent of “window dressing”.

The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is to take further steps to strengthen the leadership, visibility and governance of Forensic Services.

From 1 September 2017, the Director of Forensic Services will report directly into the Board of the SPA rather than through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Authority.

One consequence of this change in reporting is a significant reduction in the line management and direct budget accountabilities of the existing SPA CEO role, and which make the role in its present form redundant.

The SPA Board has been considering the implications of forensic reporting with the CEO since the turn of the year, and as a result John Foley has opted to take early retirement under the existing SPA scheme.

As accountable officer, and to ensure business continuity, the Board has requested that Mr Foley stay on until the completion of the 2016-17 SPA accounts, which are hoped to be signed off by the end of October.

To provide the Board with contingency against any change to that expected timeframe, the Board has also agreed a payment to Mr Foley in lieu of his contractual notice, in addition to his eligibility for an early retirement payment.

The Director of Forensic Services, Tom Nelson, will from 1 September 2017 report directly to the SPA Board. He will personally report into the Deputy Chair of the SPA, Nicola Marchant.

The Chair’s review of governance in policing, published in March 2016, highlighted the need for reorganisation of the SPA’s delivery functions, which are primarily in forensics services. Further professional advice was sought from HMICS on forensics later in 2016 which has informed the approach and steps taken to date.

The SPA approved in June 2017 a proposal to create a dedicated Forensic Services Committee to scrutinise forensics delivery. The HMICS Thematic Inspection of Forensic Services, published in late June 2017, also made a number of recommendations around leadership, visibility, and governance.

The Scottish Government announced in June that a review of how the executive of the SPA can best support the Board would be led by SPA Deputy Chair Nicola Marchant, and independent local authority Chief Executive Malcolm Burr. It is expected to report its conclusions and recommendations in Autumn this year. In addition, HMICS are expected to publish its Phase 2 thematic inspection report of the SPA in spring 2018.

The HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland report into the authority, authored by inspector Derek Penman, found “positive signs of improvement” in SPA board operations over the last 18 months, with improved relationships between the SPA and Police Scotland and the development of the Policing 2026 strategy described as a “major milestone”.

But the HMICS report was highly critical of the approach which had led the SPA to meet in private.

Mr Penman said the “recent parliamentary scrutiny and media concerns over openness and transparency have weakened public confidence in the SPA and detracted from its ability to perform its statutory function”.

He described the decision to hold meetings behind closed doors as “precipitous”, and said it “should not have been implemented” until signed off by the board in full.

Mr Penman welcomed the decision of the board to revert to holding meetings in public and publishing committee papers in advance, but wrote: “I am aware that some board members continue to maintain that their decisions to implement private meetings and publish papers on the day of the board were essentially correct.

“There is a fundamental need to listen to the views of stakeholders to maintain public confidence, and on this occasion the SPA has failed to do so until pressed by parliamentary committees.The SPA must recognise the legitimate interests of parliament, local authorities, staff associations, the press and the wider public in the scrutiny of policing in Scotland.”

TRANSPARENCY FIRST: Former Board member Moi Ali spoke out on transparency concerns at Police Watchdog:

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

UNFIT AUTHORITY: – Crisis continues at Scottish Police Authority after Board members criticise MSPs scrutiny of Cop Quango:

SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan’s decision to stay in the lead role at the now discredited Scottish Police Authority comes after one of it’s Board members – Graham Houston – launched a blistering attack on open hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s PAPLS Committee’ – after it’s members quizzed the Chair & CEO of the SPA, along with Scottish Government Civil Servants at an earlier meeting of 20 April 2017.

Scottish Police Authority Board Member Graham Houston hits out at PAPLS scrutiny of Police Watchdog

Criticising MSPs scrutiny of the Scottish Police Authority, Board member Graham Houston said: “I also think as an example of good governance I think the treatment of my fellow board members by an audit and scrutiny committee was frankly appalling and I think if that is an example of what is expected of good scrutiny it leaves a lot to be desired. And I suggest that the members of that committee look to themselves about setting an example and also look to the guidance on board about how they conduct themselves in doing that.”

Mr Houston then attacked the media, accusing the press of abusing the ‘openness’ of the SPA and concludes by stating “I think that what will transpire is that probably we are one of the most open public authorities in Scotland.”

The SPA’s statement on the outcome of the meeting claimed it had strengthened the transparency and accessibility of its governance arrangements by making a number of revisions to Board and committee meetings and publication of papers.

The changes decided at the meeting, which will come in to effect from 1 June 2017 include:

SPA committee meetings held in public, with items taken in private only when necessary and with a clear articulation of the reason.

The publication of agendas for all public Board and committee meetings will be available on the SPA website 7 days in advance of meetings.

The publication of papers for all public Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (under embargo) 3-working days in advance.

The publication of agendas for closed Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (redacted if necessary) and a summary of the business conducted will be reported to the next public Board meeting.

The public will also have the opportunity to pose questions about policing matters to the SPA Board in advance of meetings.

In addition, the SPA Board established a new Deputy Chair role. Nicola Marchant has been unanimously appointed to that position with immediate effect.

Houston’s criticism of the refers to the following hearing, in which evidence revealed to MSPs portrayed the Scottish Police Authority as a haven of secrecy, run in the style of  a “kremlin” operation – according to former Cabinet Secretary & PAPLS member Alex Neil MSP (SNP):

Scottish Police Authority – Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 20th April 2017

A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here:POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A further appearance of current and former board members of the Scottish Police Authority before Holyrood’s PAPLS Committee on the 11th May – established evidence in relation to a sequence of alarming events at the SPA – giving MSPs significant cause for concern of how the SPA Chair was in effect, personally running the Police watchdog as a “secret society”.

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

The hearing also established not one board member of the now discredited Police Watchdog backed former board member Moi Ali – who was forced to resign from the SPA after she bravely raised issues of transparency and accountability during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in December 2016.

Then, at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing, Andrew Flanagan was asked by MSPs several times to consider his position as SPA Chair – yet Flanagan refused each call to stand down and allow the Scottish Police Authority to move on from the current crisis.

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing – Scottish Parliament: 18th May 2017

A more detailed report on the 18th May 2017 hearing of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing can be found here: AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog

SLOW SECRETARY: Justice Secretary Michael Matheson was criticised for lack of action in Police watchdog governance crisis

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson ducked out of taking immediate action on tackling the leadership & governance crisis at the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – despite calls from across the political spectrum to act on restoring faith at the discredited regulator of Police Scotland.

During ‘Topical Questions’ at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday 30 May 2017, MSPs from all parties called for a resolution to the crisis at the Police Regulator, and Andrew Flanagan’s refusal to step aside.

In response, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said he was “conscious of the issues” and promised to consider the reports sent to him by the committees.

In Holyrood’s main chamber, Mary Fee MSP (Scottish Labour) told Michael Matheson that Andrew Flanagan had “lost the confidence of MSPs from all parties, including back benchers from the governing party.

“It is clear that his position is untenable. It seems that Mr Flanagan and the Justice Secretary are the last two people to see that.”

She called for a “drastic overhaul of how the SPA is run”.

Shying away from immediate action on the crisis at the Scottish Police Authority, Matheson replied: “I am sure that the member will recognise that it is important that ministers give thorough consideration to these issues in coming to a determination,”

The Justice Secretary added: “On the wider issue of the governance and structure of the SPA, there is no doubt that there are aspects of the way in which the SPA has operated over the past few years that have not worked as well as they should have and that there are areas in which I believe further improvements could be made.

“I have been clear about the need for the SPA to operate in an open and transparent manner as it undertakes its processes and considers matters, and I have repeatedly made that clear.”

Questions to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson on Scottish Police Authority & Andrew Flanagan 30 May 2017

A full report on MSPs questions to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson can be viewed here:Justice Secretary dodges call to fire Chair of discredited Scottish Police Authority – as cross party MSPs say Andrew Flanagan’s position is untenable, and crisis will impact on diversity, recruitment & transparency at public bodies

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

Lord Carloway – judges will not declare interests. SCOTLAND’S top judge has come in for sharp criticism after telling MSPs he is against judicial transparency and the creation of a register of judges’ interests – unless scandal or corruption is discovered by the judiciary within their own ranks.

Yesterday, Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) appeared before members of Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee, where in his evidence, the judge blasted transparency, court users, litigants the press, public, the internet and even social media – as reasons judges must be exempt from declaring their interests.

Carloway – who earns over £220,000 a year as Scotland’s ‘top judge’ – even declared to MSPs that creating a register of interests for judges would deter recruitment of ‘talented’ lawyers – reported in more detail by The National

The protests from Scotland’s current top judge are in response to MSPs consideration of judicial transparency proposals contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

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

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

The short session with Lord Carloway held yesterday, lasted a mere thirty six minutes.

Carloway’s stuttering performance was brought to a swift end by the Convener after detailed lines of questions from Alex Neil MSP saw Scotland’s top judge bounce from subject to subject, unable to offer a single clear reason as to why judges should be treated any differently from others in public life.

The Scottish Sun newspaper reported in today’s edition Alex Neil MSP (SNP Airdrie and Shotts) slammed Lord Carloway’s “extremely unconvincing” argument. He added: “He put no rational case against.”

Lord Carloway’s appearance before MSPs was rated as “poor” by legal insiders, comparing the session to that of his predecessor Lord Brian Gill, who gave evidence to MSPs in November 2015 – after resigning earlier from the post of Lord President in May 2015.

