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COPY MINISTER: ‘Copied’ content from ex Minister sent by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to Holyrood MSPs – Public must rely on judges judging judges for transparency, Scottish Government will not create register of judges’ interests

Judges should judge judges – Minister. SCOTLAND’S Justice Secretary – Humza Yousaf – has told Holyrood’s Justice Committee that judges should be allowed to judge themselves, and the public must rely on judicial oaths & ethics – written and approved by the judiciary – instead of transparency in courts.

The Justice Secretary’s letter of 3 April to Holyrood MSPs, which was released only late last week – also states the Scottish Government willnot create a register of judicial interests in response to the widely supported Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

However, it has emerged Humza Yousaf’s letter of April 2019 – is almost a duplicate of a letter sent in April 2014 by Kenny MacAskill during his time as Justice Secretary.

The recent letter from Mr Yousaf to Margaret Mitchel MSP – Convener of the Justice Committee, effectively re-states the Scottish Government’s refusal to create a register of judges’ interests.

Mr Yousaf also claims in his letter that “no further evidence has been provided to the Justice Committee that strengthens the arguments already put forward in favour of the introduction of the register.”

However, recent submissions to the Justice Committee including accounts of serving Scottish judges swearing dual oaths for high earning judicial posts in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and other Gulf States point to substantial new evidence submitted to MSPs, backing up the need for a full register of judicial interests.

Clerks to the Justice Committee were quizzed on the content of Mr Yousaf’s claims in relation to no new evidence.

In response, a Justice Committee clerk told the petitioner: “Your submission was publicly available to the Scottish Government to refer to, before the Cabinet Secretary provided the letter dated 3 April”

It has also emerged the Lord President – Lord Carloway, and others including the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, Crown Office and others have refused to engage with the Justice Committee’s call for views on creating a register of judges’ interests.

A clerk for the Justice Committee informed the petitioner: “Before the Committee last considered your petition on 5 February, clerks approached those who have previously given evidence to the Public Petitions Committee to ask if they had anything to add to their previous submissions.”

“We approached the Lord President, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer. Only the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service responded, stating that they had nothing to add”

Mr Yousaf’s letter of 3 April 2019 to the Justice Committee reads as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 20 February seeking my views on the above petition and whether it remains the Scottish Government’s position that a register should not be introduced.

I have given consideration to the matter and I don’t think it is necessary to establish a register of interests. I share the views of both of my predecessors that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary.

These safeguards are the judicial oath, the statement of principles of judicial ethics and the various rules made under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 which concern complaints about the judiciary and judicial conduct.

I note that no further evidence has been provided to the Justice Committee that strengthens the arguments already put forward in favour of the introduction of the register.

However, the “the various rules made under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 which concern complaints about the judiciary and judicial conduct” – which include the post of Judicial Complaints Reviewer – remain unchanged since Scotland’s first JCR – Moi Ali gave evidence to the Public Petitions  Committee during 2013.

And, during her time as Judicial Complaints Reviewer – Moi Ali requested increated powers from the Scottish Government – to give the office of JCR a more formidable and independent oversight role on complaints against judges – only to be turned down by the then Justice Secretary – Kenny MacAskill.

The request by Moi Ali to increase powers of the Judicial Complaints Reviewer ws reported here: Scottish Government urged to give more powers to Judicial Complaints Reviewer as MSPs hear lack of judicial scrutiny undermines public confidence in justice system

An earlier letter of 22 April 2014 from Kenny MacAskill – who was Justice Secretary from 17 May 2007 until ‘stepping down’ sacked from the post on 21 November 2014 – to David Stewart MSP – then Convener of the Public Petitions Committee reads as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 6 March 2014 regarding the above Public Petition. I apologise for the delay in responding.

You ask whether the Scottish Government will review its position on whether members of the judiciary ought to register their interests. I note the evidence the Committee has gathered on this issue and, in particular, the arguments presented by the Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) that a register of interests would increase transparency and public trust in the judiciary.

The JCR considers that there is merit in a register of interests for members of the judiciary. I do not think it necessary to establish such a register. I continue to be of the view that there are already sufficient safeguards in place to ensure the impartiality of the judiciary.

These have been set out in previous correspondence and comprise the judicial oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the rules made under the 2008 Act. I do not consider that the case has been made that these existing safeguards are not effective.

It is of note, that after being kicked from the post of Justice Secretary – Kenny MacAskill ended up on the same Public Petitions Committee which was considering the petition calling for a register of judicial interests.

And, during a hearing of the Petitions Committee on 1 December 2015 – MacAskill – by now devoid of Ministerial rank – suggested calling the new Lord President – who was yet to be publicly identified at the time due to the appointments process – but was known to be Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland)

The post of Lord President – with a salary of £220K per year – became vacant after Lord Brian Gill unexpectedly walked out of the top judicial post in May 2015 – giving only 30 days notice he intended to quit.

The 1 December 2015 hearing was reported in more detail here : EVIDENCE, M’LORD: Scotland’s next top judge to be asked to give evidence in Scottish Parliament’s probe on secretive world of undeclared judicial wealth, interests & judges’ links to big business

Video footage of Mr MacAskill at the Public Petitions Committee in that meeting can be found here:

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Judges Public Petitions Committee Holyrood 1 Dec 2015

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458) 1 December 2015

The Convener: Our next petition is PE1458, by Peter Cherbi, on the creation of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. Members have a note on the committee’s previous consideration of the petition and the submissions from the petitioner.

Do members have any comments?

Kenny MacAskill: We have heard from the previous Lord President and I think that we should hear from the new Lord President, whoever he is likely to be—I do not think that there is a “she” on the shortlist. That appointment is likely to be made in the next week or so, so there is still time for him to appear before us.

The Convener: In that case, we will write to the new Lord President, as we said that we would.

Decision: The Committee agreed to write to the new Lord President once appointed.

PETITION – A REGISTER OF JUDGES’ INTERESTS

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are currently investigating calls for a probe of Judicial Recusals, as part of their work on considering Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The proposal, first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee and Justice Committee work in  relation to creating a Register of Judges’ Interests – can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee investigate approach to judges’ interests in other countries – MSPs say ‘Recusals register not comprehensive enough’ ‘Openness & transparency do not contradict independence of the judiciary’

Justice Committee continues probe on Judges’ interests. A SEVEN YEAR probe by two committees of the Scottish Parliament – on cross party supported proposal to create a Register of Judges’ Interests – has called for views on how other jurisdictions tackle both judicial recusals and methods of declarations of judicial interests.

During discussions between members of Holyrood’s Justice Committee on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary, MSPs expressed the view that openness and transaprency – which the register of judges’ interests petition seeks to create – does  not contradict the independence of the judiciary.

Daniel Johnson MSP stated: “As was the case when we considered the petition previously, I think that there are reasons to examine it. In everything that I say, I bear in mind our duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary, but I do not believe that openness and transparency contradict that.”

Another Justice Committee MSP also expressed views on the completeness of the current Register of Recusals – a register of conflicts of interest which was created by ex Lord President Brian Gill during April 2014 – in response to the petition.

John Finnie MSP said: “I fully endorse Daniel Johnson’s view, and particularly the comment about independence. However, there is an obvious tension here. There is a public expectation—it is not unreasonable, in my view—that there should be no conflicts of interest. Our papers refer to the recusal register, but that does not seem comprehensive enough to me.”

While no reference was made to new evidence submitted to the Justice Committee, documenting work by serving Scottish judges in the Gulf States, a full submission by the petitioner to the Committee can be read in the previous report on Justice Committee work on the petition, here: MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

The proposal, first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, backing in the media, and crucial support from two of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewers – including Moi Ali

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee in a hard hitting evidence session during September 2013,and gave full sypport to the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Judges Scottish Parliament Justice Committee 5 Feb 2019

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener (Margaret Mitchell Central Scotland Scottish Conservatives) :  Agenda item 4 is consideration of two petitions. I refer members to paper 4, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 5, which is a private paper. Paragraph 5 of paper 4 provides the options that are available to the committee when it considers petitions.

The first petition that the committee will consider is PE1458, by Peter Cherbi, on a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament

“to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.”

This is the committee’s third consideration of the petition. I refer members to annex A of paper 4, which details the response that was received from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. The committee is asked to consider what, if any, further action it wishes to undertake in relation to the petition. The options available include: keeping the petition open; keeping it open and taking additional action, such as writing to the cabinet secretary and/or others; or closing the petition. I seek members’ views.

Daniel Johnson (Edinburgh Southern) (Lab): As was the case when we considered the petition previously, I think that there are reasons to examine it. In everything that I say, I bear in mind our duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary, but I do not believe that openness and transparency contradict that. The Public Petitions Committee took evidence on the issue, but that was some time ago—I believe that it was in 2013—so I wonder whether the committee might want to pull together information regarding how other countries approach the issue. Given that we have a new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, we could perhaps also request his views on the matter.

John Finnie (Highlands and Islands) (Green): I fully endorse Daniel Johnson’s view, and particularly the comment about independence. However, there is an obvious tension here. There is a public expectation—it is not unreasonable, in my view—that there should be no conflicts of interest. Our papers refer to the recusal register, but that does not seem comprehensive enough to me. I agree with the proposal that we should find out about the approach in other countries, particularly New Zealand, as that would be helpful.

