Thursday, September 18, 2014

No man is an island … Scottish Independence and all that jazz

No man, no country is an island. WE all like to think otherwise - you know the feeling … invincible youth … that we can all do it on our own, that independence is a great thing, but the truth is, sometimes, actually, more often than not, and when the need is most great, everyone looks to someone else for a helping hand. It is that kind of world, that kind of harsh reality. It is nature, folks, and we have to deal with it.

For those of you who suffer injustice in Scotland – there are many, and increasing in number, the need for assistance and the overwhelming desire to overcome a predicament you and your family have been placed in by others, is a natural and reasonable expectation.

But, as we have so often seen in our laws, in our public bodies, the justice system and the courts, all presented to us as saviours to overcome such problems, these institutions do not actually work, at least not in our favour.

We are constantly told it will change. It never does. Never. Review after review .. all just lies. Years later the same promises of change never materialise.

A baby dies in a hospital, it is covered up – many times over. A family loses a business, are tossed out of their home by a greedy bank, and a lawyer ends up with everything for a pittance, no one gets to find out. A political party donor or hospitality provider is awarded a megabucks public contract after a nod and a wink, and then some regulatory body is brought in to rubber stamp the motion as honest and above board. In reality it has all the sleaze of a drugs deal.

And what of the big name high ranking heads of these institutions given £100’s of millions a year to uphold the law or run the courts.

Well, it turns out they would rather sit down to dinner & sword dances with dictators and lap up a gold watch and an offshore fiddle, than sit down and do what is necessary to help a family out of poverty, or put someone’s life back in order after it has been mangled by the system.

This, is Scotland. It could, be you.

Today, it is your choice, your voice, and your vote. So use it wisely. Think. Don’t be bullied by vested interests. However you decide to vote, you have the right to decide for yourself. And, whatever you decide, good luck to us all.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

TOXIC LAW: MacAskill gives lawyers ‘right to complain about complaints’, backs law change allowing anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to ditch investigations on rogue lawyers

Law change makes it easier for lawyers to look after their own. RECENT Scottish Government backed changes to rules governing how solicitors, advocates and the remainder of the legal profession investigate themselves now make it easier for the ‘independent’ Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) to dismiss complaints against rogue lawyers at an earlier stage than is currently allowed, or, if the situation permits, reinstate a complaint after it has already been dismissed.

Now known as Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Modification of Duties and Powers) Regulations 2014 the changes also give solicitors involved in conduct complaints a new right to complain about the manner in which the complaint was dealt with by the relevant professional organisation.

The controversial change -  allowing lawyers to complain about complaints, may inevitably lead to dodgy lawyers using this procedure as a tactic to avoid the already meagre disciplinary measures handed down by the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal (SSDT).

Earlier this year, the SSDT was shamed earlier this year in Lawyers Behaving Badly - a BBC Scotland investigation which revealed how “dishonest” lawyers escape being struck off in Scotland while in England & Wales, such conduct would result in a striking off.

Another change to the rules governing the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission effectively creates a quango within a quango - requiring the SLCC to set up an ‘independent’ panel to advise it on consumer and equality issues.

While the ‘independent’ advisory panel is more likely to be comprised of lawyers vested interests like the SLCC itself, MSPs were told it is is also to include representatives from consumer and equalities organisations. The panel's remit will be to make recommendations to the Commission for improvements in practice and procedures; to make suggestions of topics for research connected to consumers; and to express views on other matters as requested.

Attending with the Justice Secretary, Roderick Campbell, a member of the Faculty of Advocates said of the advisory panel: “Putting into statute the independent advisory panel is a way forward and I am pleased that it will include representatives of consumer and equalities organisations. That ought to improve substantially how the commission functions, if it takes on board the panel's comments.”

The overly pro-lawyer moves, are a result of discussions between a group consisting of the Law Society of Scotland, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the Faculty of Advocates, the Association of Commercial Attorneys, the Legal Defence Union, the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, Citizens Advice Scotland, Which? and the centre for professional legal studies at the University of Strathclyde law school were backed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who attended the Justice Committee on 5 August 2014 to give evidence on the proposed changes.

Rules change will benefit consumers little. The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Modification of Duties and Powers) Regulations 2014, were laid under section 41 of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007, passed by the Scottish Parliament eight years ago in what has now become a flawed attempt to clean up the law on how lawyers deal with complaints against their colleagues.

The instrument will make amendments to the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 to adjust the duties and powers of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) and to impose new duties and new powers on it. These include--

  • giving the SLCC the ability to revisit the eligibility of the complaint during the investigation phase;
  • providing for a more flexible order of consideration of aspects of complaints;
  • giving the SLCC the ability to discontinue the investigation of a complaint and, should it wish, reinstate a complaint where it has discontinued an investigation;
  • providing practitioners about whom a conduct complaint has been made with the power to complain to the SLCC if they feel that the conduct complaint has been poorly handled by the relevant professional organisation;
  • providing new powers for dealing with recommendations in reports on handling complaints;
  • providing for handling complaints to be reinstated;
  • placing an obligation on the SLCC to set up and consult an independent panel.

