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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lord Carloway Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 8th December 2015

LORD CARLOWAY:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERESTS FOR REGISTER:

The proposal to require all members of the judiciary to declare their interests gained cross party support from msps during a debate on the petition – held at the Scottish Parliament on 7 October 2014, and reported along with video footage and the official record, here: Debating the Judges. MSPs overwhelmingly supported a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests.

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

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

The First Minister claimed in a letter to the Petitions Committee: The breadth of such a register would make it virtually unworkable. It would need to cover not only financial interests, but also memberships of groups and associations and familial and social relationships. Even so, such a register might not capture relevant issues that could arise.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary

 

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JUDGE JET: Sheriffs’ £15K tour of Africa adds to air miles racket of Scots judiciary – as top judges’ clampdown on judicial jet set junkets takes flight

Judges’ use of overseas junkets in the dock. A CLAMPDOWN on judicial jet set junkets announced by Scotland’s top judge last October has failed to curb the ever spiralling jet set habits of the judiciary – it can be revealed.

Figures released by the Judicial Office in response to a Freedom of Information request – report the costs of Overseas travel of Scottish judges in 2014-2015 has in fact – increased – from the previous year (2013-2014) – which saw Scots judges take lavish 5 day judicial junkets to international destinations including middle eastern dictatorships.

And the frequency of flights & journeys suggest Scotland’s judiciary are still clocking up air miles regardless of spending cuts across other public services – often at brutal expense & little gain to the justice system.

The latest list of overseas travel – which the Judicial Office claim is necessary for judges to share their understanding of the law and court processes – also includes a five day junket for three Sheriffs who travelled to Africa.

The taxpayer funded £15,000 junket to Zambia – paid for Sheriff Gordon Liddle, Sheriff Lindsay Wood and Sheriff Michael Fletcher to attend a five-day conference hosted by the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association. The event was held at a hotel by the Victoria Falls and ended with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.

Speeches at the five day event included “building public confidence through judicial accountability” and “identifying and eliminating corruption in the legal system”.

The latest revelations of judges taking taxpayer funded trips to ‘law conferences’ & river tours emerged after last year’s investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper which revealed Scotland’s top judges spent £26,000 on thirty three international trips funded by taxpayers – including journeys to destinations such as Russia, Israel, Switzerland,Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania.

The now retired top judge Lord Gill – who has yet to respond to a third invitation requesting his appearance at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee  to answer questions from msps on judges undeclared wealth & interests – also jetted off on a five day state visit to Qatar during 2014.

Last April, Gill (73) gave a sixteen page speech on ‘judicial ethics’ in the Gulf Emirate of Qatar – a country which stands accused of multiple breaches of human rights, using slave labour and funding terrorism & war.

Asked for further details of Lord Gill’s itinerary in Qatar, a spokesperson for the Judiciary of Scotland said no information could be provided. The Judicial Office claimed there were no photographs or video footage of Lord Gill’s trip to Qatar, even though the trip was paid for by the taxpayer.

In response to media scrutiny of judicial air junkets and mentions in the Scottish Parliament, top judge Brian Gill announced a crackdown on overseas trips made by judges.

The Lord President issued an edict on judicial jet junkets, setting out new rules stating judges would have to make a written business case for clocking up more air miles via taxpayers cash.

However, as total figures for this year reveal, the cost of flying the highly secretive, wealthy & elderly Scottish judges around the globe at taxpayers expense surpassed last year’s £30K figures – and this is only for trips admitted to by the Judicial Office and the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service.

Overseas travel of Scottish judges in 2014-2015:

