Tuesday, November 05, 2019

FOI PROBE: Holyrood Committee hear Scottish Information Commissioner backed off promise to bring Freedom of Information to Scottish Police Federation - even after Info. Tsar knew England & Wales Police Fed. already complied with FOI legislation

Scots Police Fed FOI scrutiny. A POST LEGISLATIVE inquiry into Freedom of Information law by the Scottish Parliament has published an account of how the Scottish Information Commissioner backed off promises to recommend FOI compliance for the union which represents all Police Officers in Police Scotland.

Evidence submitted to the Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee (PAPLS) inquiry reveals how the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner initially promised to recommend Freedom of Information compliance for the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) on the social media network Twitter.

However, the SIC then backtracked over multiple enquiries from journalists as to what further work had taken place by Daren Fitzhenry and his staff.

In a tweet dated 18 May 2017, the Scottish Information Commissioner's office wrote in response to calls for FOI compliance to recommended for the Scottish Police Federation: "Thanks - we'll add it to our list of bodies to propose to Ministers. Individuals can also make their own representations to the Scot Gov"

The positive response came after the SIC was informed of the Freedom of Information compliance status of the Police Federation of England & Wales – which is enshrined in legislation:

Freedom of Information Act etc: Police Federation for England and Wales: The Police Federation for England and Wales is to be treated for the purposes of— (a)10the Freedom of Information Act 2000,(b)the Data Protection Act 1998, and (c)section 18 of the Inquiries Act 2005, as if it were a body listed in Part 5 of Schedule 1 to the 2000 Act (public authorities).

However, after further enquiries from the medial, no further work on the issue by the Scottish Information Commissioner took place, and in response to further enquiries, the SIC claimed they were under resourced to look into the case and requested journalists make a recommendation to the Scottish Government.

An investigation by journalists into the Scottish Police Federation funding – by using Freedom of Information laws to quiz the Scottish Government – revealed SPF Boss Calum Steele, wrote to the Scottish Government SEVEN DAYS after the Information Commissioner’s promise to recommend FOI compliance for the SPF.

The letter from PC Calum Steele to the Scottish Government informed Ministers the Scottish Police Federation no longer wanted an annual public cash handout of £374,000.

The annual Scottish Government funding grant – which has seen the Police Union rake in significant amounts of public cash over the years – is thought to be one of several reasons serving and former Police Officers along with journalists are seeking FOI compliance for the Scottish Police Federation.

The Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee has now published an evidence submission from journalist Peter Cherbi on how the Scottish Information Commissioner backed off their initial promise to recommend Freedom of Information Compliance for the Scottish Police Federation.

The full submission, available online here is published below:

PUBLIC AUDIT AND POST-LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

POST LEGISLATIVE SCRUTINY - FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (Scotland) ACT 2002

With regard to an example of a failure by the Scottish Information Commissioner to recommend an organisation (in this case the Scottish Police Federation) for FOISA compliance, I would like to submit this matter for consideration by the committee

In my role as a journalist, I was approached by persons including ex Police Officers who drew my attention to the lack of FOI compliance for the Scottish Police Federation and problems which members had experienced when attempting to make enquiries with the SPF - which - had the enquiry been via Freedom of Information legislation, would have been answered, and within a legal framework.

Noting the equivalent Police Federation of England & Wales has been FOI compliant for some time, I approached the Scottish Information Commissioner with a request the Commissioner look to recommend compliance for the Scottish Police Federation - given various transparency issues which had been brought to my attention, and the fact the equivalent Police Federation of England & Wales was already FOI Compliant.

However, while initially the SIC made what appeared to be a policy statement via twitter that they would "add it to the list of bodies to propose to ministers” on 18 May 2017 via twitter https://www.twitter.com/FOIScotland/status/865234073316470785 - further communications between myself and the SIC saw the Scottish Information Commissioner retreat from their earlier position.

A further chaser to the SIC on recommending compliance for the SPF then saw the SIC claim it was under-resourced, and could not undertake the work (although the SIC had written in considerable length on the issue to myself).

Ultimately the SIC then suggested I personally make a recommendation to Scottish Ministers on the matter - however, given what has already been learned in terms of how the Scottish Government treat such requests, and indeed my own experience of Freedom of Information compliance with the Scottish Government, a recommendation from myself as a journalist was unlikely to carry the same weight as one from the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The material accumulated as part of my research, including FOI disclosures from the Scottish Government, and contact with the Scottish Information Commissioner - is published online here: PROBE THE FED: Calls for Holyrood to probe secretive Scottish Police Federation as files reveal SPF General Secretary asked Scottish Government to withdraw £374K public cash grant funding - after social media transparency calls from cops

Given the Scottish Police Federation were in receipt of some £374,000 a year of public funds - an additional matter drawn to my attention by serving & former Police officers, I then sent FOI requests to the Scottish Government and took up the issue - noting that since the SPF was in receipt of public funds, this was an additional reason to bring the organisation within FOISA.

However, it is worth noting after I began to raise the issue with the Scottish Information Commissioner on social media, and some days after I approached the SIC with regards to recommending SPF compliance with FOISA the General Secretary of the SPF wrote to the Scottish Government and requested cancellation of the public cash grant.

It is difficult to conclude the raising of FOI compliance with the SIC, and the SPF’s decision to cancel the £374,400 public cash grant - all occurring within the same week - is a coincidence.

I feel the Committee should look into this matter, as an example of the process of recommending organisations for FOISA compliance.

And perhaps with the question of public funds to the Scottish Police Federation, and the notable request by the SPF for withdrawal of the public cash grant - only days after the issue of FOI compliance was raised publicly, there may be issues which the Committee may wish to explore further.

Among the additional FOI documents disclosed by the Scottish Government include some, but not all minutes of meetings & discussions around the grant funding for the Scottish Police Federation, and as has been consistent with recent Scottish Government releases, documents are subject to significant redactions.

However, while the letter from the SPF General Secretary to the Scottish Government reveals scant detail of SPF finances, former and currently serving Police Officers have posted their concerns on social media with regards to figures of up to ten million pounds held by the Scottish Police Federation in bank accounts & assets.