During the short debate, in which the amendments to legislation was passed by the Justice Committee and is a statutory instrument, Mr MacAskill claimed he had not heard any suggestion the heavily pro-lawyer, anti-client Scottish Legal Complaints Commission was “not  working  reasonably  well  and smoothly.”

Justice Committee Scottish Parliament 5th August 2014 SLCC Rules change

The short debate at the Scottish Parliament on the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Modification of Duties and Powers) Regulations 2014 :

The Convener: If I have members' attention, I will move on to agenda item 2, which is consideration of an affirmative instrument. The draft regulations amend and add to the duties and powers of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission with the aim of improving the complaints process.

The cabinet secretary has, of course, stayed with us, and I welcome from the Scottish Government Denise Swanson, head of the access to justice unit, and Alastair Smith, from the legal services directorate. The cabinet secretary will give evidence in advance of the debate on the regulations. I understand that he wishes to make a brief opening statement.

Kenny MacAskill: Thank you, convener. I am happy to be here to assist the committee in its consideration of the draft Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Modification of Duties and Powers) Regulations 2014.

The Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission previously contacted the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs and the Justice Committee to raise concerns about certain tactical aspects of the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007. The society and the commission agreed to form a working group with other stakeholders, the aim of which was to suggest changes to the legislation to improve the complaints process, which would benefit both the public and the profession. The group consisted of the Law Society, the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the Faculty of Advocates, the Association of Commercial Attorneys, the Legal Defence Union, the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, Citizens Advice Scotland, Which? and the centre for professional legal studies at the University of Strathclyde law school.

The amending regulations are a direct result of the working group's findings. They will significantly assist in making the legislation a more effective framework for dealing with legal complaints in Scotland, which is in keeping with the Scottish Government's national outcome:

"Our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs."

The regulations will rearrange the order in which the SLCC considers the various aspects of a complaint, to improve efficiency and better reflect current practice. They will give the SLCC the power to discontinue and reinstate service complaints and will give legal practitioners the right to complain about the handling of a complaint by a professional body. They will also require the SLCC to set up an independent panel to advise it on consumer and equality issues.

I hope that that is useful to the committee. I am happy to take questions.

The Convener: It all seems like common sense to me.

Margaret Mitchell: I thank the cabinet secretary for that opening statement. To what extent does the Scottish Government monitor the operation of the commission?

Denise Swanson (Scottish Government): The SLCC lays an annual report before Parliament. It is a non-departmental public body for which my unit has sponsorship responsibility. We work closely with the SLCC, including on its consultation on budget proposals. It is an unusual non-departmental public body in that it is funded not by the Scottish Government but by a levy on the profession. There is a certain amount of accountability to the profession regarding the way that the commission operates. We work very closely with it on improvements to and efficiency in its operations.

Margaret Mitchell: I am aware that ministers appoint members of the board. Given that the changes, which are all very sensible and should improve the complaints system, have come from stakeholders, and given that the commission came into being in 2008, is it not time for some post- legislative scrutiny of how the commission is operating and a more in-depth look at its performance and how it could be improved?

Kenny MacAskill: I am happy to consider any suggestions that Ms Mitchell or, indeed, the committee may have, but it seems that we have the appropriate balance. As Denise Swanson said, the commission is a non-departmental public body. We appoint the commission and there is a level of scrutiny there, but we have to have trust and faith in those who are appointed, and we do. Equally, it is quite clear that the levy, which is unusual, if not necessarily unique, ensures that there is a great deal of scrutiny by bodies that represent individual members of the profession.

I am happy to take on board any suggestions, but it seems that the commission, together with those stakeholders, has been working reasonably well. It has recognised that there have been challenges and difficulties, and it has got itself together and worked out what changes are needed. We are here as an Administration to support it, although we are open to suggestions.

Margaret Mitchell: I understand that the SLCC is funded by a levy on stakeholders—people who may be the subject of complaints—so I suppose that I am suggesting that we should ensure that there is more independent scrutiny.

Kenny MacAskill: Again, I say that I am open to suggestions about the level of scrutiny that you want. I have had no suggestion that the organisation is not working reasonably well and smoothly. Clearly, the Government has oversight and responsibility regarding the commission, as it does with any NDPB. It seems that some tweaks have been made and some challenges have been met. We are discussing and engaging with stakeholders.

My deputy and I meet the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society regularly. Unless matters such as malfeasance were suggested, I do not see why the Government would wish to intervene in a body that appears to be liaising well and operating reasonably smoothly. However, we are always open to suggestions.

Margaret Mitchell: The measures in the regulations are good but, given their number, it would be good to have wider debate and parliamentary scrutiny. We in the Scottish Parliament are notoriously bad at doing post- legislative scrutiny.

Kenny MacAskill: That is a matter for the committee or perhaps for Opposition parties in considering Opposition days. One reason why many aspects have been referred to is that the field is complicated. I welcome the fact that the measures have been discussed and taken on board not only by those who would normally expect to be represented, such as the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates, but by bodies that interact with the public, such as Citizens Advice Scotland and Which? The issue that you raise is for Parliament rather than the Government.

The Convener: I do not want to give evidence, but am I right in saying that an arm of the Law Society used to deal with complaints? That was not satisfactory. We have now moved to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. Does the cabinet secretary agree that the independent advisory panel will be important, as it will look at how the commission operates?

