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WOLFFE LAW: Crown Office ‘line of succession’ falters – First Minister names James Wolffe QC as Lord Advocate & Alison Di Rollo as Solicitor General

Faculty of Advocates boss to be new Lord Advocate. THE DEAN of the Faculty of Advocates – James Wolffe QC – has been named Scotland’s latest Lord Advocate.

The appointment – recommended by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and agreed by the Scottish Parliament on June 1st under Motion S5M-00255 – will see Mr Wolffe succeed Frank Mulholland QC as Scotland’s top prosecutor and head of the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).

The number two spot at the Crown Office has been filled by Advocate Alison Di Rollo – who becomes the new Solicitor General – after Lesley Thomson quit the role.

A news release from the Scottish Government said Ms Thomson – who held the post as Solicitor General since 2011 “informed the First Minister she wishes to pursue new challenges.”

The appointments of both Mr Wolffe & Ms Di Rollo – come recently after it was revealed a number of Crown Office staff have been convicted of serious criminal offences – including misuse of drugs, violence & offences against the Police.

A further report in the media revealed Crown Office staff operating an air junkets racket – reported here: Crown Office jet set junket racket – Files reveal Prosecutors spent £57K on international & domestic air travel as crooks deal plea bargains to dodge law & courts.

Among long term investigations by the Crown Office awaiting decisions – the new Lord Advocate will face a decision on whether to prosecute anyone in connection with the £400 million collapsed Hedge Fund.

The Heather Capital collapse – probed by prosecutors and Police for three years – has seen links to judges, prosecutors, top politicians, Police and even the Vatican state – revealed in considerable detail in the Scottish and international media.

It will also fall to James Wolffe’s Crown Office to decide on whether to intervene in any private prosecution brought by relatives of victims those killed in the Glasgow Bin Lorry deaths case.

The First Minister said: “I am extremely pleased to recommend the appointments of James Wolffe and Alison Di Rollo as Scotland’s senior law officers.”

“James has an outstanding legal background and extensive experience at all levels, including the House of Lords, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

“Alison led the work of the ground-breaking National Sexual Crimes Unit (NSCU) for three years, having previously held the role of deputy. Her outstanding leadership in this most sensitive of areas has inspired confidence in all connected to it.”

James Wolffe said: “I thank the First Minister for nominating me to the office of Lord Advocate. If I am appointed, it will be a great privilege to serve Scotland in that role.”

Alison Di Rollo said: “I am both delighted and honoured to be nominated for this role by the First Minister and I am looking forward to working with James in his new role.”

The First Minister thanked both Frank Mulholland QC and Lesley Thomson QC for their service in the roles.

She said: “In his time as Lord Advocate, Frank has made a substantial contribution to both the law and to Scottish society. The creation of the National Sexual Crimes Unit was just one example of the increased specialisation of the Crown Office that Frank Mulholland presided over. In her role as Solicitor General, Lesley’s work, particularly around domestic abuse, was pivotal in moving towards a system that instils confidence in victims of abuse and ensures that their abusers are held to account. I thank both Frank and Lesley for their dedicated service to the Government, to justice and to Scotland as a whole.”

Frank Mulholland announced earlier in March he intended to step down as Lord Advocate after the Scottish Elections held in May.

It has since been announced Mulholland – who campaigned aggressively alongside current Lord President Lord Carloway for the removal of the key injustice safeguard of Corroboration from Scots Law – has been made a judge at the Court of Session.

Among five senators appointed to the College of Justice, Frank Mulholland QC, Sheriff John Beckett QC, Ailsa Carmichael QC, Alistair Clark QC, and Andrew Stewart QC will sit as judges in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.

The judicial appointment to be taken up by Frank Mulholland QC, will take effect following the retirement of a senator later in the year.

The appointment of Mulholland to a judicial position comes after the recent appointment of Lord Carloway to the top post of Lord President – head of the Scottish judiciary.

MOTIONED TO BE LAW CHIEF:

Motion S5M-00255: Nicola Sturgeon, Glasgow Southside, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 31/05/2016: First Minister’s Appointment of Law Officers

That the Parliament agrees that it be recommended to Her Majesty that James Wolffe be appointed as the Lord Advocate and that Alison Di Rollo be appointed as Solicitor General for Scotland.

Supported by: John Swinney, Joe FitzPatrick Current Status: Taken in the Chamber on 01/06/2016

LAW CHIEFS ON THE UP:

James Wolffe QC is a leading Senior Counsel. He became an advocate in 1992 and took silk in 2007. In 2014 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. He was First Standing Junior Counsel to the Scottish Ministers from 2002 to 2007, and served as an Advocate Depute from 2007 to 2010. He has extensive experience of both commercial and public law. He is a member of the Faculty Dispute Resolution Service and was also called to the bar of England & Wales in 2013.

Alison Di Rollo is a Senior Advocate Depute. She joined the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in 1985 as a fiscal. Ms di Rollo then worked in the Policy Group at the Crown Office prior to being appointed Deputy Head of the High Court Unit and later Head of Operational Policy. In May 2008, Ms Di Rollo was seconded from COPFS to take up an appointment as a trial advocate depute. She was appointed as deputy head of the National Sexual Crimes Unit in 2011 and became head of the unit in January 2013.

The Lord Advocate is a Minister of the Scottish Government and acts as principal legal adviser, but decisions by him about criminal prosecutions and the investigation of deaths are taken independently of any other person. In that way, he is not subject to the ordinary rules about collective ministerial decisions.

The Solicitor General is the Lord Advocate’s deputy. She assists the Lord Advocate to carry out his functions. She is also a Minister of the Scottish Government.

For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland’s Crown Office – in Crown detail

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M’LADY JUSTICE CLERK: Lady Dorrian becomes first female judge appointed to position of Lord Justice Clerk – second most powerful judge in Scotland

First female judge appointed Lord Justice Clerk. FOR THE first time in the history of Scotland’s legal system, a female judge has been appointed to the role of Lord Justice Clerk, the second most powerful position in Scotland’s judiciary.

Lady Leonna June Dorrian (58), who is currently a judge of the inner house of the Court of Session – will take up her appointment as Lord Justice Clerk on 26 April 2016, the day of her installation.

