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PUBLISH & BE JUDGED: As Lord President, Lord Hamilton gave nod to transparency after media interest prompted decision to publish judges’ expenses claims

Former Lord President Lord Hamilton, now of Qatar court. TRANSPARENCY has not always been the perceived sworn & deadly enemy of Scotland’s jet setting, boozing, partying, public-funds-cheating & tax avoiding-island-hopping-bank-fiddling Judiciary of Scotland  – as one former Lord President proved when confronted by journalists investigating the veil of secrecy around our ermine clad public servants.

For the story of how Scotland’s judiciary finally surrendered details of their own cash splurging expenses claims – began with an investigation by Diary of Injustice during 2010 – prompting a decision by the then Lord President – Lord Arthur Hamilton – to publish judges expenses claims on a quarterly basis ever since.

The task – to break the secrecy around how much public cash our judges were burning up for junkets here, there and everywhere – was admittedly difficult.

The Scottish Government – initially claimed they held no such figures – and none existed.

The same was true of the Scottish Courts Service – eager to keep the open wallet policy of throwing cash at the judiciary out of the headlines.

But, there was Freedom of Information – a tool to be used by all – media and public alike – to break the secrecy of our public institutions no matter how high up the ladder they regard themselves.

Compared to England & Wales – where the judiciary were required to publish their expenses claims and had done so for many years, going that little bit further in Scotland appeared almost impossible, with the resistance encountered from public bodies responsible for  the figures.

The more resistance, the more suspicion there was … something to hide.

On top of judicial salaries in 2010 – around £6.1 million, the judges were topping up their positions with cumulative expenses claims of £200K.

Admittedly perhaps not in the Westminster Parliament’s expenses fiddling league – but getting there – if left secretive and unchecked.

However, once told of the queries – Lord Hamilton – the top man – was having none of it – and the Scottish Courts Service were ordered to make the figures public on a rolling basis – every quarter.

And since 2010, on a more often than not regular basis, the public are able to read up on how much Scotland’s eerily secretive, not-very-diverse-or-representative-of-the-wider-community judges plunder from the public purse by clicking here: Judiciary of Scotland – Judicial Expenses Claims

In one quarter alone this year – from 1 April to 31 June, our Court of Session Senators on salaries of up to £225K a year – claimed a whopping £17,331.57 extra in expenses.

Lord Carloway – who is otherwise occupied in fighting proposals before the Scottish Parliament to create an even greater and more effective level of transparency – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary – claimed £1315.66 expenses in the last quarter available.

Lady Dorrian – The Lord Justice Clerk – claimed a mere £338, Lady Smith – £176.55. Lady A Carmichael- £121. Lord Kinclaven claimed a whopping £6,195.35 – most of which falls under the heading of “accommodation and subsistence”. Lord Brailsford required £14.85 from the public purse – the same judge whose name appears on the title deeds of the Laigh Hall – as a “trustee” for the Faculty of Advocates who swiped it from public ownership. Lord Matthews claimed £308.70. Lord Pentland claimed £385.86. Lady Stacey claimed £741.50. Lord Tyree claimed £490.52. Lord Stewart claimed £3,990.75. Lord Burns claimed £103.80.Lord Armstrong claimed £2,709.50. and Lady Rae claimed £439.53. Bringing a grand total of £17,331.57 for a mere three months work for a handful of judges.

It’s a tough life being a Senator of the Court of Session.

All that jet setting, sitting in court, gatherings with the legal crowd at taxpayers expense. resisting declaring their interests.

A tough life indeed – but at least Lord Hamilton allowed the media and the public the chance to peer a little deeper into how our cash flowed out on judicial jet set junkets and judicial expenses claims.

Since retiring as Lord President, Lord Hamilton now serves on the supplementary panel of the United Kingdom Supreme Court (UKSC).

Additionally, from April 2015 – the former Lord President now holds a position on the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre – where big business can confront each other over – as the title suggests – disputes.

The Qatar International Court (QIC) is based in Doha, Qatar. The Court’s mission statement from their website states: “To provide a world-class international court and dispute resolution Centre that will maintain the highest ethical standards, act in accordance with internationally recognized best practices and deliver justice fairly and efficiently with a firm commitment to upholding the Rule of Law.”

The court is led by QIC President, The Rt. Hon. The Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers – former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales who served as President of the Supreme Court of the UK from 2009 to 2012.

Appointed along with Lord Hamilton was Edwin Glasgow QC from England, Gopal Subramaniam from India and Justice Laurence Li, a former supplementary judge of the Qatar International Court, from Hong Kong.

The QIC comprises the QFC Civil and Commercial Court and the QFC Regulatory Tribunal established pursuant to QFC Law No 7 of 2005, as amended by QFC Law No 14 of 2009. The QIC has internationally renowned judges with expertise in complex commercial disputes and serves to uphold the rule of law, applying the highest quality international legal standards to civil and commercial disputes between individuals and business entities operating both in and outside the QFC.

Readers will be familiar with Lord Brian Gill’s five day state visit to Qatar LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree.

Gill took the junket in preference to appearing before the Scottish Parliament to give evidence on A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

 

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SUPREME, LORD: Scotland’s ex top judge Brian Gill who opposed Holyrood on judicial transparency & judges’ interests register – joins subs bench of UK Supreme Court

Lording it – Brian Gill moves to London. SCOTLAND’S former top judge – Lord Brian Gill who surprised the Scots legal world with the announcement of his sudden retirement in May 2015 – has been appointed to the supplementary panel of judges of the UK Supreme Court.

The UK Supreme Court today confirmed the appointment of Lord Gill to the panel of supplementary judges who sit on the London based UK Supreme Court.

A UKSC spokesperson said: “The supplementary panel on which Lord Gill is now a member has only been called upon once or twice in the last legal year. “

He added: “It is quite rare for the UKSC to invite Acting Justices to sit.”

Earlier this year, Brian Gill was invited to join the supplementary panel of judges – which can be called upon by the President of the Supreme Court to sit on specific cases where necessary.

