Friday, May 17, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are members content to progress by doing those three things?

Members indicated agreement.

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

Seventh year of register or judges interests petition

By Martin Hannan Journalist  07 Feb 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously, on the Register of Judicial Interests Petition -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

POLICE DECLARED: Cops Interests Register reveals controversial Chief Constable retains Law Society of Scotland membership, holds seat on ‘Sentencing Council’ quango – yet details fail to give clear picture of highly paid top cops links, interests

Top Cops interests ‘declared’  WHILE Scotland’s judiciary continue to battle against declaring their considerable wealth, influence, links & financial interests, Police Scotland has released new information into the less than detailed world of how Scotland’s well paid top cops are required to declare their interests.

The information, published in response to a Freedom of Information request also reveals Police Scotland’s current Chief Constable Iain Livingstone – who once faced a case involving five allegations of sexual assault from a female colleague – retained his membership of the powerful lawyers lobby – the Law Society of Scotland.

It is worth noting, Chief Constable Iain Livingstone - a former solicitor - appears to have retained his Law Society membership – since joining the Police in the 1990’s, through the critical phase of the tribunal hearings into the sexual assault allegations during his time at Lothian & Borders Police - to his appointment as Chief Constable of Police Scotland, and to this date.

The declarations of interests by all officers, regardless of rank – also note Iain Livingstone’s position on the Scottish Sentencing Council – a quango created by the Scottish Government after the retirement of Lord Brian Gill – who once criticised the quango as politicial interference with the judiciary.

The Scottish Sentencing Council’s role is to create sentencing guidelines for the courts - and is currently headed by the Lord Justice Clerk – Lady Dorrian.

However, while the declarations are a welcome window on the interests of Scotland’s senior Police Officers, the lack of detail in comparison to information contained in registers of interest such as those required by Members of the Scottish Parliament – do raise questions any keen financial investigators would quickly notice – such as the flow of salaries, cash, assets and other business interests which may have been purposely placed in relatives names.

The declarations of interests o Police Scotland’s current top cops – which were supplied by Police Scotland’s ‘information unit’ only after an initial refusal to release the information, reveal the following:

CC Iain Livingstone:

Public Appointments:

Member - Independent Steering Group (Op Kenova), Reviewed Annually - No remuneration.

Member - Scottish Sentencing Council, Reviewed Annually - No remuneration.

No Financial and Business interests No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interest

DCC Fiona Taylor:

No Public Appointments

Financial and Business interests - Owns a flat which is let No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interest

ACC Bernard Higgins:

Public Appointments:

Trustee - Police Care UK (formerly known as Police Dependents Trust), May 2013 - Present - No remuneration.

Board Member - Euro 2020 Local Organising Committee, 2017 - Present - No remuneration

No Financial and Business interests No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interest

ACC Angela McLaren:

Public Appointments:

Trustee - The Police Treatment Centres, for a period of 3 years - No remuneration. - Companies House shows Appointed on: 01st December 2018.

Trustee - St George's Police Children Trust, for a period of 3 years - No remuneration. - Companies House shows appointed on 1st December 2018.

No Financial and Business interests No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interest

ACC Paul Anderson:

Public Appointments:

Chair Racing Committee, Scottish Canoe Association, 2019-2020 - No remuneration.

No Financial and Business interests No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interests

Other Executive Officers

DCC Johnny Gwynne (retired 15/03/2019 but in post at the date of request)

DCC Will Kerr, ACC Mark Williams, ACC John Hawkins, ACC Gillian MacDonald, ACC Alan Speirs, ACC Malcolm Graham, ACC Steve Johnson

No Public Appointments No Financial and Business interests No Political activity No related party transactions No conflict of interest

A previous media investigation into Police Officers interests in Scotland, revealed offices are required to declare their interests, with the information held on a database which can be accessed via Freedom of Information legislation.

The earlier report is published here: COPS & JOBBERS: Scotland’s 1,512 ‘Two Job’ Cops required to declare outside business interests – meanwhile 700+ strong Scots judiciary resist Holyrood probe calling for judges' register of interests

Police Service of Scotland Regulations 2013 - Business interests:

5.—(1) A constable must not have a business interest without the consent of— (a) the Authority, in the case of a senior officer; (b) the chief constable, in the case of any other constable, provided that, in the case of any such constable in whose case the chief constable has an interest otherwise than as chief constable, the chief constable must refer the matter to the Authority for it to consider whether to consent.

(2) If a constable acquires or is likely to acquire a business interest, the constable must forthwith give written notice of that interest to the chief constable or, in the case of a senior officer, the Authority.

(3) If a constable has a business interest and is appointed to the office of chief constable, deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable, the constable must forthwith give written notice of that interest to the Authority unless the constable has previously disclosed that interest to the Authority.

(4) An individual applying for appointment to the Police Service, other than an individual referred to in paragraph (5), must give written notice to the chief constable of any business interest which that individual has or is likely to acquire after appointment.