The post of Lord Justice Clerk comes with a salary of £213,125 a year.

The Lord Justice Clerk also holds the office of President of the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session, and, by virtue of the post, is Chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council.

The appointment of Lady Dorrian to the second most powerful judicial position comes after the recent appointment of the previous holder of the office of Lord Justice Clerk – Lord Carloway – to the top role of Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session.

During the six month search for a new Lord President which took place after the sudden retirement of Lord Brian Gill in May, 2015 – Lady Dorrian was appointed to a selection panel convened by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to interview applicants for the position of Lord President, reported in further detail here: To play the President – Hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge

The panel, which comprised Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Mrs Deirdre Fulton – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Rt Hon Lord Reed – Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom,  Rt Hon Lady Dorrian – Senator, Inner House of the Court of Session – concluded their deliberations with a recommendation Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) be appointed to the position of Lord President – reported in further detail here: Top judge of Parliament House: Lord Carloway appointed as Scotland’s Lord President

With the ascension of Lord Carloway to the post of Lord President, the move required the appointment of a new Lord Justice Clerk.

A selection panel to interview candidates for the role was again convened by the First Minister earlier in January 2016 – the panel comprising of Rt Hon Lord Carloway – Lord President, Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Alison Mitchell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Hon Lady Stacey – Senator of the College of Justice to select a candidate for the position of Lord Justice Clerk.

Lady Dorrian was then nominated by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to Her Majesty the Queen – after taking account of recommendations made by the selection panel constituted under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 .

The panel which made the recommendations included Lord Carloway – who had been nominated for the position of Lord President by the previous panel which Lady Dorrian was a member of.

Lady Dorrian – Biography:

Lady Dorrian is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1981 before becoming Standing Junior Counsel to the Health and Safety Executive and Commission between 1987 and 1994.

She served as Advocate Depute between 1988 and 1991, and as Standing Junior to the Department of Energy between 1991 and 1994. In 1994, she was also appointed Queen’s Counsel. Between 1997 and 2001 she was a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Lady Dorrian was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Courts in 2005, having served as a temporary judge since 2002. She was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012.

SECRETLY SELECTING A PRESIDENT, SO SECRETLY:

 How judges select Scotland’s judges – in secret The selection panel for the office of Lord President – of which Lady Dorrian was a member – considered five candidates for the position of Scotland’s top judge – according to papers released by the Scottish Government in response to a Freedom of Information request by the media.

While there was significant speculation during 2015 that a female judge would be appointed to the top judicial post of Lord President, the unpredicted shift away from a male only top judge did not happen this time around.

Responding to queries, the Scottish Government refused to disclose the genders & diversity information relating to any of the candidates for the top job, citing privacy concerns.

Written exchanges between civil servants and the selection panel reveal a short listing meeting was held on 1 September 2015. The panel considered that two applicants Lord Carloway  [Redacted] merited an interview on the basis of the quality of their applications.

The panel agreed that given the level of appointment, candidates needed to be able to demonstrate that they met the criteria to an exceptional degree [Redacted].

The content of the selection panel’s report recommending Lord Carloway for the nomination of Lord President, was completely censored by the Scottish Government.

Emails between Scottish Government show First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had decided on Lord Carloway’s nomination as Lord President around 18 November 2015. Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President was finally made public a month later in December 2015.

Scotland’s judiciary faces a testing time as calls grow for judges to apply the same levels of transparency to themselves as is required of all other branches of Government, the justice system and those in public life.

SPOTLIGHT ON JUDICIAL INTERESTS SECRECY:

Scotland’s current Lord President – Lord Carloway is to be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in connection with three year probe on proposals to require judges to register their interests, as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The proposal to require judges to declare their interests enjoys cross party support, and was widely backed by MSPs during a full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on 9 October 2014 – reported in full with video footage of MSPs and Scottish Ministers speaking during the Holyrood debate, here: Debating the Judges.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests 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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THE DEPUTY: Search is on for a new Lord Justice Clerk as First Minister convenes selection panel to appoint Scotland’s second most powerful judge

Legal figures begin secret selection process for new Lord Justice Clerk. AMID the turmoil caused by the sudden retirement in May 2015 of Lord Brian Gill from the post of Lord President – and the subsequent elevation of his deputy – Lord Carloway to the top judicial post, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been forced to initiate another recruitment round to fill the post of Scotland’s second most senior judge – the position of Lord Justice Clerk.

A two week window for applications for the number two judicial role in Scotland –  which comes with a salary of £213,125 a year – was announced late last month by the Scottish Government – with a closing date of this Sunday, 7 February 2016.

The Lord Justice Clerk is the second most senior judge in Scotland and has a particular role in relation to the criminal justice system. In addition to its judicial duties, the office carries with it certain statutory duties relative to the provision of support to the Lord President in the discharge of his responsibilities as Head of the Judiciary.

The office brings with it responsibilities for providing leadership to the judiciary, not only in supporting the Lord President but also, separately, as a member and deputy chair of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS), in providing leadership to the staff of the SCTS.

The Lord Justice Clerk is also chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council.

Sitting on the latest behind-closed-doors selection panel are: The Rt Hon Lord Carloway – Lord President, Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Alison Mitchell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Hon Lady Stacey – Senator of the College of Justice.

A sift of applications for the post of Lord justice Clerk will take place on Thursday 11 February 2016 in order to provide a short list of candidates for interview. Invitations to interview will be issued by Friday 12 February 2016. The interviews will take place on 29 February 2016 in central Edinburgh, at a venue to be confirmed.

The selection panel will make recommendations to the First Minister by early March, who then makes her nomination to the Prime Minister after statutory consultation with the Lord President. The Prime Minister recommends a name for the new Lord Justice Clerk to Her Majesty, but may not recommend anybody who has not been nominated by the First Minister.

Eligibility for appointment as Lord Justice Clerk is the same as that for a Judge of the Court of Session. Serving judges of the Court of Session are eligible for appointment as Lord Justice Clerk.