Listed by: Date, Judicial Office Holder, Reason for Trip & Destination, Cost, Expenses Claimed, Total Cost.
15-18 May 2014  Lord Eassie EAJ Conference in Larnaca   £731.53   £0.00  £731.53
10-13 June 2014  Lord Tyre  ENCJ General Assembly of the ENCJ in Rome  £984.00  £110.90  £1,094.90
10-13 June 2014  Sheriff Normand  ENCJ General Assembly of the ENCJ in Rome  £945.16  £65.00  £1,010.16
21-28 June 2014  Lord Carloway  ISCRCL Conference Vancouver in Canada  £1,885.28   £39.00  £1,924.28
21-28 June 2014  Sheriff McFadyen  ISCRCL Conference Vancouver in Canada  £1,408.31 £0.00  £1,408.31
Jan 14 – June 14  ENCJ Reimbursement -£150.10  -£150.10
Jan 14 – June 14  ENCJ Reimbursement  -£298.00  -£298.00
07 – 11 September 2014  Sheriff M Fletcher CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia £4,624.74  £290.53  £4,915.27
07 – 11 September 2014  Sheriff G Liddle CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia  £4,810.77  £45.78  £4,856.55
07 – 11 September 2014  Sheriff L Wood  CMJA Council meeting and Conference in Zambia  £4,998.30  £119.68  £5,117.98
18-19 September 2014  Lord Tyre  ENCJ project group meeting in Madrid  £336.74  £95.39  £432.13
21 – 23 September 2014  Lord Turnbull  Judicial and Academic visit in Luxembourg  £384.30    £0.00    £384.30
21 – 23 September 2014  Lord Burns Judicial and Academic visit in Luxembourg  £384.00  £0.00  £384.00
13 October 2014  Lord Tyre ENCJ project group meeting – The Hague, Netherlands  £468.01 £82.88  £550.89
16 – 17 October 2014  Lord Brailsford  Judges seminar in Antwerp  £782.27  £0.00  £782.27
17 – 19 November 2014  Lady Rae  Judges Forum in Luxembourg  £270.74  £0.00  £270.74
17 – 19 November 2014  Lord Bannatyne  Judges Forum in Luxembourg  £299.97  £0.00    £299.97
1-2 December 2014  Lord Tyre  ENCJ Project Independence & Accountability 1-2 December 2014- Brussels  £488.04  £70.25  £558.29
08 December 2014  Sheriff Liddle  ENCJ Project group meeting in Dublin £183.19  £0.00  £183.19
Sept 14 – Dec 14  ENCJ Reimbursement -£284.54  -£284.54
25-26 January 2015  Lord Tyre ENCJ Expert Group meeting in Brussels  £487.25  £75.50  £562.75
29 – 31 January 2015  Lord Turnbull ECHR- Strasbourg on behalf of the LP  £847.90  £0.00  £847.90
11-13 February 2015  Lord Tyre  ENCJ Project Group meeting in Bucharest  £466.25  £56.09  £522.34
25-26 February 2015  Sheriff Liddle ENCJ project group meeting in Madrid  £135.25  £0.00  £135.25
23-24 March 2015  Sheriff G Liddle  ENCJ project group Committee Meeting in Amsterdam  £264.18    £7.40    £271.58
09 – 10 April 2015  Lord Tyre ENCJ – Project Group meeting, Lisbon  £452.87  £87.44  £540.31
16 – 17 April 2015  Sheriff G Liddle  ENCJ Project group Meeting in Brussels  £367.52  £0.00  £367.52

Total  for Trips: £26,273.93,  Expenses: £1,145.84,  Total Cost: £27,419.77

Dates, Traveller, Reason for Trip & Destination, Hotel & flight costs, Expenses Claimed
25-28 August 2014  Lord Carloway  Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo  *298.26
25-28 August 2014  Lady Dorrian  Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo
25-28 August 2014  Sheriff Principal Scott Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo
25-28 August 2014  Eric McQueen  SCTS Staff  Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo   ** £412.96
25-28 August 2014  Tim Barraclough  SCTS Staff  Evidence Review Group meeting in Hague & Oslo  *** £146.60
5 people    £3,712.37  The Hague – Hotel meeting room fees  £146.50
Subtotals: £3,858.87,   Expenses:£857.82,  TOTAL: £4,716.69

The latest round of judicial jet set junkets was reported in the Sunday Mail newspaper:

Judges’ £15,000 Zambia Junket
Fury over sheriffs’ bill
By Mark Aitken, 09 August 2015 Sunday Mail

More than £15,000 of taxpayers’ cash was spent on three sheriffs going on a junket to Africa – despite a clampdown on overseas trips.

Scotland’s judges and sheriffs spent more than £27,000 on overseas trips in 2014-2015.

Destinations included Amsterdam, Rome, Madrid, Vancouver and Lisbon.

The most expensive trip was £14,890 for sheriffs Gordon Liddle, Lindsay Wood and Michael Fletcher to attend a five-day conference in Zambia hosted by the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association.

Speeches included “building public confidence through judicial accountability” and “identifying and eliminating corruption in the legal system”.

The event was held at a hotel by the Victoria Falls and ended with a sunset cruise on the Zambezi.

Before retiring this year as Scotland’s top judge, Lord gill ordered a clampdown on overseas trips by sheriffs and judges.

But legal campaigner Peter Cherbi said: “The list of judges on the jet set circuit at taxpayers’ expense does not seem to have decreased”.