(5) An individual applying for appointment to the office of chief constable, deputy chief constable or assistant chief constable must give written notice to the Authority of any business interest which that individual has or is likely to acquire after appointment.

(6) An individual or constable is regarded as having a business interest if— (a) that individual or constable carries on any business or holds any office or employment for hire or gain (otherwise than as a constable) in the United Kingdom; (b) that individual or constable resides at any premises where any member of that individual’s or constable’s family keeps a shop or carries on any like business in Scotland; (c) that individual or constable holds, or any member of that individual’s or constable’s family living with that individual or constable holds, any licence, certificate or permit granted in pursuance of the laws relating to liquor licensing or betting and gaming or regulation of places of public entertainment in Scotland or has any pecuniary interest in such licence, certificate or permit; or (d) that individual’s or constable’s spouse (not being separated from that individual or constable), civil partner (not being separated from that individual or constable) or cohabitant (not being separated from that individual or constable) keeps a shop or carries on any like business in Scotland.

(7) For the purposes of this regulation— (a) “member of that individual’s or constable’s family” includes parent, son, daughter, dependant, brother, sister, spouse (not being separated from that individual or constable), civil partner (not being separated from that individual or constable) or cohabitant (not being separated from that individual or constable); and (b) “cohabitant” means a member of a couple consisting of— (i) a man and a woman who are living together as if they were husband and wife; or (ii) two individuals of the same sex who are living together as if they were civil partners.

COPS DECLARE, JUDGES CONCEAL:

While Police Officers have been required to declare their interests for a number of years, members of Scotland's judiciary continue to wage a bitter SEVEN YEAR campaign against proposals to require members of Scotland’s judiciary to declare their interests, and links to big business.

The salary scales of officers in Police Scotland - where all officers are required to declare their interests - show a Police Scotland constable can expect £26,037 per annum going up to £91,179 for a Chief Superintendent with 3 years experience to Assistant Chief Constables: £118,485 , Deputy Chief Constables: £174,741 and the Chief Constable: £214,404

However – Scotland;s judges have no such requirement to declare interests, despite huge judicial salaries which rank as the highest in all of Europe - skyrocketing from Sheriffs on £137,538 a year up to Sheriff Principals on £148,526 a year while judges of the Outer House of the Court of Session earn £185,197 a year and Inner House judges earning £210,876 per annum.

The Lord Justice Clerk (currently Lady Dorrian) earns £221,757 a year, and the Lord President (currently Lord Carloway, aka Colin Sutherland) earns £229,592 a year.

The proposal to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary - Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary - first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

A full 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.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the Sunday Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers, 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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

ACCESS DENIED: Senior associate at Turcan Connell accessed confidential file note for ‘no professional reason’– prompting judge to rule law firm cannot act in ex Rangers owner’s divorce case due to conflict of interest

File access & Conflict of interest. CONCERNS of a lack of protection for client files at a top Scottish law firm - prompted a Court of Session judge to ban the Edinburgh based firm of lawyers from acting in a £10 million divorce case.

The ruling  against Turcan Connell - came after it emerged the wife of one of the law firm’s partners had accessed confidential file notes relating to the financial information of Kae Tinto Murray - who had taken on new legal representation in relation to a divorce case involving her husband – ex Rangers FC owner - Sir David Murray.

Details heard in court of the accessing of confidential files was so severe - it prompted Lord Neil Brailsford to issue a damning opinion which barred Edinburgh law firm Turcan Connell from further acting for Sir David Murray in the divorce case.

The application for interdict against Turcan Connell - was brought by Kae Murray - to prevent the law firm from acting further for her husband Sir David Murray, in proceedings she had raised for divorce, with capital and alimentary financial claims, and for the setting aside of a pre-nuptial agreement regulating their financial affairs in the event of divorce.

Ms Murray and Sir David Murray separated on 22 March 2016. A summons in an action of divorce at the instance of the petitioner against Sir David Murray was signeted on 22 May 2018.

At the beginning of June 2018 Mr Littlefield met with the petitioner and advised that he could no longer act for her in relation to her trust and personal affairs.

She was also advised that Turcan Connell were acting for Si David Murray in the divorce proceedings and that, accordingly, Turcan Connell could no longer act for her in relation to the divorce.

On 4 June 2018 SKO Family Law sent a mandate to Turcan Connell requiring them to provide SKO with the petitioner's files. That mandate was complied with. On 18 June 2018 a partner in SKO emailed Mr Littlefield primarily in relation to matters arising out of implementation of the mandate.

The email did however further ask for confirmation of what steps TC had "taken to ensure that any electronic information that you hold on behalf of [the petitioner] cannot be accessed by anybody within the firm who (i) may act for [the petitioner's husband] in the context of the divorce action, and/or (ii) may be a witness in the divorce action to follow."

On 11 September at a By Order hearing in the divorce action the issue of a challenge to Turcan Connell's continued representation of Sir David Murray was raised. The present petition was presented on 18 September 2018. As previously noted the petitioner's electronic file held by the respondents was locked down on 21 September 2018.