Article xix of the Union with England Act 1707 and section 20A of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 provide that:  sheriffs principal and sheriffs who have held continuous office for at least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment;  solicitors who have had rights of audience in both the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately preceding the appointment; advocates of 5 years standing; and Writers to the Signet of 10 years standing who have passed an examination in civil law set by the Faculty of Advocates 2 years before appointment – are eligible to apply for the office of judge of the Court of Session and therefore appointment as Lord Justice Clerk.

The Lord Justice Clerk must be acknowledged by the judiciary and the legal profession to be among the most able lawyers of his or her generation. The holder of the office must have the capacity to command public confidence in the justice system and the confidence and respect of judicial colleagues, and to develop positive and productive relationships with judicial colleagues and others in the justice system. He or she must have the necessary knowledge, experience and judgement to be able to give authoritative opinions in the most complex and important cases both in civil appeals and in criminal cases at first instance and on appeal. Successful candidates will therefore have to demonstrate that they meet the criteria listed below to an appropriately high level

Personal Qualities and criteria for appointment: Legal and Judicial: A candidate shall: be an outstanding lawyer in the main areas of law that come to be determined in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary; possess a thorough understanding of the theory and principles on which the law is based, its practical application and an ability to analyse and explore legal problems creatively and imaginatively; be able to set out complex legal issues clearly and succinctly, both orally and in writing, and to explain the reasoned basis for any decision; and be aware of the areas in which the law is developing and demonstrate a desire to master new and unfamiliar areas.

Leadership and Management: A candidate shall be able to: provide leadership and strategic direction across the full range of management issues, including through appropriate delegation, to ensure the effective and efficient delivery of the courts and tribunals service across Scotland in support of the Lord President; demonstrate an inclusive management style which builds consensus and facilitates the management of change; set and promote the highest standards of judicial behaviour in and out of court; inspire confidence, command respect and gain commitment from others; and ensure that decisions are taken and implemented to deliver an effective and efficient courts and tribunals service across Scotland.

Personal Qualities: A candidate should be able to demonstrate: Integrity, independence of mind, moral courage and the ability to command respect; Social awareness and understanding of the contemporary world; Resilience; Sound temperament, consideration and courtesy; Excellent communications skills which support the representational role on behalf of the SCTS; Fairness, impartiality and a responsible attitude.

WHO’LL BE THE JUDGE:

Diary of Injustice previously reported on the recruitment round for the role of Lord President,and featured reports from the Scottish Sun newspaper on the hunt for a new top judge, here: TO PLAY THE PRESIDENT: Hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge & Lord President of the Court of Session.

The position of Scotland’s top judge became vacant after Lord Brian Gill – who served a short term as Lord President from 2012-2015 unexpectedly walked out of the top judicial post in May 2015 – giving only 30 days notice he intended to quit.

Lord Carloway was appointed to replace Lord Gill, in late December 2015, reported here: TOP JUDGE OF PARLIAMENT HOUSE: Lord Carloway appointed as Scotland’s Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session.

The elevation of the Lord Justice Clerk to the top job of Lord President came after recommendations were received from a secretive panel constituted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

The behind-closed-doors panel, comprising of Sir Muir Russell & Mrs Deirdre Fulton from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Lord Reed of the UK Supreme Court and Court of Session judge Lady Dorrian – began a search in July for a new top judge in July 2015, with orders to recommend a name to the First Minister by 30 October 2015.

Lord Carloway was officially installed as Lord President in a ceremony at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on 8 January 2016, reported here: NEW JUDGE ON THE BLOCK: Lord Carloway installed as Lord Justice General & Lord President of the Court of Session.

 

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TOP JUDGE OF PARLIAMENT HOUSE: Lord Carloway appointed as Scotland’s Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session

Top judicial post of Lord President taken by Lord Carloway. SCOTLAND’S Lord Justice Clerk – Lord Carloway – has been confirmed as the new Lord President & Lord Justice General of the Court of Session.

The post of Lord President – with a salary of £220,655 per year – became vacant after Lord Brian Gill unexpectedly walked out of the top judicial post in May of this year – giving only 30 days notice he intended to quit.

The move, elevating the Lord Justice Clerk to the top job of Lord President comes after a secretive panel constituted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

The behind-closed-doors panel, comprising Sir Muir Russell & Mrs Deirdre Fulton from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Lord Reed of the UK Supreme Court and Court of Session judge Lady Dorrian – began a search in July for a new top judge – with orders to recommend a name to the First Minister by 30 October 2015..

The secretive recruitment process for a Lord President is reported in further detail here: To play the President – Hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge

Lord Carloway – real name Colin Sutherland – is known for his backing for the Scottish Government’s failed plan to remove corroboration from Scots law.

While in the role of Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway authored the Carloway Review Report & Recommendations 2011 – which backed a joint effort by Scottish Ministers and the Crown Office to remove the centuries old safeguard against wrongful convictions requiring evidence in criminal trials to be corroborated from two independent sources.

The Carloway Review and it’s recommendation to abolish corroboration – was opposed by members of the judiciary in their Response by the Senators of the College of Justice to SG consultation : Reforming Scots Criminal Law & Practice.

The campaign to retain corroboration was backed by Lord Gill – the then Lord President – who spoke out at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – defining the injustice safeguard as one of the “finest features” of Scotland’s justice system. Video footage of Lord Gill’s evidence to MSPs can be found here: Lord President Brian Gill evidence to Justice Committee on retention of corroboration

The same Justice Committee – who voted against plans to remove corroboration from Scots Law – dubbed Lord Carloway “disdainful and dismissive” over his support for scrapping the need for corroboration in criminal cases.

In April of this year, as the Scottish Government retreated on their plans to abolish corroboration – Lord Carloway hit out at elements of the legal profession who campaigned for retention of the injustice safeguard.

During Lord Carloway’s speech to the Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies Biennial Conference – the Lord Justice Clerk accused lawyers & critics of having “transparent self-interest” in retaining the centuries old injustice safeguard.

Lord Carloway said: “Reactionary or excessively defensive forces among the legal profession can, and often do, behave in a manner obstructive to progressive law reform, especially where there is transparent perceived financial self-interest.”