The legislative framework for ‘Acting Justices’ on the UK Supreme Court states a person who holds the office of a senior territorial judge can be invited to act as a judge of the court at the request of the President of the Supreme Court. The legislative framework & conditions for such appointments is here: Acting judges & supplementary panel of UK Supreme Court

Now a UKSC supplementary judge – Brian Gill (73) – who became Scotland’s longest serving judge – served a short three year term as Lord President.

Gill unexpectedly stood down from the role as head of Scotland’s judiciary after waging  a bitter two year battle with the Scottish Parliament over plans to create a register of interests for judges – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

The judicial transparency petition which enjoys cross party support – has been the subject of a two year investigation by Holyrood and proposes 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.

Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali gave the judicial transparency proposal her full backing.

During the evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013 – Moi Ali provided a first hand, honest and highly detailed account of the workings of Scotland’s judiciary and lack of judicial transparency & accountability.

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

Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill did not take kindly to the transparency proposal – or the public debate around openness and accountability of the judiciary.

Gill branded the media & court users as “aggressive” and demanded judges be allowed to keep their wealth and connections to big business – a secret.

Lord Gill then refused two invitations to appear before MSPs to face questions on his hostility towards judicial transparency.

The top judge – who took increasingly aggressive positions in his hard line letters to Holyrood – also hinted he may have to reconsider how judges interact with the Scottish Parliament and claimed loopholes in the Scotland Act prevented elected politicians from calling judges to account over their hidden interests.

Previous Lord President & Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton – who was highly respected while in the role as Scotland’s top judge – joined the UKSC supplementary panel after his retirement as Lord President in 2012. Lord Hamilton has not yet sat on the panel.

In stark comparison to Lord Gill’s anti-judicial transparency policy, Lord President Lord Hamilton moved to increase transparency around judicial expenses & travel during 2010 after law journalists from Diary of Injustice – the previous version of this law blog – submitted freedom of information requests asking for judicial expenses (routinely published in England & Wales) to be made available in Scotland.

The FOI request was made to the Scottish Courts Service under the then Lord President Lord Hamilton – after the Scottish Government denied any figures existed for judicial expenses.

Some weeks after the DOI report on judicial expenses, featured in August 2010 – expenses claims of high earning Scots judges rake in at least £78K in ‘travel’ claims, Lord Hamilton amended Scottish Courts policy to publish judicial expenses figures on a quarterly basis.

The welcome move by Lord Hamilton was featured in a further article here: Part-time Sheriffs beat full-time colleagues & senior judges in expenses claims as Scots judiciary finally publish judicial expenses online.

TOP JUDGE WHO SAID NO TO TRANSPARENCY & SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT:

Scotland’s top judge Lord President Lord Brian Gill fiercely opposes calls for any form of transparency & public accountability of the judiciary and Scotland’s Courts.

Over the course of nearly two years, Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill waged an aggressive campaign against a Scottish Parliament investigation into calls for a register of judicial interests. The register proposal would reveal the judiciarys’ vast personal, undeclared wealth, extensive family and business connections throughout the legal profession, links to big business, offshore trusts & investments, ownership of numerous and high value properties through a variety of ‘creative’ arrangements, directorships, shareholdings, and even unpublished criminal records of members of the judiciary.

Lord Gill refused at least two invitations to appear before the Scottish Parliament to give evidence and face questions on his opposition to the proposal to create a register of judicial interests. The top judge has also used the Scotland Act as a loophole to avoid further scrutiny on the matter.

Lord Gill’s challenge to MSPs declared judicial opposition to transparency. In Lord Gill’s opening letter to MSPs on the call for a register of judicial interests, the judge claimed “In practical terms it would be impossible for all judicial office holders to identify all the interests that could conceivably arise in any future case. The terms of the Judicial Oath and the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics ensure that such a difficulty does not arise and that the onus is on the judicial office holder to declare any interest at the outset.”

In what was a hint of the sheer hostility felt by the judiciary against a call to bring transparency to judges interests, Lord Gill went onto accuse the media, press, litigants, court users and just about everyone else with an interest in transparency of being potentially hostile and aggressive, simply because someone may wish to raise questions of judges interests similar to the same kinds of questions which are raised of interests in other public officials and those in public life, politics & government.

And, if MSPs were unsure of the depth of Lord Gill’s attitude towards transparency, the top judge went on to refuse to appear before the Scottish Parliament, and used a loophole in the Scotland Act to justify his sweeping declaration he did not require to answer questions from Scotland’s democratically elected politicians.

Lord Gill’s use of Scotland Act against MSPs was reported in the media. Writing in a letter to msps, Lord Gill implied cooperation with Parliament would be withdrawn over calls to make judges more transparent in register : “Section 23(7) of the Scotland Act provides inter alia that the Parliament may not require a judge to attend its proceedings for the purposes of giving evidence. This is not a loophole. It is a necessary part of the constitutional settlement by which the Parliament is established. Its purpose is to protect the independence of the judiciary, a vital constitutional principle that is declared in section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008”

The judge continued: “When a committee invites a judge to give evidence before it, I have to decide whether the subject matter might infringe the principle of judicial independence; and whether the evidence required could be satisfactorily given in writing.”

As  Scotland’s top judge continued to oppose the creation of a register of interests, MSPs held a debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on Thursday 7 October 2014, which saw cross party support for the proposal. MSPs overwhelmingly supported motion S4M-11078 – in the name of Public Petitions Convener David Stewart MSP on petition PE1458, urging the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a register of interests for judges.

The parliamentary debate was reported along with  video footage & the official record, here: Debating the Judges & here : Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Justice Diary 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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As crooked as bankers & lawyers : No requirement for Judges to disclose criminality, tax dodging or corruption says the Judicial Office for Scotland

Courts Judges Scotland montageJudges claim public have no right to know of Judicial corruption, tax fiddles or criminal records. SCOTTISH JUDGES have NO REQUIREMENT to disclose any criminal charges or convictions, allegations of corrupt made against them, their business & financial affairs which in some cases appear to constitute tax dodging schemes, or associations with well known gangsters, said the Judicial Office for Scotland in response to queries made by Diary of Injustice as part of an ongoing investigation into corrupt practices in Scotland’s ‘untouchable’ & unaccountable judiciary. The refusal was handed down during the final days of Lord Hamilton’s tenure as Lord President.

