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WOLFFE HALL: Edinburgh Council racks up £53K legal bill in failed bid to recover ownership of Parliament House – as papers reveal Faculty of Advocates “occupied” Laigh Hall for 150 years without recorded title deeds

Costs mount for return of Scotland’s top court buildingsAN UNSUCCESSFUL legal action by the City of Edinburgh Council to recover public ownership of Parliament House – the sprawling, high value land estate situated in Edinburgh’s old town comprising Scotland’s top court buildings – has so-far cost taxpayers £52,991 – according to figures released to the media.

The costs of legal advice and other legal services provided to the council, revealed in a Freedom of Information disclosure, list law firm Burness Paul as the largest single expense at £38,726, followed by Counsel’s fees listed as £10,620K and ‘experts’ and other professional fees reaching a total of £2,400 after VAT.

However, the council’s legal action to recover the lost titles of Parliament House – which was to be heard in the very same court buildings it had lost ownership of – was later abandoned – reported in further detail here:  WOLFFE HALL: Papers reveal Council’s legal action ‘abandoned’, £320K Faculty refurbishment of Laigh Hall.

Documents released by the Scottish Government and published by DOI revealed the then Dean of Faculty of Advocates – James Wolffe QC (now Lord Advocate) – refused to give any expectation of success on attempts by Edinburgh Council to recover public ownership of titles to Parliament House and the Laigh Hall.

In one letter dated 2 April 2015 to former Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice  Alex Neil MSP – James Wolffe told the Minister he did not object to a meeting between representatives of the City of Edinburgh Council and the Faculty of Advocates. However, Wolffe added to the same letter “At the same time I would not wish to give any expectation to you or the council as to the outcome of any discussion.”

In a separate email to a senior Scottish Government civil servant – James Wolffe added: “I am advised that the of refurbishing the Laigh Hall following the grant of title to the Faculty was £242,270 plus VAT, with professional fees of £33,537 plus VAT.”

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service also disclosed their own figures incurred following legal fees in the action against the City of Edinburgh Council regarding the titles of Parliament House, Parliament Hall and the Laigh Hall. The SCTS admitted it had incurred legal costs in respect of advice from solicitors amounted to £4,388.20 and costs of £3,980 in instructing Counsel.

The full listing of Legal Fees to City of Edinburgh Council: Parliament Hall Titles: Burness Paull 38,726.40, Charges/Diligence-Other Registers search fees 108.00, Counsel’s fees 10,620.00, Courier Charge 30.90, Court Dues 213.50, Court Officer fees 479.28, Experts/Other Professional fees 2,400.00, Registers Form Reports 60.00, Registers – Copy/Extract Dues 236.40, Registers Direct search fees 21.60, Travel Expenses 94.92, Totals £52,991.00

LAIGH HALL ‘OCCUPIED’ BY FACULTY OF ADVOCATES WITH NO RECORDED TITLES:

In a separate 47 page Freedom of Information document release by Registers of Scotland (RoS)– the body charged with registering land ownership in Scotland – several documents highlight Scottish Government civil servants scrambling to protect Ministers from questions over the titles loss in the Scottish Parliament while vested legal interests are of a clear persuasion titles should be handed over to the Faculty of Advocates.

Additionally, the position of the Faculty of Advocates in relation to their ownership claim over the Laigh Hall becomes a little clearer in a chain of correspondence from the Edinburgh law firm of Shepherd and Wedderburn to RoS, which follows on from a letter from Registers of Scotland to a law firm marked “Destroy correspondence after archive”.

In a letter dated 19 January 2006, a solicitor – David A Smith of for Shepherd & Wedderburn appears to admit the Faculty of Advocates “occupied” a key part of Parliament House known as the Laigh Hall, but held no recorded title to it.

Mr Smith writes to Registers of Scotland, stating: The Disposition by The Scottish Ministers is stated to be for no consideration, and as I indicated to you In the course of our telephone conversation, the position with regard to the Laigh Hall is that the Faculty of Advocates has occupied the Laigh Hall for approximately 150 years, and the records of the Faculty indicate that although the Faculty did not have a recorded title to the Laigh Hall, the Senior Officer Bearers of the Faculty in the Nineteenth Century were of the opinion that the Faculty had “undoubted title” to the Laigh Hall.