The judge’s remarks provoked robust responses from Thomas Ross – the Chair of the Criminal Bar Association, reported in The Herald HERE

Mr Ross argued lawyers opposed to ending the safeguard – under which two pieces of evidence are required to secure a conviction – were acting against their own financial interests.

Recently Lord Carloway was appointed head of the Scottish Sentencing Council – a quango created by Scottish Ministers which was condemned by two previous Lord Presidents – Lord Gill and Lord Hamilton – as a political attempt to interfere with the judiciary and Scotland’s courts system.

The appointment of Lord Carloway to the role of Lord President – made by the Queen upon receiving a nomination from the First Minister – retains the 500 year old tradition of male only top judges.

Lord Carloway will be formally installed as Lord President early in the new year, 2016.

Once appointed as Lord President, Lord Carloway will be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in connection with the three year Holyrood probe on proposals to require judges to register their interests, as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

If Lord Carloway’s stated views on ‘transparency and self interest of vested legal interests’ are anything to go by, perhaps the new Lord President will reach a different view from his predecessor Lord Gill – who spent two of his three year term as top judge fighting plans to enhance judicial transparency with a register of judges’ interests.

The petition calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The proposal to require judges to declare their interests enjoys cross party support, and was widely backed by MSPs during a full debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on 9 October 2014 – reported in full with video footage of MSPs and Scottish Ministers speaking during the Holyrood debate, here: Debating the Judges.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests 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

Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President has been welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, who were recently revealed to have taken ownership of Scotland’s top court buildings from Edinburgh City Council.

James Wolffe QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “His appointment as head of Scotland’s judiciary is richly merited – having regard not only to his personal qualities but to his distinguished career of service, as an advocate before his appointment to the bench in 2000, as a judge since that date, and since 2012 as Lord Justice Clerk.

“Lord Carloway becomes Lord President at an important time for our legal system as it responds to technological, social and institutional change. I look forward very much indeed to working with him.”

Christine McLintock, President of the Law Society of Scotland who spent much of the week condemning legal aid cuts, commented: “I warmly congratulate Lord Carloway on his appointment. As one of our most senior and respected judges, and with a wealth of experience across both criminal and civil law, he has already made a substantial contribution to justice and the rule of law here in Scotland. I have every confidence he will make an even greater contribution as our Lord President.

“Lord Carloway assumes this role at a critical time for Scotland’s justice system, with major reforms to improve the efficiency of our courts but also pressures from reductions in public spending. We are also seeing a transformation in the legal services market, with new business models, changing expectations from clients and a greater internationalism amongst legal firms. Against this backdrop of change, we look forward to working with Lord Carloway, building on the excellent relationship we have enjoyed with him as Lord Justice Clerk.”

The appointment now creates a vacancy for the office of Lord Justice Clerk.

The First Minister is required by s19 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 to establish a panel to recommend individuals suitable for this appointment.

Lord Carloway’s most recent appearance at the Scottish Parliament came during an evidence session before the Justice Committee on 8 December 2015 during which the Lord Justice Clerk gave evidence to MSPs on the Abusive Behaviour & Sexual Harm (Scotland) Bill.

Lord Carloway Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 8th December 2015

LORD CARLOWAY:

Lord Carloway is a graduate of Edinburgh University (LLB Hons) and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1977. He served as an Advocate Depute from 1986 to 1989 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. From 1994 until his appointment as a Judge he was Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates.

Lord Carloway was appointed a Judge in February 2000 and was elevated to the Inner House in August 2008. He became Lord Justice Clerk in August 2012.

He was an editor of ‘Green’s Litigation Styles’ and contributed the chapters on ‘Court of Session Practice’ to the Stair Memorial Encyclopedia and ‘Expenses’ in Court of Session Practice.

Lord Carloway was the joint editor of ‘Parliament House Portraits: the Art Collection of the Faculty of Advocates’ and is a former president of the Scottish Arts Club. He is the author of the Carloway Review on key elements of criminal law and practice which was published on 17 November 2011. Many of the recommendations from this review have been taken forward in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, approved by Parliament earlier this week.

Lord Carloway is also currently leading a steering group overseeing the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service review into Evidence and Procedure, including options for improving how children and other vulnerable witnesses provide evidence in criminal cases.

 

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U-TURN, M’LORD: Top judge Lord Gill to appear before Scottish Parliament to face questions on judicial transparency & calls to create a register of judges’ interests

From Qatar to Holyrood – Lord Gill to give evidence on judicial register. SCOTLAND’S former top judge who led a bitter two year fight against proposals to create a register of judges’ interests – has finally agreed to face questions on his opposition to transparency and disclosure of judicial wealth & links to big business – at the Scottish Parliament next month.

Lord Brian Gill (73) – Scotland’s longest serving judge who suddenly retired as Lord President in May – giving only 30 days of notice after serving three years in the post, will appear before Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee on 10 November 2015.

The former Lord President will face the same committee he twice refused to attend to give evidence and answer questions on the judiciary’s opposition to Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The judicial transparency proposal calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

During the two year investigation by MSPs on calls to bring the judiciary into line with all others in public life who are required to declare their interests, Lord Gill waged a bitter, letter-only campaign against the notion judges could be required to declare their vast wealth, connections to the professions & links to big business.

In a series of terse written letters to the Public Petitions Committee, Gill condemned the media, litigants, court users, branding all a threat to judges’ privacy, insisting there would be no deal to declare judges interests.

The top judge went on to imply he may be forced to restrict judges interaction with Holyrood committees, using loopholes in the Scotland Act to claim members of the judiciary could not be forced to give evidence in public if they did not want to.

Lord Gill then embarked on a 5 day state visit to the middle eastern dictatorship of Qatar (among a slew of overseas junkets) – preferring to mingle in the company of politicians & prosecutors from a country condemned for its use of slave labour & abuse of human rights – instead of showing up at the Scottish Parliament to answer questions on vast undeclared judicial wealth, links to professions & banks, tax dodging, concealed investments in huge property empires, crime & unchecked power.

While in Qatar, Gill toured a motor museum, and was photographed attending organisations accused of being funding fronts for Qatar to influence international politics, business & wars around the world.