Social media postings by current and former Police Officers also refer to trips undertaken by SPF representatives including Callum Steele and suspended Sheriff Peter Watson - to various gatherings funded by the Scottish Police Federation.

Meanwhile, as current & former Police Officers & journalists asking questions of the SPF are either blocked online, or subject to social media attacks by supporters of the Scottish Police Federation and politically friendly elements – some of whom give after dinner speeches or lobby for public cash for their ventures, the Scottish Information Commissioner appears to have reneged on their enthusiasm for recommending FOI compliance for the SPF.

HOLROOD COMMITTEE PROBES FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LEGISLATION

The Post Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 began with MSPs taking evidence from stakeholders on 22 March 2018. The Committee took evidence from the Scottish Information Commisioner on 10 January 2019 and agreed to undertake post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

A SPICe briefing was also prepared for the Committee and also contains information about recent developments.

A second SPICe briefing was prepared, which includes global right to information data, September 2019.

Call for Evidence

The Public Audit and Post-legislative Scrutiny Committee launched a call for written views as part of its post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (the 2002 Act). The call for views launched on 6 of March 2019. The deadline was extended until the 21 June 2019.

Call for Views; Read the written submissions

The Freedom of Information inquiry has since heard evidence from journalists in an earlier session, where the Committee took evidence in a roundtable format from - Claire Cairns, Coalition of Carers; Severin Carrell, Scotland Editor, The Guardian; Dr Craig Dalzell, Head of Policy Research, Common Weal; Rob Edwards, Director and co-founder The Ferret; Carole Ewart, Convener, Campaign for Freedom of Information Scotland; Stephen Lowe, Policy Officer, UNISON Scotland; Nick McGowan-Lowe, Organiser Scottish Office, National Union of Journalists; and Bailey-Lee Robb, MSYP and Trustee, Scottish Youth Parliament.

A second evidence session also heard from Professor Kevin Dunion, Honorary Professor in the School of Law and Executive Director of the Centre of Freedom of Information, University of Dundee; Dr Karen McCullagh, Lecturer in Law and Course Director, LLM Media Law, Policy and Practice, UEA Law School, University of East Anglia; Professor Colin Reid, Professor of Environmental Law, University of Dundee; Alistair Sloan, Solicitor, Inksters Solicitors; Dr Ben Worthy (by video link), Senior Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

A further evidence session later this week on 7 November will feature evidence from Police Scotland; NHS Lanarkshie; Angus Council; NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde; University of Edinburgh; Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service; Aberdeen City Council; Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland.

All updates and progress on the PAPLS inquiry on the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 can be found at the Scottish Parliament's website here: Post-legislative Scrutiny : Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Saturday, November 02, 2019

FACULTY LORD: 'Abbotsford Art & Faculty of Advocates trustee' declaration of globetrotting £223K a year anti-transparency top judge Lord Carloway, with 20 years on the judicial bench – calls into question scrutiny of Court quango interests register

Judges declarations questioned. LATER this month - the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee are to consider further evidence on a cross party backed petition calling for judges to declare their interests: Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary

The petition 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.

However, EIGHT YEARS on from when the petition was originally filed with Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee in October 2012 - there has been little movement on creating a register of judicial interests for all members of Scotland's judiciary.

The Public Petitions Committee’s support for creating the register of judicial interests and transfer of work to the Justice Committee - was reported in detail here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

And - despite cross party support for the petition during a full Holyrood debate in 2014, and backing from the Public Petitions Committee who passed the petition to the Justice Committee with a recommendation in May 2018 - Scotland's 700 strong judges continue to resist calls to declare their interests in exactly the same way all 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament are required to declare.

While Lord Carloway continues to fight calls for judicial transparency - the existence of a register of interests for the quango which oversees the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) – gives a miniscule, carefully controlled snapshot of interests - which are far from the reality of a globetrotting top judge who has been on the judicial bench for two decades on a sizeable public salary.

During 2016-18, the previous, and sole declaration of Lord Carloway in the SCTS register was that of "Trustee Scottish Art Club".

After nearly two decades on the bench as a judge, connections to countless law firms, cases, decisions, and politically charged campaigns such as the removal of corroboration from Scots Law – one could be forgiven for questioning how and why Scotland’s top judge on a quarter of a million pounds a year – with a pension to match – gets away with declaring working with art as an interest - and nothing else.

In the latest SCTS Board register of interests, a new declaration appears for Lord Carloway - under the heading of Appointments Ex Officio – noting the following: Trustee for the Faculty of Advocates, Abbotsford Collection Trust.

The remaining declarations of interests - which notably do not include any references to law firms, property or financial interests are as follows:

Lord President - The Right Hon. Lord Carloway (real name: Colin John Maclean Sutherland) : Appointments Ex Officio: Trustee for the Faculty of Advocates; Abbotsford Collection Trust.

Lord Justice Clerk - The Right Hon. Lady Dorrian: Directorships: Cranley School Ltd; Glenside Court Ltd; Franco- British Lawyers Society Ltd; Appointments Ex Officio: Commissioner of the Honours of Scotland; Senior Commissioner, Queen Victoria School, Dunblane; Trusteeships: Cranley Trust; Faculty of Advocates 1985 Trust; Scottish Arts Club;

Rt Hon. Lady Smith Trusteeships: President and Trustee - Friends of the Music of St. Giles Cathedral; Other Appointments & Interests: Chair - Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry; Honorary Bencher - Gray’s Inn

Sheriff Principal Duncan Murray: Appointments Ex Officio: Commissioner, Northern Lighthouse Board; Trustee Kibble Education and Care Centre

Sheriff Aisha Anwar: No declarations

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Trusteeships: Chair West Fife Education Trust. Other Appointments & Interests: Chair Relationship Scotland – Couple Counselling, Fife; Committee Member Cammo Residents Association; Chair – Discipline Committee ICAS; Chair East & West Fife Education Trusts

Morna Rae JP: Appointments Ex Officio: Justice of the Peace; Other Appointments & Interests: Employee North Ayrshire Council Church of Scotland Elder