Kenny MacAskill: The basis for establishing the SLCC was public concern, which was transmitted across political parties, as the convener said. Such aspects could not and should not be dealt with by professional bodies regulating themselves.

Denise Swanson: It might help to note that, in the past two to three years, the SLCC has reported an improvement in the efficiency of its complaints handling. There was a bit of a backlog, which has been resolved. In the budget proposals that were recently consulted on, the SLCC reduced the levy. It is reporting on improvements in processes and in the time that it takes to process complaints.

Margaret Mitchell: Are you confident that the enforcement of recommendations is working well?

Denise Swanson: Yes. The number of cases that are taken to court for enforcement is reducing.

Roderick Campbell: I refer to my registered interest as a member of the Faculty of Advocates. Putting into statute the independent advisory panel is a way forward and I am pleased that it will include representatives of consumer and equalities organisations. That ought to improve substantially how the commission functions, if it takes on board the panel's comments.

The Convener: I welcome the flexibility that is being built in, but I am surprised that it has taken a wee while to get that. It seems like common sense to have the ability to revisit eligibility questions and rearrange the order of consideration and to have the power to discontinue and reinstate service complaints. They all seem like measures to manage cases that should have been available from the start, so I very much welcome them.

Consultation packs were sent to a range of people. Were they all happy? Were the consultees—particularly the consumer organisations Citizens Advice Scotland, Which? and the Office of Fair Trading—content with the amendments to existing practices?

Denise Swanson: Yes. Those organisations were part of the group that worked on the proposals. The group's remit was to agree which improvements could be delivered through practice change, which would require primary legislation and which would require subordinate legislation. The group agreed on the position.

The one outstanding issue concerns appeals going to the Court of Session. That element requires primary legislative change, so the group accepted that it must remain as it is at the moment.

The Convener: Do the rest of the proposed amendments have agreement across the spectrum?

Denise Swanson: Yes.

The Convener: That is fine.

Members have no more questions, so we will move on to item 3, which is the formal debate on the motion on the regulations. I invite the cabinet secretary to move motion S4M-10634. Motion moved,

That the Justice Committee recommends that the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (Modification of Duties and Powers) Regulations 2014 [draft] be approved.—[Kenny MacAskill.]

Motion agreed to.

The Convener: As members are aware, we are required to report on all affirmative instruments. Are members content to delegate authority to me to sign off the report? Members indicated agreement.

The overtly pro-lawyer changes to the SLCC’s rules, dubbed by critics as more “window dressing” come after Justice Secretary MacAskill earlier this year refused to give more powers to the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to hold dodgy Scottish judges to account, some of whom were revealed to have criminal records, tax dodging investments and shareholdings in businesses directly connected with the courts.

Although the legal profession claim the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is independent and funded by lawyers, in reality, the SLCC is paid for by a levy from lawyers who in turn recoup it many times over from unsuspecting clients. In short – if, as clients, you have paid legal fees since 2008, you have probably paid your solicitor’s SLCC complaints levy many times over.

Last year, a media investigation revealed lawyers secret links with ‘independent’ regulator, showing the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission is actually run by former Law Society of Scotland employees, lawyers, and other vested interests from the legal profession.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Former Bankruptcy chief Gillian Thompson appointed to ‘Window Dressing’ role of Judicial Complaints Reviewer, previously investigated Scottish Court hospitality junkets & court staff profit scams

Ex-head of AIB Gillian Thompson takes over Judicial watchdog role from the popular Moi Ali. SCOTLAND’S ‘powerless’ judicial watchdog charged with reviewing complaints against judges has a new head – Gillian Thompson OBE, appointment to the role of Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) last week by Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill.

However, the appointment comes without any strengthening of powers for the role – described as “Window Dressing” by Scotland’s first JCR Moi Ali, who revealed to msps last year the Judicial Complaints Reviewer has no statutory powers to hold judges to account.

Scotland’s second JCR, Gillian Thompson is a retired civil servant with a career spanning four decades, during which time she was also Chief Executive of the Accountant in Bankruptcy between 2002 and 2009. As Chief Executive of the AIB, Ms Thompson supervised the regulation of the bankruptcy process including the performance of trustees and commissioners in the exercise of their statutory duties.

And in 2010, Gillian Thompson was asked to investigate irregularities in the Scottish Court Service involving staff failing to declare hospitality and using their court positions for personal profit & private gain - arising mostly from activities involving undeclared links to law firms & lawyers. Ms Thompson’s Report on Hospitality & Gifts in the SCS found court staff were secretly using their positions to financially profit from court activities.

The appointment of Ms Thompson to the office of Judicial Complaints Reviewer under the terms of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 – an appointment which requires approval from Scotland’s top judge, comes at a time where questions of the effectiveness of the JCR have brought the office and it’s lack of powers into sharp focus during msps deliberations and public debate on the lack of judicial transparency & accountability.