The Judicial Office for Scotland’s spokesman said: “Conferences provide judges with opportunities to share knowledge and good practice with practitioners in over jurisdictions.

Judges wishing to attend conferences must first apply for funding and make a business case.

“We hold a budget for conferences and overseas business travel and  guidance exists to ensure that costs are controlled and maximum benefit is gained”

JUDICIAL PROMISE TO CUT BACK ON JETS TAKES FLIGHT:

Late last summer, Lord Brian Gill issued a travel advisory in an attempt to clamp down on judges demanding taxpayer cash to fund jet junkets.

The edict issued by Gill stated that costs of travel, numbers of judges attending, an explanation of the wider benefit of the trip to the judicial system and details of what may be learned – must feature in documents required to be written up by judges and submitted to the Lord President for approval.

Attendance at conferences and authorisation of overseas travel From the Lord President:

I have been reviewing the arrangements to control expenditure to meet attendance at conferences by the judiciary, especially where the conference is taking place outwith the United Kingdom. I have also been considering the arrangements for the authorisation of all other overseas travel to be paid from public funds. With immediate effect the following arrangements are to apply to future requests.

Requests for funding for attendance at conferences and for all other overseas travel should be sought only from the Judicial Office [1] . No request for support to meet attendance at conferences, or other overseas travel should be made to any other part of the Scottish Court Service.

In all cases where funding is being sought I require a business case to be produced by the judicial office holder or the judicial representative body that is seeking funding. The business case does not need to be long, but it must:

(i) identify the nature of the conference;

(ii) the number of judicial office holders it is suggested should attend;

(iii) why that number is necessary if it is more than one;

(iv) the benefit either to those attending or to the judiciary more widely from attendance at the conference;

(v) the likely costs of attendance [2]; and

(vi) the likely impact on the efficient administration of business.

The business case should be sent to the Executive Director of the Judicial Office for Scotland, Stephen Humphreys. He will assess whether funds are available to meet the costs of attendance and if so pass the business case to me.

I will then consider all requests and respond directly to the judicial office holder. I will need a clear justification for any overseas travel. As a general rule it should only be necessary for one judicial office holder to attend a conference overseas. It will only be in exceptional cases that I am likely to consider it necessary for more than one person to attend.

Where support is provided to attend a conference a report is to be prepared and sent to the Executive Director within one month of the end of the conference. The report will be placed on the Judicial Hub and the Judicial website. It is important that as many of the judiciary as possible are able to benefit from the investment of public money in attending the conference.

[1] In respect of attendance at events by Sheriffs, the Sheriffs Association will continue to consider the need for attendance by sheriffs at conferences before preparing the business case and seeking funding. The Association undertakes this activity on behalf of all sheriffs and it considers applications equally from both its members and non-members. If a sheriff wishes to attend a conference he or she should in the first instance contact the Secretary to the Sheriffs’ Association. I am grateful to the Association for undertaking this function.

[2] When considering the costs of attendance at a conference, Judicial Office Holders should consult the Judicial Office for an estimate of the likely travel and accommodation costs, if required. Travel and subsistence rules apply to all travel whether inside or outside the UK.

Now,  a year on from the Lord President’s travel guidance – the evidence suggests Lord Gill’s move to make judges more prudent with public cash for travel junkets – has clearly failed.

And – suspiciously – the Judicial Office for Scotland and Scottish Court Service refused to reveal any details of hundreds of taxpayer funded trips taken by Scottish judges around the UK.

When further enquiries were made regarding domestic UK destinations of Scottish judges, staff at the Scottish Court Service switched destinations of Scotland’s second most powerful judge – Lord Carloway from Bristol in England, to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland –  in an attempt to avoid having to disclose the information on UK judicial travel via Freedom of Information legislation.

Full details of trips undertaken by Scottish judges were previously published here: LORD JET SET: Investigation reveals judiciary’s international travel junkets spree & LORD FLY-BYE: Scotland’s courts in the slow lane as judges prefer law conferences, business & ‘diplomatic’ trips to life on the bench

 

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TO PLAY THE PRESIDENT: Transparency, diversity & judicial reform on the cards as hunt begins for Scotland’s next top judge & Lord President of the Court of Session

The hunt for Scotland’s next top judge. APPLICATIONS to be Scotland’s next top judge are now being considered under a closed door process & selection panel set up to find a new Lord President of the Court of Session –  some three months after the sudden retirement of Scotland’s longest serving judge – Lord Brian Gill.