Dr Joseph Morrow QC: Directorship: Non Executive Director, St. John’s Scotland Appointments Ex Officio: Lord Lyon King of Arms; Member of Judicial Council Trusteeships: Trustee, Mudie Trust, Dundee; Trustee, Kidney Trust, Dundee; Trustee, Tealing Community Hall; Trustee, Scottish Churches Trust; Chairman & Trustee of Highland Cadet Force Foundation; Other Appointments & Interests: Legal Assessor, South Episcopal Church President, Society of Messengers at Arms President, Scottish Genealogical Society Patron, Scottish Family History Society

Dr Kirsty J Hood QC: Directorship: Scottish Universities Law Institute Ltd. Trusteeships: The Stair Society’s Council; Trustee, Clark Foundation Education; Other Appointments & Interests: Self-employed Advocate; Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Edinburgh – delivering seminars on LLB courses; Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Glasgow– delivering lectures / seminars on LLB courses; Periodically providing materials for LexisPSL Dispute Resolution (online services – LexisNexis); Clerk of Faculty – Faculty of Advocates (non remunerated); Member of the Scottish Committee of Frank-British Lawyers Society (non remunerated); Contributor of updates to “Scottish Family Law Service” (LexisNexis Publishers); Guernsey Financial Services Commission’s Panel of Senior Decision Makers.

Simon JD Catto: Other Appointments & Interests: Member of Cornerstone Exchange LLP Member of XT Property LLP Member of Addleshaw Goddard LLP (Head of Litigation Scotland)

Professor R Hugh MacDougall: Trusteeships: Cunningham Trust; Cross Trust; St. Columba’s Hospice; Other Appointments & Interests: St Giles Cathedral Elder, Edinburgh

Joe Al-Gharabally: Directorship: Ernst & Young

Col. David Mcilroy: Other Appointments & Interests: Independent Prison Monitor (Voluntary position supporting HM Inspector of Prisons in Scotland)

Eric McQueen: Appointments Ex Officio: Member of the Scottish Civil Justice Council

Further information in relation to SCTS Board members shareholdings, which was only obtained via a Freedom of Information request to the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service reveals the following shareholdings declarations:

Rt Hon Lady Smith, President of Scottish Tribunals: Shareholdings: Artemis Fund Managers; Barclays; Ishares PLC; Royal London; Axa Framlington UK; Majedie Asset Management; X Trackers S&P; Blackrock; Invesco; Robeco Capital.

Sheriff Aisha Anwar: Shareholdings: SRZ Commercial Ltd

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Shareholdings: Scotgold Resources Ltd

Simon JD Catto: Shareholdings: Cornerstone Asset Management General Investments; Jupiter Merlin Income Portfolio; Schroder MM Diversity Z inc; M&G Recovery 1 Inc; M&G Corporate Bond Fund.

Joe Al-Gharabally: Shareholdings: Ryan Air; AT&T.

HOLYROOD’S EIGHT YEAR JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register petition - 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.

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.

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.

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.

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has backed calls for further work on the judicial interests register during at least THREE further Holyrood hearings, including the latest hearing from June 2019, reported here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women's rights

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in May 2019 can be found here: 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’

A report on the Justice Committee’s consideration of the Judicial Interests Register Petition in February 2019 can be found here: 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

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

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.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

SUPREME INTERESTS: UK Supreme Court Judge Lord Reed's undeclared links to Lord Carloway selection panel & appeal review work - will not alter UKSC "unlawful" Parliament suspension ruling - but should feature in register of judges' interests

UKSC judge Lord Reed linked to Lord Carloway job panel. A POTENTIAL undeclared conflict of interest of the next President of the UK Supreme Court (UKSC) – in relation to a recent ruling on the unlawful suspension of Parliament - has been discovered from documents obtained from the Scottish Government.

Papers obtained via Freedom of Information legislation and published in 2016 reveal that Scottish judge Lord Reed – who has sat on the Supreme Court since 2012 – also sat on the selection panel which recommended the appointment of Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) as Lord President in 2015.

The potential conflict of Lord Reed - identified during discussions with legal sources – has a bearing (but no overall effect) on the ruling by eleven Supreme Court justices in relation to the findings of three Scottish appeal court judgesheaded by Lord Carloway – who declared Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline as unlawful.

In that ruling, Lord President, Lord Carloway, decided that although advice to HM the Queen on the exercise of the royal prerogative of prorogating Parliament was not reviewable on the normal grounds of judicial review, it would nevertheless be unlawful if its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution; this followed from the principles of democracy and the rule of law. The circumstances in which the advice was proffered and the content of the documents produced by the respondent demonstrated that this was the true reason for the prorogation.

However, the failure of Lord Reed to declare he sat on the appointments panel which recommended Lord Carloway for the top judicial job in Scotland – is one of two potential conflicts of interest for the Supreme Court judge which may have required to have – at the very uleast - been aired and debated for recusal - prior to the UKSC hearing on the suspension of the Westminster Parliament.

How judges select Scotland’s judges - in secret Scottish Government documents previously obtained by the media revealed the selection panel for the office of Lord President - of which Lord Reed was a member, along with Sir Muir Russell, Judge Lady Dorrian, and Deirdre Fulton – considered five candidates for the position of Scotland’s top judge.

Written exchanges between civil servants and the selection panel which are included in the released papers - 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.

Two emails from Lord Reed, dated 14th ^ 15 October 2015 – released by the Scottish Government in the FOI documents - give a minimal, and heavily redacted description of Lord Reed’s role in the panel’s work, which ultimately recommended Lord Carloway for the position of Scotland’s top judge.

In one email, Lord Reed states: “This strikes me as an excellent report. I have made a few minor suggestions as shown on the attached version. Most of the suggestions are trivial, [redacted]”

In a second email Lord Reed writes “I am content with the amended report. I agree, in particular, with the points which were made by Leeona. The amended version beems to me to present an accurate account, and a fair and balanced assessment [redacted]”

A further potential interest not declared, brought ot the attention of journalists by a legal source, identifies Lord Reed’s work together with Lord Carloway – on a ‘compatibility issues review’ to consider if the High Court of Justiciary in Scotland would still have to give permission for appeals in criminal cases to go forward to the UK Supreme Court.