Parliament House Is in the course of being redeveloped by The Scottish Court Service, and in the course of the redevelopment it became clear to all concerned that The Scottish Ministers did not have a registered title to the whole of Parliament House and it was agreed in the course of discussions between The Scottish Court Service and the Faculty that The Scottish Ministers would register a title to the entire building and they would then grant the Faculty a Disposition of the Laigh Hall in order to regularise the de facto position which has applied since the mid Nineteenth Century.

In the hope that this explanation will be sufficient for your purposes, I look forward to hearing from you with a receipted Form 4 and confirmation that the Registers of Scotland will now process the Faculty’s application for registration of its interest on the back of the application which was recently submitted on behalf of The Scottish Ministers in relation to the whole of Parliament House.

The solicitor at Shepherd  & Wedderburn acting for the ‘trustee’ for the Faculty of Advocates – David A Smith, was none other than David Alexander Smith – the husband of Court of Session judge Lady Anne Smith.

After his retirement from Shepherd & Wedderburn, David Smith served a term as a board member of the Scottish legal Complaints Commission (SLCC), where he sparked findings by Kevin Dunion – the then Scottish Information Commissioner – who demanded the release of censored comments by Smith targeting victims of corrupt solicitors who came before the pro-lawyer legal regulator.

PARLIAMENT HOUSE PUBLIC OWNERSHIP TITLE SWINDLE:

Last year Diary of Injustice reported on the City of Edinburgh Council’s efforts to recover the titles to Parliament House after land reform campaigner Andy Wightman – now an MSP – revealed land titles to the buildings of Scotland’s top courts were ‘gifted’ by Scottish Ministers to the Faculty of Advocates.

A disclosure of eighty eight pages of documents released to DOI under Freedom of Information legislation – revealed at the time the Scottish Government had no plans to act over their handing over of the Parliament Hall land titles to the Faculty of Advocates.

And, throughout the documents – which contain communications between civil servants, briefings to Ministers, land reports and letters from Edinburgh City Council asking for meetings, it was clear Scottish Ministers favour leaving the titles to the nation’s top courts with the vested interests of the legal profession.

During an earlier check on the titles to the Laigh Hall – Parliament House – Queen Street – ownership stood in the name of “SIDNEY NEIL BRAILSFORD Queen’s Counsel, Treasurer of HONOURABLE THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES Edinburgh, as Trustee and in Trust for said Faculty”. Sidney Brailsford is none other than High Court Judge Lord Brailsford.

Scottish Government files reveal how court titles were handed over to advocates After a series of briefings with Ministers – involving everyone from the Lord Advocate & Solicitor General to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Minister for Legal Affairs and others, a position was adopted by Scottish Ministers “That we confirm to Council officials that it is the Scottish Government’s position that title to Parliament Hall was taken by Scottish Ministers in good faith and with the full knowledge and consent of the Council. The Scottish Court Service and Faculty of Advocates therefore have good title to the property and Ministers propose no further action.”

Lawyers for the Scottish Government also sought to distance themselves from the huge £58 million taxpayer funded spend on the Scottish Court buildings – long after titles were handed over to the advocates.

One lawyer stated in an email: “Was the PH [Parliament Hall] refurb about £60m? It went over in the SCS [Scottish Court Service] budgets I think but from my recollection of briefing on their budget it is not easily identifiable within their budget lines. So SCS [Scottish Court Service] spent the money not SG [Scottish Government]?”

In another memo, it is revealed Edinburgh City Council may be compelled to take legal action to recover the titles and details an example of how Common Good land disputes have affected legislation in the past.

As previously reported, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already given her blessing to the multi million pound title handover freebie to the Faculty of Advocates. The First Minister claimed there was “no easy solution to the issue of restoring title to the City of Edinburgh Council”. The First Minister’s response to a question from Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone during First Minister’s Questions, follows:

Parliament House handed over to Faculty of Advocates FMQ’s Nicola Sturgeon 19 February 2015

Official Report of debate: Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): It transpired this week that the 17th century old Parliament hall in Edinburgh was transferred from the collective ownership of my constituents to Scottish ministers without knowledge or recompense to the common good fund.

The City of Edinburgh Council failed in its role as steward of the fund, but is now seeking to resolve the situation. Can the First Minister assure my constituents that any requests from the council to restore ownership of that common good asset to the council will be considered seriously and favourably?

The First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon: I will briefly state the background to this issue, of which I am sure that Alison Johnstone is aware.