And, in yet another act of defiance against calls for openness, the aging Lord Gill blasted elected politicians and transparency itself as an “insidious threat” to the judiciary – during a speech at the Commonwealth Law Conference 2015 held in Glasgow earlier this year.

During his widely witnessed rant, given to a crowd of judges, lawyers & legal vested interests, Gill said: “The threats to judicial independence do not always come with a knock on the door in the middle of the night.  In a society that prides itself on the  independence  of  its  judiciary,  the  threat  may  come  in  insidious ways, even at the hands of well-meaning governments and legislators, in the name of efficiency and, ironically,  in the name of  transparency.”

In the same speech, the 73 year old judge went on to joke about two individuals who were allegedly protesting against the top judge “standing perhaps appropriately, at the Heart of Midlothian, the scene of public executions in Edinburgh in former times”.

The proposal to require all members of the judiciary to declare their interests gained cross party support from msps during a debate on the petition – held at the Scottish Parliament on 7 October 2014.

The Parliamentary debate, including video footage and the official record, was reported in the media, and on Justice Diary here: Debating the Judges.

During the debate, MSPs openly joked it may have been easier to visit Qatar and get answers from Gill than bring him before the Scottish Parliament – only a few steps down the Royal Mile from Gill’s seat of power – Parliament House.

As MSPs made their speeches – mostly in favour of the creation of a register of judicial interests, Gill’s refusal to attend the Scottish Parliament came in for heavy criticism.

Independent MSP John Wilson said of Lord Gill’s refusal to give evidence at Holyrood: “Clearly, we must ask why we cannot have a register. No doubt the associated media coverage of Lord Gill’s non-appearance at the Public Petitions Committee has led to him being given the title of Lord No-No. That is not something that I particularly welcome, although, quite frankly, it seems to have a degree of merit for an individual who spent six days in Qatar to give a speech about transparency and judicial regulation that lasted one hour, but who could not find the courtesy to accept an invitation from a mandatory committee of this Parliament.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw said: “John Wilson is absolutely right. I have here a copy of the 16-page speech that the Lord President gave in Qatar, incorporating the very issues that we addressed. Had the committee known, we could have applied to the parliamentary authorities to go to Qatar to hear the speech in person and tackle the Lord President there. If he did not come to the committee, the committee could have gone to him.”

Gill’s refusal to appear at Holyrood was condemned by Labour MSP Neil Findlay – who said in his speech during the debate: “.. is it not an outrage that Lord Gill had such contempt for this Parliament that he refused to attend a particular meeting? Does that not make people even more suspicious of his motives?”

Mr Findlay continued: “I fully support the proposal for a register of interests for members of the judiciary. After all, we have the right to know whether those who are involved in determining whether a man or woman loses their freedom have any financial, business, social, political or other relationship that could influence any decision they might make. Currently there is no compulsion to declare such an interest and we rely on what is known as the fair-minded observer test. That, to me, is wholly inadequate. Through history, we have heard allegations of religious, class, financial and political bias or of members of certain organisations being helpful to each other during trials. I can think of many industrial and other disputes that have gone to court where claims of bias and collusion have been made—and, I believe, with justification.”

“That situation has to end, and we should have a register with clear rules that leave no one in any doubt about who and what should be registered. Is it really a surprise to people that the legal establishment does not want such a register.”

Upon the debate’s conclusion, MSPs overwhelmingly supported a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests.

Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali supported the judicial transparency proposal during a must watch evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013.

Current JCR Gillian Thompson OBE gave further support for the plan to create a register of interests for judges during a recent evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

Earlier this year it emerged a secret meeting was held in February between Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse and Lord Gill during February – to discuss joint efforts between the Scottish Government and senior judicial figures to undermine proposals for increased judicial transparency.

Some weeks after the meeting, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a letter of intervention declaring she felt judges should be able to conceal their interests and other activities – activities which now extend from shareholdings in corrupt businesses to lobbying for fracking interests to tax avoidance and more. The Scottish Government’s attempt to thwart a register of judicial interests was reported in the media here: INTERESTS INTERVENE: First Minister joins top judge in bid to block register of judicial interests

The Scottish Sun on Sunday reported on Lord Gill’s planned appearance at Holyrood next month:

 Lord Gill in U-Turn over quiz at Parly

By Russell Findlay, Scottish Sun 04 October 2015

FORMER top judge Lord Gill is to be grilled by MSPs over his opposition to plans for a register of judges’ hidden interests.

The ex-Lord President has twice snubbed invites to appear at Holyrood.

But he has agreed to face the Petitions Committee next month after they issued a third plea.

Legal campaigner Peter Cherbi said: “This is a significant U-turn from a judge who spent the last two years fighting Holyrood’s investigation of judicial interests.

“It’s time for him to come clean on the closed world of judicial interests, wealth, influence and links to big business.”

Tory Jackson Carlaw urged MSPs to make the third invite after the beak, 73, retired.

He said: “I’m sure the committee will host a fascinating and frank exchange of views.”

The Sunday Mail also reported on Gill’s planned appearance at Holyrood:

 Lord No-No says yes to parly probe

MSPs to quiz judge

By Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail 4 October 2015

Former top judge Lord Gill will finally be quizzed by MSPs on his opposition to his colleagues’ business and financial secrets being made public.

Lord Gill retired as Lord President of the Court of Session at the end of May.

He was dubbed “Lord No-No” for snubbing requests 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, hospitality, property, shares, criminal convictions and links to outside bodies such as law firms.

Lord Gill twice declined to appear before the committee, citing the need for judicial independence from political interference.

But his retirement from the bench means he will now give evidence at Holyrood on November 10.

Cherbi said: “Now Lord Gill cannot hide behind the rank of lord president and refuse to attend.”

“The judiciary must be brought into line with the 21st century whether they like it or not.”

Committee member John Wilson MSP said: “It is disappointing he has taken the decision to appear before the committee when he effectively no longer has any influence on the judiciary.”

The Sunday Herald newspaper also reported on the decision by the former top judge to visit the Scottish Parliament:

 Lord Gill to finally give Holyrood evidence

Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor Herald Scotland: Sunday 4 October 2015

ONE of the country’s top judges has finally bowed to pressure by agreeing to give evidence to a Holyrood inquiry on the creation of a judicial register of interest.