Gill, who had waged a three year battle against the petition, refused to attend the Scottish Parliament on several occasions – a refusal resulting in heavy criticism in the press and from politicians who said Gill had insulted Holyrood.

Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee’s deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

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

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

In a statement issued to the media late yesterday, Moi Ali – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer who gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament in 2013, criticised the stance of the Lord President at today’s hearing.

Moi Ali said: “I hold judges in high esteem for the important work they do, but I regret to say that Lord Carloway did a great disservice to the judiciary in his evidence to the Petitions Committee. He appears to have a very low opinion of users of the Court Service, suggesting that people who do not get the result they want may act with resentful, malicious and hostile intent. This is insulting to the public at large.

“His suggestion that a register of interests would lead to retaliation by unsuccessful litigants in the form of online fraud is frankly ludicrous and deeply offensive. I personally handled complaints reviews by unsuccessful litigants when I was the independent Judicial Complaints Reviewer, without any kind of threat or malicious action – even where I did not find in favour of the complainant.”

“I published a register of interests when in that role, despite not being required to do so. Why? Because it’s a basic expectation that that’s what public servants do in the twenty-first century.”

“The fact is that the judiciary do not wish to be open and transparent in this respect, and choose to present themselves as a special case. It seems to me that if a register is required to be completed by MPs, MSPs and public Board members, then it must also be required of the judiciary.”

“My opinion is not founded on a belief that judges are corrupt; rather, it comes from the view that transparency builds trust and confidence. As a society, we must be able to have complete confidence in our judiciary – and that starts with their openness and transparency.”

In a statement to the media, law blogger & petitioner Peter Cherbi said: “Transparency apparently stops at the doors of our courts and that’s it, Judges are to remain judges in their own cause and we shouldn’t have a register of interests until there is a scandal. Not on in 2017.”

Lord Carloway doesn’t seem to consider the fact these litigants and their legal representatives he holds in such distain – prop up his £220K a year job and our courts in exorbitant fees and hundreds of millions of pounds in publicly funded legal aid.

“And just exactly why does transparency inhibit the recruitment of judges? All other branches of public life have registers of interest and do just fine on recruitment. Lord Carloway is really struggling with this one.”

“Moi Ali was right all along. These people are the most powerful, and require the most transparency. Everyone gets the idea of transparency except the judiciary. Time now for a full register of judicial interests and for Parliament to act where the Lord President has failed.”

“Carloway’s arguments against a register are waffle – look at how the Sunday Times was treated in England over the Cruddas case where judges failed to declare interests in their links to political parties.”

“We should remember this is not just about protecting court users, a register is about protecting the public and the media who in many cases as we know, advance the cause of transparency and public interest where Governments, the Executive, public bodies and the courts all fail.”

Full report & video footage of Lord Carloway’s evidence to the Public Petitions Committee:

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

As the hearing began, Johann Lamont opened questions to Lord Carloway on arguments he put forward relating to “online fraud” as an inhibition to a register of judicial interests.

Carloway failed to provide any example in response to the questions on his own argument, and then claimed he was unaware of details of any other registers of interest.

The Lord President then turned on court litigants, claiming a register of judicial interests and any attempts to bring transparency to the judicial bench would help “paranoid” litigants take revenge on a judge after losing their cases.

Carloway – who has been a judge for 18 years, then went on to castigate financial declarations of interest, claiming if such a register existed he would not be able to hire “lawyers of excellence” for positions up to £200,000 a year judicial jobs.

The Lord President even complained about the level of judicial salaries and pensions during his evidence to MSPs as yet another reason and “disincentive to lawyers of experience and skill to become members of the judiciary”.

He said: “We have a relatively small pool of lawyers of excellence who are capable of taking on the job of being a member of our senior judiciary.

“We have particular difficulties with recruitment at the moment. If I were to say to senior members of the profession, ‘By the way, if you wish to become a judge you will have to declare all your pecuniary interests and open them to public scrutiny’, I have no doubt whatsoever that that would act as a powerful disincentive for lawyers of experience and skill becoming members of the judiciary.

“I can assure the committee, we need them more than they need us.”

In response to questions from Angus MacDonald on declarations of judicial interests in the United States, Lord Carloway said he was not in a position to comment on the US judicial system as he did not know enough about it.

However, it recently emerged Carloway regularly visits judicial gatherings in North America at taxpayers expense and mingles with judicial groups at plush locations for ‘legal conferences’.

Angus MacDonald then challenged Lord Carloway on recusals, in relation to cases where judges have either concealed conflicts of interest or have refused to stand aside from a case.

Mr MacDonald quizzed the Lord President on omissions in the recusals register – to which Lord Carloway said he was not concerned about.

The Lord President then told MSPs there was only one omission he was aware of in the recusals register.

However in response to a recent DOI investigation into judicial recusals, a number of cases are now being studied by journalists which appear to have been omitted from the recusals register.

And in at least one case, it has been alleged court clerks actively discouraged a motion for recusal, and suspicions are, more cases may fall into this category.

In a question from Rhona Mackay MSP (SNP) who asked Lord Carloway what the Law Society of Scotland’s view was on a register of interests.

Lord Carloway bluntly replied “I don’t know the answer to that”.

Maurice Corry MSP then asked Lord Carloway if he would provide further details to the register of recusals and options to make the recusals register more transparent.

Lord Carloway said it was not particularly required to apply further details to the current register of recusals, which is currently published by the Judicial Office with sparse detail.

Angus MacDonald then asked the top judge if he could be content to see clerical errors corrected in the register with a footnote if applied at a later date. Lord Carloway said yes.

Alex Neil MSP, who attended the Petitions Committee as a guest, then asked Lord Carloway if it should be left up to a judge to decide on an issue of principal if it should be left up to a judge to recuse themselves or should it be for the Lord President or the keeper of the rolls to insist upon if there is a conflict of interest.

Lord Caloway said he was happy with the system as it stood.

However Mr Neil pressed Lord Carloway on the point, saying the system was balanced against people who come to court for justice, particularly if they are under resourced or never find out about conflicts of interest in court.

Responding, Lord Carloway reverted to an obscure report prepared by a group of European judges which said there was no need for a register of judicial interests in the UK.

However, the judges and legal team who prepared the GRECO report referred to by Lord Carloway – are also against the introduction of registers of interests for members of the judiciary in the EU.

Carloway then insisted the Scottish judiciary was “not corrupt”, and said he would not even consider a register of interests until there was evidence of corruption.

The Lord President said: “Until such time as it’s demonstrated that there is corruption within the Scottish judiciary, I’m 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 put further questions to Lord Carloway, comparing the existence of the register of interests for MSPs which exists at the Scottish Parliament to ensure transparency.

Mr Neil reminded the Lord President the existence of the register of interests for MSPs did not exist due to allegations of corruption, rather to ensure transparency.

Responding to a case quoted by Alex Neil in relation to a construction firm –  Advance Construction Ltd – in which a Court of Session judge & Privy Councillor heard a case eight times which involved his own son – Lord Carloway said he was happy Lord Malcolm acted properly without recusing himself in the case.

Carloway claimed that Lord Malcolm had acted in accordance with the code of judicial ethics.

Carloway was then challenged by Alex Neil on whether the top judge had actually investigated details of the case – to which Carloway initially claimed he was not aware of any documents.

However, pressed on the matter, the judge admitted he had read documents from the individuals named by Mr Neil.

Lord Carloway said “As far as I am aware the documents were not addressed to me, but I could be wrong about that”

An earlier investigation by the media revealed  Lord Malcolm (real name Colin Campbell QC) heard the case in question no less than eight times while his son – Ewen Campbell – worked for Levy & Mcrae  – the Glasgow law firm now subject to multi million pound writs in connection with the £400million collapse of a Gibraltar based hedge fund – Heather Capital.

Ewen Campbell had been appointed to run the case by a judicial colleague of Lord Malcolm & Lord Carloway – Sheriff Peter Watson who was at the time a senior partner of Levy & Mcrae.

Sheriff Watson was since suspended from the judiciary by Lord Brian Gill, who as Lord President in 2015, suspended Watson to protect public confidence in the judiciary – after both Watson and Levy & Mcrae were named in a multi million pound writ relating to the loss of millions of pounds in the collapse of the Heather Capital hedge fund.

Responding to further points raised by Alex Neil, Lord Carloway hit out against suggestions judges should register what their relatives are doing and where they are working.

Carloway said “this was going way beyond I suspect what is expected of politicians in a register of interests”.

However, Alex Neil informed Lord Carloway that MSPs are already required to register what their close relatives do.

In response, Lord Carloway compared politicians to members of the judiciary, and claimed judges require a different type of independence as enjoyed by politicians.

The top judge said interests in the judiciary usually relate to social connections with people rather than pecuniary interests, which do not appear in the register of recusals.

However, as there are no requirements to declare pecuniary interests in the current recusals register, it is of particular note not one financial related recusal has appeared in the register of recusals, which covers 700 members of the judiciary, some of whom are earning up to £220,000 a year, and for many years.

In further points put to Lord Carloway, Mr Neil said that the perception of fairness is not present in the way matters are conducted in court.

In response, Carloway again referred back to the case mentioned by Mr Neil, saying he was happy with the way in which Lord Malcolm, had handled the court correctly.

Carloway claimed there was no active involvement whatsoever by Lord Malcolm’s son – Ewen Campbell – who is now an advocate.

However, Ewen Campbell’s name is listed on court papers from the outset of hearings in the Court of Session in front of his father, Lord Malcolm.