Rona Mackay (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (SNP): I totally agree with Daniel Johnson and John Finnie. More information would be helpful. It is an important issue, and transparency has to be key.

Daniel Johnson: For information, I point out that the bill on the issue that was before the New Zealand Parliament was either withdrawn or defeated, but I understand that a register exists in other jurisdictions. I think that Norway has been mentioned.

The Convener (Margaret Mitchell): Clearly, there are huge issues at stake, and a fine balance has to be struck. I would like to know a little more about how the recusal code or policy works. When a conflict of interest is declared, how much detail is recorded and is it in the public domain? It would be good to look at that.

I get the impression from members that they would like to at least explore legislation in other countries. Norway has been mentioned. New Zealand did not proceed with the proposals, but it would perhaps be good to look at what was said there. As Daniel Johnson rightly points out, we have a new cabinet secretary, so it would be good to seek his views.

Are members content to progress by doing those three things?

Members indicated agreement.

The Justice Committee hearing on Petition PE1458 was also reported in the National newspaper here:

Seventh year of register or judges interests petition

By Martin Hannan Journalist  07 Feb 2019

The committee will also seek the views of Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf

FOR nearly one third of the entire lifetime of the Scottish Parliament, MSPs have been discussing the petition put forward by law journalist and campaigner Peter Cherbi calling for a register of judges’ interests.

Now in its seventh year of consideration, the petition calls on the Scottish Parliament “to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill … or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests and hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.”

In the latest development, Holyrood’s Justice Committee has decided to call for more evidence after the Petitions Committee referred the case to them. John Finnie, Highland MSP for the Greens, said: “There is a public expectation – it is not unreasonable, in my view – that there should be no conflicts of interest.”

The committee will also seek the views of Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

As a result of the petition, the Scottish judiciary now keep a register of recusals, when a judge or sheriff steps aside from a case.

Cherbi commented: “It does somehow feel like the six years of work from the Public Petitions Committee (PPC) should be put to better use, and work should now begin on creating the register rather than repeating the evidence exercise.

“Seven years is a long time for a petition on transparency, especially one calling for a register of judicial interests to the equivalent or higher standard of the same register which MSPs are required to adhere to.

“I feel we must now move on and take the good work of MSPs on the PPC to bring this register into existence,” he added.

Previously, on the Register of Judicial Interests Petition –

A video report of the Public Petitions Committee backing for the petition can be viewed online here: Petition PE 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 22 March 2018

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

Scotland’s second Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also supported  the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

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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JUDICIAL REGISTER – MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

MSPs to consider judicial interests call. A PETITION calling for the creation of a Register of Judges’ Interests in Scotland – which is now in it’s SEVENTH year is to be considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee on Tuesday 5 February 2019.

The latest consideration of Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary comes after members of the Justice Committee initially heard the petition in late September 2018 – with several MSPs supporting the view the petition should be taken forward.

During the Committee’s meeting, John Finnie MSP of the Scottish Greens said: “Future generations will be surprised that we do not have such a register already.”

Daniel Johnson MSP (Scottish Labour) said: “We all need to be mindful that we have a legal duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary, but transparency enhances independence. I very much support the comments that colleagues have made. We should take the petition forward.”

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

The proposal, first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, backing in the media, and crucial support from two of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewers – including Moi Ali

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee in a hard hitting evidence session during September 2013,and gave full sypport to the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Video footage of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee’s first consideration of the judciial register petition in September 2018 can be viewed here:

Register of Judicial Interests – Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 25 September 2018

Official Report: Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

Margaret Mitchell MSP (Scottish Conservatives) (Convener) : Under item 4, the committee will consider two petitions. I refer members to paper 4, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 5, which is a private paper. The committee is asked to consider and agree what action, if any, it wishes to take in relation to each petition. Possible options are outlined in paragraph 5 of paper 4. I remind members that if they wish to keep a petition open, they should indicate how they would like the committee to take it forward. If they wish to close a petition, they should give reasons. We will consider each petition in the order in which they appear on the agenda.

This is the first time that the committee has considered PE1458. The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a register of pecuniary interests of judges bill, or amend existing legislation, to require all members of the judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests and hospitality received to a publicly available register of interests. Do members have any comments or questions?

John Finnie (Scottish Green Party):  I seem to have mislaid the paper, but from memory there were a number of recommendations around requiring further information. I would support that approach. Future generations will be surprised that we do not have such a register already. We need to be best informed, so I suggest that we get that additional information and consider the petition again.

Rona Mackay (Scottish National Party) :  I agree with my colleague, John Finnie. The Public Petitions Committee believes that a register is not unworkable and recommended it. As John Finnie said, we need to explore the petition further and get as much information as we can so that we can take it forward.

Daniel Johnson (Scottish Labour) : We all need to be mindful that we have a legal duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary, but transparency enhances independence. I very much support the comments that colleagues have made. We should take the petition forward. It makes an awful lot of sense to do exploratory work.

The Convener: Is it the committee’s wish, therefore, that we keep the petition open and seek further information?

Members indicated agreement.

Since the Justice Committee considered the petition last September, there have been explosive revelations in the media in relation to Scottish and UK judges serving in Gulf States regimes and dictatorships, where the same judges are required to swear additional judicial oaths on top of the judicial oaths already sworn in Scotland and the UK.

An exclusive investigation by Investigative Journalist Russell Findlay revealed Scottish judges were serving in Abu Dhabi & UAE courts while serious Human Rights abuses were taking place against British citizens in the same countries.

The report reveals TOP judges are accused of selling the reputation of Scottish justice by working for Middle East countries with toxic human rights records.

Two judges are on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where domestic violence against women is legal and where regime critics are tortured and jailed without trial.

The most senior is Lord Hope of Craighead — Scotland’s former top judge, a member of the House of Lords and ex-deputy president of the UK Supreme Court.

Our investigation found that Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

The investigation also reveals how Scottish and UK judges are lured to the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar with big money salaries are available here: JUDGES FOR SALE: Special investigation into top lawmen being lured with big money jobs in Qatar and the UAE and here: Scottish judges slammed for being on payroll of oppressive regimes abroad

Two weeks ago, the petitioner was contacted and requested to provide a submission for the Justice Committee’s consideration of the petition.

The submission to the Justice Committee took the following form:

Submission re Petition PE1458 – A Register of Interests for Members of Scotland’s Judiciary

In response to the Justice Committee’s initial consideration of this petition, I agree with the decision by members to seek further and additional information to take the petition forward and create a Register of Judicial Interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary.

I would also like to submit further developments since members last considered the petition, where reports in the media have revealed senior members of Scotland’s judiciary serving in overseas courts, particularly in the Gulf States such as UAE, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and others.

It should be of interest to members that in the case of Lord McGhie, who is currently listed on the Judiciary of Scotland’s website as Chairman of the Scottish Land Court and President of the Lands Tribunal for Scotland, the biography of Lord McGhie’s interests does not mention the fact he also serves on the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts.

Of note, the ADGM Court does list Lord McGhie’s service in Scotland as a member of the judiciary, however the Judiciary of Scotland omit all details of Lord McGhie’s overseas judicial service, as can be noted from the two separate judicial biographies forwarded to the Justice Committee,

An investigation by the Sunday Mail newspaper revealed Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh – yet given there is clearly no mention of his service abroad, and the fact Lord McGhie will be subject to a judicial oath in the UAE as well as adhere to his judicial oath in Scotland, clearly a register of Judicial Interests would require information such as this to be published, while currently, the Judicial Office for Scotland does not publish such information.

It would be useful for the Justice Committee to make enquiries as to the two separate judicial oaths and terms of service which Lord McGhie is subject to, here in Scotland, and in the United Arab Emirates, as clearly, such information should be present in a publicly available Register of Judicial Interests.

The dual service of Scottish judges in overseas jurisdictions, including the Gulf States should be further examined, in the light of the published reports and significant public interest in the cases of lawyer David Haigh, where a Scottish Sheriff accepted Mr Haigh’s account of Human Rights abuses, and torture in Dubai, and the case of Matthew Hedges – held for five months without explanation, then charged with, and found guilty on allegations of espionage.

In recent enquiries with the Judicial Office for Scotland, I have noted there are no recusals by Justices of the Peace since the guidance on recusals was extended to JPs as of January 2018.

However, since Tribunal members interests were added to the recusals register, recusals jumped from around 20 a year to 49 in the past year.

The lack of recusals for Justices of the Peace, who number around 450 and comprise the highest proportion in terms of numbers of Scotland’s judiciary, are worthy of scrutiny, particularly as the Scottish Justices Association have expressed negative sentiments towards reform and transparency in the past, notably in the case of media reports in relation to overseas trips by Justices of the Peace, which are covered in a Sunday Herald investigation forwarded with this submission.

As part of the further information which the Justice Committee may wish to seek on judicial conflicts of interest, I would suggest making enquiries to the Judicial Office on how the guidance on recusals is being implemented, and how far down the line it goes, for instance, in selection and subsequent training of judicial office holders prior to their service on the bench and how such guidance plays a role in every day court proceedings.

