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COURT FRACKING: Scottish Government ban on fracking does not exist says Lord Pentland – Court of Session throws out INEOS challenge as Judge says Ministerial claims “did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions”

Scottish Govt fracking ban does not exist – judge. SCOTLAND’S top court has ruled that claims by Ministers that fracking is banned, are not consistent with current law, and therefore the forced extraction of extracting shale gas from subterranean  rocks – has not been banned in Scotland.

The Court of Session’s decision also hits out at numerous “mistaken” statements by SNP ministers of a ban on what many regard as an environmentally damaging process which uses water and chemicals pumped at high pressure into underground shale beds to release methane gas.

Earlier today, the Judiciary of Scotland published Lord Pentland’s ruling on the INEOS challenge to the Scottish Government’s claims of a ban on fracking – in which the court threw out the challenge, on the grounds there was and is no existing prohibition against shale gas extraction in Scotland.

Despite claims of a ban on fracking by numerous Scottish Government Ministers, including the First Minister herself Nicola Sturgeon, Lord Pentland ruled that no such ban exists, and that in reality there is little more than an evolving planning policy.

Revealing there is no existing legal basis for claims by the First Minister & others that a ban on fracking is in force – Lord Pentland said statements by ministers including Paul Wheelhouse MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that a ban existed “did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions” involved.

The statement issued by the Judicial Office notes that [despite numerous claims by Ministers] “the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, made it clear to the court that such statements were mistaken and did not accurately reflect the legal position”.

Lord Pentland’s judgement concludes that “as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland”.

The ruling issued today followed statements by the Scottish Government to the Scottish Parliament during October 2017 that fracking had effectively been banned through the use of new guidance on planning consent.

Energy minister Paul Wheelhousewho once made false claims to a Holyrood Committee that fictitious gangsters made transparency in the judiciary impossible – told MSPs last year that “fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland”.

Similarly, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “fracking is being banned in Scotland – end of story”.

Earlier this year, and after the continued claims by the Scottish Government and it’s supporters of a ban on fracking, Ineos Upstream Ltd and Reach CSG sought a judicial review of the effective ban, the Scottish Government began t changed its tune.

When the case was called in court, the Scottish Government’s own lawyer – James Mure QC  – claimed the legal challenge by Ineos was premature as SNP ministers had “not yet adopted a position” and that in effect Ministers had merely announced a preference for a ban.

James Mure QC was forced to admit to the court that his client the Scottish Government had merely spun the issue of a preference of a ban, into an actual ban.

The QC was forced to tell the court in the earlier hearing: “The concept of an effective ban is a gloss. It is the language of a press statement.”

However, in the Court of Session opinion issued today, Lord Pentland’s judgement rubbished Ministerial claims of a ban on fracking, concluding that “as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland”.

In the judgment, Lord Pentland also rejected Ineos and Reach CSG’s case on the basis that no ban exists.

The Herald newspaper reported on the court’s decision today, and also reported – “After the judgment was released, the SNP rewrote the environment section of its website, deleting the words “The Scottish Government has put in place a ban on fracking in Scotland”.

Ineos, which runs the Grangemouth refinery and already imports US shale gas as a precursor for petrochemical works, would like to frack gas in the Central Belt.

It has previously accused the government of an “Alice in Wonderland” position on fracking.

Ineos said it now expected all planning applications for fracking to be considered on merit, not “prejudice and political expediency” and ministers of wasting public money by not being clearer earlier.

Mr Wheelhouse, who told MSPs there was a ban, welcomed the Court saying there wasn’t.

He said: “This decision vindicates the extensive process of research and consultation which the Scottish Government has undertaken since 2015.

“As I set out in October, our preferred position is not to support Unconventional Oil and Gas extraction in Scotland, and that position remains unchanged.

“I have repeatedly set out to parliament that we would undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) ahead of finalising that position and that approach has been endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish Parliament.

“The work to complete the SEA and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment is currently underway and the findings will be carefully considered.

“In the meantime, a moratorium is in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed.

“The practical effect of the current moratorium and the policymaking process which is underway to finalise our position is that no fracking can take place in Scotland at this time.”

In his judgement published earlier today, Lord Pentland quoted First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Mr Wheelhouse’s statements in parliament about there being a ban.

However, in what seems an attempt at appeasing the misleading statements by Ministers, Lord Pentland was forced to add that the accuracy of such misleading ministerial statements was not the core issue – even though the existence of the misleading claims by the First Minister & Scotish Government led to the Ineos legal challenge in the first place.

Lord Pentland said: “The legal question is not whether ministers have accurately described or commented on their understanding of the legal effect of the various steps they have taken or authorised to be taken under the planning system, but the fundamentally different question of what the legal effect of those steps really is.