What's the point of a watchdog without teeth - Sunday Mail 22 September 2013Judges helped create a watchdog without teeth which ended up as window dressing. During debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee last September, MSPs heard from Moi Ali, Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer who described the role of JCR as “mere window dressing”. Moi Ali said the JCR’s office had no powers during an evidence session with msps who are currently investigating increased transparency of the judiciary as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

Moi Ali told msps there is “little point” to her role as Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer because of its lack of teeth. She said: “It’s fair to say because I don’t actually have any powers. There’s no real independent oversight.If you provide oversight without powers, then there’s almost little point to it.”

Answering further questions on the comparison of Scotland’s ‘powerless’ Judicial Complaints Reviewer to the equivalent office in England & Wales, the Office for Judicial Complaints - Moi Ali told MSPs: “It’s hard to say why, if you make a complaint about a judge in England or Wales, the powers available are so much wider compared to what happens in Scotland. Their approach couldn’t be more different in terms of openness.”

In England and Wales, the procedure regarding complaints about judges is very different from Scotland, where the Office for Judicial Complaints has 15 staff and publishes details of upheld complaints. If complainants remain dissatisfied with how their case was handled, they can appeal to the Judicial Appointment and Conduct Ombudsman, headed by Sir John Brigstocke, with 14 staff.

Video footage of Moi Ali’s appearance at the Scottish Parliament and questions from MSPs can be found here :

JCR Moi Ali gives evidence to Scottish Parliament on a proposed Register of Judicial Interests

JCR should have more powers – Moi Ali told Scottish Government. In her second annual report as Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Moi Ali called for the Scottish Government to give more powers to the JCR’s office to deal with errant judges.

Moi Ali said: “I think fundamentally the problem is the legislation. “The way it’s created, it’s about self- regulation so you have judges judging judges’ conduct. There isn’t really an independent element.“I’m presented as the independent element but, without the powers, I can’t be independent. We have the appearance of independent oversight but not the reality.”

In response to calls for greater powers for the JCR, Justice Secertary MacAskill refused to grant any extra powers, and First Minister Alex Salmond supported MacAskill's refusal during questions at FMQ’s by John WIlson MSP at the Scottish Parliament.

Since the hearing at Holyrood last year, media coverage has revealed further cases of questionable judicial conduct and judicial conflicts of interest including a case where Scotland’s top judge was forced to step aside because his own son appeared before him in a court case, reported HERE

New JCR Gillian Thompson reported on irregularities in Scottish Court Service hospitality:

Last year, Diary of Injustice reported on concerns regarding hospitality involving Scottish Court Service employees where Ms Thompson was asked by the Scottish Court Service to investigate reports of irregularities in hospitality given to court staff. The request for the investigation came after the SCS received Freedom of Information requests regarding hospitality in the courts, prompting concerns some staff may have accepted gifts or hospitality but failed to register.

Report said SCS Registers were insufficient, and Court staff involved in private gain fail to declare. Gillian Thompson’s Report on Hospitality & Gifts in the SCS stated the “The information currently captured on the registers is insufficient to provide assurance that staff are using their common sense and considering issues such as conflict of interest.

Ms Thompson went on to recommend the “SCS should revise the Policy on Acceptance of Gifts, Rewards and Hospitality to ensure that it is fit for purpose for all staff, taking account of the various roles performed within SCS. It may also be time to revisit the levels of value for gifts and hospitality.”

The former AIB’s report also revealed court staff were using their positions to earn money privately from their links with lawyers and law firms operating in courts, stating “Several staff raised the issue of sheriff clerks who carry out extrajudicial taxations and private assessments and who personally benefit financially from these activities.”

Ms Thompson’s report roundly condemned this practice, stating: “Not only is it inappropriate in terms of the civil service code requirements for staff who are public servants to be able to receive private gain from their employment it is also highly divisive when other staff see such benefits being derived from simply being in the right post of Auditor of Court within the Sheriff Courts.”

Ms Thompson recommended in her report the “SCS should bring the practice of sheriff clerks profiting privately from their employment by SCS to an end as quickly as possible”.

However, it now appears the practice of SCS employees working on the side continues, indicating the SCS has failed to curtail their staff from operating undeclared and highly profitable private ventures and even limited companies formed with law firms which clearly give rise to concerns of conflict of interest and continuing corruption in Scotland’s courts.

Many of these undeclared money making entities operated by currently serving Scottish Court Service employees are hidden from court scrutiny as SCS staff and clerks have got round the SCS ban by engaging relatives or friends & partners as directors in brazen attempts to avoid declaring interests, earnings and relationships with law firms, some of which are connected to members of the judiciary.

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 deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Thursday, August 21, 2014

LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary's international travel junkets spree

Scotland’s judges prefer taxpayer funded jet travel to dull court duties. SCOTLAND’S wealthy, well connected judges are back on the jet set junket despite an alleged clampdown announced two weeks ago by Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill after a controversy over justices of the peace trying to join the judicial travel circuit junket spree.

An investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper has revealed Scotland's top judges spent £26,000 on thirty three international trips funded by taxpayers in the last year - including journeys to destinations such as Russia, Israel, Switzerland,Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania.

The country’s top judge, Lord Gill – who is still refusing to appear before 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, and gave a sixteen page speech on judicial ethics.