In response to a Freedom of Information Request, the Head of Strategy & Governance for the Judicial Office for Scotland pointedly REFUSED to provide any details of information disclosing whether any members of the judiciary in Scotland have declared or informed the Scottish Court Service in the past three years of :

Any offshore investments,

Unrecorded cash transactions,

Payments for outside work,

Any application of “tax efficient” schemes to avoid paying taxes,

Associations or meetings with convicted criminals,

Vehicle accidents,  criminal charges, or being interviewed by Police.

The reasons given by the Judicial Office for refusing to disclose key details on what Scots judges are getting up to, are that much of the information requested is held by an ‘arms length body’ created by the Scottish Court Service which holds such information on behalf of the Lord President, rather than passing it directly to him.

Judicial Office for Scotland refusal to disclose criminal records etc of judgesExcuses, Excuses … The Judicial Office said : The Judicial Office for Scotland was established by the Scottish Court Service to provide administrative support to the Lord President in the discharge of his non-judicial functions as head of the judiciary in Scotland. Such information as may be generated in that context, including any information of the nature requested by you and which may be in the possession of the Judiciary Office for Scotland is generated for and held by the Judicial Office for the purposes of the Lord President and in our opinion falls within section 3(2)(a()(i) of the 2002 Act, i.e. held on behalf of another person. I therefore advise you that the information is not held by the Scottish Court Service. I refer you to section 17 of the 2002 Act. Your request for information in the terms outlined above is accordingly refused.

A senior freedom of information campaigner compared this arrangement to a tax avoidance scheme. He said : “One branch of the courts is holding the information on behalf of another so the other is allowed to claim he knows nothing about it. Is this the kind of honesty or transparency we are supposed to expect from our judges ?”

And, even in the face of recent coverage where it was revealed a Scottish Judge was charged with being a BENEFITS CHEAT, the Judicial Office for Scotland also argued there was sufficient regulations in place via a Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics, a code which one whistleblower has told Diary of Injustice “is a joke”. It was also agued that the Lord President, who earns almost double the salary of the Prime Minister, is conveniently excluded from Freedom of Information legislation.

The Judicial Office continued : The Lord President has issued a Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary and has made Complaints About the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2011. However the Lord President is not a public authority for the purposes of the 2002 Act. Accordingly he is not required by law to provide information in terms of that Act.

As part of an ongoing investigation into Scotland’s judiciary, Diary of Injustice has featured several reports on cover ups, tax dodging, benefits cheating and sex scandal within the Scottish Judiciary, all which have been kept secret from the public. Information uncovered by Diary of Injustice, despite a lack of a judicial register of interests revealed a number of Scottish Judges who can earn up to £200K a year have been investigated & charged with, or have PLED GUILTY to a string of CRIMINAL CHARGES while at least one other judge has been charged with BENEFITS FRAUD.

Further enquiries saw Scotland’s Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) forced into disclosing data via Freedom of Information requests submitted by Diary of Injustice which can be viewed in an earlier report here : CAREER CROOKED : Investigation reveals Scottish judges are CONVICTED CRIMINALS, Drunk Drivers,Tax Dodgers & alleged BENEFITS CHEATS.

Disclosures from the Crown Office relating to judges criminal convictions can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges. A further report focussing on the refusal to identify any of the judges concerned features here : ALL THE LORD PRESIDENT’S MEN : Benefits cheats, drunk drivers & tax dodgers, yet identities of convicted Scottish judges to remain secret for now

The ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into members of Scotland’s judiciary has already revealed a series of judges appear to be involved in OFFSHORE TAX AVOIDANCE schemes, associations with convicted criminals & organised crime, prostitution rackets, accepting hospitality & payments from well known corrupt solicitors representing dodgy law firms while others on the bench are engaging in questionable investments & duties which appear to be in conflict with their positions as members of the judiciary. More on these findings can be read in an earlier article here : Offshore trusts, property holdings, insurance syndicates, hospitality from dodgy lawyers, yet no plans for a register of interests for Scottish judges

As there is no Judicial Register of Interests in Scotland at this time, there are little if no requirements for judges to disclose their criminal records or dodgy financial interests. However, a public petition has been filed with the Scottish Parliament on this matter, now being addressed by other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand who are moving ahead with a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.

More on the petition for a register of interests of Scotland’s judges can be read here : JUDGE OUR JUDGES : Petition seeks ‘judicial transparency’, asks Westminster require judiciary to ‘declare all’ to a Register of Interests and an update later next week will feature the terms of the Holyrood petition.

In an update to the ongoing investigation, Diary of Injustice has been made aware of some efforts underway to streamline the tax arrangements of certain members of Scotland’s judiciary while in another area a law firm has reported at least one member of the judiciary has asked for ‘alternative arrangements for remuneration’ for work including speeches he has undertaken for several unnamed Scottish law firms. As this clearly amounts to an effort to dodge compliance with even the current ‘standard’ of ethics for Scottish judges, more headlines are expected to follow.

Perhaps Scotland’s new Lord President, Lord Gill, will take a different approach from his predecessor Lord Hamilton, and swiftly enact a full register of judicial interests, as Holyrood is now being asked to consider.

 

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Vested interests ‘run Scotland’s courts’ as judges rule £90K & £120K civil jury awards over accident deaths ‘were excessive’

Lord_Hamilton_03Decision to ‘guide’ juries on civil awards shows vested interests have free run of our courts. A RULING in Scotland’s Court of Session by a five judge bench under the retiring Lord President, Lord Hamilton that damages awards made by civil juries to relatives of two people killed in separate accidents ‘were excessive and the claims should be heard again’ will prove to many that vested interests of professions, big business & insurance firms have the ability to skew justice in their favour in Scotland’s courts. The ruling, made earlier this week is seen by some as the thin end of the wedge to ending civil juries in damages awards in Scotland’s courts are over ‘paltry’ sums which not even a Banker would accept as a bonus or a judge would accept as an annual salary or retirement pension..