And, it has since emerged a written and signed statement by Ewen Campbell as a witness in the case mentioned by Alex Neil has been provided to journalists, along with a statement signed by suspended sheriff Peter Watson – a judicial colleague of Lord Carloway.

These developments and statements, which are to be published in a further investigation into judicial recusals, now calls into question Lord Carloway’s claims in his evidence to MSPs.

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

 

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

NO CONFIDENCE: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to stand down, as board member criticises Holyrood scrutiny of governance, secrecy culture & lack of accountability at discredited Police watchdog

Chair Andrew Flanagan clings to power at Police regulator. AMID further calls to quit, the Chair of the embattled Scottish Police Authority (SPA) grimly remains in office and at the centre of a crisis which has eroded public confidence in the Police watchdog to the point only a clean sweep of the board may begin to repair significant reputational damage to the regulator of Police Scotland.

Facing further criticism from the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing late last week, Andrew Flanagan again refused to stand down from his £70K position as Chair of the SPA.

According to his declarations on the SPA website, Andrew Flanagan also holds positions on the Civil Service Commission, NHS Business Services Authority, London-based NEL Commissioning Support Unit, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, positions he earns up to £75,000 a year in addition to his £70K salary as SPA Chair.

Flanagan’s decision to remain in office comes after members of Holyrood’s Justice Committee said in a report  they had “serious concerns”in the current SPA Board – which has responsibility for oversight and spending of the £1.1 billion Police Scotland budget.

The Justice Committee expressed “very serious concerns about the standards of governance” at the body and said it “does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the board”.

The report was issued after the Justice Committee held an evidence session with SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan & CEO John Foley after hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit Committee heard details of Andrew Flanagan’s treatment of Moi Ali – a former SPA board member who spoke up over concerns about the lack of transparency & accountability at the Police Watchdog.

At an earlier meeting of the PAPLS Committee Moi Ali accused Flanagan of bullying, which led to Ms Ali’s resignation from the Police regulator after she publicly objected to plans to hold meetings in private and arrangements over the publication of board papers prior to meetings.

During the evidence session at the Justice Committee, SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan told MSPs he had issued a written apology to Ali on Tuesday of that week, however, evidence has since emerged the apology was emailed to Ms Ali  less than two hours before Flanagan was to appear before MSPs to answer concerns about harassment and transparency.

The Justice Committee have not yet commented on whether they plan to quiz Mr Flanagan further on his contradictory claims in relation to his communications with Moi Ali.

While Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has remained conspicuously silent in the crisis at the SPA, Matheson has quietly requested an inspection of transparency and accountability issues at the organisation be brought forward by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS).

The results are expected in June, however Justice Committee member Mary Fee MSP (Scottish Labour) branded Flanagan’s testimony to the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing “frankly inadequate”, adding: “We do not have confidence in his leadership.”

The report released by the Justice Committee says Flanagan’s repeated use of the phrase “I have to accept” when discussing his treatment of Moi Ali – does not reassure the committee that he has a “real belief and understanding” that the actions he took and “repeatedly defended were wrong”.

Speaking to the BBC, Mary Fee MSP – Convener of the Justice sub-Committee on Policing – said: “Though he was apologetic, we are not confident he accepts he was wrong.

“This issue remains unresolved. We will continue working with the Scottish Police Authority, and other justice stakeholders, until we are confident the governance of the SPA is significantly improved.”

Also speaking to the media, former Police officer & Justice Committee member John Finnie – also the Justice spokesperson for the Greens, said: “Andrew Flanagan said nothing at his most recent appearance in front of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing which led me to believe that he has learned the important lessons necessary for him to lead the SPA.

“Mr Flanagan’s half-hearted apology, emailing Moi Ali around an hour before his appearance at the sub-committee, epitomises his approach to this whole sorry saga – looking out for his own self-interest rather than that of the Scottish Police Authority.

“In order to effectively chair an important public body it is vital that you hold the confidence of Parliament. It is clear from the views expressed by both the Public Audit Committee and today by the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing that Mr Flanagan lacks that confidence.

“He certainly does not hold my confidence.

“This ongoing situation continues to overshadow the vital work of the SPA and must be resolved sooner rather than later. I would ask Mr Flanagan to seriously reflect on his position.”

Giving evidence to the sub-committee, Flanagan was asked if he accepted there had been “reputational damage to SPA that it may not recover from”.

He replied: “I think we can recover from it, I think there has been some damage there. I think my apology to Moi is a start of that process, it is not the end of the process.

Responding to the Justice Committee’s criticisms of the SPA and their report SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan said: “As I have already done with the views of other parliamentarians, I and the SPA Board will consider this report very carefully over the coming days and reflect on its contents.

“As I indicated in my evidence to the Committee, I have publicly acknowledged recent mistakes without caveat or qualification. I also believe that in my time in office I have brought much improvement and clarity to the strategy, governance, sustainability, and relationships within policing.”

“I remain focussed on building a broad consensus around my continuing leadership of the SPA, and my contribution to a stable and collaborative leadership within policing as a whole.”

“Today, and in recognition of recent areas of contention, the SPA has backed my recommended changes to governance that will increase both the transparency of our meetings and the accessibility of information.”

“This will begin to address the concerns of stakeholders, and the inspection report of HMICS will provide a further opportunity to build on that.”

“I also look forward to further developing and broadening the Board’s approach with the appointment today of Nicola Marchant as the first Deputy Chair.”

It has since been reported in the Herald newspaper SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan did not share a crucial report on forensics with all his board members.

The SPA has control of forensic services – including DNA, drug analysis and scene examination – and Mr Penman sent the chair a “professional advice note” (PAN) on the subject.

The document flagged up possible reforms on a part of the Police service that has had to make efficiency savings.

Speaking to the Herald, a spokesman for HMICS said of the advice note: “HMICS received a letter on 31 October 2016, from the [SPA] Chair acknowledging the final version and confirming that it had been shared with all board members.”

The Herald further reported: “However, asked yesterday to confirm that Mr Flanagan had shared the advice note with all board members, a spokesman for the SPA said:

“The SPA members received briefing from their officers last August in which one of the options set out in respect of forensic services clearly reflected the HMICS advice note. The paper provided to members made clear that background papers available to them included the independent analysis and advice by HMICS in relation to forensic services.”

A senior policing source said it was a “fair assumption” that the advice note was not given to all board members at the time.”

Report from the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing: Justice Sub Committee on Policing Report on Governance of the Scottish Police Authority

1. The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing held an evidence session on the governance of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) on 18 May 2017.

2. It took evidence from Andrew Flanagan, Chair, and John Foley, Chief Executive of the Scottish Police Authority.

3. This was in response to the letter from the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice outlining its “very serious concerns about the standards of governance at the SPA”, following its recent evidence sessions^

4. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice has asked Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to bring forward aspects of his intended statutory inspection into the state, efficiency and effectiveness of the Scottish Police Authority scheduled for 2017/18. The Cabinet Secretary has asked HMICS focus on transparency and accountability issues.]

5. Accordingly, HMICS is currently undertaking a Thematic Inspection of the Scottish Police Authority – Phase 1 Review of Openness and Transparency and is to report to the Scottish Parliament on 22 June 2017. The terms of reference are as follows:

The overall aim of this review will be to assess the openness and transparency in the way that the Scottish Police Authority conducts its business. It will specifically examine:

(i) the Authority’s decision on holding meetings in private and the publication of meeting papers; and also assess

(ii) the Authority’s compliance with relevant legislation, guidance and standing orders and the awareness and understanding of the Chair, Board members and SPA officers of these.

Introduction

6. This report outlines the views of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing on the evidence heard at its meetings of 20 April, when representatives of Unison, the Scottish Police Federation and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents provided evidence, and of 18 May, with the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA.

Committee consideration

7. The 18 May evidence session focussed on the following decisions:

• to hold committee meetings in private;

• to not circulate to the SPA board members the letter from HMICS raising concerns about holding committee meetings in private; and

• the Chair’s letter to Moi Ali of 19 December, in response to her dissenting to meetings being held in private.

8. The Sub-Committee considered the decisions taken by the Chair and Chief Executive, the actions they took (or did not take) as a result of those decisions, and the impact on the effective governance and reputation of the SPA.

9. The Sub-Committee also considered the impact of the proposed actions to be taken going forward on the SPA’s governance, transparency and reputation.

Conclusions

10. The Sub-Committee shares the very serious concerns about the standards of governance at the SPA raised by the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee and thanks it for its scrutiny of the governance of the Scottish Police Authority.

11. The Sub-Committee agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, copied to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS), outlining its views. The letter is attached at Annexe A of this report.

PAPLS Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to HMICS, 20 April 2017

PAPLS Letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, 12 May 2017

Letter from the Justice Sub Committee on Policing to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson:

Dear Michael: The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing held an evidence session on 18 May 2017 on governance of the Sottish Police Authority. This was to provide an opportunity for the Chair and Chief Executive of the SPA to address serious governance concerns raised by the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee in its recent letter to you.

The Sub-Committee also took evidence from Unison, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS) on 20 April, when SPA governance issues were raised.

The Sub-Committee appreciates that HMICS is currently undertaking an urgent review of the openness and transparency of the SPA and that you are to appraise the performance of the Chair of the SPA. This letter is to inform both.