The selection panel who will interview, shortlist and then recommend a suitable candidate for the position of Lord President to the First Minister by – no later than Friday 30 October – is made up of: Sir Muir Russell – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, Mrs Deirdre Fulton – Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Rt Hon Lord Reed – Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, The Rt Hon Lady Dorrian – Senator, Inner House of the Court of Session.

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

The previous holder of the office – Brian Gill (73) retired abruptly in May 2015 after serving across three decades on the bench. Gill ended his last three years as a member of the judiciary on the top spot as Lord President & Lord Justice General from 8 June 2012 to 31 May 2015.

Brian Gill was widely respected as a reforming judge for his work on the Scottish Civil Courts Review – which saw the then Lord President issue a scathing condemnation of Scotland’s Civil justice system as “Victorian” and that of a legal system which Lord Gill said, with long experience – was “failing the litigant and it is failing society”.

However, the top judge eventually came unstuck after waging a controversial two year battle against the Scottish Parliament in an effort to thwart proposals to require members of the judiciary to declare their vast and varied interests.

The judicial transparency proposal – which provoked the now retired top judge to use loopholes within the Scotland Act against the Scottish Parliament – call for the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Now, the process begins where applications must now conform to a deadline for referees – Monday 24 August 2015 (midnight), then are subject to sifting – taking place on Wednesday 2 September 2015, invitation to interview by Monday 7 September 2015, with interviews held on Monday 5 October 2015 and finally – recommendations to First Minister by Friday 30 October 2015.

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

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

This week, the Scottish Sun on Sunday newspaper featured an in depth two page report on the hunt for a new Lord President:

 Who’ll be the judge?

REFORMS CALL AS LEGAL ELITE CHALLENGE FOR TOP JOB

By: RUSSELL FINDLAY 2 August 2015 Scottish Sun

THE hunt is on for Scotland’s new top judge — and applicants have until tomorrow to throw their wigs in the ring.

If chosen as Lord President of the Court of Session, they will be handed a £220,655 salary and enormous power.

But here, The Scottish Sun on Sunday’s RUSSELL FINDLAY finds out why tackling the judiciary’s secrecy and vested interests should be the top priority for our next top Lord — or Lady.

THE historic title dates back to 1532 when its first holder wasn’t just in charge of every Scots judge but also a community of monks.

Alexander Mylne, abbot of Cambuskenneth Abbey, near Stirling, was given the grand title of Lord President of the Court of Session by King James V. Since then bishops, barons, lords, earls and viscounts have all had turns in the lofty post.

But campaigners insist the next top beak must be prepared to do what no other Lord President has done — put an end to our legal system’s culture of secrecy and drag it into the 21st century.

The vacancy at the top of the judicial tree was created in May when the previous incumbent announced he was retiring after an astonishing public spat with Holyrood.

Lord Gill, 73, twice refused to attend the parliament’s Public Petitions Committee to discuss a proposed register of interests.

MSPs wanted him to explain his fierce opposition to moves that would require judges to reveal their personal, business and financial secrets.

He claimed the principle of judicial independence from political interference meant he could not be forced to attend.

But critics insist the law is meant to stop judges being quizzed on court verdicts, not administrative issues.

And Lord Gill’s snub united all parties in anger.

Scots Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw has since secured the issue of a fresh invite to the retired judge.

Fellow committee member John Wilson said: “It’s not up to politicians to meddle in court decisions but proper independent scrutiny of judges’ undeclared interests and conduct is long overdue.

“Their business dealings have to be absolutely clear.

“Anyone appearing in front of a judge — for a criminal or civil case — needs to know if they have any direct or indirect vested interests.”

Mr Wilson believes our legal elite should be embracing reform, not opposing it.

The independent MSP said: “This is about strengthening the credibility of our judiciary so no one can point a finger and say they were unfairly treated because a judge did not declare an interest.”

The public petition being discussed by MSPs was lodged by Peter Cherbi. The campaigner, from Edinburgh, claims he was stung by lawyers and the self-regulation which he believes protects them.

And he thinks that, after almost 500 years of men, a woman is needed at the top.

Mr Cherbi said: “It’s time for the old boys’ club to be rocked by a Lady President.

“I’d want her to maintain the judiciary’s independence and integrity while bringing it into the 21st century for both transparency and accountability.”

The role as the 45th nor-Lord President would normally be expected to go to Lord Carloway, 61, our secondmost senior judge.

But insiders say the Lord Justice Clerk is tainted by his backing of the SNP government’s failed bid to scrap corroboration in Scots Law.