The review group was itself established by Lord Carloway, with others appointmed to the group being Lord Reed (Deputy President of the UKSC), and others - Lady Dorrian (Lord Justice Clerk); David Harvie (Crown Agent); Roddy Dunlop QC (Treasurer of the Faculty of Advocates); and John Scott QC (President of the Society of Solicitor Advocates).

The review concluded - "Appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom (UKSC) should not require certification by the High Court of Justiciary that the issue raises a point of law of general public importance, a review chaired by the Lord Justice General has concluded."

Although – it should be pointed out – coincidentally, the review on appeals to the UKSC – limited to appeals in criminal cases - came too late to help in several serious cases of judicial conflicts of interest in Scotland – particularly on a well known case where Court of Session judge & Privy Councillor - Lord Malcolm (Colin Campell QC) heard a case up to eight times - while failing to declare his own son represented the defenders in multi million pound damages action.

A report on the Lord Malcolm conflict of interest case can be found here: CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Papers lodged at Holyrood judicial interests register probe reveal Court of Session judge heard case eight times - where his son acted as solicitor for the defenders.

The two potential conflicts of interest, not declared by Lord Reed in relation to what is a law changing UKSC ruling of significant impact – again highlight the need for a publicly available Register of judges’ interests - to ensure members of the judiciary do not forget to disclose interests which may have a bearing on cases before them.

The issue also brings into question again, the self imposed secrecy on judicial interests by the judges of the UK Supreme Court and wider UK Judiciary – who have resisted calls to become more transparent and declare their interests in the same way all public servants and elected politicians are required to declare in publicly available registers of interest.

The current stance of UK Supreme Court judges on transparency in relation to declarations of interest, is a point blank refusal by the judiciary to comply with the public expectation of transparency.

The UK Supreme Court’s website states the following in relation to judicial expenses and interests:

Justices' interests and expenses

Background

Prior to the creation of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, the highest court in the UK was the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords. The members of the Committee were Lords of Appeal in Ordinary appointed under the Appellate Jurisdiction Act 1876. Although those appointments gave them full voting and other rights in the House of Lords, the Law Lords had for some years voluntarily excluded themselves from participating in the legislative work of the House. Notwithstanding that, they were bound by the rules of the House and provided entries for the House of Lords Register of Interests.

On the creation of the Supreme Court the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary became Justices of the Supreme Court. They retain their titles as Peers of the Realm, but are excluded by statute from sitting or voting in the House, for so long as they remain in office as Justices of the Supreme Court. As such, they are treated as Peers on leave of absence; and do not have entries in the House of Lords Register of Interests. Historical information remains accessible via the House of Lords website.

Other judges in the UK, such as the judges of the Court of Appeal and the High Court in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland, and the Court of Session in Scotland, do not have a Register of Interests. Instead they are under a duty to declare any interest where a case comes before them where this is or might be thought to be the case.

Current position

Against this background the Justices have decided that it would not be appropriate or indeed feasible for them to have a comprehensive Register of Interests, as it would be impossible for them to identify all the interests, which might conceivably arise, in any future case that came before them. To draw up a Register of Interests, which people believed to be complete, could potentially be misleading. Instead the Justices of the Supreme Court have agreed a formal Code of Conduct by which they will all be bound, and which is now publicly available on the UKSC website.

In addition all the Justices have taken the Judicial Oath - and they all took it again on 1 October 2009 - which obliges them to "do right to all manner of people after the law and usages of this Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will"; and, as is already the practice with all other members of the judiciary, they will continue to declare any interest which arises in the context of a particular case and, if necessary, recuse themselves from sitting in that case - whether a substantive hearing, or an application for permission to appeal.

In relation to the UK Supreme Court’s stance on declarations of interests, and declarations of conflicts of interest, Diary of Injustice reported on the issue in detail during 2017, here: SUPREME SECRETS: UK Supreme Court refuses to publish recusal data - Court rejects release of info on UKSC justices' conflicts of interest in response to Freedom of Information recusals probe on top UK court

During the probe of UKSC recusals and failure to declare interests, a common thread of dishonesty was noted in court staff’s handling of a Freedom of Information request from Scotland – which was only answered after coverage of the issue in The National newspaper, which prompted the Information Commissioner’s Office to order the court to respond to the request.

Lord Reed’s limited biography on the UK Supreme Court website (reprinted below) does not feature either of the issues identified linking the judge to Lord Carloway’s appointment as Lord President nor any mention of review & other work undertaken with Lord Carloway – including the UK Supreme Court sitting in Edinburgh, which included Lord Carloway as a sitting judge on the UKSC panel.

LORD REED BIOGRAPHY:

Robert John Reed, Lord Reed became Deputy President of The Supreme Court on 7 June 2018. He was appointed as a Justice of The Supreme Court in February 2012.

He studied law at Edinburgh University and undertook doctoral research in law at the University of Oxford. He qualified as an advocate in Scotland and as a barrister in England. He practised at the Scottish Bar in a wide range of civil cases, and also prosecuted serious crime.

He served as a senior judge in Scotland for 13 years. From 2008 to 2012 a member of the Inner House of the Court of Session, and from 1998 to 2008 a member of the Outer House of the Court of Session, where he was the Principal Commercial Judge.

As well as sitting on the Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, he is also a member of the panel of ad hoc judges of the European Court of Human Rights, and is a Non-Permanent Judge of the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. He is also the Visitor of Balliol College, Oxford.

Lord Reed is one of the two Scottish Justices of The Supreme Court.

To update readers – on 24 July 2019, the last working day of Prime Minister Theresa May, HM the Queen appointed Lord Reed to serve as the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and declared her intention to raise him to the peerage. 

Lord Reed will take over as President of the United Kingdom Supreme Court from Baroness Hale of Richmond on 11 January 2020.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Readers should note this article does not take sides in the brexit debate. Rather this article is a reporting of a failure to declare or discuss relevant interests and a potential failure to recuse - by a senior judge who has been appointed as the new President of the UK Supreme Court.

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

SHERIFF WALKS: Scottish Courts confirm lawyer & part-time Sheriff Peter Watson - who was named in £28M Heather Capital writ linked to collapsed £400M hedge fund – resigned from the judiciary in 2018

Carloway lifted suspension, Sheriff resigned.. THE Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) have confirmed a lawyer linked to a collapsed hedge fund - who also served as a judge – and was suspended for over three years “in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary” - resigned his judicial post in 2018.