Openness, transparency and accountability

The Sub-Committee agrees with your assessment that the SPA “needs to ensure that the processes and mechanisms that it has in place are open and transparent’’^”

Many of the issues surrounding the openness, transparency and accountability of the SPA’s governance seem to have been created by the implementation of two of the recommendations in Andrew Flanagan’s Review of Governance, which was published in March 2016. These were that committees should be seen as working groups (recommendation 15) and therefore that their meetings should be held in private (recommendation 16).

In his letter to Andrew Flanagan of 9 December 2016, Derek Penman cautioned that the proposal for committees to meet in private might impact negatively on the openness, transparency and legitimacy of the SPA, as well as public confidence in its governance. Despite this, the decision was made for committees to meet in private.

In a previous evidence session, the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing heard that those representing police staff, officers and superintendents felt that this decision excluded them from participating in the decision-making process.

Craig Suttie of the ASPS told the Sub-Committee that superintendents “had concerns when the governance review came out”, whilst Calum Steele of the SPF said that holding private committee meetings “undermines the SPA’s legitimacy”.

In response to questions on engagement with the unions and staff associations Mr Flanagan acknowledged that he was aware that stakeholders were unhappy, but held the view that the level of engagement was sufficient, saying that “In the committee structure that has been set up, people can come and give evidence … the SPF and other staff associations and unions can come to those meetings”.[4]

The proposal that committees are to meet in public and to publish papers well in advance of meetings is a move in the right direction. This is good practice and it is difficult to comprehend why this approach was not recommended in the governance review.

There is a need for some items to be taken in private, and the Sub-Committee appreciates Mr Flanagan’s assurance that respectful open debate on whether items should be taken in private will be encouraged going forward.

Private committee meetings, issuing papers at the last minute, and reducing input from key stakeholders has damaged the relationship between the SPA and police staff, officers and superintendents. It has also raised questions within the police service and externally about the SPA’s accountability, transparency and legitimacy.

Although there is now a proposal for committees to meet in public, Mr Flanagan suggested that this was due to improvements in the information that is submitted by Police Scotland,rather than being in response to the impact private meetings have had on key relationships and the SPA’s reputation. It is essential to repair both.

As part of his review, HMICS is to “engage directly with the key stakeholders, including police staff associations and members of the media and others who have a specific interest in the policing of Scotland and who may wish access to SPA meetings and papers”.

The Sub-Committee would refer HMICS to its evidence session on 20 April with Unison, the SPF and ASPS and, in light of recent media reports, respectfully request that Mr Penman engage with COSLA during his review of openness and transparency.

Correspondence from HMICS

It is clear that Derek Penman’s letter of 9 December 2016 to the Chair, copied to the Chief Executive, was time critical. In it Mr Penman raises a number of concerns about the Corporate Governance Framework, which was to be agreed at the following week’s SPA board meeting. Whilst Mr Flanagan has now acknowledged that this correspondence should have been circulated as a matter of course, and has committed to doing so in future, the Sub-Committee explored the reasons for the 9 December letter not being circulated.

The Sub-Committee heard that there were practical issues which contributed to Mr Penman’s letter not being circulated immediately. The Chief Executive was out of the country, with the letter apparently not being brought to his attention during or after his leave period. The Chair received the letter “late on Friday” and was not undertaking SPA duties again prior to the board meeting the following week.

However, Mr Flanagan stated that, in his view, there had been no need to circulate Mr Penman’s letter, telling the Sub-Committee that “I felt that his letter captured views that had already been expressed rather than injecting new ones”.

Mr Penman explained to the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee on 11 May that his letter: “contained a level of detail that I would not have had the opportunity to explain in conversations on the margins with members”

Despite this Mr Foley told the Sub-Committee on 18 May that “It is not the case that his [Derek Penman’s] views were not known”

The letter was discussed at the pre-meeting and was not circulated before, during or at any time after the SPA board meeting. Board members and key stakeholders only saw the content of the letter, or in some cases became aware it, once it appeared in media reports some months later.

At the Sub-Committee meeting of 20 April 2017 Drew Livingstone stated that Unison was particularly concerned about not being made aware of the HMICS letter until recently, saying that: “there has been a reluctance on the part of the organisation to listen to opinions that might come across as being slightly dissenting”

Not circulating the HMICS letter to Board Members, as Her Majesty’s Inspector would have expected, was, in the Sub-Committee’s view, a serious error of judgement.

HMICS has a statutory role to look into the ‘state, effectiveness and efficiency’ of the SPA and it should provide HMICS with “such assistance and co-operation as we may require to enable us to carry out our functions”.

The Sub-Committee asks that you consider whether the Chair demonstrates sufficient understanding of the relationship between the SPA and HMICS and whether, in this instance, the required level of co-operation was provided to HMICS.

The operation of the SPA board

The On Board guidance states that “The Chair has an important role to play in ensuring that all Board members are enabled and encouraged to contribute to Board discussions”. Building and maintaining effective working relationships with SPA board members is an essential role of the Chair.

The Sub-Committee considered whether the Chair’s response to Moi Ali’s dissension at the board meeting in December, his interpretation of the On Board guidance and his communication style, enables and encourages members to contribute fully at SPA board meetings.

Treatment of Moi Ali

The Sub-Committee agrees with Mr Flanagan’s view that the tone, content and timing of his letter to Moi Ali in December was a misjudgement on his part and that the manner in which she raised concerns about transparency and perception at the SPA board meeting in December were consistent with her role as a Board member.

This issue has been on-going for almost 6 months and has been deeply damaging to the reputation of the SPA. It is therefore regrettable that Mr Flanagan did not come to this view initially, or before now, and that he did not seek to resolve this matter in person with Moi Ali before she felt it necessary to resign.

Mr Flanagan wrote to Moi Ali on two separate occasions, almost two months apart, but it seems that he did not find an opportunity to speak directly to Moi Ali to seek to resolve the issue and to repair the relationship.

The Sub-Committee notes that Mr Flanagan wrote a personal letter of apology to Ms Ali but that it was only written two days before the Sub-Committee’s evidence session and emailed on the day of the session.

Dissent

Mr Flanagan told the Sub-Committee that “The fundamental issue at the board meeting was that her [Moi Ali’s] decision to dissent was a surprise to me—that was the main frustration”

It remains Mr Flanagan’s view that he should be made aware before a board meeting if a member is likely to dissent in public, so that he was “prepared for that when the board meeting took place”.

This expectation is out of step with what is required of board members in the On Board guidance. Whilst this approach might be desirable for a Chair it does not enable the SPA board members to form a view at board meetings and could inhibit them from dissenting from a decision if they had not previously informed the Chair that they intended to do so. It has led to criticism that decisions are made before SPA board meetings and then ‘played out’ in public. There is an important distinction between a united board and an effective board. It is not always one and the same.

Relationship with SPA board members

The Sub-Committee heard that other SPA board members had only recently commented on the Chair’s treatment of Moi Ali, describing it to him as “a bit hasty and a bit heavy handed”.

The three SPA board members who gave evidence to the Public Audit and Post­-legislative Scrutiny Committee on 11 May, have only recently committed to asking the Chair why the HMICS letter was not circulated. They confirmed in evidence that they had not done so before now, despite the letter being in the public domain for a number of weeks.

It appears that on both these issues, despite having concerns about the Chair’s actions, significantly, SPA board members were reticent about speaking directly to Mr Flanagan.

Mr Flanagan told the Sub-Committee that the SPA board is to appoint a Deputy Chair. He indicated that one of the advantages of this appointment was that this person could meet with members of the Board who might feel constrained in raising an issue of concern directly with the Chair.

The Sub-Committee would be deeply concerned if Board members felt constrained in speaking to the Chair and, if that were the case, would expect the Chair to rectify that position as a matter of urgency.

Going forward

The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing agrees with the Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee’s assessment that it is essential that the public and stakeholders be reassured that the SPA is performing to an appropriate standard.

Unfortunately Mr Flanagan’s repeated use of the phrase “I have to accept” did not reassure the Sub-Committee that he has a real belief and understanding that the actions that he took in relation to Moi Ali and in not circulating the HMICS letter, and repeatedly defended, were wrong.

There will be many difficult decisions for the SPA board to take going forward. It is essential that as many of these as possible are taken in public and informed by stakeholders. Openness, inclusiveness and transparency will strengthen the decision­ making process and the accountability of the SPA. Given the evidence that it has heard, the Sub-Committee does not have confidence that the current chair is the best person to lead the Board.

HMICS is currently undertaking a review of the openness and transparency of the SPA.

The Sub-Committee asks HMICS to consider the evidence it has taken and the contents of this report as part of that review. Mr Flanagan has committed to write to the Sub­ Committee with a response to HMICS’ review at the earliest opportunity.

TRANSPARENCY FIRST: Former Board member Moi Ali spoke out on transparency concerns at Police Watchdog:

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

UNFIT AUTHORITY: – Crisis continues at Scottish Police Authority after Board members criticise MSPs scrutiny of Cop Quango:

SPA Chair Andrew Flanagan’s decision to stay in the lead role at the now discredited Scottish Police Authority comes after one of it’s Board members – Graham Houston – launched a blistering attack on open hearings at the Scottish Parliament’s PAPLS Committee’ – after it’s members quizzed the Chair & CEO of the SPA, along with Scottish Government Civil Servants at an earlier meeting of 20 April 2017.

Scottish Police Authority Board Member Graham Houston hits out at PAPLS scrutiny of Police Watchdog

Critisising MSPs scrutiny of the Scottish Police Authority, Board member Graham Houston said: “I also think as an example of good governance I think the treatment of my fellow board members by an audit and scrutiny committee was frankly appalling and I think if that is an example of what is expected of good scrutiny it leaves a lot to be desired. And I suggest that the members of that committee look to themselves about setting an example and also look to the guidance on board about how they conduct themselves in doing that.”