He added: “The ministerial comments reflecting the opinion that there was an effective ban on fracking are (a) irrelevant to the legal question before the court; (b) not binding on the court; (c) in any event, not determinative of the question of construction that the court has to address; and (d) to the extent that they did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions taken must be left out of account when it comes to answering the legal question.”

“To the extent that some sections of the ministerial statements made to the Scottish Parliament were capable of being read as suggesting that the policy would amount to a ban on fracking, Mr Mure QC accepted on behalf of the Lord Advocate that such statements did not accurately reflect the legal position; they were to that extent mistaken.”

The full statement issued by the Judicial Office for Scotland

Ineos Upstream Ltd and another v Lord Advocate

A petition seeking judicial review of certain acts and decisions of the Scottish Government in implementation of what was purportedly an indefinite ban on “fracking” has been refused. The Court of Session held that the legal effect of certain statements and planning directions made by the Scottish Ministers to the effect that the Scottish Government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and a subsequent decision that the directions should continue in force indefinitely, is that there is in fact no prohibition against fracking in force. The following is a summary of the detailed opinion issued by Lord Pentland.

On 28 January 2015 the Scottish energy minister, Mr Fergus Ewing MSP, made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland (“UOG”) to the effect that there was to be work on planning and environmental regulation, a health impact assessment, and a consultation process on UOG. He stated that given the importance of this work it would be inappropriate to allow any planning consents in the meantime. He therefore announced what he described as a “moratorium” on the granting of planning consents for all UOG developments, including the method of oil and gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. The moratorium was to continue until such time as the work referred to had been completed. The minister stated that a direction would be sent to all Scottish planning authorities to give immediate effect to that policy. A similar direction would be issued to SEPA.

The 2015 Planning Direction and the 2015 SEPA Direction gave legal effect to the moratorium, by requiring planning authorities to intimate the receipt of planning applications for any UOG developments to the Scottish Ministers, prohibiting planning authorities from granting planning permission within 28 days of notification to ministers, and giving ministers the power to call in applications for determination by them. The power of the Scottish Government to call in planning applications for determination by them, coupled with the 2015 Planning Direction and the 2015 SEPA Direction gave Scottish Ministers the means to control two of the essential legal requirements for onshore extraction of UOG. By refusing planning permission or authorisation of controlled activities, the Scottish Government could prevent onshore UOG development extending beyond drilling of core samples. To date, the notification requirements under the 2015 Planning Direction have not been triggered. No application has been remitted to ministers by SEPA under the 2015 SEPA Direction.

Following further research into the impact of onshore UOG development in Scotland and a public consultation, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Mr Paul Wheelhouse MSP made a statement to the Scottish Parliament on 3 October 2017 in which he confirmed the Scottish Government’s “preferred position”, namely that it would not support the development of UOG in Scotland and that it would use planning powers to deliver its position; that it had written to local authorities across Scotland to make it clear that the directions that give effect to the moratorium would remain in place indefinitely; and that this action was sufficient to “effectively ban” UOG in Scotland.

On 5 October 2017 at First Minister’s question time, in reply to an observation that there was concern that the ban was not yet legally watertight, the First Minister said that: “What Paul Wheelhouse outlined to the chamber earlier this week is an effective way of banning fracking and … is the quickest way of banning fracking.”

At a debate on UOG in the Scottish Parliament on 24 October 2017, Mr Wheelhouse said that the Scottish Government was honouring the commitment it had previously given to allow MSPs an opportunity to “endorse our carefully considered and robust position on unconventional oil and gas”.  An amended motion was passed endorsing the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce an immediate and effective ban on UOG and noting that this position would be subject to a strategic environmental assessment before being finalised.

In December 2017 Ineos Upstream Limited and Reach Coal Seam Gas Limited, which both hold interests in petroleum exploration and development licences (“PEDLs”) in respect of certain onshore areas in Scotland raised the present proceedings, seeking judicial review of the acts and decisions of the Scottish Government in relation to UOG in Scotland. The basis of the petitioners’ case was that in 2017 the Scottish Government unlawfully imposed an indefinite ban on fracking.

The Lord Advocate on behalf of the Scottish Ministers maintained that, on a correct understanding of its acts and decisions, the Scottish Government did not impose any such ban. He contended that since there was no ban the petitioners have no case; the petition for judicial review was based on a series of fundamental misunderstandings of the Scottish Government’s position and should accordingly be refused.

Refusing the petition, the judge held that, as a matter of law, there is no prohibition against fracking in Scotland. The fact that the emerging policy position was expressed as being a “preferred” one shows that the Scottish Government understood that unless and until the strategic environmental assessment was completed, a policy on UOG could not lawfully be finalised and adopted. Ministerial comments reflecting the opinion that there was an effective ban on fracking were (a) irrelevant to the legal question before the court; (b) not binding on the court; (c) in any event, not determinative of the question of construction that the court had to address; and (d) to the extent that they did not accurately express the legal effect of the decisions taken must be left out of account when answering the legal question.