The proposal was opposed by his judicial colleagues.

Another contender is Lady Smith, 60.

She could make history as first female presiding judge of the College of Justice and the Court of Session. Lady Smith would also take up the titles of Lord Justice General of Scotland and the head of the High Court of Justiciary.

But first she’d have to win approval from a selection panel, then be nominated by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, right, and the Prime Minister before being formally appointed by the Queen.

The Lord President hears complex appeals, runs our courts, makes reforms and is consulted by the UK and Scottish governments. Based at Parliament House in Edinburgh, he or she can shun MSPs down the Royal Mile at the new Parly building and is exempt from freedom of information laws.

The Lord President also cannot be held to account by the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.

That was one of many reasons that persuaded Moi Ali to quit after she became the first person appointed to the role. Ms Ali stood down last year because she was unable to alter the system of our judges regulating their own conduct.

She would like to see the Scottish Government give the public the same powers to scrutinise them as exists in England and Wales.

Ms Ali said: “The government should but I don’t think they will because the judiciary here is incredibly powerful. They will not be challenged. England and Wales are light years ahead in terms of holding judges to account.

“That surprises me as our government says it believes in social justice and putting citizens first, not vested interests.” Ms Ali, a Scottish Police Authority board member, also blasted Lord Gill’s snubbing of Holyrood’s Petitions Committee.

She said: “It brought into focus how out of touch he was.

“It’s about coming up to the standards expected in every other sphere of public life. He did the judiciary a great disservice because he confirmed the stereotypes.”

As for Lord Gill’s replacement, Ms Ali added: “It would be nice for it to be a woman to help redress the balance of the past 500 years.

“But it should be the right person for the job, someone who will bring about change. If that is a man, that’s fine by me.”

SCANDAL OF VICE, BOOZE AND BRAWLS

By: RUSSELL FINDLAY 2 August 2015 Scottish Sun

Disgraced … sheriffs Neilson, Lothian and Anthony all resigned

SHAMED lawmen have landed in the dock for violence, drink driving and fraud — with others forced to quit after being caught in a brothel.

Sheriff Hugh Neilson was found in a sex sauna in Glasgow during a police raid in 2004.

He said he was only there for a shave but later resigned and was last year convicted of drink driving.

Sheriff Andrew Lothian quit in 2008 over claims that he had regular sex sessions with prostitutes at an Edinburgh sauna.

And Sheriff Robert Anthony QC was forced to leave his post in 2010 when cops caught him driving on the M8 while more than three times the legal booze limit.

Justice of the Peace Peter Drummond was convicted in April of punching a man in a pub fight in Cowdenbeath.

Another dodgy law chief was convicted of benefit fraud.

But his or her identity was kept secret from the public.

Former Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali highlighted cases of alleged misbehaviour by mystery judges.

One was accused of a “tyrannical rant” at a female dog walker who was left “shaking with nerves” and felt “very intimidated”.

And an unnamed sheriff was accused of secretly recording conversations after being branded a bully.

BEAKS URGED FOR CLARITY OVER SHARES

By: RUSSELL FINDLAY 2 August 2015 Scottish Sun

CRITICS have called on judges to declare their private shares in big businesses to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Peter Watson was suspended from sitting as a sheriff by law chief Lord Gill in February.

The lawyer — whose clients included former First Minister Alex Salmond — was briefly a director of Mathon, run by tycoon Gregory King.

King was a director of hedge fund Heather Capital that was the subject of a massive fraud probe after its collapse.

Heather Capital’s liquidators Ernst & Young filed a multi-million court demand against Watson’s former law firm Levy & McRae.

We later revealed that Watson, below, had also been a director of a private bank which King planned to launch in Gibraltar — and held shares in new Edinburgh-based private bank Hampden & Co.

Last year a Scottish Sun investigation found Sheriff Principal Alastair Dunlop owned shares in a company hit with a £13.9million proceeds of crime bill for bribing Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The same sheriff also heard a case involving Tesco despite having shares in the supermarket chain.

There was no suggestion of wrongdoing but it fuelled calls for transparency.

Judges are subject to self-regulating system and take an oath to “do right” by people “without fear or favour”.

 

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Lord NO-NO to GO-GO: Scotland’s top judge Lord Brian Gill steps down after controversial three year term as Lord President – amid battles with Holyrood, media & transparency

Lord Gill to ‘retire’ after run-ins with politicians, press & transparency. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has announced he is stepping down from office on 31 May 2015. Until a successor is found, the Lord President’s duties will be taken up by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway.