The Register of Recusals is available for inspection online http://www.scotland-judiciary.org.uk/68/0/Judicial-Recusals

I also suggest members study the Norway model of a register of judicial interests https://www.domstol.no/en/The-Courts-of-Justice/The-ordinary-courts-of-Norway/Dommeres-sidegjoremal/ and how such a model, with enhancements could be created for Scotland’s judiciary.

From the report of the Justice Committee’s initial consideration of the petition, I agree with the support expressed by members for progressing the petition from Rona Mackay, Daniel Johnson, and John Finnie MSP who stated “Future generations will be surprised that we do not have such a register already.”

The Scottish Parliament, by way of the Public Petitions Committee, MSPs during the full debate in October 2014 and now the Justice Committee have amassed a level of information and submissions on this petition which should go forward in the public interest to create a Registrar of Judicial Interests – and apply the same level of transparency for members of the judiciary, which already exists for all other branches of the Executive and those in public life.

However, the above submission was initially rejected, by a Scottish Parliament clerk – who claimed there was no existing biography for Lord McGhie on the Judiciary of Scotland’s website, and that Lord McGhie was in-fact retired.

The clerk was challenged on his claims after journalists confirmed the existence of the biography for Lord McGhie remained on the Judicial Office website – and that Lord McGhie had in-fact sat as recently as 2018 on cases in the Court of Session, sitting alongside Lady Paton and Lord Drummond Young.

Journalist Peter Cherbi tweeted out the sequence of his findings on twitter, here: Twitter – Content of Judicial Service Bio of Lord McGhie questioned

The clerk, who has since been identified as Seán Wixted – did not reply to the petitioner’s information confirming the existence of the biography of Lord McGhie, nor was any response given as to why court opinions also show Lord McGhie sitting in court, despite the clerk’s claim the judge was retired.

A revised submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee contained the following substitute paragraphs:

It would be useful for the Justice Committee to make enquiries in relation to members of Scotland’s judiciary who serve in overseas jurisdictions and details in relation to the two separate judicial oaths and terms of service which judges swear to, in jurisdictions such as the United Arab Emirates and here in Scotland, as clearly, such information should be present in a publicly available Register of Judicial Interests.

The dual service of Scottish judges in overseas jurisdictions, including the Gulf States should be further examined, in the light recent media coverage of the dual service of Scottish judges and significant public interest in such cases.

and added the following suggestion MSPs experienced in the petition should be asked for evidence:

Lastly, and noting the recommendations listed in papers for members consideration of this petition on Tuesday 5 February 2019, I would like to request the Justice Committee invite members of the Public Petitions Committee to give evidence to the Justice Committee on this petition, given the PPC’s six years of experience, dedication and exceptional work on this petition, which has accumulated significant evidence, testimony and backing from all sections of the community in favour of creating a Register of Judicial Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

It was further noted in emails provided to the media the petitioner was not allowed to inform MSPs of the clerk’s demand the submission was edited at the request of the Committee’s own clerk, Mr Wixted.

Previously, on the Register of Judicial Interests Petition –

A video report of the Public Petitions Committee backing for the petition can be viewed online here: Petition PE 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 22 March 2018

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

Scotland’s second Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also supported  the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

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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THE UNRECUSED: Mystery as 450 Justices of the Peace fail to register one single recusal in a full year after conflict of interest rules change for Scotland’s secretive army of lay magistrates

Justices of the Peace listed no recusals in court. CONCERNS are being expressed that Justices of the Peace are unwilling to declare conflicts of interest in court proceedings – after it emerged NOT ONE of Scotland’s Four Hundred and Fifty Justices of the Peace recused themselves from court proceedings in the past year – according to

The revelation comes after the Judicial Office for Scotland was quizzed on the lack of any registered recusal by a Justice of the Peace in the published Register of Recusals available on the Judiciary of Scotland website here: Judicial Recusals – Judiciary of Scotland.

In response to media enquiries the Judicial Office admitted it had not been informed of any recusal motion by any of Scotland’s Justices of the Peace.

The Judicial Office said: “We have received no notification of a JP recusing themselves from a case since the guidance came into force, which was in January 2018”

In response to further enquries for information relationg to any refusals of Justices of the Peace to recuse, the Judicial Office stated: “We are to be informed if a formal motion for recusal is granted or refused, or if the Judicial Office holder decides at their own accord to recuse.  Nothing has yet been reported to us.”

The worrying admission from Scotland’s top judges of their lower ranking colleagues failure to declare any conflicts of interest – comes after a solicitor suggested Justices of the Peace are unwilling or are refusing to declare what are known to be numerous conflicts of interest.

The statistics of not one single recusal by Justices of the Peace – who vastly outnumber Sheriffs, Judges of the High Court and Court of Session – have raised eyebrows in legal circles – after the steep increase in published judicial recusals from around 20 a year to 49 resulted after a change in recusal guidance last year – which saw requirements placed on tribunal members to register conflicts of interest.

Further enqiuries to legal sources have established there is some reticence on the part of Justices of the Peace to comply with the new guidance on recusals.

Speaking on condition of anonymity – a solicitor who has represented clients in relation to cases with troubling outcomes – heard by a Justice of the Peace with a known history of failing to address issues in the JP court – commented that he felt Justices of the Peace were not respecting requirements to list or declare their conflicts of interest.

The solicitor added that – particularly if someone is unrepresented before a JP court, there is little incentive for court clerks or the Justice of the Peace themselves to recuse themselves – given there is currently no fully published Register of Judicial Interests in Scotland.

Guidance requiring Justices of the Peace to declare conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from court hearings came into force in 2018 after calls for JPs to be brought into line with rules of recusals which apply to the remainder of Scotland’s judiciary.

This guidance was created after reports on Diary of Injustice here: DECLARE YOUR JUSTICE: Judicial Office consults with Lord Carloway on including Justices of the Peace in Register of Judicial Recusals – as questions surface over Lord Gill’s omission of 500 JPs from judicial transparency probe.

A report in the Scottish National newspaper in 2017 also featured the calls for JPs to register recusals, which can be viewed here: Campaigner calls on Scotland’s top judge to extend register of recusals.

The remainder of Scotland’s judiciary – currently headed by Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) – have been required from April 2014 to recuse themselves from court hearings in which a potential conflict of interest may emerge, the Register of Recusals.

However, and curiously – the numerically superior force of Justices of the Peace were excluded from the Register of Recusals, created by Lord Brian Gill in April 2014 as a response to a probe by the Scottish Parliament into a petition calling for a fully published Register of Judicial Interests:

There has never been an explanation offered by Lord Gill, or his successor Lord Carloway – for the exclusion of Justices of the Peace from the Register of Recusals when it was created five years ago after the then Lord President Brian Gill, attempted to thwart what became a six year Parliamentary probe by the Public Petitions Committee into Judicial Interests – Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

The proposal, first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support from a full debate at Holryood in October 2014.

The petition has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate.

The investigation by MSPs of the proposal to create a Register of Judicial Interests – now in it’s seventh year – has since been taken over by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – and is due to be heard again on 5 February 2019.

Justices of the Peace resited scrutiny of junkets – demanded cull of whistleblowers:

It has also emerged that bitter divisions within the Scottish Justices Association – which saw ‘hysteria’ by senior figures in the Justice of the Peace courts against the Sunday Herald – after the paperreported on numerous publicly funded junkets for Justices of the Peace to New Zealand  and around the world – have similarly been expressed in private against the  new requirements of Justices of the Peace to reveal their conflicts of interest.

The Sunday Herald reported on the junkets for Justices of the Peace here: Justices of the Peace group under fire for latest ‘junket’

A further article in the Sunday Herald in relation to troubles at the Scottish Justices Association – after the Sunday Herald exposed the JP junkets – is reprinted below:

Mole-hunts and mass culls … justices of the peace accused of ‘borderline hysteria’ after junket exposé

By TOM GORDON Sunday Herald 1 November 2015

THE Scottish Justices Association has been accused of “borderline hysteria” after proposing a mass cull of potential whistleblowers after being repeatedly criticised for overseas junkets.

The taxpayer-funded justice quango, which represents the country’s 400 justices of the peace, is considering axing its entire board as part of an extreme mole-hunt.

The idea was proposed after the Sunday Herald revealed SJA chair John Lawless was going on a five-day, £3,500 conference trip to New Zealand in September.

The Glasgow and Strathkelvin JP had previously been to conferences in Malaysia and Uganda in 2011 and 2012 at a total cost of £3,800.

When the Sunday Herald enquired about his latest jaunt, outgoing SJA secretary Keith Parkes sent a furious email to the organisation’s executive committee.

“The leak to the press should be considered a very serious breach of judicial ethics,” he said, recommending an immediate report to a senior judge.”

Parkes, who sits as a JP in Perth, suggested a complete clear-out of the SJA hierarchy.

“I consider that … the whole of the SJA executive committee should resign with immediate effect with new elections … where no current members would be allowed to stand.”

Parkes is expected to raise the matter at the SJA’s annual general meeting later this month.

Last year, the Sunday Herald revealed how Parkes, a former RAF pilot, sparked a row inside the SJA by going on a £3,000, five-day justice conference to Zambia.

Even some of his fellow SJA board members denounced the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association (CMJA) event as a “junket” and a “gross misuse of public funds”.