Mr Houston then attacked the media, accusing the press of abusing the ‘openness’ of the SPA and concludes by stating “I think that what will transpire is that probably we are one of the most open public authorities in Scotland.”

The SPA’s statement on the outcome of the meeting claimed it had strengthened the transparency and accessibility of its governance arrangements by making a number of revisions to Board and committee meetings and publication of papers.

The changes decided at the meeting, which will come in to effect from 1 June 2017 include:

SPA committee meetings held in public, with items taken in private only when necessary and with a clear articulation of the reason.

The publication of agendas for all public Board and committee meetings will be available on the SPA website 7 days in advance of meetings.

The publication of papers for all public Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (under embargo) 3-working days in advance.

The publication of agendas for closed Board and committee meetings will be published on the SPA website (redacted if necessary) and a summary of the business conducted will be reported to the next public Board meeting.

The public will also have the opportunity to pose questions about policing matters to the SPA Board in advance of meetings.

In addition, the SPA Board has established a new Deputy Chair role. Nicola Marchant has been unanimously appointed to that position with immediate effect.

Full details of the changes and next steps agreed by the Board are outlined in the following paper: http://www.spa.police.uk/assets/126884/400419/governance

Houston’s criticism of the refers to the following hearing, in which evidence revealed to MSPs portrayed the Scottish Police Authority as a haven of secrecy, run in the style of  a “kremlin” operation – according to former Cabinet Secretary & PAPLS member Alex Neil MSP (SNP):

Scottish Police Authority – Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 20th April 2017

A full report on the PAPLS meeting of 20 April can be found here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A further appearance of current and former board members of the Scottish Police Authority before Holyrood’s PAPLS Committee on the 11th May – established evidence in relation to a sequence of alarming events at the SPA – giving MSPs significant cause for concern of how the SPA Chair was in effect, personally running the Police watchdog as a “secret society”.

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

A full report on the PAPLS hearing of 11 May can be found here: UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

The hearing also established not one board member of the now discredited Police Watchdog backed former board member Moi Ali – who was forced to resign from the SPA after she bravely raised issues of transparency and accountability during a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority in December 2016.

Then, at a hearing of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice sub-committee on Policing, Andrew Flanagan was asked by MSPs several times to consider his position as SPA Chair – yet Flanagan refused each call to stand down and allow the Scottish Police Authority to move on from the current crisis.

Justice Sub-Committee on Policing – Scottish Parliament: 18th May 2017

A more detailed report on the 18th May 2017 hearing of the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing can be found here: AUTHORITY LOST: Chair of Scottish Police Authority refuses to resign after facing challenge from Justice Committee MSPs to consider his position on discredited Police watchdog

Previous articles on the Scottish Police Authority can be found here: Scottish Police Authority – Poor governance, private meetings & lack of accountability at Police regulator

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

UNFIT AUTHORITY: Chair of Scottish Police Authority “is not fit to continue on any public board” – says former SPA board member in evidence to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee scrutiny of Police watchdog

Former SPA member Moi Ali – SPA Chair Flanagan not fit on any public board THE CHAIR of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) is under pressure to resign after heavy criticism from MSPs and former SPA Board member Moi Ali – who gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) earlier this week.

Andrew Flanagan – appointed by the Scottish Government to run the accident prone Scottish Police Authority was described at the hearing on Thursday as “…not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values” .

The hard hitting criticism came from former SPA Board member Moi Ali, who was invited to appear before MSPs after Flanagan had and others from the Police Watchdog had been accused at a previous PAPLS hearing of being run – by Flanagan – as a Kremlin style “secret society”.

In an exchange between Monica Lennon MSP and the former SPA board member, Ms Lennon asked: “Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?”

In her response, Moi Ali gave a highly critical account of the SPA Chair’s position, stating : “I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.”

Sharp exchanges between members of the Public Audit Committee and remaining SPA board members continued, with Alex Neil MSP commenting a “collective amnesia” appeared to be affecting several of the remaining SPA board members – including David Hume.

Hume sat on a Governance Review of the SPA, along with a former President of the Law Society of Scotland, the Chair of the Fire Service and others. Mr Hume is the former Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council.

In 2012 it was reported David Hume took a £318,434 secret “too ill to work again” secret legal deal from the corruption ridden south of Scotland local authority.

Hume then joined the SPA while also working for the Scottish Government in a position on Children’s Hearings Scotland. Hume’s salary for the CHS work was funnelled through his consultancy company – Enlighten: David Hume Consulting Ltd.

Hume’s term as SBC Chief Executive span dark years at the local authority, financial scandals with the loss of £4million from the education budget, consistent allegations of a culture of backhanders at the council, and a lack of duty of care.

Scottish Borders Council had been caught up in the Miss X Rape scandal, resulting in a Scottish Parliament inquiry which heard the Council had covered up a years long case where a severely disabled woman who lived close to the Council’s St Boswell’s HQ was repeatedly raped and abused. It transpired Scottish Borders Council held a written admission of rape from the man a full two years before the case came to light. A man was later jailed for 10 years for the crimes.

Scottish Borders Council decided not to discipline any social worker, despite the fact that Miss X, a woman with learning disabilities, had been subjected to an appalling catalogue of violent physical and sexual abuse.

Stopping short of calling for Andrew Flanagan’s resignation, the acting Convener of the Public Audit Committee released a statement yesterday, following the release of a letter sent by the Public Audit Committee to Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The letter from the committee claimed the Chair of the Scottish Police Authority – Andrew Flanagan – appears to have “behaved inappropriately”.

In the letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice Michael Matheson, the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee raised serious concerns about the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) Chair Andrew Flanagan.

Within the highly critical letter, the Committee said it appeared that Mr Flanagan treated former SPA board member Moi Ali in a manner that meant she felt “obliged to resign from the board”.

The letter also highlights the need to improve diversity on the SPA board, stating that the current board is “male-dominated” and in need of significant cultural change.

Acting Convener of the Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: “The Committee considers Mr Flanagan’s behaviour to be unacceptable on occasion. We would be extremely worried if potential board members were put off from applying to the SPA board because of this.”

“Clearly, the SPA has a lot of work to do in improving transparency at the very heart of the organisation – only then will it be able to gain public confidence.”

The SPA have refused to give further comment on that already given by Andrew Flanagan during the meeting of the Public Audit Committee on 20 April, more of which can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

A glimpse into the world of the Scottish Police Authority’s board meetings features an excerpt from the SPA’s meeting of 15 December 2016, in which Board Member Moi Ali raised serious concerns about recommendations in relation to the publication on the day of board meetings and the holding of committees in private.

More on the discussion around the Governance Framework and input from Moi Ali who raised her concerns at the meeting can be viewed here:

Scottish Police Authority 15 December 2016 meeting Governance framework discussion

Ms Ali said she understood there were good reasons for those recommendations she had serious concerns about the lack of transparency around the two proposals, and that there were real drawbacks in relation to holding committee meetings in private.

Moi Ali said her concerns were two fold – the perception issue in relation to private meetings where it may be perceived that decisions may be taken behind closed doors, and that defacto decision may well be taken behind closed doors and that the process of decision making will be hidden and there is a danger in due course this will morph into a different kind of body in which effectively real decisions are taken albeit not in name but then come back to the SPA Board for rubber stamping rather than transparent debate.

Given there is a public interest in the way public bodies operate in Scotland, and that it is generally accepted among the media that the way in which the SPA is acting, does reflect a level of less than satisfactory operation across other public bodies in Scotland, excerpts of the meeting are reprinted to give readers a flavour of the exchanges as they were reported in the Official report issued by the Scottish Parliament.

Video footage of the PAPLS hearing follows:

Public Audit and Post-Legislative Scrutiny Committee – Scottish Parliament: 11th May 2017

Former SPA Board member Moi Ali’s opening statement to the Public Audit & Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee is reprinted below, and is contained in the report issued by the PAPLS Committee published here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

Moi Ali: Good morning and thank you for the invitation. There is much in Andrew Flanagan’s evidence to the committee to take issue with but, even if his account is to be believed, it raises fundamental corporate governance issues. He knew my views on the governance framework but told the committee that he did not expect me to voice them in public. Should a chair suppress respectful, open debate? He wrote of the value of being seen to be a united board. Where, then, can alternative views be discussed? Can that be done only in private? That seems to me not a good option.

Andrew Flanagan told the committee that dissent is okay, but his letter to me talked about how sharing public disagreement was a resigning matter. Why should members, who have accepted collective responsibility, resign? That is not what the Government’s “On Board” guidance says. Do SPA members now feel constrained about expressing their views in public? Surely that is not good for governance.

The chair claims that his concern was that I did not communicate my intentions in advance. Should board members enter meetings with their minds made up and their position pre-shared? It is clear that doing so would turn board meetings into theatre and board members into actors. In my view, my removal from committees was a straightforward punishment for speaking out. The “On Board” guidance says that members must participate in committees and, equally, that the chair should lead by example. What kind of an example was removing me from committees?

A key question is whether Andrew Flanagan observed the nine principles of public life in Scotland, which include openness, honesty, leadership, respect and integrity. Was withholding Derek Penman’s letter from the board an act of integrity? The “On Board” guidance states:

“It is important that nothing you do or say … as a Board member tarnishes in any way the reputation of the … Board.”