Previously, civil juries at the court of Session had found negligence on the part of the defenders had caused the deaths, where in the first case, KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender: jurors awarded Kirsty Hamilton £120,000 after her mother, Caroline (aged 50) died in a road traffic accident when her car was crushed by a lorry near Fort William. Ms Hamilton was 17 at the time of her mother’s death. In the second case,  GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender, Dennis Thomson, was awarded £90,000 by a civil jury for the death of his son James, then aged 26, who died in an accident on a building site. Mr Thomson senior was 57 at the time of his son’s death.

However, the five judge bench – Lord Eassie, Lord Clarke, Lord Emslie, Lord Brodie and Lord Hamilton who heard the appeals of the companies previously found to be liable for the cause of the two fatalities, have now decided the compensation claims of the relatives should be heard again, and this time, the jurors should be given “guidance” from the presiding judge in assessing damages, with the judge suggesting a spectrum in which the award might lie.

The implication of the judges decision is that any further awards made in the cases should be much less than originally made by the earlier jury, leading many to conclude that vested interests are controlling the Scottish courts and the public’s access to justice.

In a telling excerpt from the opinion of the court, Lord Hamilton, sounding more like he was more concerned with curtailing publicity & growing enquiries over the disparity of justice where the amount of financial awards made by judges in damages actions without juries are falling well short of awards made in cases where a civil jury has made it’s decision, said : “If greater regard than hitherto is not had by judges to jury awards then the disparity between the judicial and jury awards is likely to remain.” Lord Hamilton went onto claim such a “state of affairs which lacks the consistency which is one of the hallmarks of a mature system”

The now retired Lord President commented that the absence of directions about sums awarded in similar cases by a civil jury, as opposed to that awarded by a judge was a “less than satisfactory aspect of civil jury trials”. Lord Hamilton went onto say it was time “to set a framework for civil juries against which they can address levels of damages”which may easily be interpreted as an attempt to deprive a civil jury from making any kind of award which does not sit easily with a judge, or the vested interests of insurers & big business.

Lord Hamilton suggested several ways to address the disparities between awards made by judges & civil juries in Scotland’s Courts, saying : “The objective must now be to seek to narrow that disparity and to eliminate, in so far as practical, that lack of consistency. That can be done by three measures: first, by judges, sitting alone or in the Inner House, having significantly more regard to available jury awards (particularly where they demonstrate a pattern); secondly, by juries being given by the presiding judge fuller guidance than hitherto as to the level of damages which, consistently with other cases, might reasonably be awarded by them; and, thirdly, by appellate courts continuing to intervene, where necessary, on comparative justice grounds as envisaged under statute since 1815. This is a process which will take time and experience to mature.”

In what some may interpret as comments intended to stave off any intervention by the Scottish Parliament (similar to the asbestos damages bill) to remedy what many will perceive as a huge injustice in the cases of the deaths of the two persons, Lord Hamilton wrote in his opinion : “There is no reason to suppose that Parliament intended that awards by juries should have priority over awards by judges – or vice versa. Judicial and jury awards give different but complementary guidance for what is a just award of damages. In an age when life may be thought to be more precious than it may have been thought to be by earlier generations, and where consequentially the loss of the life of a close relative may seem a greater loss than it might have seemed earlier, the input of jury awards, reflective of the views of the community, may, in death cases, be particularly important.”

Lord Hamilton continued : “While awards made by juries without the benefit of judicial guidance may be at greater risk of being arbitrary or of having been influenced by illegitimate factors, those made with that (non-prescriptive) benefit are likely to be a valuable source for assessment in future cases. As to the second element, some suggestions are made below (para [76]) as to what procedural arrangements might be put in hand. The objective should be to eliminate, or at least reduce, the disparity between judicial and jury awards while at the same time securing that “awards … in comparable cases … bear a coherent relationship with each other” (Girvan, per Lord Clyde at page 25). If that objective is achieved, then parties whose disputes over damages are litigated can be better satisfied that they have had a fair trial – whether the adjudicating body is a judge or a jury.”

The size of the awards made by the civil juries in Scottish courts may surprise international readers, particularly those from the United States where awards in similar cases would normally run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars. However, Scotland’s justice system has yet to catch up, if ever, with other jurisdictions who allow greater access to justice to victims of injustice, rather than what is seen as the regular influence of vested interests in Scotland’s courts which limits justice, and punishment over the loss of loved ones, to what amounts to little more than a few pennies after legal fees are paid.

As as happened in so many cases before in Scotland’s courts, bankers, politicians and judges can expect bigger bonuses & retirement pensions than any relative can expect via a future award made by a judge or civil jury in a case in a Scottish court.

The full details of the opinion can be read here :  CSIH 52 PD2039/09 and PD1444/09 OPINION OF THE LORD PRESIDENT in motions for new trials in causis (1) KIRSTY MAY HAMILTON Pursuer and Respondent; against FERGUSON TRANSPORT (SPEAN BRIDGE) LTD Applicant and Defender and (2) GILBERT DENNIS THOMSON Pursuer and Respondent; against DENNIS THOMSON BUILDERS LTD Applicant and Defender

Of note is the inclusion in the hearing of counsel from the Scottish Government Legal Directorate appearing for Scottish Ministers.

BBC News reported on the case here : Awards in Highland and Shetland accidents ‘excessive’ judges rule

 

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A NEW HOPE : Scotland’s “Victorian” Justice system makes way for reforming judge as Lord Gill is appointed new Lord President of Scots judiciary

Lord Brian GillLord Brian Gill, author of Civil Courts Review is Scotland’s new top judge. LORD BRIAN GILL, who as Lord Justice Clerk, authored the highly critical CIVIL COURTS REVIEW report of 2009 which condemned Scotland’s Civil justice system as a “Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms” has been appointed today as Scotland’s new Lord President, replacing the retiring Lord Hamilton who has held the position since December 2005. The news of Lord Gill’s appointment has been widely welcomed by campaigners for reform of Scotland’s antiquated & ailing courts & justice system which the new Lord President has previously said ‘fails litigants & fails society’.