Gill (73) who is Scotland’s longest serving judge, has served a short three year term as Lord President, compared to previous holder of the office Lord Hamilton, who held the post for seven years.

In the course of a long and distinguished legal career Gill presided over significant changes to the Scottish legal system.

He also famously branded much of the Scots legal system as “Victorian” and “unfit for purpose” in his Scottish Civil Courts Review – which sought to change some of the antiquated structures of Scotland’s expensive, closed shop and out of reach civil courts.

However many of the Civil Courts Review proposals were watered down by the Taylor Review, carried out at the insistence of the Scottish Government and the legal establishment – who feared giving the public easier and cheaper access to court may affect law firms’ profits.

For the past two years, Lord Gill fought a very public and bitter battle with the Scottish Parliament concerning MSPs investigations of transparency and accountability in the Scottish judiciary, amid plans to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary

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

Gill refused three invitations to appear before MSPs to give evidence on his intense opposition to a register requiring judges to declare their significant wealth and links to big business.

Faced with a no-show of Scotland’s top judge, members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee took evidence from Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) Moi Ali. During questions at the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Moi Ali told msps there was little transparency or accountability in Scotland’s judiciary.

And, in spite of Scottish Ministers attempts to thwart a debate at Holyrood last October 2014, msps overwhelmingly backed a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests – reported along with video footage & the official record, here: Debating the Judges

At the recent Commonwealth Law Conference held in Glasgow during March 2015, Lord Gill fired another salvo at politicians, transparency and the democratic process – branding all as “insidious”.

Lord Gill told his startled audience: “The threats to judicial independence do not always come with a knock on the door in the middle of the night.  In a society that prides itself on the  independence  of  its  judiciary,  the  threat  may  come  in  insidious ways, even at the hands of well-meaning governments and legislators, in the name of efficiency and, ironically,  in the name of  transparency.”

After the speech, Gill and several judicial figures including Lord Neuberger fled the conference after learning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was booked to speak at the event.

Lord Gill also supported the retention of corroboration – a key legal safeguard against miscarriage of justice – where evidence must be verified by two sources.

Brian Gill was first appointed as a Senator of the College of Justice in 1994. He was appointed Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General in June 2012, having held the position of Lord Justice Clerk from November 2001.

Under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will now establish a panel to recommend individuals who are suitable for appointment to fill the vacancy.

It has been rumoured for several months senior figures in the Scottish Government have lobbied for a female candidate to become Scotland’s first Lady Lord President.

Court of Session judge Anne Smith, who was made President of the tribunals service by Lord Gill last summer, is seen by some as ‘a good bet for the post’.

TOP JUDGE WHO SAID NO-NO TO TRANSPARENCY & SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The parliamentary debate was reported by Diary of Injustice along with video coverage here: TRANSPARENCY TIME: Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests

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

Civil Courts Review : Scots Justice still “Victorian” years after judge called for reforms:

The Scottish Civil Courts Review of 2009 authored by then Lord Justice Clerk, now Lord President Lord Brian Gill, castigated Scotland’s Civil Justice System as being Victorian, costly, and unfit for purpose, yet years on from the review, little of the proposed reforms have been implemented due to pressure from vested interests in the legal world, and a lack of political will to deliver access to justice to all Scots.

The Civil Courts Review can be viewed online here : Scottish Civil Courts Review Synopsis, Scottish Civil Courts Review Vol1 Chapters 1-9 & Scottish Civil Courts Review Vol2 Chapters 10-15

Gill, giving a speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference several years ago, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society.

“It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice.”

Previous articles on the Civil Courts Review and reforms of Scotland’s antiquated civil justice system can be found on Diary of Injustice here: Scottish Civil Courts Review.

 

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GOOD LIE GUIDE: Scottish Court Service forced to release censored media advice to staff after ‘public interest’ intervention by Scottish Information Commissioner

Court media guide faces dishonesty claims. DOCUMENTS giving advice on how the courts should handle media enquiries reveal staff at the Scottish Court Service (SCS) are told to provide a scripted response of false information when faced with certain questions from journalists.

The Scottish Court Service media guide – obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request, was initially released in a redacted format – deliberately concealing the sections of the guide which recommend court staff lie to the press when asked about convictions.

However, after the Scottish Information Commissioner became involved in the matter, the guide was grudgingly released by the SCS in an unredacted format – revealing the controversial written advice to SCS staff on how they should conceal types of information when queried by journalists.