Held at the opulent Zambezi Sun Hotel next to Victoria Falls, the conference’s entire last day was set aside for sightseeing.

This year’s CMJA conference in the New Zealand capital Wellington, which Lawless attended, included two evening receptions, a “gala dinner”, and another full day’s sightseeing.

Although SJA bosses attending conferences are expected to write reports to enlighten their fellow JPs about the discussions, these have often been minimal in the past.

In 2008, two JPs at a CMJA conference in South Africa costing £4,227 produced “rather short reports that concentrated on their personal impressions of Nelson Mandela rather than what had been said at the conference”, according to a leak – one report was just 250 words long.

Lawless’s reports on his Malaysia and Uganda trips ran to 700 and 600 words respectively.

The SJA, which has a budget of around £18,000 a year, is entirely funded by the public purse.

Independent MSP John Wilson, who has previously queried the SJA’s spending priorities, said the idea of replacing the entire executive was “borderline hysteria”.

“This is a complete over-reaction,” he said. “It’s just because they’ve been named and shamed. The issue is not moles. It’s junkets when the court service is underfunded and overworked.” Lawless declined to comment.The issue is not moles. It’s junkets when the court service is underfunded and overworked;

_________________________________

BACKGROUND – JUSTICES OF THE PEACE:

Justices of the peace are lay magistrates who sit with a legally qualified adviser to deal with summary criminal cases.

There are around 450 justices, who are drawn from all walks of life.

Justices sit either alone or on a treble bench and deal with many driving offences such as speeding, careless driving, tachograph offences and driving without insurance.

They also deal with less serious assault, breach of the peace, theft and other less serious crimes. Their powers of punishment are limited to 60 days’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,500 or both and to disqualify drivers on a discretionary basis.

The office of Justice of the Peace dates back to 1609, originally involving administrative, policing and judicial functions. The current justice of the peace courts were created in 2007 to replace district courts, which were operated by local authorities.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service is now responsible for the administration of Justice of the Peace courts, which are organised by sheriffdom rather than local authority area. Throughout their history, justices have remained lay people, dispensing criminal justice on a local basis.

Justices are appointed by Scottish Ministers for five-year periods on the recommendation of Justice of the Peace Advisory Committees.Portree.

 

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JUDICIAL REGISTER: ‘Judges should register their interests’ says former Judicial Investigator – as Holyrood Justice Committee set to consider SIX YEARS of work, evidence and backing from MSPs & Public Petitions Committee

Scottish Parliament probe judicial interests & register proposal. A SIX YEAR Scottish Parliament probe into Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary which generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate – is set to be looked at by Holyrood’s Justice Committee, tomorrow – Tuesday 25 September.

The proposal, first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support from a full debate at Holryood in October 2014.

Now, members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee are set to look at the proposals, already backed by many MSPs and the Public Petitions Committee.

Recommendations for action by Justice Committee members – listed in papers for Tuesday’s meeting include the following options:

5. Once a petition has been referred to a subject Committee it is for the Committee to decide how, or if, it wishes to take the petition forward. Among options open to the Committee are to: Keep the petition open and write to the Scottish Government or other stakeholders seeking their views on what the petition is calling for, or views on further information to have emerged over the course of considering the petition; Keep the petition open and take oral evidence from the petitioner, from relevant stakeholders or from the Scottish Government; Keep the petition open and await the outcome of a specific piece of work, such as a consultation or piece of legislation before deciding what to do next; Close the petition on the grounds that the Scottish Government has made its position clear, or that the Scottish Government has made some or all of the changes requested by the petition, or that the Committee, after due consideration, has decided it does not support the petition;

The Committee may wish to consider what action, if any, it would like to take in  relation to the petition. Possible options are set out at paragraph 5 above. If this is an issue that the Committee would like to explore further, it may wish to consider writing to those listed at paragraph 9 to ask whether they had anything to add to their earlier contributions. It could also seek more information on the Norwegian model, and then obtain an updated briefing from SPICe.

Included also in the Committee papers are submissions from the Petitioner, and Moi Ali – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer – who gave evidence to the Public Petitions Committee in September 2013, supporting the petition’s calls for the creation of a register of judicial interests.

The submission from Moi Ali reads as follows:

This brief submission to the Justice Committee relates to its consideration of a proposal to implement a register of interests for the judiciary. I am writing as an ordinary citizen, but my submission is informed by my experience as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR).

In that previous role I gave evidence to the Petitions Committee in support of a register of interests.

Although now writing in a private capacity, I have served on public boards for nearly two decades and as a Board Member I have (rightly) been required to complete a register of interests for each role, to provide assurance to the public that my dealings are not motivated by money, family connections or friendships.

The Justice Committee members who will take the decision on a register of interests, as MSPs must publish their interests too.

It is time that the judiciary joined the rest of those in public life in taking this small, simple step to improve transparency and accountability, thereby enhancing their own reputation in the process.

I have long campaigned for greater transparency in public life, yet in my role as JCR I occasionally found the judiciary to be needlessly secretive.

I am not suggesting that there was anything to hide, but a failure to be transparent inevitably left the public with whom I dealt feeling suspicious.

I will not rehearse the arguments in favour of a register of interests: they are well known.

However, I would emphasise that although opposed by the judiciary, it is in their own interests as well as the public interest that there be a register of interests.

I would like to conclude by reiterating my respect for the judiciary and the essential work that they undertake. Judicial independence is vital to a democracy, but with independence goes accountability. A register of interests is a mechanism for enhancing accountability. Ms Moi Ali 18 September 2018

In March of this year, after lengthy deliberations & evidence,  the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee backed the petition calling for the creation of a register of interests, and concluded the proposal to increase judicial transparency – should become law.

On Thursday, 22 March 2018, the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament held it’s 25th hearing on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Members of the Committee concluded that such a register should be introduced into law – and cast aside arguments put forward by two top judges that such a register was “unworkable

Petitions Committee Convener Johann Lamont MSP (Scottish Labour) said: “In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. “

“The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests.”

“We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.”

Deputy Convener Angus MacDonald MSP (Scottish National Party) added: “This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn.”

“Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.”

“The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.”

“I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.”

The Petitions Committee have since written to the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, and Lord Carloway.

When responses are received, MSPs will consider further action.

Video footage and a transcript of the Public Petitions Committee hearing follows:

Petition PE 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 22 March 2018

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458):

The Convener:  The next petition, PE1458, calls for the introduction of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. As members will recall, we have previously agreed to write to the Lord President and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and have considered a draft letter at previous meetings. The petition has received much consideration since it was lodged in 2012. I express my gratitude to the petitioner for raising the issue and to all those who have engaged in discussions on the issues that are raised in the petition, including the Lord President, Lord Carloway, and his predecessor, Lord Gill.

In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests. We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.

In reaching that view, the committee is very clear that it does not consider there to be a basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making. Rather, it is the view that we have reached, based on the principles of transparency and openness in public life. While that is the view of this committee, we also understand that the Lord President and the Scottish Government have indicated they do not support the introduction of a register.

Would it be appropriate for us to invite the Justice Committee to consider the petition in light of our recommendation? Would members be content to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration? Do members have any comments?

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn. Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.

The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.

I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.

Rona Mackay: I broadly agree with what my colleague has said. That is a natural way forward for the petition. I do not think that we can take it any further, given the history that we have just heard. I think that it is sensible to send it to the Justice Committee for its consideration.

The Convener:  Do we agree to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration?

Members indicated agreement.

Decision: PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out its view that a register of interests should be introduced and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, under Rule 15.6.2 of Standing Orders, for its consideration.

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, is widely supported in the media and  in public debate as a result of media coverage.

The petition secured early support of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali, and her successor – Gillian Thompson.

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013, giving early backing to the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Scotland’s second Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also supported  the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

The letters sent by the Public Petitions Committee to Lord President Lord Carloway, and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests:

Dear Lord Carloway,

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

As you may be aware, the above petition was lodged in December 2012 and has been considered by the current Public Petitions Committee and its Session 4 predecessor. Over this period MSPs have taken on board the arguments for and against a register of interests and the nature of the interests that might be covered in such a register. This letter sets out the conclusions that the Public Petitions Committee has reached on the petition.

In setting out these conclusions, I would emphasise that the Committee absolutely recognises that an independent and well-functioning judiciary is, and must be, an essential part of our system of government.

I also make clear that the Committee’s consideration of the petition, and the views set out in this letter, reflect our viewpoint that there is no basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making.

The Committee has reached its views based on the wider contemporary picture of transparency and openness in public life wherein preventing the perception of any undue influence is important in ensuring confidence in those holding public office.

Register of recusals

One of the welcome developments in the course of this petition has been the introduction of a register of recusals. The Committee notes that this register was brought into effect in April 2014 directly as a result of the petition and a meeting between the then Lord President, Lord Gill, and representatives of the Session 4 Public Petitions Committee. In recent discussions with the Committee, and the petitioner, you agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals. As a result, the register will now ensure transparency about recusal across courts and tribunals in Scotland. The Committee very much welcomes these measures.