The announcement of Lord Gill’s appointment was made earlier this morning by First Minister Alex Salmond, who issued a statement welcoming the appointment by Her Majesty the Queen of The Rt Hon Lord Gill as Scotland’s new Lord President. Lord Gill replaces the Rt Hon Lord Hamilton who retires on 8 June.

Mr Salmond commented that Lord Gill was an outstanding individual who would lead Scotland’s judiciary with independence and integrity and had a clear vision for the continued modernisation of the Scottish courts. Mr Salmond said : “I warmly welcome the appointment of The Rt Hon Lord Gill as Scotland’s new Lord President. His commitment to reform and modernisation is clear and under his leadership I am confident there will be substantial improvements to the justice system. He is an individual of great stature and integrity and in leading Scotland’s judiciary will enjoy the respect and confidence of those around him.”

The First Minister continued : “I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Lord Hamilton for his leadership over the last few years in establishing the new role of the Lord President and the new governance arrangements for the Scottish Court Service. The changes introduced by the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act were of considerable constitutional significance, and their successful introduction will stand as a testament to his period in office.”

Lord Gill is Scotland’s longest serving judge. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and lectured in the Faculty of Law of Edinburgh University before being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1967. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981. He is a member of the English Bar (Lincoln’s Inn, 1991; Bencher 2002); an advocate depute 1977-1979; Standing Junior Counsel to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1974-1977), the Home Office (1979-1981) and the Scottish Education Department (1979-1981); and Deputy Chairman of the Copyright Tribunal (1989-1994).

He was appointed a Judge in 1994 and Lord Justice Clerk in 2001. Lord Gill is Chairman of the Lands Valuation Appeal Court and was Chairman of the Scottish Law Commission from 1996 to 2001. In 2008, he was appointed by the UK and Scottish Governments to Chair the Public Inquiry into the fatal explosion in 2004 at the ICL factory in Glasgow. Lord Gill was also Chairman of the Scottish Civil Courts Review (2007-2009). He is Chairman of the Council of the Royal School of Church Music and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. In 2011, Lord Gill was awarded a Papal Knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

The salary of the Lord President is £214,165 per annum and the salary of a Senator is £172,753 per annum.

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland was established by Ministers in 2002 and it became an independent advisory non-departmental public body on June 1, 2009. The Board has statutory responsibilities under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008. The Board’s role is to recommend for appointment to the office of judge, sheriff principal, sheriff and part-time sheriff. The First Minister retains the statutory responsibility for making nominations to Her Majesty the Queen. The First Minister is required by statute to consult the Lord President of the Court of Session before making his nomination to Her Majesty.

The process of selection for the Lord President is set out in the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 (“the 2008 Act”). In line with those provisions the First Minister established a panel of 4 people and invited them to recommend individuals suitable for appointment. The panel was chaired by Sir Muir Russell (Chair of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland) and also comprised the Rt Hon Lord Hardie and the Hon Lady Dorrian (senators of the Court of Session) and Professor Coyle (a lay member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland).

OUTGOING LORD PRESIDENT LORD HAMILTON :

Lord HamiltonScotland’s outgoing Lord President. Lord Hamilton’s term as Lord President has seen some change in the courts system, and also conflict with the Crown Office’s persistent court failures where, in the case of the collapse of the World’s End murder trial World’s End murder trial, Lord Hamilton accused the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini (nee McPhilomy) of undermining the independence of Scotland’s judiciary after she addressed the Scottish Parliament stating she was disappointed with the trial judge Lord Clarke’s ruling  there was insufficient evidence for the jury to convict and threw the case out. The rift over the World’s End case between Lord Hamilton & the now former Lord Advocate Angiolini, who among her now many roles acts as a Ministerial complaints adviser to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, was reported by Scottish Law Reporter HERE.

Among other developments, including the publication of judge’s expenses after Diary of Injustice gained sight of judicial expenses claims via Freedom of Information legislation, Lord Hamilton also oversaw the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts system, although the implementation and the mass of rules, including a ban on any remuneration paid to those acting as McKenzie Friends in Scotland has somewhat limited their effectiveness. Coverage of issues involving the outgoing Lord President Lord Hamilton can be viewed HERE

SCOTS JUDGE DISATTISFIED WITH VICTORIAN JUSTICE & COURTS SYSTEM

Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference in 2009, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

Readers can download the Civil Courts Review report in pdf format, from the Scottish Courts Website at the following links : Volume 1 Chapter 1 – 9 (Covers McKenzie Friends, procedures, advice etc, 2.99Mb) Volume 2 Chapter 10 – 15 (Covers mainly the issue of Class (multi party) actions etc, 2.16Mb) Synopsis (215Kb)

Diary of Injustice coverage of the Civil Courts Review from its publication to the present, and the pace of reforms to civil justice in Scotland can be found here : Civil Courts Review – The story so far

 

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ALL THE LORD PRESIDENT’S MEN : Benefits cheats, drunk drivers & tax dodgers, yet identities of convicted Scottish judges to remain secret for now

Courts Judges Scotland montageProsecutors & Lord President refuse to identify colleagues convicted of criminal offences. AN ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into the backgrounds of Sheriffs, High Court Judges & Senators of the Court of Session which has already revealed at least SEVEN Scottish judges have CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS for road traffic offences while others face charges involving BENEFITS FRAUD, featured in the Scottish newspapers earlier this week where msps including the Scottish National Party’s John Finnie, joined calls for the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) to identify the alleged benefits cheating judge, along with the remaining members of Scotland’s judiciary who are now known to have criminal convictions even though the Lord Advocate has claimed it is not in the public interest to release the identities of Scotland’s criminally convicted judges.