Lord Gill, who recently retired as Lord President, had twice snubbed calls to face MSPs but will be grilled on the contentious subject next month.

Currently, a range of senior public sector figures, including MSPs, MPs, councillors and public board members, must provide details of directorships or shareholdings, but judges and sheriffs are under no such obligation.

Members of the judiciary are instead require to ‘recuse’ – or excuse – themselves from cases where there might be a potential conflict of interest.

Campaigner Peter Cherbi tried to plug the loophole by tabling a petition to Holyrood that would require judges to declare their pecuniary interests.

However, Gill, who as Lord President was the most senior judge north of the border, submitted written evidence to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee opposing the plan.

He argued that a judge’s privacy could be affected by “aggressive media or hostile individuals” and warned:

“The establishment of such a register therefore may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary.”

However, Lord Gill then refused invitations by the Committee to explain his written evidence in person in front of MSPs.

He told Holyrood that the legislation that created the Parliament contained a provision that meant judicial officer holders could not be required to give evidence.

He instead agreed to a private meeting with senior members of the committee.

After Gill retired earlier this year, MSPs invited him to give evidence for a third time.

Gill has agreed and will face MSPs on November 10.

Cherbi said: “Now that Lord Gill cannot hide behind the rank of Lord President and refuse to attend the Scottish Parliament, it will be interesting to hear how Scotland’s longest serving judge attempts to justify a judicial exemption against transparency when openness is supposedly a pre requisite for all others in our courts and justice system.

Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw, who is also a committee member, said: “I warmly welcome this change of heart by Lord Gill to appear before the Committee, even if it is as the former Lord President. I am sure the committee will host a fascinating and frank exchange of views.”

Justice Diary recently revealed Lord Brian Gill emerged from his brief summer retirement – taking up an appointment as a supplementary panel judge at the London based UK Supreme Court.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests 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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HUNT FOR LORD OCTOBER: Scotland’s next top judge will be selected by legal establishment as closed shop process begins to appoint new Lord President of the Court of Session

Legal establishment & judiciary to select Scotland’s new top judge. THE PROCESS leading to the eventual appointment of Scotland’s next top judge began today, almost two months after the sudden retirement of Scotland’s longest serving judge – Lord Brian Gill – who served his last three years on the bench as Lord President & Lord Justice General from 8 June 2012 to 31 May 2015.

Earlier today, the Scottish Government & Judicial Office jointly announced First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has established a selection panel comprised of in-house establishment figures including senior members of the judiciary, to make recommendations to the First Minister by Friday 30 October for a new Lord President, the most senior judicial office in Scotland.

However, unlike the selection of senior judicial figures to the top courts of modern democracies such as the United States – where elected representatives have the chance to publicly quiz candidates applying to fill senior judicial positions, the interviews for, and eventual selection of a new top judge for Scotland will be concluded in the now familiar, secretive behind closed doors process controlled by vested legal interests, and fellow members of the judiciary.

In short –  the public will only find out when one wig tells another wig who is going to be their next boss, and the Lord of all our courts.

The selection panel – who will most certainly not be holding their hearings in any public forum such as the Scottish Parliament – is made up of: Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Mrs Deirdre Fulton – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Rt Hon Lord Reed – Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, The Rt Hon Lady Dorrian – Senator, Inner House of the Court of Session

The position of Lord President – with a salary of £220,655 a year, enormous perks including access to international travel and unrivalled power – even to challenge the Scottish Parliament – is responsible for leadership of the entire Scottish judiciary, in addition to chairing the Board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. The office holder is the most senior judge in Scotland, with authority over any court established under Scots law, apart from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

Brian Gill (73) who also served as Lord Justice Clerk from 2001 until 2012 when he was appointed Lord President of the Court of Session – left the position vacant earlier this year after a stormy three year term – marked by the Scottish Government’s watering down of the Scottish Civil Courts Review proposals to reform Scotland’s “Victorian” civil courts, and a bitter two year confrontation with the Scottish Parliament over proposals to require members of the judiciary to declare their vast and varied interests.

The proposals to create a register of judicial interests 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.

Among those who are now expected to put their names forward for the position of Lord President are several names of current Lady Senators of the Court of Session – leading to recent speculation by legal insiders that Scotland could gain it’s first ever female top judge – in effect, a Lady President of the Court of Session.

Role of the Lord President:

The Lord President is the senior judge in Scotland and the head of the Scottish judiciary. In addition to its judicial duties, the office carries with it responsibilities for the administration of justice in Scotland. These responsibilities include the general supervision of the business of the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary, the initiation and preparation of all subordinate legislation made by those Courts, and an important role in the development of policy concerning the courts and the judiciary in Scotland. In addition, the Lord President has various statutory functions, for example, in relation to the membership and rules of procedure of various tribunals, the regulation of the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland and, along with the Lord Justice Clerk, the removal from office of sheriffs.

The Lord President also acts as chairing member of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) which provides administrative support to the Scottish Courts and judiciary, and to the Scottish Tribunals and members. It is for the Lord President, along with the other SCTS members, to provide visible leadership and strategic direction to drive the necessary reform and continuous improvement which will enable the SCTS to develop.

Application pack for position of Lord President. The timetable from job interview to final recommendation is:

Office advertised  Monday 20 July 2015, Closing date for applications  Monday 3 August 2015 (midnight), Deadline for referees   Monday 24 August 2015 (midnight), Sift  Wednesday 2 September 2015, Invitation to interview letters issued Monday 7 September 2015, Interviews  Monday 5 October 2015, Recommendations to First Minister  Friday 30 October 2015

The function of the selection panel is to make recommendations to the First Minister of those whom they have assessed as suitable for appointment as Lord President. That assessment must be solely on merit.

On completion of the interviews the panel will therefore submit a written report to the First Minister containing its recommendations.

The First Minister will then carry out the statutory consultation with the Lord Justice Clerk.

Following this consultation, and with regard to the selection panel’s recommendations, the First Minister will in turn make her nomination to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will then make the recommendation to Her Majesty the Queen.

Only once Her Majesty has agreed the recommendation will candidates be informed of the outcome of the selection stages.