The Scottish Government’s position is that title to Parliament hall was taken by Scottish ministers in good faith, and that that was done with the full knowledge and consent of the council. The Scottish Courts Service and the Faculty of Advocates, therefore, have now got good title to that property.

Of course, I am more than happy to ask the relevant minister, Marco Biagi, to; meet and discuss the matter with the City of Edinburgh Council, but as far as I can see there is no fault here on the part of the Scottish Government.

Further, of course, title has since been passed on, so it may very well be that there is no easy solution to the issue of restoring title to the City of Edinburgh Council. I think that any questions on how the situation has arisen probably have to be directed to the council.

 

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WOLFFE HALL: Papers reveal Council’s legal action ‘abandoned’, £320K Faculty refurbishment of Laigh Hall & new Lord Advocate refused to give expectations on move to recover public ownership of Parliament House

New Lord Advocate’s role in Parliament House titles fiasco. DOCUMENTS obtained from the Scottish Government reveal Scotland’s new Lord Advocate – James Wolffe QC – refused to give expectations of any success on efforts by the City of Edinburgh Council to recover public ownership of titles to Parliament House and the Laigh Hall.

Emails from James Wolffe to the Scottish Government also claim the Faculty of Advocates spent £320K on legal costs and work refurbishing the Laigh Hall – which Edinburgh City Council contend was wrongly taken from public ownership.

The series of exchanges between the former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and Scottish Ministers in relation to the loss of public ownership of Scotland’s top court buildings – came to light in papers released by the Scottish Government in response to a Freedom of Information request.

In one letter dated 2 April 2015 to Alex Neil MSP  – the then Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice – James Wolffe told the Minister he did not object to a meeting between representatives of the City of Edinburgh Council and the Faculty of Advocates.

However, Wolffe added to the same letter “At the same time I would not wish to give any expectation to you or the council as to the outcome of any discussion.”

The long time lawyer & QC – recently selected by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s latest Lord Advocate –  also felt confident enough to pass along details of the financial costs of ‘refurbishing’ the Laigh Hall – which the City of Edinburgh Council maintained were part of the common good & therefore owned by the council.

In a separate email to a senior Scottish Government civil servant – James Wolffe added: “I am advised that the of refurbishing the Laigh Hall following the grant of title to the Faculty was £242,270 plus VAT, with professional fees of £33,537 plus VAT.”

Responding to Wolffe’s claim the Faculty of Advocates paid out over £320K on refurbishing parts of buildings formerly in public ownership – an individual at the Scottish Government whose identity has been censored in the released documents – made light of further coverage of the Parliament House fiasco in the Scottish media.

In a further email, Wolffe alerted the secretive Scottish Government contact to additional coverage, pointing to an article written by Martin Hannan in The National, titled “Edinburgh asks: Can we have Parliament House back, please?

Meanwhile, unredacted sections of legal advice given by the Scottish Government’s own lawyers to Scottish Ministers revealed in the documents state the following:

• The Scottish Court Service (SCS) is the current proprietor and occupier of Parliament House.

Consequently it is that independent body (and not the Scottish Ministers) that would have to agree to a voluntary transfer of its title to the local authority. We don’t know what view the Lord President would be likely to take on that matter and whether he would agree to the transfer in circumstances where the public body has a valid title. He may, for example, be influenced by the fact that the SCS has recently undertake a major refurbishment of the building complex at a cost of around £58 million.

• The finance position is complex. SCS holds a valid title and will have accounted for bot the property and the recent refurbishment works in its accounts: Whilst a transfer to the council would retain the property in public ownership, there are tricky issues around accounting and public finance rules t at would require further investigation.

• Although neither a legal nor financial impediment, the title position is very complex. Parliament House is not one building but rather a number that are stitched together, built down the centuries. it is not clear whether the entire property was, and remained, part of the Common Good Fund when Scottish Ministers registered a title. This may be relevant when considering whether or not it would be appropriate to transfer the entire property. My understanding is that it would be an expensive exercise to undertake any further examination of the title and it is unlikely that it would in any event achieve any greater clarity.

• The Faculty of Advocates holds a registered title to the Laigh Hall. It mayor may not agree to a voluntary transfer, and if they were inclined to do so, we don’t know upon’ what basis.

As ministers sought to arrange meetings and seek views on the subject, Lord Brian Gill – then Lord President – wrote to Alex Neil MSP, asserting “this matter is best dealt with at official level”

Gill said he would ask Eric McQueen – Chief Executive of Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, to meet with officials of the Council.