Have Andrew Flanagan’s recent actions damaged the SPA? News reports some five months after the event talked of haemorrhaging confidence in the beleaguered, embattled, control-freak chair and of a Kremlin-style, crisis-hit, secret society board. None of those are my words; in fact, some of them are the committee’s words.

The chair’s style shapes board culture. Did the board ask to see the HMICS letter? Did the board ask why it had not been shared? Was there any discussion of why the chair believed that I should resign? Has any board member questioned Andrew Flanagan about his evidence to this committee? The “On Board” guidance states that board members “should not hesitate to challenge the Chair if you believe that a decision is wrong”.

Did the board members therefore believe that the decisions were right?

Before board members approved the governance framework, they were aware of key stakeholders’ concerns. First, they discussed Audit Scotland’s report, which said that SPA board and committee papers were sometimes insufficiently transparent and issued only on the day of the meeting and that some papers that were taken in private could have been heard in public. Audit Scotland questioned whether the SPA demonstrated

“high standards of corporate governance at all times including openness and transparency in decision making.”

Secondly, board members knew that the internal auditors had questioned whether the proposals complied with best practice. Thirdly, they knew that at least one local authority had raised issues and concerns. Fourthly, colleagues knew that the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012, which created the SPA, says:

“The Authority must ensure that its proceedings and those of its committees and sub-committees are held in public”, and that “The Authority must try to carry out its functions in a way which is proportionate, accountable and transparent and which is consistent with any principle of good governance which appears to it to constitute best practice.”

I will summarise the position in a few points. The decision on private committees and last-minute publication of papers was contrary to statute and against the spirit of public service accountability; the board and the chief executive ignored Government guidance and stakeholders’ concerns; the chair was wrong in trying to suppress information and debate and in punishing me for taking a principled stance in public that was consistent with my well-known private view; and the board appears to have failed to challenge, given that three months after the initial decision, the board still felt no need to revise it.

Finally, the ensuing reputational damage has diminished public confidence in an important public body. Policing has to operate within the law and earn the confidence of the public, and so, too, does its oversight body.

Monica Lennon: I move on to a question for Moi Ali. Ms Ali, I have read the letter that Andrew Flanagan sent to you in December after you had raised two objections to part of the governance review. Do you think that that letter amounted to bullying?

Moi Ali: Yes, I believe that it did. A good leader, if he had any concerns, would surely speak to an individual—I think that we would all do that. It is hard to find another word to describe what a letter of that nature amounts to.

Monica Lennon: Do you feel quite sad about the experience? Do you feel that you have been driven out?

Moi Ali: Yes, I do. It has been a really horrendous experience. I am quite surprised that, five months after I received the letter, we are still talking about it. It has been a very difficult thing to live through, particularly as I have been outside all this, on my own, without access to materials. Because I was coming here today, I asked for information from the SPA—not private information, but information about meetings that I attended, information that I had previously held—and I was denied that. I have been very much pushed to the outside.

What has transpired as a result of the letter is exactly what I said would happen. I asked for a meeting with Andrew Flanagan almost immediately—on the first working day—after I received the letter, but for a variety of reasons that simply did not happen.

Monica Lennon: In a previous evidence session, I asked Andrew Flanagan whether he recognised that his conduct could be perceived as control freakery, and he did not accept that characterisation. In the time that I have been pursuing these questions, it has struck me that the SPA is very much a male-dominated organisation. Do you believe that he would have sent the same letter to a man?

Moi Ali: No, I do not think that he would. After I received it, I spoke to Iain Whyte, because he had expressed similar views to mine at the board meeting. The only difference was that he did not ask for his views to be minuted. In a way, the minuting is irrelevant because the meeting was live streamed and recorded for posterity, but he raised very similar issues. I think that his words were, “I share many of the concerns that Moi has raised.”

He pushed on the point that I pushed on about whether the proposals conformed with best practice. I asked Iain Whyte whether he had received a similar letter and he said that he had not.

Monica Lennon: Given the letter and what you have just said about feeling bullied, do you think that Andrew Flanagan is fit to continue as chair of the Scottish Police Authority?

Moi Ali: I am afraid that I do not. He is actually not fit to continue on any public board, because he clearly does not observe public sector values. However, the Scottish Police Authority is in a different league, because an oversight body that oversees policing has to set even higher standards of corporate governance, and he has clearly not observed those standards.

In sharp exchanges between PAPLS Committee member Alex Neil & those giving evidence, the report of the meeting publishes the following excerpt:

Alex Neil (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): Mr Barbour, in your submission you said that, in relation to the selection of a new chief constable, you had written:

“My real worry is that interested parties identify a preferred candidate and try to influence the selection criteria accordingly.”

Will you be more specific about that?

Brian Barbour: It was a general fear of mine, and I was sharing my thoughts. That memo was written to the chair, who I had not yet met, on the day that I left the SPA. It was my thoughts on moving forward, including things that were good about the board and things that needed to be changed. In the memo I expressed concern that we had had regular intervention. It was a legitimate worry of mine that people might have been wanting to fit the criteria to the person, rather than the board being absolutely clear about the criteria for the right chief constable, and then going through the interview process to see who matched the criteria.

Alex Neil: Were the people you were referring to members of the board?

Brian Barbour: No, the people I was referring to were external influences outwith the board.

Alex Neil: So who are you talking about?

Brian Barbour: I am talking about people in Government, by which I mean both the political side and the official side.

Alex Neil: Were you talking about the civil service?

Brian Barbour: I was talking about the civil service and, potentially, the cabinet secretary, if he had expressed an interest. However, I was not privy to that kind of discussion.

Alex Neil: Do you have any evidence of that?

Brian Barbour: No, which is why I was expressing it as a worry. I was not saying that I had evidence to say that it was happening; I was being open with the chair and saying that it was a concern of mine.

Alex Neil: To be fair, in your submission you should have made it clear that you did not have any evidence and that it was just a feeling.

Brian Barbour: My submission has a verbatim extract from my email to the chair. It said “My real worry”, not “I have seen evidence”. I was very specific.

Alex Neil: However, worries that are publicly expressed should be evidence backed.

Brian Barbour: Indeed.

Alex Neil: Moi Ali, this morning you said that you had sought information for this meeting from the SPA that is publicly available, and you were refused that. What information was it, who refused it and why?

Moi Ali: To clarify, the information was not publicly available, but it was readily available to the SPA. In other words, it would not have been onerous for the SPA to produce it.

Alex Neil: But it was not marked “Private and confidential”.

Moi Ali: I do not know. It was information relating to private meetings, but they were meetings that I attended, so I was not asking for information that I would not have. I will give you examples: I wanted the October, November and December audit committee minutes. I also wanted the minutes of the members meetings—you have received extracts of them, but I wanted the full minutes. I wanted earlier drafts, because one had changed significantly. I had two earlier drafts, and they are very different from the one that you have.

I wanted those documents to get the complete picture. The reason that I was given for being refused them was that it was important to have a level playing field and for everybody to have the same information. I said that I understood that and was perfectly happy for everybody to have the same information.

In fact, my concern was that there was not a level playing field. My colleagues here have that information. I used to have it, because I had an SPA BlackBerry and iPad, and the information was on them. Because I no longer have them, I no longer have the information, yet my colleagues here have it. The argument about a level playing field was being used to deny me that information.

I was then told that, if my colleagues asked for it, I would be given it, but they would not ask for it because they have it. It was a catch-22 situation. As late as 6 o’clock last night, I received a further email saying that some of the information would be made available to me under a subject access request, which I have had to make, but obviously the SPA has 40 days in which to comply with that, so it is of no use to me for today’s meeting.

Alex Neil:The level playing field reason suggests that the SPA saw this as a bit of a bun fight between you and the other board members.

Moi Ali: I think that it feels that I am on the outside and therefore no longer have the same rights as my former colleagues have to information that I previously held. Regardless of whether you want to call that a bun fight or whatever, I am at a disadvantage. I have this one sheet of paper, and my colleagues have files of information.

Alex Neil: Who refused your request?

Moi Ali: The chief executive refused it.

Alex Neil: The chief executive refused it.

Moi Ali: I went via the Scottish Government, because when I asked for information on a previous occasion it was shredded after I made the request. On this occasion I went via Paul Johnston.

Alex Neil: Just stop there. Tell me about that. You made an earlier request for information—

Moi Ali: It was not to do with this committee, but on the only other occasion when I asked the SPA for information, the chief executive wrote to me—I am happy to produce the email—saying that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil: After you had made the request.

Moi Ali: After I had made the request.

Alex Neil: What was that information?

Moi Ali: I stress that this relates to the previous chair but the same chief executive. I had asked for information when the chair had said that I was a one-trick diversity pony.

Alex Neil:Was it the previous chairman who said that?

Moi Ali: Yes, it was the previous chair. He told me that it was not him saying that, but HMICS. When I said that I did not believe that that was the case or that HMICS would use that terminology and that I wanted to see the information, I was told that I could not have it. Therefore, I made a formal request.

Alex Neil:Was it written information?

Moi Ali:Yes—he had been reading from a piece of paper.

Alex Neil:Was it a minute of a meeting or something like that?

Moi Ali:It was part of the appraisal process. He read that phrase from a document. On three occasions, I asked for that information but was told that I could not have it. When I made a formal request, the chief executive wrote to me to say that the information had been securely disposed of.

Alex Neil:Who was the author of that disgusting statement?

Moi Ali:The previous chair. That was part of a whole process that has been dealt with, so I am not—

Alex Neil:How was it dealt with?