Peter Black Watson a former partner in Glasgow based law firm Levy and Mcrae – who was named in a £28million writ linked to the collapse of bust hedge fund Heather Capital – resigned his commission as a part time Sheriff on 10 October 2018.

The information was released by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service in response to a Freedom of Information request –  SCTS - Sheriff Watson resignation

The SCTS stated: “I can advise that Mr Peter Watson resigned his commission as a part-time sheriff on 10 October 2018. Mr Watson did not hear any cases between the lifting of the suspension on 12 July 2018 and his resignation. Mr Watson has not submitted any claims for expenses, nor attended any events, nor carried out any judicial functions, since the suspension was lifted.”

Watson’s resignation came less than three months after Lord Carloway had lifted Mr Watson’s record suspension from judicial office of over three years – imposted by Lord Brian Gill in February 2015

Mr Watson was suspended from the Judiciary of Scotland on February 16, 2015 - after the then Lord President, Lord Brian Gill, was informed by a journalist of the claims in the case against Levy and McRae, and specifically against Watson, over Heather Capital’s collapse in 2010.

The move came after allegations surfaced in a £28million writ naming part time Sheriff Peter Black Watson - and his former law firm Levy and Mcrae, and a number of individuals under investigation in connection with the collapsed Heather Capital hedge fund.

In response to queries from the media in February 2015 on the contents of the writ - the Judicial Office subsequently issued a statement confirming Lord Brian Gill  had suspended Sheriff Peter Black Watson (61) on 16 February 2015.

The suspension came after Gill demanded sight of the writ.

Responding to the Lord President’s request, Watson then offered to step aside temporarily – while the litigation concluded - however a Judicial Office spokesperson said “The Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”

A statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland read as follows: Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

“On Friday 13 February the Judicial Office was made aware of the existence of a summons containing certain allegations against a number of individuals including part-time sheriff Peter Watson.

The Lord President’s Private Office immediately contacted Mr Watson and he offered not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings.

Mr Watson e-mailed a copy of the summons to the Lord President’s Private Office on Saturday 14 February.

On Monday 16 February the Lord President considered the matter.

Having been shown the summons, the Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.

Mr Watson was therefore duly suspended from office on Monday 16 February 2015.”

A fulll report on Mr Watson’s suspension from the judiciary in 2015 can be found here: CAPITAL JUDGE: As top judge suspends sheriff over £28m law firm writ alleging links to £400m Heather Capital collapse, what now for Lord Gill’s battle against a register of interests & transparency for Scotland’s judiciary

In 2018, after matters relating to the Heather Capital writ came to a conclusion, it fell to cScotland’s current top judge – Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) to consider the ongoing suspension of Watson – reported in further detail here: CAPITAL NUDGE: Scotland's top judge Lord Carloway to consider status of de-benched Sheriff Peter Watson - suspended for a record THREE YEARS over £28million writ linked to collapsed £400m hedge fund Heather Capital

Later in July 2018. a statement from the Judicial Office for Scotland on the continuing suspension of part-time sheriff Peter Watson stated:

Following the extra judicial settlement of the Heather Capital action in which part-time sheriff Peter Watson was named as one of the defenders, the Lord President has lifted the suspension imposed upon him in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008. Sheriff Watson will resume part-time judicial duties with effect from 12 July 2018.

Sheriff Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on 16 February 2015, in terms of section 34 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.

Watson’s former law firm -  Levy & McRae, was one of several companies being sued by Heather's liquidator, Ernst & Young, after the fund's collapse in 2010.

Watson was also a director of a company called Mathon Ltd - a key part of the Heather empire.

The collapsed hedge fund Heather Capital – run by lawyer Gregory King was the subject of a Police Scotland investigation and a FIVE YEAR probe by the Crown Office.

However, in early February, the Crown Office coincidently confirmed there would be no prosecutions in the cases of the four individuals  - lawyers Gregory King & Andrew Sobolewski, accountant Andrew Millar and property expert Scott Carmichael – who were charged by Police Scotland in connection with a Police investigation of events relating to the collapse of Heather Capital.

Peter Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law.

Watson, and his former law firm named in the Heather Capital writ - Levy and Mcrae –  also represent the Scottish Police Federation.

Responding to queries from reporters, a  spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: “The action, in which suspended part time Sheriff Peter Watson was among the defenders, has settled.  An interlocutor to that effect has been issued.  The Lord President will consider what, if any, steps now require to be taken‎.”

Despite EY’s withdrawal of the £28million claim against Levy and Mcrae & Peter Watson, detailed claims in the Court of Session revealed the following:

[21]      In the Levy Mcrae case:

  • On 4 January 2007, HC transferred £19 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • On 24 January 2007, HC transferred £9.412 million to its client account with LM (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • The money was intended to be loaned to a first level SPV Westernbrook Properties Ltd (WBP) for onward lending to second level SPVs (Lord Doherty paragraph [5]).

  • On 9 January 2007, LM transferred £19 million to a Panamanian company (Niblick) owned and controlled by Mr Levene:the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).

  • By a memorandum dated 17 March 2007, HC’s auditors KPMG “identified a number of concerns relating to the documentation provided in respect of these loans”.Further work and information was required (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).

  • On 29 March 2007, LM transferred £9.142 million to Hassans, solicitors, Gibraltar, under the reference “Rosecliff Limited” (a company controlled by Mr King):the money was not therefore transferred to WBP.The transfer was undocumented and without security (Lord Doherty paragraph [5], and Condescendence 6 and 17, pages 20 and 44 of LM reclaiming print).

  • In April to June 2007, amounts equivalent to the loans thought to have been made to WBP (including accrued interest) were “repaid” to HC via Cannons, solicitors, Glasgow.The directors were unable to ascertain the source of these repayments (Lord Doherty paragraph [7]).

  • Approaches made by HC to Mr Volpe and Triay & Triay, a firm of solicitors in Gibraltar, were met with a total lack of co-operation (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).