In doing so, we note that this addresses one of the arguments made against a register of financial interests – that it would not capture those instances where consideration of any potential conflict in a case was based on a social or personal connection that may not be known about prior to a case coming to court.

The Committee agrees that the practicalities are such that it would not be possible or proportionate to require advance registration of personal connection with parties that may at some point be relevant within a particular case. However, we do consider that public transparency of such connections is vital and the register of recusals is the tool that strikes an appropriate balance in this regard.

We would also observe that the value of collating information about recusals is that it enables analysis to be undertaken of the way the recusal systems operates and for this analysis to inform ongoing thinking about the administration of justice through the Scottish courts.

Register of financial interests

Turning now to the core question of a register of interests, the Committee’s most recent consideration of the petition focussed on seeking to understand and explore some of the arguments put forward against the introduction of such a register.

These arguments have included—

• a risk of online fraud due to retribution from dissatisfied litigants (which, it was argued, may have an inhibitory effect on the administration of justice if judges start to decline roles on public bodies such as the board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service) and,

• the possibility of the existence of a register of interests having a damaging effect on recruitment.

Members do, of course, have an understanding of the practical operation of a register of interests given the duties that apply to elected members. However, in considering the arguments put forward, we have not considered the role of judges as analogous to the role of elected members or had in mind any particular model for a register of interests that might be appropriate for judges.

Instead, our consideration has been based on an understanding of the expectations that apply to all holders of public office, whether elected or unelected, in relation to disclosure of financial interests. As we noted above, such disclosures not only allow for demonstration that decision-making is not influenced by personal interests but also prevent the perception of the influence of interests on decision-making.

Having considered these arguments and the thinking behind them, the Committee has not been convinced that a register of interests is an unworkable idea and it is the view of the Committee that such a register should be introduced.

Recognising that the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland have indicated that they do not support the introduction of a register, the Committee today agreed to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, inviting that Committee to consider the petition further, in light of our recommendation.

Yours sincerely: Johann Lamont MSP Convener

The National reported on the success of the six year petition calling for a register of judicial interests, in the following articles:

Judges register backed by MSPs to become law

Martin Hannan Journalist 23 March 2018

IT’S taken nearly six years and 25 hearings but as The National predicted yesterday, a register of interests for all Scottish judges is set to become law.

The petition for a register by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi will now go the Justice Committee at Holyrood with a recommendation that the register becomes law.

The current and previous Lord Presidents, Lord Carloway and Lord Gill respectively, both strongly opposed the register which they feel will make it difficult for judges to be recruited.

Committee chair Johann Lamont said: “The committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable and it is the view of the committee that such a register should be introduced.”

She said the committee’s view had been reached with regard to “the principles of openness and transparency in public life”.

Having achieved his success after years of work, Peter Cherbi told The National: “I am delighted to hear the Public Petitions Committee support the creation of a register of interests for judges, and applaud their work on this petition.

“From filing the petition in 2012, being a part of the process to submit evidence, report on hearings, and observing witness evidence, I am very impressed that Holyrood followed this through from committee, to a full debate in the main chamber in October 2014, where the petition gathered overwhelming cross party support, to now, with the decision to recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests.

“Key evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali in September 2013 was, I believe, the turning point and a key moment where the proposal for register of judicial interests gathered steam.

“MSPs were able to hear for themselves from someone within the justice framework how a register of interests for judges would not only benefit transparency, but also bring back much needed public trust and respect to the justice system and our courts.

“My sincere thanks to MSPs Angus MacDonald, David Torrance, current Convener Johann Lamont, ex-convener David Stewart, Jackson Carlaw, particularly Alex Neil who asked key questions several times in the process, former MSPs Chic Brodie and John Wilson and all members of the Public Petitions Committee past and present who have given their considerable time, effort and input into this petition, have taken the time to study the evidence, and arrive at the conclusion transparency in the judiciary is a good thing, and not as Lord Carloway and Lord Gill claimed ‘unworkable’.”

This is a good day for the Scottish Parliament and for transparency.

The Sunday Mail print edition reported on the Petitions Committee backing for legislation to require judges to declare their interest, and also featured a report on Alex Neil MSP – who supports the judicial transparency proposals and is prepared to bring in a Members Bill to create a register of judges’ interests:

BATTLE TO BRING IN JUDGES’ REGISTER

Sunday Mail 25 March 2018

Ex-minister Alex Neil will defy Nicola Sturgeon with a bill forcing Scotland’s judges to declare their interests.

Holyrood’s petitions committee have asked the Government to legislate for a register which may include details of financial, professional and personal connections of judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace.

Sturgeon is expected to reject the committee’s recommendation. But Neil believes there is enough cross-party support to raise his own bill, in a rare act of SNP backbench rebellion.

He said: “If no bill is brought forward by the Government, I would intend to do so myself, as there is significant support from other MSPs.”

Former health secretary Neil backs the register after representing constituent Donal Nolan, who took Advance Construction to court over a land dispute.

It later emerged that judge Lord Malcolm sat on the case despite his lawyer son Ewen Campell acting for the construction firm.

Neil said: “If the committee decide to recommend a bill, it is absolutely necessary as I have seen from cases such as Nolan v Advance Construction where there were undeclared interests.”

The Scottish Sun print edition also reported on the Petition Committee’s backing for a register of judicial interests and Alex Neil MSP’s plan for a Member’s Bill:

JUDGE LIST IS BACKED

Scottish Sun 23 March 2018

MSPs defied Nicola Sturgeon yesterday by calling for judges to list their financial ties.

Holyrood’s cross-party Public Petitions Committee backed a register of interests for the judiciary.

Its convener Johann Lamont said the move was based on “principles of transparency and openness in public life”.

Top judge Lord Carloway claimed the register would hit recruitment and the Government has said it was “not needed”.

Last night Nats MSP Alex Neil warned if plans for the list are not backed he is “prepared to do it as a Member’s Bill”.

A further report in The National newspaper:

MSPs to call for judges’ register in Scotland after years-long campaign

Martin Hannan Journalist 22 March 2018

AFTER nearly six years and 25 sittings of evidence and debate on the petition to create a register of judges’ interests, The National has learned that the Holyrood Petitions Committee is set to recommend legislation to the Scottish Government.

The petition lodged by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi in 2012 called for a Register of Pecuniary Interests Bill and when it meets later today, the Petitions Committee will have a draft letter before it suggesting the Scottish Government brings in such a register.

Cherbi’s petition has been strongly supported by MSPs such as Alex Neil and equally strongly opposed by members of the judiciary led by the current and former Lord Presidents, Lords Carloway and Gill respectively, who said it could be harmful to judges and their recruitment.

Cherbi said last night: “Everyone apart from the judiciary, and apparently those with a desire on becoming a judge, gets the idea that judges should declare their interests in a register, just like everyone else in public positions.

“For the judiciary to have stalled this transparency proposal on their reasoning that judges should be given a pass from transparency just because they are judges does not fit in with modern life or expectations by the public of openness in government and the justice system.

“Two top judges have given evidence. Both adopted overwhelmingly aggressive positions to the idea that the same transparency which exists across public life, and which they are charged with enforcing in our courts, should be applied to them.

“Yet amidst their inferences that justice would shut down, judges could not be hired, and the world would stop turning, neither Lord Carloway nor Lord Gill could make a convincing case against creating a register of judicial interests.

“Prosecutors, police, court staff, even the legal aid board – all key parts of the justice system have registers of interest. Therefore there can be no exclusion from transparency for the most powerful members of the justice system – the judiciary itself.

“Who would have thought judges would have been so fearful of transparency and disclosing their own interests, that it would have taken six years for the Scottish Parliament to reach this stage of recommending legislation? Time now to take openness forward for our judiciary, which will ultimately help regain a measure of public confidence in the courts.

“This is a win win for Scotland. We as a team, petitioners, the media, Judicial Complaints Reviewers, those in our courts and even the legal profession who back this move – changed the judiciary’s expectations of openness and requirements of transparency.”

The video timeline of debate at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee from 2012 to 2018 on Petition PE1458:

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scottish Judiciary Scottish Parliament 8 January 2013

The Committee decided to call for submissions on the petition from the Lord President, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Crown Office.

Petition PE1458 Register of Judges Interests 5 March 2013 Scottish Parliament

Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to legislate to create a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary was heard today 5 March 2013. The Committee decided to call for further evidence and also to invite the Lord President Lord Gill and others along to speak to MSPs and be questioned on the matter.

Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament 16 April 2013

 

A petition calling for a register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary has again been debated at the Scottish Parliament, where upon the Lord President Lord Gill’s refusal to attend the Petitions Committee to give evidence, the Petitions Committee decided to repeat its invitation to Lord Gill to attend, and also agreed to seek the views of the Judicial Appointments Board and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.

Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scottish Judiciary 25 June 2013 Scottish Parliament

Members of the PPC decided to invite Moi Ali, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence and also to contact Dr Kennedy Graham MP of the New Zealand Parliament. Dr Graham currently has a bill before MPs in New Zealand calling for a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges. During the debate it was noted Lord Gill has refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to discuss the petition and judge’s interests, but has attended the Justice Committee to discuss court closures in Scotland.

Evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali on Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament

Moi Ali, Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer gives evidence to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament regarding Public Petition PE1458 calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary.