The investigation into judges backgrounds which has already turned up shifty relationships with criminal gangs, law firms who have serially defrauded clients on a massive scale, dodgy financial institutions, insurance companies convicted of criminal offences in foreign jurisdictions & other ‘vested interests’, both within the UK & in offshore tax havens, has now uncovered evidence of further cases where members of Scotland’s judiciary were interviewed by Police under caution yet were not charged despite the seriousness of some of the alleged offences ranging from assaulting wives or partners, to making threats against members of the public, and in at least one case, straying too close to an organised crime gang based in Glasgow.

Since the revelations were exclusively reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper last week and followed up by the Daily Record on Monday, further information has been provided to Diary of Injustice alleging at least one High Court judge was interviewed under Police caution in connection with liaisons with prostitutes & fears he may have strayed too close to organised crime gangs. No charges appear to have been made in the case and the judge was apparently allowed to retire and keep his substantial pension.

A legal insider told Diary of Injustice “…there is now concern within the Crown Office of accused persons or those already convicted of criminal offences may use the information to find out whether the judge at their trial has an undisclosed criminal record”. It has also been indicated to Diary of Injustice journalists that there is a strong possibility sheriffs found guilty of drink driving & road traffic offences have pronounced guilt on members of the public charged with similar offences.

The original disclosure from the Crown Office, released late in 2011 relating to the criminal convictions of members of Scotland’s judiciary stated :

COPFS CRIMINAL CHARGES JUDGES SCOTLAND• 3 contraventions of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, section 89 – all pled guilty – sentences of £120 and 4 penalty points; £400 and 6 penalty points and £140 and 3 penalty points.

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 143 with an alternative charge of a contravention of section 165 of that Act – pled guilty to the alternative charge – sentence of £100

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 5(1)(a) – pled guilty – sentence of £650 and disqualification from driving for 2 years

• 1 contravention of the Road Traffic Act 1988, section 3 – pled guilty – sentence of £200 and 4 penalty points

• 1 contravention of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, section 111A(1)(a) – plea of not guilty has been entered and the case is presently ongoing

However, the Crown Office REFUSED to release any further information on the cases, citing fears the public may be able to speculate on the nature & seriousness of the allegations & criminal charges made against the judges who Scotland’s prosecutors are increasingly relying on to hand down verdicts in cases where the Crown Office fails to present accurate or substantive evidence against accused.

Speaking for the Crown Office, Mr McGeechan continued : “The courts have indicated that the most important safeguard in that regard is an absolute guarantee against publication. In particular, I consider that the details of charges contained within a report to the Procurator Fiscal from the police or other reporting agency are not necessarily a reflection of any charges which the Procurator Fiscal may bring or deem appropriate and to release these to the public could cause speculation over an allegation without it having been tested in open court. Having considered the circumstances of this particular case, I have come to the conclusion that the public interest falls overwhelmingly in maintaining the exemptions in this instance.”

Mr McGeechan also admitted in one of the cases where ANOTHER judge had been charged with committing a criminal offence, there was “insufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings”, a term now familiar in Scotland where members of the justice system appear to have escaped criminal proceedings on multiple occasions after ‘Crown Counsel” gave their usual ‘independent instructions’ not to proceed like in the case of the FOURTEEN LAWYERS who were not prosecuted for millions of pounds worth of LEGAL AID FRAUD after Crown Counsel gave similar instructions claiming a lack of evidence to prosecute.

The Crown Office were forced to admit : “The one case that was not prosecuted, having carefully considered the facts and circumstances of this case, Crown Counsel gave an independent instruction that there was insufficient admissible evidence to justify criminal proceedings.”

The information disclosed by the Crown Office, which can be viewed online here : Crown Office : Criminal Charges against Scottish Judges while the ongoing investigation by Diary of Injustice into members of Scotland’s judiciary has already revealed a series of judges appear to be involved in OFFSHORE TAX AVOIDANCE schemes, associations with convicted criminals & organised crime, prostitution rackets, accepting hospitality & payments from well known corrupt solicitors representing dodgy law firms while others on the bench are engaging in questionable investments & duties which appear to be in conflict with their positions as members of the judiciary. More on these findings can be read in an earlier article here : Offshore trusts, property holdings, insurance syndicates, hospitality from dodgy lawyers, yet no plans for a register of interests for Scottish judges

The Judiciary of Scotland were also asked, via Freedom of Information legislation for more details about the convictions, and what steps were taken after the judges joined the ranks of Scotland’s criminal fraternity, however the Judicial Office for Scotland claimed that as they held the information for the Lord President who is not accountable to FOI, they were not required to disclose it.

The Judicial Office for Scotland stated : “As far as your request for information relating to disciplinary measures taken against members of the Scottish judiciary is concerned, I can confirm that the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 places a number of responsibilities on the Lord President as head of the Scottish judiciary including responsibility for matters regarding judicial conduct. In that regard the Lord President has issued a Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics for the Scottish Judiciary and has made Complaints About the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2011 both of which can be accessed at http://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk. However, the Lord President is not a public authority for the purposes of the 2002 Act. Accordingly he is not required by law to provide information in terms of that Act.”

The Judicial Office continued to evade disclosing the identities of the judges, stating further : “The Judicial Office for Scotland was established by the Scottish Court Service to provide administrative support to the Lord President in the discharge of his non-judicial functions as head of the judiciary in Scotland. Such information as is generated in that context including both matters regarding judicial conduct and matters relating to the type of criminal offences described above and which is in the possession of the Judicial Office for Scotland is generated for and held by the Judicial Office for the purposes of the Lord President and in our opinion falls within section 3(2)(a)(i) of the 2002 Act, i.e. held on behalf of another person. I therefore advise you that this information is not held by the Scottish Court Service. I refer you to section 17 of the 2002 Act. Your request for information regarding disciplinary measures about particular members of the Scottish judiciary is accordingly refused.”