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

The Scottish Sun reports:

LORDING IT ALL OVER THE WORLD

Beaks Trips on Taxpayer

Exclusive : By Russell Findlay Scottish Sun

JET-SETTING judges spent £26,000 of taxpayers' cash on overseas trips last year, a Scottish Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal.

Top beaks flew out to destinations including Russia, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Qatar.

The most expensive was a £5,800 trip to Canada by Scotland's second most senior judge, Lord Carloway. Lord Gill - who is the Lord President - also spent five days on a £2,800 trip to Doha, Qatar, where he gave speech on judicial ethics.

Our probe found he jetted to the desert state — criticised for its human rights abuses - after twice snubbing calls to appear in front of the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee just 800 yards from his office.

Committee member John Wilson MSP said: "During his speech in Qatar he said that he had much to learn from that country's judicial system. But Qatar has a poor record on human rights, as identified by Amnesty International."

Legal campaigner Peter Cherbi added: "Judges are supposed to sit in courts, not in jets.

"It's hard to believe that Scotland and our judiciary can learn anything from Qatar, a country accused of funding war. mass murder and chaos throughout the Middle East."

In the past year the Judicial Office for Scotland has paid for Lord Carloway — who earns £208.000 a year - to take part in law events in Vancouver. Canada, and Dijon. France.

It also forked out public money for Lord Armstrong, Lord Boyd and Lady Dorrian to meet other Euro pean judges on a three-day trip to Luxembourg.

Lord Eassie travelled to legal events in St Gallen, Switzerland, and Yalta, Ukraine.

And Lady Clark spent four days at an Anglo-Israeli conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, while Lord Hodge went to Paris.

Meanwhile four sheriffs — Wendy Anne Sheenan, Frank Crowe. Nikola Stewart and Thomas McCartney — attended a four day family law event in Ireland.

It took place at luxury Carton House hotel and spa in Co Kildare where the itinerary included a lack tie gala dinner and optional round of golf on the hotel's course.

Last year Lord Gill — whose salary is £216,307 - also travelled to Jersey, while in the previous three years he went to Ireland, South Africa, Slovenia and Canada.

Last week he announced a clampdown on overseas travel by judges, sheriffs and JPs.

He will only allow judges to travel if they give a good reason to do so and they will also have to write a report about their trips.

The SNP's Mr Wilson added: "Given the pressures on our courts, it's welcome that Lord Gill is seeking to curtail future judicial travel and will hopefully lead by example."

The Judicial Office for Scotland was asked to give details of Lord Gill's itinerary for the rest of his Qatar trip and whether he regretted going after snubbing Holyrood.

A spokesman said they couldn't help as the Lord President is on holiday.

JUDGES JUNKETS - Overseas Travel of Scotland’s Judges 2013-2014:

6-10 May 2013 Lady Clark  Anglo Israeli Conference in Tel Aviv £2,404.00
15-17 May 2013 Sheriff MacFayden ERA seminar in Brussels  £1,057.37
22 to 25 May 2013 Lord Eassie European Association of Judges meeting in St Gallen, Switzerland £373.30
7-9 June 2013 Lord Tyre ERA meeting in Trier £753.73
5-7 June 2013 Lord Hodge ENCJ GA in Sofia £863.26
5-7 June 2013 Sheriff Normand ENCJ GA in Sofia £775.63
January - June 2013 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£162.22
January - June 2013 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£162.23
21 - 27 September 2013 Sheriff Liddle CMJA Conference – Jersey £237.34
22 - 24 September 2013 Lady Scott Judicial and Academic Visit in Luxembourg £368.30
22 - 26 September 2013 Sheriff L Wood Commonwealth Law Conference – Jersey £106.71
22 - 26 September 2013 Sheriff Fletcher Commonwealth Law Conference – Jersey £1,445.02
24 - 28 September 2013 Lord Gill Attendance at CMJA Conference – Jersey £102.95
26- 28 September 2013 Lord Hodge Franco-British Judicial Colloque in Paris £425.73
4 - 12 October 2013 Sheriff J P Scott Conference IAJ Yalta £734.50
4 - 12 October 2013 Lord Eassie Conference IAJ Yalta £1,019.64
24 - 27 November 13 Lord Armstrong Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
24 - 27 November 13 Lord Boyd Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
24 - 27 November 13 Lady Dorrian Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
9 - 10 December 2013 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Brussels £481.76
9 - 10 December 2013 Sheriff Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting in Brussels £514.48
July - December 2013  Reimbursement by ENCJ -£157.82
July - December 2014 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£157.83
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff Sheehan Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £599.92
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff Crowe Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £550.50
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff N Stewart Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £817.11
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff McCartney Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £576.03
16 - 18 February 2014 Sheriff Normand ENJC meeting in Warsaw, Poland £396.89
23 - 24 January 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ project group meeting in Brussels £642.01
21 - 27 June 2014 Lord Carloway ISRCL Conference in Vancouver Canada £5,820.16
4 - 6 Feb 14 Lord Carloway European Conference,Dijon, France  £59.15
7 - 9 Feb 2014 Lord Brailsford Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £167.56
24 - 26 Mar 14 Lord Carloway Evidence & Procedure Review Study Visit £232.93
23 - 26 March 2014 Sheriff Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting in Lithuania £451.81
23 -25 March 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Bucharest £631.58
23 - 26 March 2014 Sheriff Normand 23 - 26 March 2014 ENCJ Meeting in Lithuania £146.00
13 - 18 April 2014 Lord Gill Official visit to Qatar £2,855.52