Moi Ali:I was not the only person with concerns—other board members had concerns, and the Scottish Government addressed the issue.

Alex Neil:How did the Government address it?

The Acting Convener:The chair is no longer the chair.

Moi Ali:That is right—thank you.

Alex Neil:Yes, but it was not over that issue that they are no longer the chair, was it?

Moi Ali:That was part of—

Alex Neil:It is quite serious for a chief executive of a public body to preside over such a situation. First of all, the original phraseology is clearly totally unacceptable. If you are saying that the chief executive had the information destroyed after—

Moi Ali:Sorry to interrupt, but I want to clarify that he did not destroy the information; rather, he wrote to me informing me that it had been destroyed. When I asked about who did that and when and why that had happened, I did not receive that information. I do not think that the chief executive destroyed the information. My point is that I had previously tried to get information that was important to me. Following that incident, I now knew what could happen to such information. I am happy to produce the email that said that the information had been disposed of.

Alex Neil:To be clear, are you saying that the information was destroyed after you have made the request?

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct.

Alex Neil:I think that we need to get much more information on that situation, convener, because it is totally unacceptable. Even though it is a historical event, the same chief executive is in post, and if he is prepared to do that there is something serious in the organisation—

Moi Ali:I confirm that, to the best of my knowledge, he did not shred the information.

Alex Neil:He did not do it; nevertheless, he is the accountable officer.

Moi Ali:Yes.

Alex Neil:Clearly, that should not have happened. The chief executive refused you the information for today’s meeting.

Moi Ali:Yes, that is correct. I wrote to him via the Scottish Government, because it was aware of the previous issue. I spoke to Paul Johnston following the meeting here. He was aware of what had happened previously. Given what had happened before, I told him that I did not have confidence that I would be given the information that I needed. He told me that that was fine and I could make the request through him. Therefore, I wrote to him setting out the information that I required. He then made the request. Days went by and I did not receive the information. I was asking for straightforward information. I chased it up and was told that the chief executive was about to leave the office and that he would not be in on the following Monday. I said that it was urgent, because I was going to be working in London and that I needed the information to prepare. A lot of emails went to and fro.

The Scottish Government was involved—officials spoke to me and to the chief executive. They were supportive and helpful, but they were unable to secure the information that I needed. All that I have is the information that is in the public domain on this committee’s website. I do not have any of the information that I had asked for.

Alex Neil:What are the three non-executive directors going to do about this? The situation is clearly unacceptable.

George Graham:First, I reassure members and Moi Ali that I do not feel like I am in a bun fight with her. She is a former colleague and I very much respect her position—

Alex Neil:Clearly, the chief executive thinks that.

George Graham:I do not feel like I am in a bun fight. However, I do not feel that I have a host of information. I have my opening statement and that is it. Yesterday, the clerk to this committee put out a note saying, “No more information, please,” as there was so much coming in, so I suspect—

Alex Neil:Mr Graham, will you answer the question? What are you going to do about the refusal to give Moi Ali the information and about the fact that it appears that, in the previous incident, although the chief executive did not get rid of the paperwork himself, somebody in the organisation clearly did so after a request was made? That is very serious for an organisation that you have been telling us all morning is running well and is full of improvement, with everything being above board, open and transparent. It is anything but.

George Graham:I think that you made a number of assertions there that I have not made. I do not think that everything is running well and that everything is above board. I know that we can improve and get better, so please—

Alex Neil:What are you going to do about this?

George Graham:If you would let me answer, please, that would be helpful.

In relation to the information that Moi Ali asked for yesterday, all that I can do is research why the situation happened in the way that it did and see whether we can put that right. I do not know why that information was refused as I do not know enough about it, but I undertake to look into that and see.

On the historical issue that Moi Ali has raised, again, I do not know anything about that, but if she wishes to raise it again, we will of course explore it and make sure that that kind of thing does not happen. The historical situation that has been described does not reflect the way that we in the SPA would like our officials to deal with such information requests.

Alex Neil:Clearly, however, that appears to be happening. Obviously, you have to find out the other side of the story before you decide what you want to do about it, but I need a guarantee from the three non-executives that such things will not be allowed to happen with no investigation and no appropriate action, because it clearly breaches every rule and principle in the book on openness and transparency.

George Graham:I can certainly reassure you that we will explore the situation.

Iain Whyte:We will happily go back to the chief executive and question why that information has not been—

Alex Neil:Will you come back to us and tell us what is happening?

Iain Whyte:Yes, and I am sure that we can ask the chief executive to provide you with full details.

Alex Neil:Absolutely. I think that we should bring him back to the committee, actually.

Iain Whyte:My understanding is that the previous incident that Moi Ali mentioned was subject to a complaints process and that there was an outcome. I do not know whether she is content with that, but she understands the outcome. The matter was dealt with through a historical process.

The Acting Convener:I will address a comment that Mr Graham made, because I think that it is important to do so. The committee requested full minutes but we were provided with extracts. If the chief executive and his staff can take the time to extract information, they can surely take the time to provide information to others. We put a time bar on information because it is disrespectful to committee members to provide at the 11th hour bundles more information that is not urgent.

George Graham:I understand that.

The Acting Convener:Okay. Thank you.

Alex Neil:Just to add to that, convener, I ask that we get a copy of all the information that Moi Ali asked for and was refused.

I have a further question for the non-executive directors. I think that both Mr Whyte and Mr Hume have confirmed that they dissented on certain issues at the board meeting, as did Moi Ali, but that did not appear in the minutes.

David Hume:Can I clarify that? My dissent was in relation to a previous discussion about governance that took place in June 2015, and I said that at the time. I have the minute from that meeting in front of me. There were two decisions. With regard to the first decision, Brian Barbour and I are recorded as dissenting—

Alex Neil:So it is in that minute.

David Hume:—and with regard to the second decision, I am shown as dissenting. I have that here.

Alex Neil:Right. That has not been—

Iain Whyte:I clarify that I indicated that I had raised a number of questions at different points but that I did not record dissent to the decisions that were made.

The Acting Convener:We have not received any of that information. I do not doubt the veracity of what you are telling us, but the SPA chief executive has chosen not to provide us with that information. That is the only conclusion that I can draw.

Mr Penman, you wanted to come in, and then I will go back to Alex Neil.

Derek Penman:I assure you that we will request and review all the minutes—unredacted, and not extracts from them. Clearly, whether they are released publicly will be a matter for you, but we will do that. We will also include the comments that have been made today in terms of historical issues and consistency.

The Acting Convener:That is very helpful.

Alex Neil:That would be very helpful indeed. Clearly, the request was not a formal freedom of information request, but it appeared to be a reasonable request that should have been fulfilled. The behaviour in that regard is part of the problem with the culture of the organisation: it appears to be one of secrecy and non-co-operation with people, which is not acceptable.

Iain Whyte:I do not know the details of why the chief executive has put forward certain parts of minutes and not others. All that I can tell you is that some of the minutes that Moi Ali requested were from private meetings and some were from the members meetings. Among the issues that were discussed, there might be sensitive matters relating to security issues that could not be released publicly and there might also be financial and commercial discussions in there that would obviously be exempt from FOI because it would be to the detriment of the public service were they released. It may be something to do with that, but I do not know. However, I ask that the committee handle any information sensitively for those reasons.

Alex Neil:You can make a robust request and get in first before any excuses are made. As a non-executive director, your role is to challenge and be robust.

Iain Whyte:Absolutely.

Alex Neil:But it seems that you may have made your mind up already.

Iain Whyte:No. I am conscious that some of the things in those meetings may be appropriately heard in private even under FOI legislation.

The Acting Convener:I hear what you are saying but, with all due respect, we are referring to extracts that deal only with governance and nothing else. We have requested minutes and, had there been a request to redact certain things that were sensitive, I am sure that the committee would have looked at that and considered it, as appropriate. However, there is nothing like that in those minutes. The fact that your dissent and Mr Hume’s dissent are not recorded is actually not helpful to the committee’s considerations and I hope that you will take that back to the SPA.

Iain Whyte:I will clarify this yet again. I have said it twice now. The dissent that Mr Hume was talking about was recorded in a public meeting back in June 2015. I did not record dissent at any point. I have said that twice and I would like to clarify that.

The Acting Convener:Okay.

Alex Neil:We will make sure that that is in our minutes.

The Acting Convener:Carry on, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:I want to focus on the role of the non-executive directors, having been a non-executive director of a number of companies myself, which are obviously operating in the public sector. I will start with the letter from Derek Penman to the chair prior to the December board meeting. Despite the explicit request in the letter to the chair, which Mr Penman confirmed this morning was the case, that the letter be circulated to the board for the December meeting, not only was it not circulated, the chief executive was not even informed by the chair at the time of the existence of the letter, let alone of its contents. I ask you three: when did you find out about the letter and when did you get to read it? Have you read it?

David Hume:Yes. I have it in front of me.

Alex Neil:When did you get it?

David Hume:I cannot recall.

Alex Neil:Here is the collective amnesia again.

David Hume:No, it is not that.

Alex Neil:Amnesia must be contagious in the SPA.

David Hume:No, that is not the case.

Alex Neil:So, roughly when did you get the letter?

David Hume:In recent times.

Alex Neil:How recent? Was it last week or last month? Did you get it in December or January?

David Hume:I do not date stamp material that I get, but I think that I got the letter within the past month. However, as I said earlier, we had a full discussion of HMICS’s view.