In one section detailing how SCS employees should reply to enquiries relating to spent convictions, Page 18 of the redacted version of the SCS media guide states “If a conviction is spent it should be treated as though it never existed.” with the remaining details concealed.

On Page 19 of the unredacted version of the SCS media guide – released after the SIC became involved in the case, the uncensored advice reveals Court staff are provided with a ‘suggested reply’ equivalent to providing the media with false information, stating: “Thank you for your enquiry regarding XXX. I can confirm that a search of our records has failed to reveal such a conviction.”

Private Proceedings also came in for censored advice after it emerged the Court Service had deliberately concealed references on page 14 of the redacted version of the SCS media guide to judges holding proceedings in private – merely as a convenience, and to avoid a hearing in open court – which may end up in the press.

The guide warns Court staff to take advice, and states on page 15 in the unredacted version of the SCS media guide : “If proceedings take place in private, you may be able to provide limited information. Explain to the judge that there is media interest and ask whether proceedings are being held in private merely as a convenience (for example in chambers late in the day to avoid having to convene a court) and therefore basic information can be supplied, or whether it was the judge’s intention to exclude the public and the media.”

Scottish Court Service Media Guide. Court Service staff are also advised on every page of the guide: “If an incident arises that is likely to attract media attention, please contact Communications … immediately.”

SCS employees are also told not to get chatty with journalists: “When providing factual information, it is important that you are not drawn into conversation on other matters. You should not be asked to provide views, or to summarise what was said in evidence or by the judge during the court hearing.”

The media guide also bans any “fishing enquiries”. Court staff are told to deal only with requests about specific cases.

The guide states: “You should not answer fishing enquiries on the basis that you are only able to deal with requests about specified cases. Do not answer vague questions such as: Can you tell me if James Smith of the High Street has a criminal record? Are there any other civil actions against Jones and Co? There was a case up the other week about a man who assaulted his wife, who was that?”

Court staff are also told that if media excluded from a case, they should “take advice” and “should clarify with the judge if any information can be provided.”

During the summer of 2014, Scotland’s top judge threatened to ban the media from access to court documents & cases. Lord Gill, Scotland’s top judge issued an angry edict against press freedom to report on cases in Scotland’s courts, reported here: COURT SECRETS: Scotland’s anti-transparency top judge Lord Brian Gill threatens media censorship in row over reporting access to court papers

 

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COURTS ON CAMERA: Television & Twitter ‘may’ be allowed in Scotland’s “Victorian” courts but on judiciary’s terms and with permission of sitting judge

Cameras & tweets in Scotland’s courts – under judicial terms only. CAMERAS and tweets could be allowed in Scotland’s courts, according to the findings of a review carried out by Court of Session judge Lady Dorrian on recording and broadcasting of proceedings in court, and use of live text-based communications.

The proposals to introduce television and other digital media to courts on a limited, controlled basis, come almost twenty three years after Lord Hope – Scotland’s top judge in 1992 issued a statement to the media he was “considering the television question for some time and now believed it was not in the public’s long-term interest for restrictions to remain.”

Accepting the limited proposals for members of the media to film and tweet in court, Scotland’s current top judge Lord President Brian Gill (72) said: “I am grateful to Lady Dorrian and her group for having carried out this exercise so thoroughly. These well-considered recommendations have the support of the judges. I accept all of the recommendations. They are entirely appropriate in the contemporary world. My office will now prepare guidance on the implementation of Lady Dorrian’s report.”

However, Gill – who previously threatened judicial censorship of journalists access to documents and court hearings in a fit of pique against the media last year – said journalists will only be granted use of digital media in courts if they register with the Scottish Court Service.

In a speech to a conference on Digital Justice this week, Lord Gill – who is currently fighting a two year battle with the Scottish Parliament against proposals to create a register of judges interests, wealth and links to big business – made it clear any member of the press who was going to tweet or make use of digital equipment must do so on the court’s terms only. Gill also said anyone not registered with the courts could not tweet unless the judge hearing the case gave permission to do so.

Gill said: “Journalists who register with the Scottish Court Service to gain access to the electronic portal-based system, should also be required to undertake compliance with the Contempt of Court Act. Journalists so registered should be permitted to use live text-based communication. Any person who is not on the register should require the permission of the presiding judge.”

And, in a separate submission to the consultation, an unidentified Court of Session judge who backs the proposals to introduce cameras said there would have to be tight controls on how cases were filmed.