Friday, August 15, 2014

JUDICIAL RICH LIST: Register reveals top judges investments in dodgy justice system providers, companies linked to international bribes scandals, mercenaries, tax avoidance & banks fined for financial markets manipulation

Judges shareholdings in companies guilty of breaking the law raise questions of ethical investments. DISCLOSURES of judges personal shareholdings obtained under Freedom of Information legislation from the Scottish Court Service have revealed a startling snapshot of the wealth of several key members of Scotland’s judiciary who sit on a controlling quango which flexes its muscle over the entire court structure in Scotland.

The declarations of the seven judicial members of the Scottish Court Service Board – including Scotland's top judge, the Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill on £220K a year - reveal members of the judiciary benefit financially from shareholdings in companies who won huge public contracts to provide services to the courts & justice system, companies convicted of breaking the law around the world, companies involved in ‘industrial’ espionage against countries such as China, banks fined for international financial market manipulation, and companies involved in bribes, bid rigging, and tax dodging to name but a few.

The documents – handed over by the Scottish Court Service after officials initially denied holding the information in an effort to delay full publication, bring further revelations on top of reports in the Scottish Sun newspaper where it was revealed Sheriff Principal RA Dunlop holds shares in Weir Group - hit with a £13.9 million Proceeds of Crime fine for dodging UN sanctions by paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Sunday Herald also revealed Sheriff Principal RA Dunlop held shares in Tesco while presiding over a case involving the multi national supermarket giant.

Shareholdings of top judges on Scottish Court Service Board:

Lord President Lord Brian Gill: Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Newton International Growth Fund, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Terrace Hill Group, Vestry Court Ltd

Sheriff Principal R A Dunlop QC: Astrazeneca, BHP Billiton, Blackrock AM UK Gold & General, Bluescope Steel, BNY Mellon Newton Global, CG Real Return Inc, Close Brothers Group, Diageo, Findlay Park FDS American Smaller Cos., G4S, Henderson Global Invs, ING Global Real Estate Securities, Intercontinental Hotels, JP Morgan Private Equity, Lomond Shipping Co, Lloyds Banking, M&G (Guernsey) Global Leaders, National Grid, Oakley Capital Investments, Origo Partners, Pernod Ricard, Prudential, Rio Tinto, Royal Bank of Scotland, Royal Dutch Shell, Scottish Oriental Smaller Cos, Tesco, Vodafone, Weir Group

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

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

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: “None significant”

Hon Lord Bannatyne: None

Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway: None (and no declarations of any kind whatsoever)

The registers reveal more of the judges shareholdings in companies with questionable histories - Sheriff Dunlop is also a shareholder in G4S who were fined £335,000 for court delays in Scotland after it was revealed the company brought prisoners to court late - on at least 21,735 occasions.

In March 2014, G4S agreed to repay £109 million to the UK government after a scandal involving overcharging on contracts to tag offenders. The overcharging is believed to include billing for monitoring the movements of 3,000 "phantom" offenders, including some who had been sent back to prison and even some who had died.

And the firm was also implicated in several scandals in Iraq where the company operate as ArmorGroup, supplying armed guards & security. A BBC Scotland investigation into G4S revealed the company had been warned not to employ a former British paratrooper who went on to kill two colleagues including Private security guard Paul McGuigan, from the Scottish Borders.

Dunlop also has shares in mining giant BHP Billiton – embroiled in an anti-corruption investigation by the US authorities into a lobbying scam aimed at defeating the landmark US climate change bill involving forged letters sent to US congressmen. BHP Billiton is also under investigation in another anti-corruption investigation in Australia over its major sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the alleged payment of "tea money" to secure rights to a since-abandoned bauxite exploration project in Cambodia.

Another mining giant on Sheriff Dunlop’s extensive share portfolio is Rio Tinto - caught up in a spying and corruption scandal in China where four of the firm’s executives admitted bribery and were jailed. Sheriff Dunlop is also listed in the documents as holding shares in Vodafone - which paid no UK corporation tax for the past two years despite massive profits and sales of £5 Billion in Britain last year.

And, in what must be a humiliating slap in the face of the Scottish Government, documents show Sheriff Principal Dunlop also holds shares in drinks giant Diageo, who are supporting the drinks industry’s legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s minimum alcohol pricing policy.

Another judge, Sheriff Iona McDonald who also holds the position of Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran, is revealed to invest in pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. GSK are also caught up in a huge corruption scandal in China over allegations it’s sales team targeted influential doctors with bribes, expensive gifts and cash to win business.

Among the list of other investments of SCS Board members are banks such as Lloyds - fined £218 Million for manipulating the Libor rate and Barclays - recently fined £26 Million for gold price fixing. Barclays were also fined £290 million over their part in the Libor rate rigging scandal.