  • At a board meeting on 6 September 2007, “KPMG could not approve HC’s accounts … Santo Volpe had executed certain loans to SPV companies where non‑standard procedures had been followed which meant that inadequate security had been given for some loans … Gregory King stated that the loans to the SPVs had been repaid in full in May 2007” (Condescendence 5, page 13 of LM reclaiming print).

  • By email to a non‑executive director of HC (Mr Bourbon) dated 7 September 2007, Mr McGarry of KPMG referred to the previous day’s board meeting, and expressed concerns about the situation.He asked for further information, namely “all possible evidence regarding the movement of monies out of Heather Capital into these SPVs and onwards to whatever purpose the funds were applied – ie, sight of bank statements, payment/remittance instructions, certified extracts from solicitors clients’ money accounts etc”.(It should be noted that, contrary to HC’s averment in Condescendence 5 at page 13C‑D of LM reclaiming print, the email did not restrict the inquiries requested to “explaining what information was required from Santo Volpe”:the request was much broader.)

  • In October 2007 the non‑executive directors of HC met with the Isle of Man Financial Services Commission (FSC) to discuss “the issues” (Lord Doherty paragraph [8]).A director also disclosed the suspicious activity and Mr Volpe’s obstruction to the Isle of Man Financial Crime Unit (FCU), who said they would investigate (Condescendence 5 page 14 of LM reclaiming print).The auditors KPMG carried out an additional full scope audit.

  • By letter dated 18 October 2007, FSC wrote to the directors of HC setting out further information which they required.

  • By letter dated 26 November 2007 Mr King advised the HC board that “some sort of fraud had been deliberately introduced with invalid land registry details on a number of the loans”.He stated that he had applied pressure to Mr Volpe and Mr Cannon, whereupon there had been “full repayment of the loans with relevant interest” which meant that “investors were secure”.

  • On 17 December 2007, KPMG signed the accounts and added a completion note using language such as “The risk of fraud increased to high as a result of the documentation issues surrounding the SPVs, where some form of fraud appeared to have been attempted”.In their audit report opinion, they stated “We have been unable to verify where funds advanced to the SPVs were invested.In addition, we were supplied with false documentation in relation to the SPVs which appears to have been a deliberate attempt to mislead us.Given these loans were repaid in the period, we consider that the effect of this is not so material and pervasive that we are unable to form an opinion on the financial statements [opting instead for express qualifications that loan and security documentation could not be validated] … There is uncertainty as to where the monies lent to the [SPVs] were then subsequently invested … Investigations continue to determine what party (or parties) were involved in and were accountable for these events, and whether any action should be taken against them …” (Lord Doherty paragraph [9]).

  • By letter to HC dated 4 January 2008, KPMG gave serious warnings about their inability to validate loan and security documentation, and lack of evidence as to the purpose for which the money advanced to SPVs was applied.In their words:

“ … Our report is designed to … avoid weaknesses that could lead to material loss or misstatement.  However, it is your obligation to take the actions needed to remedy those weaknesses and should you fail to do so we shall not be held responsible if loss or misstatement occurs as a result … [Having explained the disappearance of the funds and the apparent repayments, on which legal advice had been received, KPMG warned] … these matters are extremely serious … an attempted fraud appears to have been perpetrated … We would recommend that the Board continue their investigation into this matter and formally document their decision as to whether or not to inform the criminal justice authorities …”

A full copy of a court opinion detailing these and other claims with regards to a further case against Burness Paull LLB  - which coincidently also collapsed earlier last year - can be viewed here: Court of Session allows proof against Levy & Mcrae and Burness Paull LLP in Heather Capital case as liquidators attempt to recover cash from collapsed £280m hedge fund.

In the motion of abandonment filed by EY & Heather Capital, heard in the Court of Session on 28 February before Lord Glennie, Lady Paton & Lady Clark of Calton, Lord Glennie’s opinion sums up matters in relation to issues in the Heather Capital case, which linked claims of financial wrongdoing directly to Scotland’s judiciary – who, ultimately heard and ruled on the case.

Lord Glennie stated in his opinion:

[97]      I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinions to be given by Lady Paton and Lady Clark of Calton.  I agree with them and, for the reasons they give, I too would allow parties a Proof Before Answer of all their averments on record preserving all pleas. 

[98]      I would wish to add two comments of my own. 

[99]      The main focus of the debate in each case was whether the pursuer, HC, had made sufficient and relevant averments of “reasonable diligence” for the purposes of section 11(3) and the proviso to section 6(4) of the 1973 Act.  In both cases the Lord Ordinary held that HC had not said enough and in sufficient detail to justify sending the matter to a Proof Before Answer.  The matter could be determined on the pleadings.  Lady Paton has explained why we take a different view.  But I have a more general concern about this approach. 