The Judicial Office for Scotland also claimed the cost of locating, retrieving and producing the information sought would exceed the sum prescribed by Scottish Ministers in the Freedom of Information (Fees for Required Disclosure) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (currently £600) and would therefore not be providing any further information on the judges criminal records.

The Judicial Office for Scotland, who are the representative body for Scotland’s judges and the Lord President himself, Lord Hamilton, were asked for comment on the revelations. No response has been received at time of publication.

The Crown Office was also asked for a statement on whether it would now name & shame the judges who were convicted of criminal offences, including cheating the benefits system. No response has been received. However it has been disclosed by legal insiders that “angry discussions” have taken place over the disclosure of the information relating to the criminal records of Scottish judges.

The Scottish Government were asked for comment, however no statement has been issued.

The Scottish Court Service were asked for comment on the issue, however they refused to be drawn into the scandal, saying : “As matters of judicial conduct are for the Lord President, the Scottish Court Service cannot offer comment.”

The new problems of Scotland’s judges with criminal records come after a series of scandals in the judiciary, dating back many years where in the late 1980’s, Lothian & Borders Police accused senior members of Scotland’s judiciary of being involved in a “Magic Circle” justice for sexual favours scandal, more of which can be read on Scottish Law Reporter, here : Magic Circle returns to haunt Scots Judiciary

Scotland’s judges again found themselves the centre of attention a few years later when a top High Court judge, Sheriff Andrew Lothian resigned after a scandal involving trips to massage parlours. It also transpired the now former Sheriff’s ex wife had made serious allegations to Lothian & Borders Police & the Crown Office over several years, yet prosecutors had failed to act, some now claim on orders from the most senior levels of Scotland’s legal establishment who “were fully aware of Sheriff Lothian’s activities at the time”. More on the antics of Sheriff Lothian can be read via the Sunday Mail newspaper here : HERE & HERE & the story from the Sheriff’s former wife, at the Sun newspaper, HERE

Since then, a series of judges have featured in media reports where in one case, a Sheriff attended a wedding of a fugitive drug runner, while another Sheriff faced difficult questions over his relationships with murder victim Angelika Kluk, who died in 2006 Glasgow at the hands of Peter Tobin, who was convicted of the murder in 2007.

Robert Anthony, a serving Scottish Sheriff reluctantly quit in 2010, after being found charged with drink driving offences, reported by the Daily Record HERE. Sheriff Anthony, 48, was alleged to have been almost three times the limit when he was breath-tested.He was suspended from duty in his Glasgow courtroom pending the outcome of the case but resigned ahead of an expected court appearance which resulted in a two year ban, reported by BBC News HERE.

The Sunday Mail & Daily Record reports on convicted members of Scotland’s judiciary :

Judge convicted of fraud Sunday Mail March 11 2012MYSTERY OF JUDGE CONVICTED OF FRAUD

Crown Office refuse to identify judge convicted of benefit fraud

Mar 11 2012 Exclusive by Russell Findlay

A JUDGE has been convicted of benefit fraud – but his or her name is being kept secret. The Crown Office are even refusing to say if the fraudster is a High Court judge, sheriff or justice of the peace.

Legal campaigner and blogger Peter Cherbi discovered he or she was one of six judges convicted of crimes since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one admitted fiddling benefits while he or she passed judgment on other criminals. Officials also refuse to reveal how much was stolen or where the fraud took place. The mystery judge was convicted under section 111A(1)(a) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

While this identity is protected, the Crown Office have issued two press releases in the past four months naming others convicted under exactly the same section. One of them, who asked not to be identified, said: “My name, date of birth and where I’m from are online. “It was wrong but it is even more important for the public to know about a judge convicted of the same fraud.”

Labour justice spokesman Lewis Macdonald MSP said: “I would have thought the same rules should apply for members of the public and judges.”

The Crown Office keep a “hard copy file” of the six but say keeping the details secret is in the “public interest”.

Cherbi said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record – that’s in the public interest.” He also asked the Judicial Office of Scotland to reveal the name under freedom of information law, without success.

Pressure over Cheating Judge - Daily Record 12 March 2012PRESSURE OVER CHEATING JUDGE ;

MSP calls on Crown Office to reveal name of benefits cheat judge

Mar 12 2012 By Magnus Gardham

THE Crown Office came under fresh pressure yesterday to name a judge who has been convicted of benefit fraud. SNP MSP John Finnie, a member of Holyrood’s justice committee, added his weight to the demands for the cheating judge to be publicly identified.

It emerged at the weekend that six judges have been convicted of offences since 2005. Five were found guilty of road traffic offences but one of them admitted fiddling benefits. It is not known whether the person was a high court judge, a sheriff or a justice of the peace. Nor is it known how much cash was defrauded.

The Crown Office, who will not even confirm if the judge was male or female, insisted secrecy was “in the public interest”. But Finnie said yesterday: “The law should treat everyone equally, regardless of who they are and what they do, and this is something that should be looked into.”

The Crown Office often name and shame benefit fraudsters by issuing press releases about them. Campaigner Peter Cherbi, who uncovered the secrecy, said: “People in front of a judge should know if they have a criminal record.”

As there is no Judicial Register of Interests in Scotland at this time, there are little if no requirements for judges to disclose their criminal records or dodgy financial interests. However, a public petition has been filed with the Scottish Parliament on this matter, more of which can be read here : judicial register of interests. It is clearly time for Scotland to follow other jurisdictions around the world such as New Zealand who are moving ahead with a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.

 

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Scottish Courts remain a “Victorian”, ‘obstructive’ venue for many court users & party litigants despite small rise in ‘satisfaction survey’ results

A two percent rise in court user satisfaction masks deep concerns over poor state of Scotland’s Courts, run by body chaired by Lord President Lord Hamilton. SCOTLAND’S COURTS and the Scots justice system have been called everything from “Victorian”, “Institutionally racist”, “Institutionally sectarian”, “Institutionally corrupt”, & “Institutionally prejudiced” to name but a few of the accusations coming from all sectors of society, from court users, consumer groups and even from the most senior members of the judiciary itself. Put simply, when the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, calls the Scottish civil justice system “Victorian” and “unfit for purpose”, there is clearly something fundamentally wrong with our courts and how they handle access to justice, a seemingly ever dwindling right of Scots.