Also on the list are insurance firms who do business with law firms all across Scotland and are directly linked to the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy - which protects corrupt solicitors from damages claims by clients who have been ripped off. A Research Report by the University of Manchester School of Law linked the Law Society’s Master Policy to suicides of court litigants & clients of Scottish solicitors.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice, a legal insider said: “While it may not be of concern to members of the judiciary which firms they choose to invest in, it should be of concern to the public, as many of these companies and their subsidiaries are regulars in the courts where judicial recusals are historically hard to come by on financial grounds.”

The SCS Board register of interests, which date back to 2010 – also list the shareholding portfolio of the then Lord President - Lord Hamilton. Additional declarations in the register reveal a snapshot of current SCS Board members directorships, trusteeships, links to businesses and relationships with shady regulators of the accountancy profession:

Lord President Lord Gill: Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884). Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg'd No 250031). Trustee of the Carmont Settlement: a trust for the support of retired priests of the Roman Catholic Church. Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.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. Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music, a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828). Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

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

Sheriff Iona McDonald: Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran. Partner in property rental firm.

Johan Findlay OBE: Honorary Sheriff & Justice of the Peace

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Chair West Fife Education Trust. Chair Relationship Scotland- Couple Counselling Fife. Chair - Discipline Committee ICAS (Institute for Chartered Accountants of Scotland – Accountants self regulator). Committee Member Cammo Residents Association.

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.

Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway: No declarations of Directorships or other positions.

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. It is as if Scotland’s top judges are on the homeless register – but it is clear from their wealth, they don't use food banks.

The limited disclosures of SCS Board members 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 being investigated by the Scottish Parliament’s public Petitions Committee.who are considering proposals contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

The registers as released by the Scottish Court Service have now been handed to MSPs who are to be asked to consider the question of ethical investments of the judiciary as part of their on-going debate on proposals to create a full register of judicial interests for all Scottish judges.

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 earlier debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 can be found here: A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

COURT SECRETS: Scotland’s anti-transparency top judge Lord Brian Gill threatens media censorship in row over reporting access to court papers

Top judge Brian Gill warns media will be blocked from access to courts. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill has issued an UNPRECEDENTED Judicial ‘notice’ warning the media they will be blocked from access to reporting on court cases because of “significant concerns” relating to public disclosures of cases going through Scotland’s hugely expensive yet slow moving courts system.

The move by Lord Gill to censor media access to court documents and public reporting of criminal or civil cases often stuck in courts for years at huge expense to taxpayers and litigants, comes after increasing questions from the media and the Scottish Parliament on the inadequate state of Scotland’s justice system, and the secret undeclared interests of top judges on huge salaries who head our publicly funded courts.

What is little short of a judicial proclamation from Lord Gill, originally marked ‘not for publication’ but now available HERE on the Scottish Court Service website, states “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 judge goes on to claim court staff have disclosed “excessive” amounts of information to journalists on cases citing unspecified “recent breaches” of the current understanding between courts and the media on how cases are reported in the press. The judge then makes reference to the Data Protection Act 1998 as an excuse for blocking transparency in court activities.

Lord Gill concludes his edict on press freedoms by stating “the media are reminded of their responsibilities in the matter.”

This latest anti-transparency move by Lord Gill, who signed the media order as Lord Justice General, has drawn criticism from legal insiders who accuse the top judge of creating a de facto media law which may considerably affect or even alter the outcome of cases in court.

It is also clear Lord Gill’s sweeping judicial notice - widely being interpreted as a major policy statement from Scotland’s top judge, has come about with little open debate, discussion or consultation with Parliament.

A solicitor speaking to Diary of Injustice criticised the secrecy move by Scotland’s top judge, claiming Lord Gill’s threatened ban on the press may alter the course of justice where media attention and public interest in how the courts handle cases is both desirable and a necessity in a democratic society.

He said: “If the Lord President is minded to ban the media from court access to cases, does this also have implications for litigants and legal teams who may also be prevented in the future from securing necessary access to information and evidence crucial to a person’s right to a fair hearing?”

Lord Gill’s media policy statement:

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

SCOTLAND’S ANTI TRANSPARENCY TOP JUDGE :

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.”

At a time when questions are being asked as to why Scotland’s antiquated, slow moving and expensive justice system has not kept pace with reforms to other public services, Lord Gill’s attempt to cover over the failures of Scots justice by closing down media access to the courts raises questions over the honesty of proposed changes contained in legislation currently going through the Scottish Parliament, changes which are derived from many recommendations Lord Gill once made in his Civil Courts Review.

Lord Gill’s latest Victorian venture has no place in a modern society in 2014, where courts funded by the public purse to the tune of enormous sums of money must be transparent, accountable and open to all, instead of being run by an ageing judiciary as a symbol of personal power, secretive wealth & undeclared interests and ultimately, nothing short of a business venture for the legal profession.

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 deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Thursday, July 31, 2014

SNOOPED OFF: Lawyer involved in £500K public contract industrial espionage complaint struck off by Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal

Lawyer copied details of rival law firm’s bid to win £500K public contract. A SOLICITOR from the Edinburgh based law firm Dundas & Wilson has admitted stealing details from rival law firm Brodies LLP in order to win a £500,000 public contract involving five Scottish local authorities who proposed to share services for waste management and recycling.