Petition 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 28th January 2014

Following a private meeting between Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Brian Gill, and the Convener & Deputy Convener of the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament,the Committee agreed today, 28 January 2014 to defer consideration of Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to create a register of judicial interests, pending receipt of a letter from the Lord President.

The Convener, David Stewart MSP and Deputy Convener, Chic Brodie MSP reported back to members on what had been said at the private meeting with Scotland’s top judge who refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to be questioned on his deep seated opposition to the proposal to requie Scottish judges to declare all their interests, hidden wealth, family & business links and other matters which may impact on cases being heard before judges in Scottish courts.

Committee Member John Wilson MSP requested details of the private meeting with the judge be put on the official record of the Committee, and Jackson Carlaw MSP drew attention to the fact had it not been for the Petitions Committee asking tough questions there would not even be any letters forthcoming from Lord Gill.

The petition will be heard once a letter has been received from Scotland’s top judge, who appears to be set against any attendance to face questions on why judges should not be required to register their interests, unlike all other public officials, politicians, Government Ministers and others.

Petition 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Scottish Parliament 4 March 2014

The Committee agreed to seek time in the chamber for a debate on the petition. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee

The Committee agreed to continue the petition, and is seeking a debate in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government for more detailed responses.

The next fifteen video clips are from the debate held at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 09 October 2014, in which MSPs, Scottish Government ministers and members of the Public Petitions Committee spoke in the debate. The full text of the speeches of each MSP can be found here: DEBATING THE JUDGES: Cross party support for proposal seeking a register of interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary as Scottish Parliament holds first ever debate on judicial accountability & transparency

David Stewart MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

David Stewart: The committee’s motivation in giving consideration to the issue and in seeking time in the chamber to debate it is a point of principle and comes from the starting point of there being an assumption of openness and transparency in all areas of public life in order to shine a light, if you like, into every corner of Scottish society.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Roseanna Cunningham: The setting up of a register of judicial interests would be a matter for the Lord President, as head of the judiciary in Scotland. The Lord President takes the view that a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary is not needed. Furthermore, a judge has a greater duty of disclosure than a register of financial interests could address.

Graeme Pearson MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Graeme Pearson: Until the petition was discussed, there was no knowledge of recusals in the public domain. I welcome the fact that, as of April this year, the Lord President has introduced a register of recusals. It is fair to say that without the petition and the work of the Public Petitions Committee, such a register would probably not have been considered.

Jackson Carlaw MSP opening speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament

Jackson Carlaw: It is perhaps difficult to take on the judiciary, because judicial independence is always mentioned. As I said, that is a cornerstone of democracy, but because there has been no separation of accountability and independence, it is easy for the judiciary to say, ‘We are independent, so don’t interfere in that.’ Unless independence and accountability are separated, legislation will continue to include no requirement for more openness and transparency.”

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

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

Anne McTaggart MSP Register of Judicial Interests debate – Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Anne McTaggart: In Scotland, claims continue to emerge of trials that have been unfair as a result of religious, ethnic or national bias. As long as those claims continue to exist, it is the Parliament’s job to promote fair government. In conclusion, I declare my support for the petition and encourage support from all the other MSPs.

David Torrance MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct

David Torrance: Although I understand that conflicts of interest are on occasion declared in open court prior to taking on a case, the introduction of a register of interests would provide a more consistent and sound basis on which to move forward.

Neil Findlay MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Neil Findlay: We need to do much more to make our society less secretive and less closed, and I think that the register that we are discussing is just one step towards that end. I, for one, give it my full support and urge other MSPs to do the same.

Joan McAlpine MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

Joan McAlpine: I gently suggest to the Lord President, in whose gift it is to set up a register, as we cannot legislate for it in the Parliament, that he should be mindful of the need for the judiciary to move with the times, along with every other public institution, in order to retain the confidence of the public.

John Wilson MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 Oct 2014

John Wilson: A register of interests for judges is an area in which we could move forward and build more confidence in the system that we have in place.

Stewart Stevenson MSP speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Stewart Stevenson: I encourage Lord Gill and his successors to think about recalibrating their relationship with Parliament.

Jackson Carlaw MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Jackson Carlaw: Mind you, I would point out that we, too, swear an oath, but we nonetheless still subscribe to a register.

Elaine Murray MSP Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Elaine Murray: “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.” Therefore, the issue is not that anyone doubts the judiciary’s integrity, but that the public need to see that integrity.

Roseanna Cunningham MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Roseanna Cunningham: A number of members referred to the register of interests of MSPs. However, the situation is different, because we are directly accountable to the electorate.

Chic Brodie MSP closing speech Register of Judicial Interests debate Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 9 October 2014

Chic Brodie: There is concern that a register would have unintended consequences—a phrase that has been used often in the debate—for the judiciary’s freedom and privacy and its freedom from harassment from the media or dissatisfied litigants. Those are concerns, but they are no less so for others in public life, including MPs and MSPs, who may be attacked publicly for non-declaration of interests. Although it is argued that the establishment of a register may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary, it might equally be argued that its absence might have the same effect.

The debate at the Scottish Parliament now returns to deliberations of the Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 – A Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary:

Register of interests for judiciary Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 28 October 2014

Paul Wheelhouse Register of Judicial Interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 9 Dec2014

Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on their investigation of proposals to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458. Mr Wheelhouse on behalf of the Scottish Government opposes the creation of a register which will inform the public about what judges have, their interests, links to big business, banks, shares in corporations and tax avoidance scams.

Petition 1458 Register of interests for Scotland’s Judiciary Scottish Parliament 12th May 2015

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 12 May 2015. The Committee agreed to call Gillian Thompson OBE – Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence on the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Evidence of Gillian Thompson Judicial Complaints Reviewer Register of Interests for Judges Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 23 June 2015

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 23 June 2015. The Committee took evidence from Gillian Thompson OBE – Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer who gave evidence in support of the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Lord Brian Gill evidence to Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 10 Nov 2015

Lord Brian Gill, former Lord President and Lord Justice General of Scotland gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 calling for a register of interests for judges.Gill refused two earlier invitations to appear before the Public Petitions Committee in 2013 and was dubbed “Lord No No.”. Several times during the debate the 73 year old ‘retired’ Lord Gill called on the panel of MSPs to show faith in the UK judiciary and scrap the petition along with calls for greater transparency of judges interests.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for Judges Public Petitions Committee Holyrood 1 Dec 2015

Petitions Committee member Kenny MacAskill MSP calls for the committee to invite the new Lord President upon their appointment to appear to give evidence. Convener Michael McMahon MSP agrees to write to the new Lord President.

Petition PE1458 Register of judicial interests Scottish Parliament 23rd February 2016

The Committee decided Lord Carloway is to be called to give evidence, MSPs will also contact Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde for evidence.

Petition PE1458 Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 Sept 2016

The Petitions Committee decided to call Lord President Lord Carloway to give evidence, and also hear from Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde.

Petition PE1458 Register of Interests for judges Public Petitions Committee 22 Dec 2016

MSP Angus MacDonald (SNP) moves to call Professor Alan Paterson to give evidence to the committee and for msps to consider evidence from the Professor then to contact the Lord President, Lord Carloway.

Professor Alan Paterson Petitions Committee PE1458 19th Jan 2017

Professor Alan Paterson evidence to Public Petitions Committee on creating a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

PE 1458 Public Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 30th March 2017

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee decide to invite Lord President Lord Carloway to provide evidence before the Committee at a future date, and to invite Alex Neil MSP to appear before the Committee at the same meeting. The decision was taken after Lord Carloway offered concessions on the recusal register of Scotland’s judiciary – created as a result of this petition.

Lord Carloway Register of Judges interests Petitions Committee Scottish Parliament 29 June 2017

Lord Carloway gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on a proposal to create a register of judicial interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The proposal has been investigated by the Scottish Parliament for five years, there is wide support for the register, from cross party msps to the media to both Judicial Complaints Reviewers.

The Petition will next be heard on Thursday 7 December 2017 where the Public Petitions Committee will be asked to consider taking evidence from Baroness Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court, and to seek further evidence on the operation of Norway’s Register of Judicial Interests.

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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JUDGE THE JUDGE: In public and on camera, Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh demonstrate public, media & elected politicians have a right to know & question views of candidates for the judiciary

Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces Senate Committee. FOR THREE days this week, citizens in the United States of America, and anyone across the globe has been able to tune into the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary nomination hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh – for a position on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)

The hearings, broadcast via C-SPAN – the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network – have been a regular occurrence for several years now, airing to the public hearings where elected senators of the US Senate are able to quiz nominees for judicial posts in the US – including those nominated by the sitting President for a position on America’s top court.

After the death of Justice Anthony Scalia in in 2016, and the blocking of former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to join the US Supreme Court, President Trump has already succeeded in adding one Justice – Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court – in April 2017.