However, after a year of fruitless negotiations between council officials, the Scottish Government, and other parties, the City of Edinburgh Council served writs on Scottish Ministers, the Keeper of the Registers and the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service on 25 November 2015.

The action by the council – seeking declarator that the City of Edinburgh Council is the owner of Parliament House, High Street, home of the Court of Session – has since been abandoned.

In response to media enquiries, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed the council’s legal action had ceased, and said : “SCTS holds legal title to Parliament House.”

PARLIAMENT HOUSE TITLE SWINDLE

Last year Diary of Injustice reported on the City of Edinburgh Council’s efforts to recover the titles to Parliament House after land reform campaigner Andy Wightman – now an MSP – revealed land titles to the buildings of Scotland’s top courts were ‘gifted’ by Scottish Ministers to the Faculty of Advocates.

A disclosure of eighty eight pages of documents released to DOI under Freedom of Information legislation – revealed at the time the Scottish Government had no plans to act over their handing over of the Parliament Hall land titles to the Faculty of Advocates.

And, throughout the documents – which contain communications between civil servants, briefings to Ministers, land reports and letters from Edinburgh City Council asking for meetings, it was clear Scottish Ministers favour leaving the titles to the nation’s top courts with the vested interests of the legal profession.

During an earlier check on the titles to the Laigh Hall – Parliament House – Queen Street – ownership stood in the name of “SIDNEY NEIL BRAILSFORD Queen’s Counsel, Treasurer of HONOURABLE THE FACULTY OF ADVOCATES Edinburgh, as Trustee and in Trust for said Faculty”.

Sidney Brailsford is High Court Judge Lord Brailsford.

Scottish Government files reveal how court titles were handed over to advocates After a series of briefings with Ministers – involving everyone from the Lord Advocate & Solicitor General to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Minister for Legal Affairs and others, a position was adopted by Scottish Ministers “That we confirm to Council officials that it is the Scottish Government’s position that title to Parliament Hall was taken by Scottish Ministers in good faith and with the full knowledge and consent of the Council. The Scottish Court Service and Faculty of Advocates therefore have good title to the property and Ministers propose no further action.”

Lawyers for the Scottish Government also sought to distance themselves from the huge £58 million taxpayer funded spend on the Scottish Court buildings – long after titles were handed over to the advocates.

One lawyer stated in an email: “Was the PH [Parliament Hall] refurb about £60m? It went over in the SCS [Scottish Court Service] budgets I think but from my recollection of briefing on their budget it is not easily identifiable within their budget lines. So SCS [Scottish Court Service] spent the money not SG [Scottish Government]?”

In another memo, it is revealed Edinburgh City Council may be compelled to take legal action to recover the titles and details an example of how Common Good land disputes have affected legislation in the past.

As previously reported, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already given her blessing to the multi million pound title handover freebie to the Faculty of Advocates. The First Minister claimed there was “no easy solution to the issue of restoring title to the City of Edinburgh Council”. The First Minister’s response to a question from Green Party MSP Alison Johnstone during First Minister’s Questions, follows:

Parliament House handed over to Faculty of Advocates FMQ’s Nicola Sturgeon 19 February 2015

Official Report of debate: Alison Johnstone (Lothian) (Green): It transpired this week that the 17th century old Parliament hall in Edinburgh was transferred from the collective ownership of my constituents to Scottish ministers without knowledge or recompense to the common good fund.

The City of Edinburgh Council failed in its role as steward of the fund, but is now seeking to resolve the situation. Can the First Minister assure my constituents that any requests from the council to restore ownership of that common good asset to the council will be considered seriously and favourably?

The First Minister – Nicola Sturgeon: I will briefly state the background to this issue, of which I am sure that Alison Johnstone is aware.

The Scottish Government’s position is that title to Parliament hall was taken by Scottish ministers in good faith, and that that was done with the full knowledge and consent of the council. The Scottish Courts Service and the Faculty of Advocates, therefore, have now got good title to that property.

Of course, I am more than happy to ask the relevant minister, Marco Biagi, to; meet and discuss the matter with the City of Edinburgh Council, but as far as I can see there is no fault here on the part of the Scottish Government.

Further, of course, title has since been passed on, so it may very well be that there is no easy solution to the issue of restoring title to the City of Edinburgh Council. I think that any questions on how the situation has arisen probably have to be directed to the council.