[100]    In his note of argument in the LM case, under reference to cases such as John Doyle Construction Ltd v Laing Management (Scotland) Ltd 2004 SC 713 at pages 722 - 723 and Watson v Greater Glasgow Health Board [2016] CSOH 93 at paragraphs 22-23, Lord Davidson QC was at pains to remind us that the purpose of pleading is to give fair notice of the assertions of fact sought to be established in the evidence as well as to identify the essential propositions of law on which a party founds.  Elaborate pleading is unnecessary in any action, not just in a commercial action.  The purpose of the pleadings is to give notice of the essential elements of the case.  The pleadings should set out the bare bones of the case.  They are not the place to set out in full the evidence intended to be adduced.  In the present cases that appears to have been overlooked.  To that extent I have some sympathy with Lord Davidson’s submission.  The Closed Record in the BP action, as it appears in the Reclaiming Print, runs to some 59 pages, while that in the LM action extends to 93 pages.  This has happened, so it seems to me, because in their pleadings parties have indulged in a process akin to trial by pleading.  The defenders have made averments of fact intended to undermine the pursuer’s case on reasonable diligence; the pursuer has responded by making further averments addressed to those points;  this in turn has caused the defenders to make further averments or raise further questions;  the pursuer has tried to answer by making yet further averments;  and this is constantly repeated until parties are finally exhausted.  The process resembles one of cross examination and response, a process for which pleadings are quite unfitted.  I do not seek to apportion blame.  In a case such as this, the temptation to pile pressure on to the pursuer by pleading a wealth of detail is difficult to resist;  and a pursuer who does not respond in kind runs the risk of being thought to have no answer to the points which have been raised.  Difficulty arises when the matter comes to debate on the question of whether, for example, the pursuer has made sufficiently relevant and specific averments that it “could not with reasonable diligence have been aware” that loss had occurred (section 11(3)) and that it could not “with reasonable diligence have discovered” the fraud or error induced by the debtor which induced it to refrain from making a relevant claim at an earlier stage (section 6(4), proviso).  Points are made in argument about the failure to take certain steps or to follow up on the particular line of enquiry;  and the Lord Ordinary is invited to form a view that what was done was insufficient or that the reasons given for not doing it are inadequate.  Such an invitation should, in my view, be resisted save in the most obvious case.  The judgments which the court is being asked to make are essentially value judgments, assessments of the reasonableness or otherwise of a party’s conduct.  Such judgments should seldom if ever be made on the basis of the pleadings without hearing evidence.  It may seem obvious, on paper, that something ought to have been done or that a line of enquiry ought to have been pursued; but when evidence is led it might seem less obvious, or there might be good reasons for not taking that course.  It is not the function of pleadings to set out every reason why each relevant individual took or did not take any particular step.  In many cases issues of credibility and reliability might arise, the evidence may be far more nuanced than it is possible to convey on paper, explanations may be given more fully and persuasively than can come over in the pleadings, and some of the criticisms may, in light of all the evidence, be seen to be informed by hindsight.  I should emphasise that I make these observations without reference to any of the particular points decided in the particular cases with which we are here concerned.  But it does seem to me that the cases with which we are concerned illustrate the danger of the court being drawn into deciding cases on detailed averments of fact when it would be more appropriate that all the evidence be heard before any decision is made. 

[101]    The other comment I would wish to make concerns the question of whether the claims advanced in both actions on the basis of the existence of a trust are subject to the 5‑year prescriptive period in section 6 of the 1973 Act or are subject to the 20-year long negative prescription in section 7.  This matter was discussed by Lord Doherty in the LM action at paragraphs [25]-[31].  He concluded that the obligation of a trustee to produce trust accounts is an imprescriptible obligation;  that the liability to make payment of the sum found due in an accounting for trust funds is subject only to the long negative prescription;  and that the obligation of a trustee to restore the value of trust property paid away in breach of trust is also subject only to the long negative prescription.  The matter was not discussed by Lord Tyre in the BP case for reasons which are slightly unclear – matters appear to have proceeded in that debate on the basis that all obligations were subject to the 5-year prescriptive period and that the only issues in that respect concerned the pursuer’s case on sections 6(4) and 11(3) – but it was not suggested before us that the point is not live in that action too.  Detailed submissions on the point were made by Mr Duncan QC on behalf of LM and adopted by Mr Dunlop QC on behalf of BP.  Lord Davidson QC responded on behalf of HC.  I, for one, was grateful for their submissions.  It emerged in the course of those submissions, as it had to some extent at the debate in the LM case, that not only was there a dispute as to the law to be applied in a case of accounting and/or breach of trust but there was also a dispute as to whether the circumstances of the present cases gave rise to a relationship of trust at all or, alternatively, a trust of a kind intended to be excluded from the 5-year short negative prescription.  In light of this, it seems to me that it would be desirable that all of the relevant facts be determined before the issues are decided.  For that reason, and for the reasons given by Lady Paton in paragraph [80] of her opinion, I am persuaded that it would be premature to attempt to decide these points at this stage.

COLLAPSE OF FIVE YEAR CROWN OFFICE PROBE:

In a further twist to the Heather Capital saga, a FIVE YEAR probe by the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) collapsed just a few days before the collapse of the £28million writ against Levy and Mcrae, & Peter Watson.

A report by journalist Russell Findlay revealed: CROWN prosecutors will take no action against four men following a fraud probe into a collapsed £400 million finance firm.

Lawyer Gregory King, 49, and three others were reported to the Crown by detectives who investigated his hedge fund Heather Capital which was based in the Isle of Man.

Heather, launched by King in 2005, attracted investors from around the world and loaned money to fund property deals.

Following its 2010 collapse, Heather’s liquidator Paul Duffy claimed that around £90million was unaccounted for and a police fraud probe resulted in the four men being reported to the Crown Office in April 2013.

An Isle of Man court judgement likened Heather to a ‘Ponzi’ scheme, made famous by US financier Bernie Madoff who was jailed for 150 years in 2009.

The other three reported by police were lawyer Andrew Sobolewski, of Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, Andrew Millar, of ­Cambuslang, near Glasgow, and Scott ­Carmichael, of Thorntonhall, near Glasgow.

Last year there was criticism of the Crown for taking so long to consider the case but after almost five years it has now dropped the case.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “Following full and careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the currently available admissible evidence, Crown Counsel instructed  that there should be no proceedings at this time.

“The Crown reserves the right to raise proceedings should further evidence become available.”

The Scottish Sun reported on the serving of the £28million civil writ which named lawyer Peter Black Watson - back in February 2015, here:

The Scottish Sun reports:

WRIT HITS THE FAN

FIRM FIRM SLAPPED WITH COURT SUMMONS - Top legal outfit in megabucks lawsuit

Practice is linked to bust hedge fund - Briefs with ties to big business and high-profile clients

By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 15 February 2015

A TOP law firm has been hit with a multi-million pound writ linked to a finance company at the centre of a fraud investigation.

Legal practice Levy & McRae — which acts for footballers, politicians, cops and newspapers — faces the claim over its role in connection with £400million investment scheme Heather Capital.

It's claimed millions of pounds went missing following the collapse of the hedge fund. And The Scottish Sun told last week how four men — including tycoon Gregory King — have been reported to prosecutors probing the allegations.

King, 46, ran Heather subsidiary Mathon, where Sheriff Peter Watson — a former senior partner at Levy & McRae — was also briefly a director.

The Court of Session summons was served on the firm six months after he left the legal firm.

Watson is one of the country's most high-profile lawyers and spent 33 years with Levy & McRae before quitting to set up his own business.