Alex Neil:I have heard all that, and my question is not about that. Can Mr Graham and Mr Whyte tell me when they got a copy of the letter and whether they have read it?

George Graham:Yes, I have now read the letter, the full detail of which was apparent to me about two or three weeks ago.

Iain Whyte:It is exactly the same for me. I have a copy of it with me, but I had not seen it until the issue arose at this committee.

Alex Neil:My next question is the obvious one. You are non-executive directors. Part of your function is to make sure that the board is above board and transparent. That is all in your remit and in the nine principles that were referred to earlier. When did you ask the chair why you had not received a copy of the letter from the inspector, who had specifically requested that you all get a copy before the December meeting? When did you take the chair to task for not circulating that letter?

David Hume:Before we answer that, I want to bring us back to the HMICS letter. As I have just confirmed with the chief inspector, who is sitting next to me, the letter says:

“I accept that it will properly be a matter for the Board to approve the Corporate Governance Framework and my comments are intended solely to inform members ahead of their decision next week.”

Alex Neil:Absolutely.

David Hume:I think that, on the basis of conversations that I had had with Derek Penman, and conversations with both Moi Ali and George Graham, I went into that meeting fully aware of the views of HMICS.

Alex Neil:But that is not the point, Mr Hume. The point is that the chief inspector asked the chair to circulate the letter to every board member, which should have been done. If I had been a non-executive director and had found out much later that I had not received that letter but got it only by accident because the chair got a roasting at this committee, I would have been on to the chair to demand that future letters like that, in which there is clearly interest and there is a request for it to be circulated to the board, would be circulated.

David Hume:Indeed. Absolutely.

Alex Neil:If you are not prepared to do that, you are not fit to be a non-executive director. You are there to hold the chair, among others, to account.

David Hume:We are quite aware of that. The letter—

Alex Neil:You do not seem to be. You are making excuses for him.

David Hume:No.

Alex Neil:Why have you not complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated, as requested by the inspector? One of the things that were announced in the letter was the new review and inspection by the inspector.

David Hume:Indeed.

Alex Neil:You did not actually know that, formally.

David Hume:I did.

Alex Neil:No—you did not, formally.

David Hume:Well, he told me.

Alex Neil:No—he did not tell you formally; it has to go to the board. If that is the level of scrutiny that you are exercising as a non-executive director, I find it wholly inadequate. You are supposed to hold the chair to account. If the chair has not circulated a letter from the inspector, who has specifically asked that the board see it, irrespective of whether you already knew the information, perhaps not every other board member knew all of it. The point is that, if the inspector wanted it to be circulated, surely it should have been circulated. Surely, as a former inspector, Mr Graham, you would have expected that to happen.

George Graham:Yes. You have made a number of assertions. There is a fair bit of relationship informality that definitely happens but, with hindsight—and I am sure that the chair will have reflected on this since the committee meeting with him a fortnight or so ago that you described—I certainly would have appreciated seeing the detail of that letter.

Alex Neil:Have you now made it clear to the chair that you do not expect a repeat of that in future?

George Graham:I have not had that conversation.

Alex Neil:Is it not time that you did?

George Graham:It may well be.

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:I think that the most important—

Alex Neil:Are you going to?

George Graham:You can keep asking me that question—

Alex Neil:Well, are you going to?

George Graham:—but I would like to give you a full answer, Mr Neil.

Alex Neil:Yes or no—are you going to tell the chair that you do not want it to happen again?

George Graham:I have great respect for how the chair is managing business. I certainly do not want a whole host of issues to come up. I would have a discussion with him in which I say that it would have been useful to see a letter that specifically says that it should be sent to the board. So my answer is yes.

Alex Neil:Mr Whyte?

Iain Whyte:Which bit would you like me to answer?

Alex Neil:Have you complained to the chair that the letter was not circulated as requested?

Iain Whyte:No—I have not complained to the chair.

Alex Neil:Why not?

Iain Whyte:Like others here, I was fully aware of the views of HMICS, so, in a sense, they had already been factored into the decision making that we had.

Alex Neil:Poor.

Derek Penman:If I may add to that, although I had conversations with all the members of the board and they would have been clear on my intention and my views, the letter, which I think extends to three pages, went into some nuance and detail around that.

Alex Neil:Exactly.

Derek Penman:There were things in there that I know that I would not have discussed with members. Without wanting to be objectionable about it, the letter contained a level of detail that I would not have had the opportunity to explain in conversations on the margins with members.

My other point is to clarify our position and to correct the evidence. When I sent the letter to the SPA, which was on 9 December, it was copied to the chief executive.

Alex Neil:He told this committee that he had not seen it.

Derek Penman:I am offering to correct that evidence, in terms of our recollection of the—

Alex Neil:Having heard what the chief inspector has just said, are you now prepared to go to the chair and say that this is totally unacceptable?

George Graham:I have always been prepared to have that discussion. The chair himself will reflect on exactly the information that he discussed with you a fortnight or so ago.

Alex Neil:You are not leaving us with a lot of confidence that you are doing the proper job of a non-executive director, I have to say.

George Graham: Can I just come back on that? It is wonderful that you can make such assertions, but there are an awful lot of really good things that we do as a body.

Alex Neil: I have no doubt.

George Graham: The focus on one singular point of failure, if you want to call it that—the failure to circulate a letter, which was a deliberate judgment on someone’s behalf—and then to describe the board as inadequate is a poor characterisation of what we are doing. I certainly feel quite passionate about policing. I am in this for only one purpose—to help the Police Service of Scotland deliver the very best it can for communities—so to come in here and hear you assert that, because of one particular issue, we are inadequate as a board is unfair.

Alex Neil: Just a minute. You are being paid as a non-executive director. You are getting paid by the public as a non-executive director, and—

George Graham: I am quite simply—

Alex Neil: Let me finish. You are not doing the job.

George Graham: I am simply disagreeing—

The Acting Convener: Mr Graham—

George Graham: I am quite simply disagreeing with your assertion, and I am entitled to do that.

The Acting Convener: We are not going to get very far collectively this morning if we shout at one another, and if you talk over me again, Mr Graham, your microphone will be cut off. Equally, I would say to members that there are passions round the table, but let us try to lower the temperature. Nevertheless, we will still be seeking answers and we will be robust in our scrutiny, and nothing will stop the committee doing that.

Alex Neil: I just want to make the point that it is not a one-off. Ever since the board was set up, there have been problems, time after time after time. What the chief inspector has just said must be taken very seriously by every member of the board. I absolutely appreciate Mr Graham’s former service and the fact that he is committed to the future of the police service, and he has a good track record of serving the nation and the police. However, in your new role as a non-executive director, Mr Graham, part of your function is to ensure that the board is operating efficiently and transparently, holding the chair, the chief constable and others to account, and the point that I am making is that, on the fundamental issue of governance and the governance review, that has not happened. In that respect—and my comments are solely in that respect—the non-executive members of the board have not fulfilled their function with the robustness that is needed. They must be able to say to the chair, “Don’t do that again.”

I am not asking for the chair’s resignation, or for anyone’s resignation, because we all have to learn lessons. As you said yourself, Mr Graham, you are new to the role of non-executive director. We are paying non-executive directors to hold people to account. On this occasion it is clear, especially in light of the chief inspector’s comments, that that did not happen. Your job now is to ensure that there is no repeat of that, and that in future people are held to account. That is the point that I am making. I am not trying in any way to deride your service or anyone else’s service. Like you, I want to see an efficient Scottish Police Authority holding people to account, and that includes internal account. You have heard this morning about people being denied information, and you have heard loads of other stories as well. As everybody agrees, there is clearly still a lot more to do to get the Scottish Police Authority into the position that it needs to be in to gain the confidence of the Parliament and of the Scottish people.

George Graham: Thank you, Mr Neil, for those comments. I respect your position on the issue and I accept it. As you point out, and as I accept myself, I am still very much learning in my endeavours. There are a number of tangible examples of areas where we have engaged in effective scrutiny, so I would not like the committee to have the impression, just because of that one single issue, that that is how we behaved at all times. Finally, I want to say that a number of staff in the SPA, who have been through a fairly turbulent three or four years, work incredibly hard to support us as non-executive directors. They do an awful lot of good work and sometimes the stories that are published affect how they feel about their work. That is not the fault of the committee, because I respect the fact that it is your job to scrutinise what we do. I just want to put on the record my appreciation for how they support us, and I emphasise that we are still learning.

Alex Neil: I think that we would endorse that appreciation.

I fully understand that there have been some details and issues between the chair of the SPA and Moi Ali that you, as a non-executive director, could not get involved in but, given the damage to the perception of the SPA that was done by the way in which Moi Ali’s departure from the board was forced—not just handled but forced—I would have thought, without necessarily taking sides, that there was a legitimate case for the non-executive directors, with their remit, to raise at the board meeting the question of how that had been handled. Irrespective of who was right and who was wrong, there is no doubt that, over a period of months, that has done significant damage to the perception and the reputation of the Scottish Police Authority. I am trying to be positive. You need to be more robust in such situations, raise such things with the chair, and get them sorted before they become a public relations disaster for the Scottish Police Authority, which what we are talking about has been.

The full transcript of the hearing can be viewed here: Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee 11 May 2017

The previous session of the PAPLS investigation of the Scottish Police Authority can be read here: POLICING SECRETS: Former Scottish Police Authority board member Moi Ali invited to give evidence at Holyrood, after MSPs accuse SPA bosses of running Police watchdog like Kremlin ‘secret society’

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,