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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.

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QUESTION TIME, M’LORD: Top judge Lord Carloway to face MSPs on his opposition to judicial transparency & proposal to create a register of judges’ interests

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

The invitation to the top judge has been issued by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee – who are conducting a four year investigation on a call for full judicial transparency –  contained in the widely backed petition – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

During last Thursday’s meeting of the Public Petitions Committee – Deputy Convener Angus MacDonald MSP (SNP) led calls to keep the petition open and called for Lord Carloway to face questions on his known opposition to the judicial transparency proposals.

Deputy Convener Mr MacDonald – who also chaired the meeting – said “I would be interested to ask if he [Lord Carloway] would be keen to come in and give oral evidence to back up his earlier submission.”

Speaking on the background of the petition, the Deputy Convener said: “I have some background to the issue. There was a debate in the chamber on the matter in the previous session, and the petition received quite a lot of support from members. Also in the previous session, the former Lord President, Lord Gill, appeared before the Public Petitions Committee.”

Mr MacDonald continued: “We have received a submission from the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, who is basically opposed to the suggestion, and I would be interested in asking whether he would be keen to come in and give us oral evidence to back up his earlier submission.”

Angus MacDonald also reiterated his support for the idea of a judicial register – keenly expressed by the SNP MSP during the earlier Holyrood debate in 2014.

The Deputy Convener also called for legal academic Professor Alan Paterson to be invited to give evidence before the committee.

Mr MacDonald said: “I note Professor Alan Paterson’s comments and criticisms in relation to the perceived inadequacies of the current recusals register. It could be helpful to take oral evidence from him, too.”

Earlier this year Professor Paterson – of the University of Strathclyde – provided written evidence to MSPs in which the legal academic issued stinging criticisms of the current “Recusal Register” – set up by Lord Gill as a result of a private meeting with MSPs.

Writing in a letter to the Petitions Committee – Professor Paterson said: “The Public Register of Judicial Recusals is indeed to be welcomed but it only records the cases in which Scottish judges have actually recused themselves, not the cases in which they have been asked to recuse themselves and have declined to do so, far less those in which they might reasonably have been asked to recuse themselves but were not.”

“In short, we cannot always tell if judges are recusing themselves or declining to recuse themselves in the right cases. One measure which might assist with that issue is to ask whether the decision as to recusal should be left to the judge who has been challenged.”

As the meeting continued – Brian Whittle MSP (Scottish Conservatives) added: “I think the petition is not unreasonable. I would be quite keen.”

The committee had earlier heard from MSP Maurice Corry (Scottish Conservatives) – who initially said the judicial register “would be no bad thing” – then moved an unsuccessful motion to close the petition.

After the session ended, the Public Petitions Committee published their decision to call in further witnesses: “PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to invite the Lord President and Professor Alan Paterson to give oral evidence at a future meeting.”

However, Carloway – who earns £225K a year as Lord President – along with significant pension perks and jet set junkets – is already on record as being against the judicial transparency proposals

Lord Carloway – who succeeded Lord Brian Gill as Lord President – claimed in written evidence earlier this year to the Petitions Committee the justice system could be brought to a halt if judges were forced to declare their wealth and interests.

Lord Carloway (real name: Colin Sutherland) told MSPs: “The proper administration of justice could be inhibited by the disclosure of the judiciary’s otherwise confidential financial arrangements. In that connection, there is the possibility that an individual judge may be the subject of misconceived criticism, deriving from the disclosure of personal financial information, where those interests are tangential and de minimis.”

If the judicial transparency proposal becomes reality, all members of Scotland’s judiciary – instead of just the elite few who sit on the board of the Scottish Courts – will be required to declare their vast and varied interests including their backgrounds, personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land interests, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

More on the full debate in Holyrood’s main chamber is reported with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges

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

Video footage of the meeting & transcript follows:

Petition PE1458 Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 Sept 2016

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Deputy Convener: PE1458, is by Peter Cherbi and calls for the establishment of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. Members will have seen the note by the clerk and submissions from the petitioner and Professor Paterson. Members will also be aware of further information that was provided by Mr Cherbi in respect of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.

The action that is called for in Mr Cherbi’s petition received support from a number of MSPs in the previous session of Parliament, but neither the Scottish Government nor the current or former Lord President supports the introduction of such a register.

Do members have any views on what we should do with the petition?

Maurice Corry: I personally do not think that the proposed register would be the worst thing but, since the views of those who decide on the matter are set, the petition should be closed.

Rona Mackay: I have sympathy with Mr Cherbi and agree that there should be a register. However, I am not sure how much further we can take the petition or what road we could go down to progress it.

The Deputy Convener: I have some background to the issue. There was a debate in the chamber on the matter in the previous session, and the petition received quite a lot of support from members. Also in the previous session, the former Lord President, Lord Gill, appeared before the Public Petitions Committee. We have received a submission from the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, who is basically opposed to the suggestion, and I would be interested in asking whether he would be keen to come in and give us oral evidence to back up his earlier submission.

I note Professor Alan Paterson’s comments and criticisms in relation to the perceived inadequacies of the current recusals register. It could be helpful to take oral evidence from him, too.

I also note Mr Cherbi’s suggestion that we should invite the Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Gillian Thompson, to give her thoughts on the proposal to create a register of judicial interests. However, we took evidence from her on the petition in the previous session and I am unsure whether she has changed her view, which was that there should be a register.

Would members be interested in hearing from Lord Carloway and Professor Paterson?

Maurice Corry: That seems pretty fair.

Brian Whittle:The petition is not unreasonable, and I would be keen to explore the issue further.