 

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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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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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COURT BANKING, M’LORD: ‘Unworkable’ register of judicial interests reveals top judges’ financial links to world of big money, insurance giants, vested interests & banks fined billions in plea deals with financial regulators

Register reveals judicial links to bank cartels & rate rigging. A REGISTER of judicial interests – described by Scotland’s former Lord President Lord Brian Gill & First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as being “unworkable” – has revealed financial links between some of Scotland’s top judges & banks fined by regulators for rigging international exchange rates, failure to report to regulators, and operating in cartels like “the mafia”.

The documents, released by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service in response to a Freedom of Information request – reveal the latest lists of shareholdings & interests of Scotland’s top judges – who are fighting to prevent the public from scrutinising their hidden wealth.

Also disclosed for the first time are the shareholdings of non judicial members who sit on the Scottish Courts Service Board (SCSB) – now renamed as the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service Board (SCTSB) – the influential body which makes decisions on how the courts operate.

Among those who now feature in the register of interests for top judges who decide on court administration are new faces to the SCTS Board, including Lady Anne Smith – who was appointed head of the Tribunals by former top judge Lord Brian Gill.

The substantial declarations of shareholdings reveal judicial links to financial institutions such as JP Morgan – fined over foreign exchange & Libor rate rigging, Goldman Sachs – fined for reporting violations by US authorities & Barclays – who were fined a record £284.4 million by British regulators and around £1.5bn in total as part of a UK and US settlement with authorities over the foreign exchange trading scandal.

MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee are currently investigating a plan to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

If the judicial transparency proposal becomes reality, all members of Scotland’s judiciary – instead of just the elite few who sit on the board of the Scottish Courts – will be required to declare their vast and varied interests from membership of charities to undeclared paid work, property ownership, financial wealth and connections to big business & the legal profession among a host of details many in public life are already required to enter in declarations of interests.

JUDICIAL DECLARATIONS: ‘Unworkable’ register is very workable … and very revealing:

President of Scottish Tribunals – Rt Hon Lady Smith: Shareholdings: Artemis Fund Managers, Barclays, Blackrock AM, Brown Advisory, Goldman Sachs, Global Access, Henderson Investment, Ishares PLC, JP Morgan, Lazard Fund Managers, Pimco Global, Skandia Investment, Vanguard Funds PLC.

Lord Justice Clerk Lord Carloway: None, Sheriff Principal Duncan L Murray: None, Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: None significant, Dr Joseph Morrow: None

Sheriff Iona McDonald:  Glaxosmithkline, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Equiniti, Barclays, Standard Life, HBOS, Royal Mail.

Johan Findlay OBE JP:  Aviva, Vodaphone, Santander, Unilever, Norwich Union, Legal & General, Fidelity Funds Network, Lloyds Banking Group, Thus Group, HBOS, Trafficmaster, Standard Life.

Eric McQueen: None, Dr Kirsty J Hood: None, Professor R Hugh MacDougall: None

Simon J D Catto: Aberdeen Football Club PLC, Scottish Power UK Plc, Royal Mail PLB.

Joe Al-Gharabally: RBS, Ryan Air, Aviva, AT&T.

Anthony McGrath: Accys Technology, Alexander Mining, Apple, Ashley House, Asian Citrus, Augean, Avanti Comms, Barclays Bank Bond, Billings Services, Camkids, Cell Therapeutics, Centamin, Chariot Oil, Chemring, Coal Of Africa, Consolidated General Minerals, Correro, Cupid, East West Resources, Emblaze, Essenden, e-Trade Financial, Fox Marble, Globo plc, Goldenport Holdings, Goldplat, Heritage Oil, HSBC Holdings, lmic, Infrastrata, Interpublic, Jubilee Platinum, Lloyds Banking, Magnolia Petroleum, Mobile Streams, Norseman Gold, Polo Resources, Pure Bioscience, Quindell, Reach4entertainment, Resource Holdings, Royal Bank of Scotland, Saltire Taverns, Stagecoach, Standard Charter, STV, Tanfield, Tower resources, Volga Gas, Westminster Group.

And, in further documents released by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service – the last snapshot of the Scottish Court Service Board (SCSB), reveals the final declaration of interests, directorships & shareholdings of Scotland’s now retired top judge Lord Brian Gill – who bitterly fought proposals to increase judicial transparency by creating a register of judicial interests.