Curiously however, this is not the picture painted in the now nearly annual survey of court users carried out by the Scottish Court Service (SCS), in which their latest 2011 study released today claims a high level of “satisfaction” among court users, resting on the back of a small two per cent rise in “satisfaction” with some aspects of the Scottish Court Service. The SCS is the ‘independent’ body which runs Scotland’s courts, established by the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, governed by a Corporate Board and chaired by the Lord President, the most senior judge in Scotland.

The survey, carried out by MVA Consultancy on behalf of the Scottish Court Service shows that 83% of respondents were satisfied overall, the highest ever recorded level, and up from 81% in 2009. Levels were similar for professional and non-professional users, with 85% of professional respondents, and 82% of non-professionals, stating that they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied overall. The full survey report can be viewed online HERE with a summary HERE or downloaded from the Scottish Court website HERE

Among other findings, almost a third (31%) of respondents stated that they had travelled to court on the day of the survey as a car driver, with a further 15% stating that they were a car passenger. Over three quarters of respondents (78%) had travelled for up to 30 minutes to attend court. The majority of respondents had spoken with court staff on the day that they were surveyed, and most stated that they had found court staff to be either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ helpful (95%) and either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ polite (96%).

Less than half (46%) of all respondents stated that court staff had kept them informed about what was happening during the time they were in the court building. However, the majority of respondents (96%) who were given update information said that this information was either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ helpful. Just over half of all respondents (55%) said that they had had to wait to take part in court proceedings. Waiting times varied considerably by area.

Over half of the respondents said that they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied (52%) with their wait to take part in court proceedings. A further 19% said they were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ dissatisfied. There was a high level of satisfaction with regard to perceived safety and security, ranging from 80% for the cells to 96% for the jury room.

The main factors that appear to be driving users’ overall experience are satisfaction with court staffs’ attempts to keep respondents informed about how much longer they were likely to have to wait and satisfaction with helpfulness of the information provided by the court staff. The results from the survey compare favourably with previous years, with definite improvements in overall satisfaction over time in Lothian and Borders and the High Court and Court of Session.

Since the last survey in 2009, those questioned were more satisfied with the quality of refreshments available and the comfort and cleanliness of both court rooms and waiting areas. A high 96% found Scottish Court Service (SCS) staff polite, while 95% found SCS staff helpful. For the first time security was covered showing that most users felt safe inside Scottish court buildings, ranging from 80% of those who had been in the cells to 96% of jury room users.

Scottish Court Service Chief Executive Eleanor Emberson welcomed the results, saying, ”Achieving an 83% level of satisfaction among users is a credit to all our hard working and dedicated staff. The organisation is fully committed to a Customer Service Excellence programme as a way to develop our services to meets the needs of court users. We will use the constructive comments provided in the survey to continue this improvement.“

The Scottish Court Service has conducted satisfaction surveys with public and professional court users since 2005 although finding anyone who has participated in them has proved to be more difficult than the needle in the haystack scenario. The Scottish Court Service definition of “Court users” include all who enter or transact business within the court building and this includes for example solicitors, advocates, staff, social workers, police, jurors, witnesses, accused and members of the public including those involved in or interested in civil and criminal cases. The survey was conducted across all jurisdictions (Court of Session, High Court, Sheriff Courts and Justice of the Peace Courts).

However, satisfaction levels from growing numbers of party litigants who cannot afford or cannot obtain legal representation for a variety of reasons, do not appear to fit in with the SCS survey findings which do not give one single mention of party litigants or those who appear to be involved in some of the most complicated sectors of litigation such as negligence cases against the professions & public services. There is also no mention of McKenzie Friends, otherwise known as Lay Assistants in Scottish Courts.

In one case of a party litigant currently under investigation by Diary of Injustice, a case liable to show a distinct lack of satisfaction with the Court Service, audio recordings of conversations between court staff & the party litigant appear to show the party litigant being told not to turn up at court hearings involving a highly suspicious ‘fees recovery’ action pursued by a law firm against a former client who the law firm dropped at the last minute during a damages claim against his former employer. Yet while court staff told the now seriously ill party litigant not to show up at court, the law firm at the centre of the wrangle somehow managed to persuade a Sheriff Principal to grant their demands without any regard to a fair hearing for their former client who is now so ill he is excused by doctors from the court hearings.

Further enquiries into seven other long running cases involving party litigants in Scotland’s Court of Session & Sheriff Courts have revealed not one of the party litigants who have been involved in long and difficult legal actions in the courts were consulted by or ever encountered any survey teams acting for the Scottish Court Service.

One solicitor speaking to Diary of Injustice this afternoon said “..the survey was unlikely to restore any confidence in the Scottish courts system” which has, even in the eyes of at least some members of the judiciary, been long overdue for a complete overhaul to put the public first, instead of the professions & vested interests.

Admittedly, there are steady signs of improvement in the SCS in some quarters, where, slowly but surely, parts of the courts system is beginning to open up to reforms, some of which appear to be brought about by increased media & public scrutiny of a domain still regarded by many in the legal profession as its closed shop business window. It is a fact Diary of Injustice has over the years, seen a marked increase in the willingness of the Scottish Court Service to engage the media and public in matters where previously a wall of silence was usually practised.

However, speaking as a journalist who has covered the legal system for many years now, I think we all know Scots satisfaction with the courts system overall, has a long way to go before justice in Scotland can be deemed to be reliable, trustworthy, modern or even honest and whoever is the next Lord President must be a force for change, instead of more stagnation in Scots access to justice.

SCOTS JUDGE DISATTISFIED WITH VICTORIAN JUSTICE & COURTS SYSTEM

Lord Gill Lord Justice ClerkThe Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, author of the Civil Courts Review. The Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, in his speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference in 2009, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society. It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

 

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