The visiting Strathclyde University professor sat on an expert panel created by former First Minister Alex Salmond to look into media regulation in Scotland.

Watson also acted for former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini after she was harassed by a campaigner who was later jailed.

'Their clients are a who's who of Scotland' And he includes ex-Glasgow City Council chief Steven Purcell among his list of clients, as well as senior police and prison officers.

The legal expert, 61 — chairman of Yorkhill Sick Kids' Hospital charity — has also acted for former Rangers owner Sir David Murray.

And a Gers supporters' group closed down its website following legal threats from Watson, who was working for under-fire directors Sandy and James Easdale.

A source said: "Watson and Levy & McRae are very well known and their clients are a who's who of Scotland."

Investors from around the world sunk their cash into Gibraltar-based fund Heather Capital, which launched in 2004.

Some of the cash was loaned to Mathon to bankroll developments across Scotland. But many of the Mathon-funded plans did not happen — and some of the cash was not repaid.

Liquidator Paul Duffy of Ernst & Young has been battling to recover investors' cash since 2010 and is suing Heather's auditors KPMG for negligence over their role. Isle of Man court documents — acquired by The Scottish Sun — claim Heather was operating a "Ponzi" scheme to dupe investors.

They alleged that as early as December 2006, senior KPMG staff feared that Heather Capital "may have been perpetrating a fraud".

And in August 2007, KPMG employee Raymond Gawne told a colleague that he was "very uncomfortable" acting for the fund which "may have acted in a criminal manner".

The claim also alleges that millions of pounds of loans passed through the client account of Glasgow lawyer Frank Cannon who acted for Heather. KPMG senior executive David McGarry sent an email to Gregory King stating: "Frank Cannon has been uncooperative, either in providing some form of explanation for all of the security documentation prepared by his firm, or in agreeing to facilitate access to Cannon's clients' money account". McGarry added he did not accept "that this is due" to Cannon.

Watson declined to comment on the writ and Levy & McRae and Cannon did not respond to our requests for comment.

The Police Scotland report naming Mr King and his associates Andrew Sobolewski, Andrew Millar and Scott Carmichael is now being considered by the Crown Office.

A spokesman for Ernst & Young confirmed: "Heather Capital, via Ernst & Young, has made a claim against Levy & McRae." And a KPMG spokesman said: "The passages in the plaintiff's summons provide a selective and misleading picture and are drawn out simply to seek to make what is a wholly unsubstantiated case.

"The allegations are completely unfounded and are being fully contested by KPMG."

GREGORY KING MARBELLA-based former Glasgow Academy pupil, 46, was a lawyer and taxi firm boss before launching Heather Capital in 2004. Family business dynasty includes nightclub boss cousin Stefan King.

PETER WATSON GREENOCK-born solicitor advocate, 61, carved out a fearsome reputation as a media lawyer during 33 years at Levy & McRae. He also dishes out justice as a part-time sheriff across Scotland.

KING'S £400million hedge fund Heather Capital loaned millions of pounds to Glasgow-based Mathon, of which Watson was briefly a director.

TOP lawyer and part-time sheriff Watson has acted for a string of high profile celebrity, political, sport and media clients in a glittering legal career:

Watson’s clients included Alex Salmond, Stephen Purcell, Elish Angiolini, Yorkhill Hospital Board, Rangers Chiefs.

and a further development reported by the Scottish Sun on the suspension of Sheriff Peter Watson:

Bench ban for sheriff linked to fraud probe

Lawman, 61, suspended

By RUSSELL FINDLAY 25th February 2015, Scottish Sun

A SHERIFF was suspended after he was linked to a collapsed finance firm at the centre of a massive fraud probe.

Peter Watson, 61, was barred from the bench by judges’ boss Lord President Lord Gill following an inquiry by The Scottish Sun.

Watson, whose past clients include ex-First Minister Alex Salmond, was briefly a director of Mathon, a company run by Glasgow bookie’s son Gregory King, 46.

It received millions in loans from King’s hedge fund Heather Capital which crashed owing a seven-figure sum.

Watson’s suspension came 24 hours after we revealed Heather liquidators Ernst & Young filed a multi-million court demand against his former law firm Levy & McRae.

Lord Gill, 73, can suspend sheriffs and judges if it’s “necessary for the purpose of maintaining public confidence”.

Watson forged a fearsome reputation as a media lawyer over 33 years with Levy & McRae before he left the firm six months ago.

King is one of four men named in a police report which is being considered by the Crown Office.

The Judicial Office for Scotland said last night: “Sheriff Peter Watson was suspended from the office of part-time sheriff on February 16.”

The National also recently reported on the continuing suspension of Peter Watson from the judicial bench, here:

Lawyer Peter Watson still suspended despite case ending

Martin Hannan Journalist

Peter Watson was suspended from the bench more than three years ago

LAWYER Peter Watson remains suspended from his position as a part-time sheriff despite a £28 million court action in which he was being sued having been brought to an end.

Lord Carloway, the Lord President and Scotland’s senior judge, is said by legal sources to be considering the position of Watson after Paul Duffy, the liquidator of Heather Capital, abandoned the £28m action against Levy and McRae solicitors in which Watson was a former partner.

Watson was suspended from the bench more than three years ago on February 16, 2015, after the then Lord President, Lord Gill, was informed of the claims in the case against Levy and McRae, and specifically against Watson, over Heather Capital’s collapse in 2010.

It was Watson himself who e-mailed the summons material to the Lord President’s office himself and volunteered “not to sit as a part-time sheriff on a voluntary basis, pending the outcome of those proceedings,” as the Judicial Office stated at the time.

The statement added that Lord Gill had “concluded that ... suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”

Watson now has his own law business, PBW Law.

He told reporters: “I am very pleased that this action has been abandoned and I am looking forward to serving my clients now it is clear that there was no valid basis for this claim.”

A spokesperson for the Judicial Office said: “The action, in which suspended part time Sheriff Peter Watson was among the defenders, has settled.

“The Lord President will consider what, if any, steps now require to be taken?,” the spokesperson added.

Of note – there is no statement on the Judcial Office website in relation to the resignation of Peter Watson from the judicial bench, as of this article’s date of publication on 3 July 2018.