Lawyer Keith Armstrong (41) who resigned from Dundas & Wilson in July 2012 after representatives of Renfrewshire Council contacted the law firm over the similarity of details contained in competitive bids, admitted in evidence to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal he stole details from rival law firm Brodies LLP in order to help win the contract.

It transpired from the tribunal hearing that documents which Armstrong had ‘acquired’ came from papers held by his partner, Kate Mayor (36) who was at the time business development manager for Brodies LLP.

As a result of the tribunal hearing, Keith Armstrong has subsequently been struck off the roll of solicitors. He now works for energy giant SSE PLC, (formerly Scottish & Southern Electricity), who were recently fined £10.5m by industry regulator Ofgem for mis-selling gas & electricity contracts

The Scottish Sun reports:

LAWYER SWIPED FILES FOR £500K DEAL PLOT

Exclusive: By Russell Findlay 13 July 2014 Scottish Sun

A TOP lawyer stole secret files from a rival in a plot to win a £500,000 contract. Dundas & Wilson partner Keith Armstrong. 41. copied a draft bid belonging to blue chip competitor Brodies.

He admitted swiping the document from under the nose of innocent missus Kate Mayor, 36 - then Brodies business development manager before “fraudulently and deceitfully” using it in his own firm's tender.

A source said yesterday: "For a partner to commit what amounts to industrial espionage is unprecedented. The scandal has rocked the legal establishment."

The Edinburgh companies with combined turnover of £100million were battling for the contract from North Lanarkshire. North Ayrshire. East Dunbartonshire. East Renfrewshire and Renfrewshire councils in 2012.

Armstrong was rumbled after officials noticed 27 parts of the two rival bids were identical. He owned up to his bosses and quit before the contract was eventually won by Pinsent Masons.

Armstrong, right, of Edinburgh. was struck off following a probe by the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal. Chairman Alan McDonald ruled: "His conduct is so grave it is very likely to bring the profession into disrepute."

The divorcee, now working for power giant SSE. last night refused to comment at the £615.000 home he shares with Ms Mayor in Morningside. Brodies also declined to comment.

SSDT REPORT CENSORED IDENTITIES OF LAW FIRM:

Curiously, the opinion published by the SSDT directed that neither Brodies LLP or Mr Armstrong’s current employer Scottish & Southern Energy should be mentioned by name or identified in any way in the report …

Tribunal heard lawyer ‘copied’ terms of bid from competitor. On or around 22 May 2012 a representative of RC (Renfrewshire Council) contacted D&W (Dundas & Wilson), noting that some concern had arisen in respect of certain similarities between the Tenders submitted by D&W and that submitted by another Tenderer. RC had compiled a comparison document setting out the relevant text of concern and by email of 22 May 2012 invited D&W to attend a meeting on 24 May 2012  to  discuss  matters. 

The  other Tenderer, namely  Firm  X (Brodies LLP), was  also invited to a similar  meeting  on that  date. D&W immediately  commenced  an internal investigation. In the course of said investigation the Respondent admitted to D&W that  he  had  been  responsible  for  the  text  that  had  been highlighted and  that  he  had  plagiarised  these  from  another Tender document for the project belonging to Firm X.

In  particular  the Respondent accepted that on 28 or 29 April 2012 at his dwelling  house, without the permission or consent of  his  partner,  Ms  B,  who  was  at  the  time  a  Business Development  Manager  at  Firm  X, he accessed  the Tender as prepared  by  Firm  X  for  the  project,  copied  parts  of  said  draft Tender  and  made  use  of  that  information  when  completing D&W’s  Tender  for the project.

Amstrong was represented at the hearing by William Macreath of the Legal Defence Union & Levy McRae, the Law Society of Scotland was represented by Elaine Motion QC.

Tribunal Decision : The Tribunal having considered the Complaint at the instance of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland on behalf of Firm X against Keith Guy William Armstrong, formerly of Dundas & Wilson, Solicitors, Saltire Court, 20 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh and now c/o Levy McRae Solicitors, 266 St Vincent Street, Glasgow;

Find the Respondent guilty of Professional Misconduct in respect of his having accessed confidential information belonging to another firm of solicitors in relation to a project, having copied and thereafter used part of that firm’s Tender document in his own firm’s Tender and his fraudulently and/or deceitfully having allowed it to be submitted as his own firm’s work bringing his integrity into question;

his actions being deliberate and wholly inconsistent with the requirements to maintain mutual trust and confidence with his fellow solicitors in allowing a Tender to be submitted, part of which had been plagiarised from another firm’s Tender which he knew or ought to have known, was not only confidential but was of a commercially sensitive nature and his actions drawing the profession at large into disrepute;

Strike the Respondent Keith Guy William Armstrong from the Roll of Solicitors in Scotland;

Find the Respondent liable in the expenses of the Complainers and of the Tribunal including expenses of the Clerk, chargeable on a time and line basis as the same may be taxed by the Auditor of the Court of Session on an agent and client, client paying basis in terms of Chapter Three of the last published Law Society’s Table of Fees for general business with a unit rate of £14.00; and Direct that publicity will be given to this decision and that this publicity should include the name of the Respondent but will not include the name of Firm X or the Respondent’s current employer or otherwise identify them.