The anonymous judge wrote: “Educating the film company regarding the nature of court proceedings the paramount importance of the interests of justice, and cultivating a relationship of trust with the film company so that the risk of erroneous impressions/misrepresentations, is minimised.”

In summary, the report recommends the following:

*Filming of civil and criminal appeals, and legal debates in civil first instance proceedings, such as judicial review or procedure roll hearings, should be allowed for live transmission. Subsequent news broadcasting and documentary film-making should be allowed subject to clear and comprehensive guidelines.
*The court should allow criminal trials to be filmed for documentary purposes in certain circumstances, subject to the safeguards referred to in the report. Cases involving children, sexual offences and vulnerable witnesses should not be filmed.
*No live transmission or filming for subsequent news broadcast should be allowed for criminal first instance business or for civil proceedings involving witnesses.
*For subsequent news broadcasts, the delivery of sentencing remarks of the judge should be permissible, with filming focused only on the sentencing judge.
* Filming of criminal trials for live transmission should not be allowed.
*In civil cases at first instance, filming for documentary purposes only should be allowed, but should exclude certain groups such as family cases and those involving asylum seekers.
*A structured approach to considering applications to film.
*All filming should be subject to robust, clear and comprehensive guidelines.
*Journalists who register in advance with the Scottish Court Service should be permitted the use of live text-based communications such as Twitter from court, subject to guidelines which will be issued in due course.

The consultation and review – chaired by Lady Dorrian, comprised almost exclusively a judicial membership of Lord Bracadale, Lord Woolman, Sheriff Principal Stephen, and Sheriff Drummond. The group was supported by: Christopher Nicholson, Deputy Legal Secretary to the Lord President; Elizabeth Cutting, Head of Judicial Communications; Steven D’Arcy, Head of Strategy and Governance, Judicial Office for Scotland.

While the move to bring more transparency to Scotland’s courts is a welcome one, no substantive explanation has been given for hold ups in televising courts or why it has taken over two decades to address earlier statements in 1992 by former top judge Lord Hope on the introduction of cameras and other technology to Scotland’s antiquated courts – branded “Victorian” and ‘unfit for purpose’ by Gill himself in the Civil Courts Review.

During 1992, Lord Hope, the then Lord President, in effect opened Scotland’s courtroom doors to the cameras when he announced, through the Principal Clerk of the Justiciary in Edinburgh’s supreme courts, that modern technology had now advanced to a state ‘where proceedings in court could be televised without undue interference in the conduct of proceedings’. Twenty Three years later in 2015, the glacial pace of change in Scotland’s courts once again promises occasional cameras & tweets, but only when judges deign it in their interests or perhaps, the interests of justice – to allow.

And, despite receiving over £80million pounds a year from public coffers to run the Scottish Courts Service, and multi million pound blank cheques to fund items such as the recent £60 million refurbishment of Parliament House in Edinburgh – Lord Gill’s seat of power, it is a fact public records on what goes on in the civil courts are hard to come by, with findings routinely anonymised where vested interests including lawyers are concerned of being identified in dodgy cases where judges secretly linked to litigants, law firms & big business, are not serving the interests of justice.

TOP JUDGE ISSUED THREAT TO BAN MEDIA IN COURT:

During the summer of 2014, in a bizarre fall out with the press, Scotland’s top judge Lord Brian Gill issued an edict threatening to ban journalists and the press from accessing court papers and hearings.

Lord Gill’s warning to the media read as follows:

NOTICE: ADVANCE ACCESS OF THE MEDIA TO COURT DOCUMENTS

1. For some time the Court has been reviewing the practice of allowing journalists an opportunity to see complaints and indictments for note-taking purposes before cases  call in court.The review was necessary because of significant concerns arising from the  Data  Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) in relation to the disclosure of personal data and sensitive personal data in these documents.

2.  The current  practice  gives  journalists  an  opportunity to attend and report  on noteworthy cases; but  it is now clear that the information being disclosed is excessive for this purpose.

3.  In due course the courts will  move to an electronic  portal-based system  that will enable the media  to access  securely  information about  forthcoming  cases and,  in  time,  other  information  such  as  reporting  restrictions.  This  will provide sufficient information for reporting  purposes  but will ensure that  the court will comply with the requirements of the DPA.

4.  In  the  interim  the  current  practice  will  continue,  but  on  the  strict understanding that no information obtained from a complaint or indictment is to be published before a case calls in court.  In the light of recent breaches of that  understanding,  the  media  are  reminded  of  their  responsibilities  in  the matter.

Brian Gill Lord Justice General Edinburgh 30 July 2014

 

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