The following Personal Qualities and Criteria for Appointment are contained in the application pack:

Legal and Judicial – A candidate shall:
* Be an outstanding lawyer in the main areas of the law that come to be determined in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.
* Possess a thorough understanding of the theory and principles on which the law is based, its practical application and an ability to analyse and explore legal problems creatively and imaginatively.
* Be able clearly and succinctly to set out complex legal issues both orally and in writing and to explain the reasoned basis for any decision.
* Be aware of the areas in which the law is developing with a demonstrable desire to master new and unfamiliar areas of the law.

Leadership and Management – A candidate shall be able to:
* Provide visible and visionary leadership for both the Scottish Judiciary and the SCTS.
* Inspire confidence, command respect and gain commitment from others.
* Provide leadership and strategic direction to ensure that decisions are taken and implemented to deliver an effective and efficient court service across Scotland.
* Lead reform within financial constraints and at a time of significant change.
* Lead change in encouraging a more diverse judiciary.

Personal Qualities – A candidate should be able to demonstrate:
* Integrity, independence of mind, moral courage and the ability to command respect.
* Social awareness and understanding of the contemporary world.
* Sound temperament, consideration and courtesy.
* Resilience.
* Excellent communication skills which support the representational role on behalf of the judiciary and SCTS.
* Fairness, impartiality and a responsible attitude.
* An ability to set and promote both the highest standards of behaviour in court and wider judicial conduct.

Eligibility for appointment as Lord President is open to:

* Serving Court of Session judges
* Sheriffs principal and sheriffs who have held continuous office for at least five years immediately preceding appointment
* Solicitors who have had rights of audience in both the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the appointment
* Advocates of at least five years standing
* Writers to the Signet of ten years standing who have passed an examination in civil law set by the Faculty of Advocates, two years before appointment

FAMILIAR FACES: Profiles of the selection Panel members:

Sir Muir Russell was appointed as lay Chairing Member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland in October 2008 and has been reappointed twice, until September 2016. Sir Muir was educated at the High School of Glasgow and Glasgow University, where he took a first class honours degree in Natural Philosophy. He was Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Office and then the Scottish Executive from 1998 to 2003 and Principal of the University of Glasgow from 2003 to 2009.

Mrs Deirdre Fulton was appointed a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland in February 2015. She is a graduate of University of Strathclyde and has a Masters in Business Administration. She runs her own consultancy business with a focus on providing meaningful insight and analysis, mainly to clients in the aviation sector. Typical assignments include strategic planning, due diligence, market research, marketing and communications. Prior to setting up her own company in 2008, she worked at a senior level in the Scottish aviation industry and gained extensive experience of corporate strategy and operations as well as people and resource management. She is Vice Chair and Trustee of her local Samaritans branch with specific responsibility for recruitment and selection.

Lord Reed was appointed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in 2012 and is one of the two Scottish Justices of The Supreme Court. Lord Reed is a graduate of the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983, where he undertook a wide range of civil and criminal work. He served as a senior judge in Scotland for 13 years, being appointed to the Outer House of the Court of Session in 1998 and to the Inner House in January 2008. During 1999 he sat as an ad hoc judge of the European Court of Human Rights.

Lady Dorrian was appointed as a Senator of the College of Justice in 2005, having served as a Temporary Judge since 2002. She was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012. Lady Dorrian is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen (LLB). She was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1981 and was Standing Junior Counsel to the Health and Safety Executive and Commission between 1987 and 1994. She served as Advocate Depute between 1988 and 1991 and as Standing Junior to the Department of Energy between 1991 and 1994. Lady Dorrian was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994 and between 1997 and 2001 she was a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Lady Dorrian was appointed as a judicial member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland in July 2011.
Contact information

 

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INTERESTS INTERVENE: First Minister joins top judge in bid to block register of judicial interests as MSPs consider recalling Legal Affairs Minister over dodgy evidence & private meeting with Lord Gill

First Minister claims register for judges interests is ‘unworkable’ SCOTLAND’S First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has joined Scotland’s outgoing top judge in a bid to block increased judicial accountability & transparency with the creation of a register of interests for judges.

The surprise move by the country’s most senior politician comes amid fears the judicial transparency proposal currently being considered by MSPs will expose the secret links between big money, big business, offshore private banking, staggering property wealth and Scotland’s mega powerful & secretive judiciary.

The First Minister also repeated claims made by Lord President Lord Brian Gill (73) – who accused “aggressive media” and  court users in an attempt to thwart the Scottish Parliament probe into why judges are so secretive about their vast wealth and connections.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee are due to debate plans to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary tomorrow, Tuesday 12 May 2015.

The proposals – under investigation by MSPs since January 2013 – call for 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.

The petition has cross party support from msps who backed a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests at Holyrood on 7 October 2014 – reported along with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges.

The latest, surprise intervention by the First Minister in the bid to bring transparency to Scotland’s secretive judges only came to light last week – although Ms Sturgeon’s letter is dated 30 March.

In the letter, which gives the First Minister’s view of petitions relating to justice issues – Nicola Sturgeon also revealed Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse had a secret meeting with Lord Gill to discuss the petition in February of this year.

Writing in the letter to John Pentland MSP, Convener of the Public Petitions Committee, the First Minister said: “This petition calls on the Scottish Government to create a Register of Interests for the Judiciary. The Scottish Government considers that such a register of judicial interests is not necessary and that the existing safeguards – the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the system for complaints against the judiciary – are sufficient. These safeguards, together with the register of judicial recusals, are sufficient to protect individuals from judicial bias.”

“Further to the evidence that the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Mr Wheelhouse, gave to the Committee on 9 December 2014, he discussed this petition when he met the Lord President in February. The Minister acknowledged the Lord President’s concerns about the introduction of a register of judicial interests. The breadth of such a register would make it virtually unworkable. It would need to cover not only financial interests, but also memberships of groups and associations and familial and social relationships. Even so, such a register might not capture relevant issues that could arise.”