Lord Pentland’s opinion stated: “The petition is predicated on the proposition that the Scottish Government has introduced an unlawful prohibition against fracking in Scotland. Whilst acknowledging that there have been a number of ministerial statements to the effect that there is an effective ban, the Lord Advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, made it clear to the court that such statements were mistaken and did not accurately reflect the legal position. The stance of the Scottish Government before the court is that there is no legally enforceable prohibition. For the reasons set out in this judgment, I consider that the Government’s legal position is soundly based and that there is indeed no prohibition against fracking in force at the present time. What exists at present is an emerging and unfinalised planning policy expressing no support on the part of the Scottish Government for the development or extraction of UOG in Scotland. The process of policy development is not yet complete; the important stages of a strategic environmental assessment and a business and regulatory impact assessment have still to be carried out. There is no basis on which the court should interfere with those procedures; the petitioners will have a full opportunity to contribute to and participate in them. I conclude that since there is no prohibition against fracking, the petitioners’ case is unfounded; their application for judicial review of the alleged ban must accordingly fail.”

The full opinion can be accessed online here: Ineos Upstream Ltd and another v Lord Advocate

The Top judge who said court lawyers & judiciary should profit from & serve shale gas extraction & fossil fuel interests:

THREE years ago, Scotland’s now former top judge – Lord Brian Gill spoke on the very same day the Scottish Government announced the ‘moratorium’ on fracking, expressing his desire – and ultimately judicial policy – that fracking for shale gas should go ahead, and will increase business in the courts.

In a speech given at a Holyrood digital media conference on the same day that Minister Fergus Ewing MSP announced the moratorium on fracking, Lord gill also said he wanted to turn Scotland’s legal system into a mediation haven for big business, big oil, shale gas barons & bankers, according to a speech he gave on the theme of “Digital Justice” last week.

Lord Gill’s plans for fracking & big oil mediation was hoped to draw in millions for lawyers and judges – without the need to declare any interests.

During the fourteen page speech – Gill (72) also urged the legal sector to better exploit Scotland’s “natural resources” and renewable energy for their own profit.

Speaking on the issue of fracking, and taking aim squarely at the Scottish Government’s alleged policy on a moratorium, Lord Gill told conference delegates: “Our resources of energy may be increased by the retrieval of shale gas, if that should be allowed. It seems to me therefore that the opportunity that our natural resources present should be served by the court system.”

Speech by Lord Gill on Digital Justice, Fracking & Big Oil. During the speech, Lord Gill also chastised his own judicial colleagues & lawyers for missing out on exploitation of Scotland’s oil boom.

Lord Gill said: “In the 1960s and 1970s the economy of Scotland was transformed by the discovery of North Sea oil. The judges and lawyers of that time were not alert to the opportunity that Scotland could be an international forum for resolving disputes in the oil and gas industry. We paid a price for our complacency when the international oil and gas industry passed us by.”

Gill continued: “Half a century on we should look at Scotland’s economic opportunities and see how the courts can best serve them. In recent years a commitment to renewable energy has brought wind power to the fore as an energy source. Other forms of renewable energy may follow.”

The top judge also claimed Scotland can be made an international centre for litigation and mediation.

Gill said “Our legal system should be a driver for economic progress in Scotland. Our courts and our judges can and should contribute to the prosperity of our country. We can do that if, by the excellence of our judges, and our legal profession and the efficiency of our courts, we make Scotland a forum of litigation that not only retains litigations that at present go elsewhere but also becomes a forum of choice for litigations from abroad..”

Lord Gill’s own speech on the issue of fracking, and personal desire for shale oil gas extraction to go ahead, as a matter of judicial policy – was at complete odds with the statement issued by Scottish Government Minister Fergus Ewing on the same day to MSPs at Holyrood.:

While Gill gave his ‘fracking is good for the legal profession, courts & judiary’ lecture, Mr Ewing told the Parliament: “I want to ensure that the voices of the communities likely to be most affected are heard, and are heard in a more formal and structured way.I am therefore announcing today that in addition to the technical work I’ve referred to on planning, environmental regulation and upon assessing the impact on public health, Scottish ministers will also launch a full public consultation on unconventional oil and gas extraction.”

An earlier report on Lord Gill’s speech on the issue of fracking can be found here: FRACKING JUDGES: Scotland’s top judge promotes shale gas extraction, big oil and renewable energy as profit incentive for courts on same day Scottish Government announce ban on fracking

 

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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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