SCSB Interests 2015. Lord President – Rt Hon Lord Gill: Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884). President of the Royal Society for Home Relief to Incurable, Edinburgh Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland,Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music, a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828) Chairman of Council, Royal School of Church Music, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Endowment Trust: a trust for the benefit of RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust: a trust for the benefit of the RCS and its students, Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg’d No 250031)

Shareholdings: Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Newton Global Equity Fund, Scottish Widows UK Growth Sub-Fund, HSBC Balanced Fund (Retail Acc), Royal Mail Plc,TSB Group Plc, Urban and Civil Plc, Vestry Court Ltd.

Hon Lord Bannatyne: Chester Street (Limited Partner) Ltd on behalf of the Board if the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh Member of the Board of the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh Shareholder as Trustee for the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, in Chester Street (General Partner) Ltd Member of the Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal of the Episcopal Church, Member of the Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal of the Episcopal Church.

Shareholdings: Dimensional Emerging Mkts Core Equity, Dimensional Global Short Date Bond, Dimensional Global Targeted Value, Dimensional UK Small Companies, Dimensional UK Value, Ishares FTSE EPRA UK Prop, L&G All Stocks Gilt Index, L&G All Stocks IL Gilt Index, L&G UK Index I, Vanguard FTSE D World ex-UK Equity Index.

Sheriff Principal R Alastair Dunlop QC: Chair of Local Criminal Justice Boards in Tayside Central and Fife,Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses, Elder of Gorebridge Parish Church of Scotland, Member of Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club, Member of the New Club, Edinburgh, Trustee of St John’s Kirk of Perth Trust.

Shareholdings: Astrazeneca, BHP Billiton, Blackrock AM UK Gold & General, Bluescope Steel, BNY Mellon Newton Global, Carador Income Fund, CG Real Return Inc, Diageo, Findlay Park FDS American Smaller Cos, Intercontinental Hotels, Lomond Shipping Co, Lloyds Bank, M&G (Guernsey) Global Leaders, National Grid, Oakley Capital Investments, Pernod Ricard, Real Estate Credit Investors, Rio Tinto, Royal Bank of Scotland, Royal Dutch Shell, Scottish Oriental Smaller Cos, Tesco, Verizon Communications, Vodafone, Weir Group.

INTERESTS FOR REGISTER:

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, and reported along with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges. MSPs overwhelmingly supported a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests.

However, in an unprecedented intervention by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on behalf of the wealthy secretive elite judiciary who head Scotland’s courts, Ms Sturgeon attacked the idea of judicial transparency and plans to create a register of interest for judges.

The First Minister – herself a former solicitor – joined the now retired Lord President Lord Brian Gill in accusations of aggressive media & litigants – in an attempt to block the judicial transparency proposal. The First Minister also quoted the 73 year old former judge, backing his claim such a register – which revealed Gill’s own substantial interests – is “unworkable” and cannot possibly be applied to the entire judiciary.

The First Minister claimed in a letter to the Petitions Committee: 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.”

Ms Sturgeon continued: “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.”

Aside from legal vested interests ‘aggressive’ opposition to the judicial transparency plan, the proposal to require judges to declare their interests has powerful backing from judicial watchdogs.

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

In a letter to the Public Petitions Committee, Ms Ali told MSPs: The position of the judiciary is incredibly powerful. They have the power to take away people’s assets, to separate families, to lock people away for years. Some of these people will not have committed a crime. They may be women who want protection from abusing partners, fathers who want access to their children, or people whose home is at stake due to various legal or family wrangles. People going through the court system face stress and anxiety, perhaps financial pressures, and fear about the future. Their perspective is important and must be a consideration in this matter.

Ms Ali continued: “Given the position of power held by the judiciary, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity but crucially, that they are seen to have absolute integrity. Again, a register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case –financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any other way. Conversely, the refusal to institute a register of interests creates suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. So once more, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

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

Multiple property ownership and interests in real estate, buy to let and property companies is big business for members of the judiciary and their family members – however there are no details or disclosures of any property directly owed by the SCS Board members contained in the declarations released by the SCS.

Additionally, the limited disclosures of SCS Board & SCTSB contain no references to outside earnings & work, relationships to law firms, big business and others more detailed declarations which may be picked up by a fully published register of judicial interests as is currently under investigation by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee.

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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