Rona Mackay: I agree. I would be happy to hear more evidence, as it is a big subject.

Maurice Corry: I am happy with that.

The Deputy Convener: We can ask the Lord President whether he is prepared to give oral evidence to the committee—there was a difficulty with the previous Lord President agreeing to do that. If he does not agree to do that, we will have to refer to his written submission.

Do we agree to that suggested course of action?

Members indicated agreement.

Today, the Judicial Office for Scotland refused to give any comment on their behalf or from Lord Carloway.

The Sunday Herald newspaper reported on latest developments in the long running petition here: MSPs to grill new Lord President on judicial register of interest

And, the Sunday Mail newspaper reported on the invitation to Lord Carloway here:

 Judge Lord Carloway faces demands from MSPs over judges’ register

2 Oct 2016 By Mark Aitken

THE Lord President has been asked to appear before Holyrood’s petitions committee, who are considering a submission for a judicial register of interests.

JUDGE Lord Carloway is facing demands from MSPs to explain why his colleagues’ business and financial secrets shouldn’t be made public.

The Lord President has been asked to appear before Holyrood’s petitions committee, who are considering a submission by campaigner Peter Cherbi for a judicial register of interests.

Details could include gifts, property, shares and criminal convictions.

Public petitions committee deputy convener Angus MacDonald said: “We’ve had a submission from the Lord President, who is basically opposed to the suggestion.

“However, I would be interested to ask if he would be keen to come in and give oral evidence to back up his earlier submission.”

A Judicial Office spokesman said: “We’re not in a position to comment as the Lord President has not received any such invitation.”

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

 

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‘No reason why judges should not be subject to a register of interests’ – Angus MacDonald MSP in Holyrood debate on register of judicial interests petition

Scottish Parliament debate on register of judicial interests. ON Thursday 09 October 2014, the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber held a detailed ninety minute debate on calls to require judges to declare their significant financial and other interests, as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. On conclusion of the debate, MSPs overwhelmingly supported motion S4M-11078 – in the name of Public Petitions Convener David Stewart MSP on petition PE1458 and urged the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a register of interests for judges..

The public petition, submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in late 2012 envisages the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

In a move aimed at widening public awareness of the undisclosed interests of Scotland’s judiciary and details contained in the recent debate by MSPs at Holyrood, each day this week, Diary of Injustice is publishing the official record of the speeches given by individual MSPs who participated in the debate along with video footage.

This article focuses on the opening speech given by Angus MacDonald MSP (Falkirk East) (SNP). Angus MacDonald is also a member of the Public Petitions Committee.

Angus MacDonald MSP Register of Judicial Interests debate – Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and, not least, to congratulate the petitioner, Peter Cherbi, on being bold enough to bring the petition to the Public Petitions Committee. Not many people are willing to take on the might of the judiciary.

As we have heard, the petition calls for all members of Scotland’s judiciary to be subject to a full and publicly available register of interests. It envisages the creation of a single, independently regulated publicly available source containing current information on judges’ backgrounds and financial interests, details of recusals and any other information that is routinely lodged in registers of interests across all walks of public life in the UK and further afield.

Given that we as elected members and legislators are expected and obliged to declare our interests, I do not see why members of Scotland’s judiciary should be treated any differently.

During our deliberations, the committee learned of a similar proposal in New Zealand, which the convener of the committee mentioned. A member’s bill sponsored by Green MP Dr Kennedy Graham was proceeding through the parliamentary process as we were deliberating on the petition. However, I believe that the bill was subsequently withdrawn following agreement with members of the House of Representatives and the New Zealand Government.

Dr Graham explained to our committee that the motivation for the bill was

“to seek to ensure that judges are assisted through institutional means, rather than relying purely on personal discretion & judgement, in determining whether they should handle a case or not. The bill would protect them from accusations or insinuations that their judgement was poor.”

It was envisaged that it would

“promote … confidence in the judiciary”,

especially if it showed that the judicial system was above reproach.

Any member of the public watching the debate this afternoon would be entitled to ask, “What on earth is wrong with that?” As I have said, I would be inclined to agree with them.

However, it would seem that the judiciary is not exactly keen on the idea of such a register. I put on record my disappointment, as the committee as a whole did, at the lack of engagement between the full committee and the Lord President, Lord Gill. Given the spirit of openness and transparency that we in the Parliament so readily hold in high regard, it was a clear snub to the committee when Lord Gill refused to appear in public. If a register of interests is to be resisted by the judiciary, it must be borne in mind that nothing undermines public confidence in a nation’s institutions and procedures more than a suspicion that a public servant may have suffered a conflict of interest arising from, for example, a financial engagement in a particular dealing in which one was professionally involved.

I am not suggesting that anything untoward is going on anywhere, but surely, to ensure that no such suggestions can ever be made in future, we must look at creating a system that gives the general public peace of mind. Thankfully, accusations of bias are rare, but situations of perceived bias are not unknown.

I stress, in response to Jackson Carlaw’s comments, that the matter before us is not about having confidence in the judiciary but about ensuring that everything is above board. I note the minister’s comment that the current safeguards are sufficient and her observation that no amendments on the subject were lodged in advance of Tuesday’s stage 3 debate on the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. However, as the decision is for Lord Gill, an amendment to that bill should not be required.

If we as elected members have to register and declare our interests, I see no reason why members of Scotland’s judiciary should not be subject to a full and publicly available register of judicial interests.

I once again congratulate Peter Cherbi on bringing the situation to the attention of the Parliament, and I hope that the Scottish Government and the Lord President will reconsider and take the petitioner’s suggestions on board, which would help to allay concerns among the wider public in Scotland.

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

 

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