Now, President Trump’s second nomination to SCOTUS – Judge Brett Kavanaugh – who has stirred up significant controversy amid allegations of thousands of papers being withheld from scrutiny during his involvement in previous White House administrations – looks likely to be confirmed, despite concerns on Kavanaugh’s responses to significant issues of public concern raised by the minority Democratic Party Senator members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Without examining who did what and when – and there is a lot of this to consider – the fact these hearings take place in public, where members of the judiciary are rightly quizzed by democratically elected representatives in a national legislature as to their views on law, legal precedents, their past work, experience, and so on – is a bonus to transparency, public awareness of the law, the courts, and the role of the judiciary,

The Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh are available at the following links, for viewing:

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 1)

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 2)

Confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh (Day 3)

Among several shorter clips of the hearings posted by C-Span, is the series of questions from Senator Kamala Harris to Judge Kavanaugh – which is well worth watching – here:

Exchange between Sen. Harris and Judge Kavanaugh on Mueller Investigation (C-SPAN)

For more on the hearings, events at the US Supreme Court, and campaigning groups calling for reform of accountability and transparency at the US Supreme Court, please visit the excellent website of FIX THE COURT.

Fix the Court is a national, non-partisan grassroots organization created to take the Supreme Court to task for its lack of accountability and transparency and to push Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s eight associate justices to enact basic yet critical reforms to make the court more open and honest.

It educates the American people about the many problems plaguing the court and its justices and is building a movement of conservatives, independents and progressives demanding change with a common voice.

For more information on the reforms Fix the Court is pursuing, click here.

An interview with Fix the Court’s Executive Director – Gabe Roth – can be found online here: US Supreme Court: Is life tenure too long?

JUDICIAL SELECTION IN SCOTLAND – SECRECY RULES:

A world away from the United States & Senate Committees quizzing members of the judiciary, here in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, judicial recruitment and appointments more or less come down to members of the judiciary appointing members of the legal profession, often personally known to them – to plush, well salaried, powerful positions within Scotland’s judiciary.

Judicial Appointments in Scotland – as demonstrated by the appointment of Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) to what became little more than a simple elevation of Carloway as Lord Justice Clerk to that of the grandiose title of Lord President and Lord Justice General – aka Scotland’s top judge – are a behind closed doors process which the public, media, elected representatives have absolutely no role to play, or right to see.

All that the public, Scottish Parliament MSPs and media were able to inspect of Carloway’s appointment, were disclosed in a Freedom of Information request, published by DOI in April 2016

SECRETLY SELECTING A PRESIDENT, SO SECRETLY:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The disclosure, heavily redacted, and composed of twenty two short pages of meagre detail – are a far cry from public judicial nominations in the United States, handled by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

And, there is a reason for this – revealed by none other than Lord Carloway’s former boss – Lord Brian Gill – who was described by Lord Neuberger during a valedictory speech in London as an ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ – just weeks before Gill’s secret divorce of his long time wife was revealed in the Scottish Sun newspaper.

During early November 2015, Lord Gill – who had stood down after a testy, tumultuous three year term as Lord President in which he battled overwhelming backing for a register of judicial interests – finally gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament, and on the subject of judicial recruitment, Brian Gill told MSPs of his complete disdain for the US Justice system, attacking the way in which judicial nominees had to face questions from those outside the judiciary’s carefully closeted world.

A full report on Gill’s ‘brass neck’ attack on how US Justices are nominated, was published in 2016 here: OPENNESS? LORD, NO: The day Scotland’s former top judge lashed out at America’s justice system, accusing US judges of financial ties to corporations & vested interests

Gill went a step further, slating the US Justice system itself in his response to MSP Angus MacDonald – in video footage available here:

Lord Brian Gill slams US judges – Top Scots judge claims US judiciary elected by vested interests

Official Record: Petitions Committee 10 November 2015

Angus MacDonald: Thank you. It was important to get that fundamental view on the record.

What is your view of the fact that the United States of America has successfully introduced a register of judicial interests? Has the system in the States increased public confidence in the judiciary?

Lord Gill: I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.

Angus MacDonald: I will not pick up on that particular point.

Has there been any evidence on the impact that the US system has had on the independence of judges or the way in which the media treats judges in the USA?

Lord Gill: I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates’ election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts. I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.

The full evidence session held at the Scottish Parliament with Lord Gill on 7 November 2015 can be viewed here: Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015 with a full report and transcript of the meeting here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests.

In between refusing to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament, Lord Brian Gill spent his time on international travel, and giving a lecture on judicial ethics while on a taxpayer funded state visit to Qatar – a country not known as a haven of transparency or human rights.

Lord Gill’s Qatar expedition funded by public cash is reported in further detail here: LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree.

A year on from the confrontation between Lord Gill and the Scottish Parliament – only after two refusals to give evidence – MSPs await to hear from Scotland’s current top judge Lord Carloway – who, like his predecessor, given an equally hostile opinion on the very notion of judicial transparency and requirements of judges to declare their interests.

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

The proposals before the Scottish Parliament received cross party backing from MSPs during a full debate at Holyrood during October 2014 – Debating the Judges – call 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.

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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JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

MSPs support creation of Judicial Register. A SIX YEAR Scottish Parliament investigation of a petition calling for the creation of a register of interests for judges has received the backing of a powerful Holyrood Committee – who have concluded the proposal to increase judicial transparency – should become law.

On Thursday, 22 March 2018, the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament held it’s 25th hearing to discuss Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.

Members of the Committee concluded that such a register should be introduced into law – and cast aside arguments put forward by two top judges that such a register was “unworkable

Petitions Committee Convener Johann Lamont MSP (Scottish Labour) said: “In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. “

“The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests.”

“We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.”

Deputy Convener Angus MacDonald MSP (Scottish National Party) added: “This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn.”

“Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.”

“The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.”

“I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.”

The Petitions Committee have since written to the Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, and Lord Carloway.

When responses are received, MSPs will consider further action.

Video footage and a transcript of the Public Petitions Committee hearing follows:

Petition PE 1458 Register of Judicial Interests Public Petitions Committee 22 March 2018

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458):

The Convener:  The next petition, PE1458, calls for the introduction of a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. As members will recall, we have previously agreed to write to the Lord President and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and have considered a draft letter at previous meetings. The petition has received much consideration since it was lodged in 2012. I express my gratitude to the petitioner for raising the issue and to all those who have engaged in discussions on the issues that are raised in the petition, including the Lord President, Lord Carloway, and his predecessor, Lord Gill.

In the course of our consideration of the petition, positive developments have occurred—most notably the introduction and further development of a register of judicial recusals. The register brings welcome transparency to instances where a judge may decide, or be requested, to decline to hear a particular case. The committee particularly welcomes the recent agreement of the Lord President to expand the information that is captured in the register. However, the core action that was requested by the petition was the establishment of a register of financial interests. We have given much thought to this request, hearing views both for and against such a register. Having taken those arguments into account, the committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable, and it is the view of this committee that such a register should be introduced.

In reaching that view, the committee is very clear that it does not consider there to be a basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making. Rather, it is the view that we have reached, based on the principles of transparency and openness in public life. While that is the view of this committee, we also understand that the Lord President and the Scottish Government have indicated they do not support the introduction of a register.

Would it be appropriate for us to invite the Justice Committee to consider the petition in light of our recommendation? Would members be content to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration? Do members have any comments?

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): This is another long-running petition, having been live since December 2012—for as long as I have been on the committee. It was originally based on a similar move in New Zealand, which was subsequently withdrawn. Along with a wide range of back benchers from across the political spectrum, I spoke in favour of the introduction of a register of interests during a debate in the chamber in the previous session. It is clear to me that we need to ensure transparency and openness in public life as well as ensuring that people can have confidence in those holding public office. I believe that a register of interests along the lines of the system operating in Norway, which I have looked at, is the way to go. However, I am aware that the committee as a whole has not taken a view on that.

The petition has already secured a result, which you have referred to, with the introduction of a register of recusals, which was brought into effect in April 2014, directly as a result of this petition. You also referred to the fact that the current Lord President, Lord Carloway, has agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals.

I would be keen for the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland to do some further work on the introduction on the introduction of a register of financial interests. However, as you have suggested as possibly being the way forward, in the first instance we should refer the petition to the Justice Committee to allow it to move the issue forward.

Rona Mackay: I broadly agree with what my colleague has said. That is a natural way forward for the petition. I do not think that we can take it any further, given the history that we have just heard. I think that it is sensible to send it to the Justice Committee for its consideration.

The Convener:  Do we agree to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out our view and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee for its consideration?

Members indicated agreement.

Decision: PE1458 by Peter Cherbi on Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary. The Committee agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government setting out its view that a register of interests should be introduced and to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, under Rule 15.6.2 of Standing Orders, for its consideration.

The judicial interests petition – filed at Holyrood in October 2012 and first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, is widely supported in the media and  in public debate as a result of media coverage.

The petition secured early support of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali, and her successor – Gillian Thompson.

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013, giving early backing to the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Scotland’s second Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also supported  the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.

A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 – ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests – Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency – Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks

The letters sent by the Public Petitions Committee to Lord President Lord Carloway, and Justice Secretary Michael Matheson recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests:

Dear Lord Carloway,

Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to create a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill (as is currently being considered in New Zealand’s Parliament) or amend present legislation to require all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.

As you may be aware, the above petition was lodged in December 2012 and has been considered by the current Public Petitions Committee and its Session 4 predecessor. Over this period MSPs have taken on board the arguments for and against a register of interests and the nature of the interests that might be covered in such a register. This letter sets out the conclusions that the Public Petitions Committee has reached on the petition.