“The position of the judiciary is different from that of MSPs and others who hold public office. The judiciary cannot publicly defend themselves. The Lord President has cautioned that such a register could also have unintended consequences. Consideration requires to be given to judges’ privacy and freedom from harassment by aggressive media or hostile individuals, including dissatisfied litigants. In addition, there is currently no evidence that judges who should have recused themselves from cases have not done so.”

The First Minister’s letter is an almost word for word quote from previous letters written by Lord Gill who has previously blasted msps on the Petitions Committee foreven to dare to consider the issue of increased transparency of the judiciary.

And, following what some have referred to as a ‘script’ written by Lord Gill – the First Minister’s letter is dated two days before the latest 1 April letter from the top judge to the Petitions Committee.

Lord Gill has previously claimed such a register could compromise judges’ privacy by encouraging “aggressive media or hostile individuals” and that “The establishment of such a register therefore may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary.”

Gill also refused three invitations to appear at the Scottish Parliament and take questions on his hostility towards judicial transparency and a register of judges’ interests.

The surprise letter from Nicola Sturgeon supporting the elderly top judge – who has been caught in headlines flying around the world on grand 5 day taxpayer funded state visits to countries such as Qatar – predates Lord Gill’s announcement of his ‘retirement’ last week.

Having served three years as Lord President – the shortest term in the post for some time, the ageing Gill said he is stepping down at the end of this month.

The latest development in the debate around creating a register of interests for judges comes as MSPs were handed a copy of internal Scottish Government communications which conflict with testimony previously given to the Public Petitions Committee by Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

The emails reveal Mr Wheelhouse deliberately misled MSPs over claims gangsters had threatened SEPA officials – claims which wheelhouse used to argue with MSPs at an earlier evidence session that judges wealth and connections to big business, banks and the legal profession must be kept hidden.

Conversations between aides to Mr Wheelhouse begging SEPA for examples of evidence for “the Minister to have in his back pocket” revealed no gangster threats had occurred. Instead, a farmer threatened a SEPA employee with a stick, and a fence had been pushed against another SEPA employee.

The now released email also raises questions on what knowledge the then Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill knew of the material used by Wheelhouse – after MacAskill – who is now on the Petitions Committee – failed to question the Minister during his interaction with Wheelhouse at a previous Petitions Committee meeting, reported here: Too Many Secrets: Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse substitutes for top judge in evidence to MSPs

MacAskill – a lawyer who trained at Glasgow based law firm of Levy & Mcrae who are now caught up in a multi million pound writ over the £400m collapse of Hedge Fund Heather Capital – is known to be against the plan to create a register of interests for judges.

MSPs on the Petitions Committee have now been asked to recall Mr Wheelhouse to account for his misleading testimony, and to face questions on his private meeting with Lord Gill.

It has also been suggested Moi Ali – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) be recalled to give evidence on changes relating to judicial conduct complaint rules put forward by Lord Gill. The changes have been branded tweaks & window dressing in a previous report here: THE LORD’S RULES: Top judge’s two year consultation & tweaks to rules allowing judges to investigate themselves is ‘missed opportunity’.

During an earlier evidence session before the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Moi Ali told msps there is little transparency or accountability in Scotland’s judiciary.

Among papers released for tomorrow’s meeting, clerks have now recommended MSPs seek information from legal affairs Minister Wheelhouse on what took place at the secret meeting with Gill held in February and also to recommend Gillian Thompson OBE – the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer who replaced Moi Ali last year, attend to give evidence.

Gillian Thompson has already registered her support for a register of judicial interests in a letter to MSPs, reported here: DECLARE THE JUDGES: New Judicial Complaints Reviewer supports proposal to Scottish Parliament to create a register of interests for judges

The Sunday Herald newspaper reported on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s intervention on behalf of the judiciary and her opposition to the judicial transparency proposal:

First Minister rejects call for register of judges’ interests

Paul Hutcheon
Investigations Editor Sunday 10 May 2015

NICOLA Sturgeon has rejected calls for judges to declare details of their finances in a register of interest. The First Minister said the proposal, lodged by justice campaigner Peter Cherbi, was “not necessary” and claimed existing rules were “sufficient”.

Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee is in the middle of a long-term probe into whether judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace should be brought into line with other senior public sector figures.

MSPs, MPs, councillors and board members of public bodies are all required to register their outside financial interests.

A petition lodged with the Scottish Parliament in 2012 called for members of the judiciary to declare their “pecuniary” interests, which would include shareholdings, directorships and membership of external bodies.

Judicial officer holders can recuse – or remove – themselves if a conflict of interest arises during a case, but nothing more is required.

The plan was met with hostility by the country’s top judge, Lord Gill, who repeatedly snubbed calls by the committee to give oral evidence. He relied on written testimony to blast a proposal he said could compromise judges’ privacy by encouraging “aggressive media or hostile individuals”.

Lord Gill concluded: “The establishment of such a register therefore may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary.”

The issue has now reached the desk of the First Minister, who has backed Lord Gill.

In a letter to John Pentland MSP, the Committee convener, she supported the status quo: “The Scottish Government considers that such a register of judicial interests is not necessary and that the existing safeguards – the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the system for complaints against the judiciary – are sufficient.

“These safeguards, together with the register of judicial recusals, are sufficient to protect individuals from judicial bias.”

She also repeated Lord Gill’s fear about “aggressive media” and noted: “The position of the judiciary is different from that of MSPs and others who hold public office. The judiciary cannot publicly defend themselves.”

The First Minister also revealed that Paul Wheelhouse, her Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, met Lord Gill in December to discuss the petition.

In his evidence to the Committee, Wheelhouse said he feared a register could leave judges open to “threats or intimidation”, adding that colleagues at an environment quango had already been threatened by organised criminals. However, emails between the Government and Scottish Environment Protection Agency revealed no link to organised crime.

Cherbi said: “I am surprised Nicola Sturgeon supports a judicial ban on transparency just because judges have been asked to declare their substantial interests. “We are always told if you have got nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. What are the judges hiding and what do they fear? “There cannot be one set of rules for judges and another for everyone else. A register of interests will enhance public trust in the justice system, not detract from it.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government considers that a specific register of interests is not needed. Existing safeguards, including the Judicial Oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Interests and the system of complaints against the judiciary, are sufficient to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary 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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