In setting out these conclusions, I would emphasise that the Committee absolutely recognises that an independent and well-functioning judiciary is, and must be, an essential part of our system of government.

I also make clear that the Committee’s consideration of the petition, and the views set out in this letter, reflect our viewpoint that there is no basis for any suggestion of corruption in respect of Scotland’s judiciary or of inappropriate influences on judicial decision making.

The Committee has reached its views based on the wider contemporary picture of transparency and openness in public life wherein preventing the perception of any undue influence is important in ensuring confidence in those holding public office.

Register of recusals

One of the welcome developments in the course of this petition has been the introduction of a register of recusals. The Committee notes that this register was brought into effect in April 2014 directly as a result of the petition and a meeting between the then Lord President, Lord Gill, and representatives of the Session 4 Public Petitions Committee. In recent discussions with the Committee, and the petitioner, you agreed to extend the scope of the register of recusals. As a result, the register will now ensure transparency about recusal across courts and tribunals in Scotland. The Committee very much welcomes these measures.

In doing so, we note that this addresses one of the arguments made against a register of financial interests – that it would not capture those instances where consideration of any potential conflict in a case was based on a social or personal connection that may not be known about prior to a case coming to court.

The Committee agrees that the practicalities are such that it would not be possible or proportionate to require advance registration of personal connection with parties that may at some point be relevant within a particular case. However, we do consider that public transparency of such connections is vital and the register of recusals is the tool that strikes an appropriate balance in this regard.

We would also observe that the value of collating information about recusals is that it enables analysis to be undertaken of the way the recusal systems operates and for this analysis to inform ongoing thinking about the administration of justice through the Scottish courts.

Register of financial interests

Turning now to the core question of a register of interests, the Committee’s most recent consideration of the petition focussed on seeking to understand and explore some of the arguments put forward against the introduction of such a register.

These arguments have included—

• a risk of online fraud due to retribution from dissatisfied litigants (which, it was argued, may have an inhibitory effect on the administration of justice if judges start to decline roles on public bodies such as the board of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service) and,

• the possibility of the existence of a register of interests having a damaging effect on recruitment.

Members do, of course, have an understanding of the practical operation of a register of interests given the duties that apply to elected members. However, in considering the arguments put forward, we have not considered the role of judges as analogous to the role of elected members or had in mind any particular model for a register of interests that might be appropriate for judges.

Instead, our consideration has been based on an understanding of the expectations that apply to all holders of public office, whether elected or unelected, in relation to disclosure of financial interests. As we noted above, such disclosures not only allow for demonstration that decision-making is not influenced by personal interests but also prevent the perception of the influence of interests on decision-making.

Having considered these arguments and the thinking behind them, the Committee has not been convinced that a register of interests is an unworkable idea and it is the view of the Committee that such a register should be introduced.

Recognising that the Scottish Government and the Judicial Office for Scotland have indicated that they do not support the introduction of a register, the Committee today agreed to refer the petition to the Justice Committee, inviting that Committee to consider the petition further, in light of our recommendation.

Yours sincerely: Johann Lamont MSP Convener

The National reported on the success of the six year petition calling for a register of judicial interests, in the following articles:

Judges register backed by MSPs to become law

Martin Hannan Journalist 23 March 2018

IT’S taken nearly six years and 25 hearings but as The National predicted yesterday, a register of interests for all Scottish judges is set to become law.

The petition for a register by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi will now go the Justice Committee at Holyrood with a recommendation that the register becomes law.

The current and previous Lord Presidents, Lord Carloway and Lord Gill respectively, both strongly opposed the register which they feel will make it difficult for judges to be recruited.

Committee chair Johann Lamont said: “The committee has concluded that a register of financial interests is not unworkable and it is the view of the committee that such a register should be introduced.”

She said the committee’s view had been reached with regard to “the principles of openness and transparency in public life”.

Having achieved his success after years of work, Peter Cherbi told The National: “I am delighted to hear the Public Petitions Committee support the creation of a register of interests for judges, and applaud their work on this petition.

“From filing the petition in 2012, being a part of the process to submit evidence, report on hearings, and observing witness evidence, I am very impressed that Holyrood followed this through from committee, to a full debate in the main chamber in October 2014, where the petition gathered overwhelming cross party support, to now, with the decision to recommend the creation of a register of judicial interests.

“Key evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali in September 2013 was, I believe, the turning point and a key moment where the proposal for register of judicial interests gathered steam.

“MSPs were able to hear for themselves from someone within the justice framework how a register of interests for judges would not only benefit transparency, but also bring back much needed public trust and respect to the justice system and our courts.

“My sincere thanks to MSPs Angus MacDonald, David Torrance, current Convener Johann Lamont, ex-convener David Stewart, Jackson Carlaw, particularly Alex Neil who asked key questions several times in the process, former MSPs Chic Brodie and John Wilson and all members of the Public Petitions Committee past and present who have given their considerable time, effort and input into this petition, have taken the time to study the evidence, and arrive at the conclusion transparency in the judiciary is a good thing, and not as Lord Carloway and Lord Gill claimed ‘unworkable’.”

This is a good day for the Scottish Parliament and for transparency.

The Sunday Mail print edition reported on the Petitions Committee backing for legislation to require judges to declare their interest, and also featured a report on Alex Neil MSP – who supports the judicial transparency proposals and is prepared to bring in a Members Bill to create a register of judges’ interests:

BATTLE TO BRING IN JUDGES’ REGISTER

Sunday Mail 25 March 2018

Ex-minister Alex Neil will defy Nicola Sturgeon with a bill forcing Scotland’s judges to declare their interests.

Holyrood’s petitions committee have asked the Government to legislate for a register which may include details of financial, professional and personal connections of judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace.

Sturgeon is expected to reject the committee’s recommendation. But Neil believes there is enough cross-party support to raise his own bill, in a rare act of SNP backbench rebellion.

He said: “If no bill is brought forward by the Government, I would intend to do so myself, as there is significant support from other MSPs.”

Former health secretary Neil backs the register after representing constituent Donal Nolan, who took Advance Construction to court over a land dispute.

It later emerged that judge Lord Malcolm sat on the case despite his lawyer son Ewen Campell acting for the construction firm.

Neil said: “If the committee decide to recommend a bill, it is absolutely necessary as I have seen from cases such as Nolan v Advance Construction where there were undeclared interests.”

The Scottish Sun print edition also reported on the Petition Committee’s backing for a register of judicial interests and Alex Neil MSP’s plan for a Member’s Bill:

JUDGE LIST IS BACKED

Scottish Sun 23 March 2018

MSPs defied Nicola Sturgeon yesterday by calling for judges to list their financial ties.

Holyrood’s cross-party Public Petitions Committee backed a register of interests for the judiciary.

Its convener Johann Lamont said the move was based on “principles of transparency and openness in public life”.

Top judge Lord Carloway claimed the register would hit recruitment and the Government has said it was “not needed”.

Last night Nats MSP Alex Neil warned if plans for the list are not backed he is “prepared to do it as a Member’s Bill”.

A further report in The National newspaper:

MSPs to call for judges’ register in Scotland after years-long campaign

Martin Hannan Journalist 22 March 2018

AFTER nearly six years and 25 sittings of evidence and debate on the petition to create a register of judges’ interests, The National has learned that the Holyrood Petitions Committee is set to recommend legislation to the Scottish Government.

The petition lodged by legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi in 2012 called for a Register of Pecuniary Interests Bill and when it meets later today, the Petitions Committee will have a draft letter before it suggesting the Scottish Government brings in such a register.

Cherbi’s petition has been strongly supported by MSPs such as Alex Neil and equally strongly opposed by members of the judiciary led by the current and former Lord Presidents, Lords Carloway and Gill respectively, who said it could be harmful to judges and their recruitment.

Cherbi said last night: “Everyone apart from the judiciary, and apparently those with a desire on becoming a judge, gets the idea that judges should declare their interests in a register, just like everyone else in public positions.

“For the judiciary to have stalled this transparency proposal on their reasoning that judges should be given a pass from transparency just because they are judges does not fit in with modern life or expectations by the public of openness in government and the justice system.

“Two top judges have given evidence. Both adopted overwhelmingly aggressive positions to the idea that the same transparency which exists across public life, and which they are charged with enforcing in our courts, should be applied to them.


“Yet amidst their inferences that justice would shut down, judges could not be hired, and the world would stop turning, neither Lord Carloway nor Lord Gill could make a convincing case against creating a register of judicial interests.

“Prosecutors, police, court staff, even the legal aid board – all key parts of the justice system have registers of interest. Therefore there can be no exclusion from transparency for the most powerful members of the justice system – the judiciary itself.

“Who would have thought judges would have been so fearful of transparency and disclosing their own interests, that it would have taken six years for the Scottish Parliament to reach this stage of recommending legislation? Time now to take openness forward for our judiciary, which will ultimately help regain a measure of public confidence in the courts.

“This is a win win for Scotland. We as a team, petitioners, the media, Judicial Complaints Reviewers, those in our courts and even the legal profession who back this move – changed the judiciary’s expectations of openness and requirements of transparency.”

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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