Senior Counsel for the petitioner informed the court of two occassions where Yvonne Littlefield accessed files in relation to Kae Murray - after the separation of the petitioner and Sir David Murray,.

On one occasion – Yvonne Littlefield accessed a file note relative to a telephone conversation that Mr Littlefield had with the petitioner on 14 March 2018.

On a second occasion, Yvonne Littlefield - accessed the petitioner's electronic file again on 17 July 2018, being a time both after Turcan Connell had ceased to act for the petitioner and after the summons in the divorce proceedings had been served.

Counsel noted that in her affidavit, the explanation for accessing the petitioner's electronic file on those occasions given by Mrs Littlefield was that she had, in the company of her husband Mr Littlefield, met the petitioner in the company of Sir David Murray at a social occasion.

In the context of a social meeting Yvonne Littlefield deponed in her affidavit that "She [the petitioner] struck me at the time as being the sort of person that I would like to include in future invites and it was my intention to keep in touch with her. I do try when meeting clients to understand what is going on in their lives and believe that such knowledge does enhance the relationship. Obviously all matters relating to clients are confidential but clients do appreciate it when they get a sense that they are genuinely appreciated."

Yvonne Littlefield went on to state further "I have been asked why I have accessed file notes on the file. I would have done so simply for the very purpose of being up-to-date. I don't know now but it may be that I had in mind inviting [the petitioner] to a Turcan Connell event."

Senior counsel for the petitioner submitted that the explanation proffered by Mrs Littlefield was inadequate. The petitioner was not, and had never been, Mrs Littlefield's client.

Mrs Littlefield had never acted for the petitioner nor offered her any professional advice. It was the submission of senior counsel that no proper justification for Mrs Littlefield's access to the files had been tendered and that her ability to do so on the dates that she did "simply demonstrates the extent to which, within the respondent's office, there is scope for information moving within a firm".

The information claimed to be confidential comprised the “retained knowledge” of Mr Noel Ferry – a partner in Turcan Connell, and information in two files compiled by Mr Littlefield, electronic copies of which continued to be held by the firm.

Noel Ferry had earlier represented Kae Murray in the negotiation and preparation of the pre-nuptial agreement with Sir David Murray – while Mr Ferry was Head of Family Law in another firm of solicitors, Maclay Murray & Spens.

In 2013. Noel Ferry joined Turcan Connell initially as a senior associate and from April 2015 as a partner working in that firm’s Glasgow office in the field of family law.

Lord Braisford’s opinion states that “Since joining Turcan Connell, Mr Ferry has not acted for nor had any dealings with the petitioner. Since her marriage to Sir David Murray the petitioner has on a number of occasions instructed and obtained advice from another partner of TC, Mr Peter Littlefield.”

After a consideration of both parties files - Lord Brailsford said “On the basis of the foregoing analysis I form the view that the information contained in Mr Littlefield's files constitutes information which is confidential to the petitioner disclosure of which would be potentially adverse to her interests.”

Lord Brailsford said it was the case an obvious conflict of interest existed from the date of service of the summons.

In his ruling Lord Brailsford went onto say: “I am bound to state that my view is that a conflict, or at least potential conflict, and therefor the need to have an effective information barrier, should have been obvious to TC from the date of the service of the summons in the action of divorce by the petitioner against her husband, a continuing client of the firm, on 22 May 2018.”

Additionally, Turcan Connell had not "provided the assurances necessary to satisfy the court that there was no risk of disclosure of information prejudicial to the petitioner outwith the direct control of those who had thus far given undertakings".

The judge concluded: "Consideration of the line of authority I have been directed to demonstrates that the importance of protecting a client's confidential information is such that professional advisors, in circumstances where they subsequently wish to act for someone with an interest adverse or potentially adverse to the former client, have an onerous burden placed upon them. A consideration of the amount of time that such files might take to investigate is in my view an inadequate reason for failure to consider all material held which might contain information confidential to the former client. I would add that in addition to these eight conclusions on the basis of the information before me, the concerns I expressed at the conclusion of the first hearing appear in large part, to continue to exist.”

“I respectfully agree with the observations of Lord Millet in Bolkiah (supra) that ad hoc arrangements made retrospectively, that is after a potential conflict between existing client and past client have emerged, are unlikely to be as robust as permanent arrangements which operate automatically and are already in place and operative when a conflict emerges. The reason for this is plain, ad hoc arrangements can take time to put into place. During any period before an ad hoc security arrangement or information barrier is erected and is operative there is the potential, by means of either deliberate or inadvertent action for confidential information to leak.”

“In the present case the most important information barrier was the "lock down" system of electronic files. For reasons which, as I have already said, no explanation was forthcoming, lock down did not operate for a period of something in the order of three and a half months after there was an obvious risk created by the petitioner ceasing to instruct TC and that firm correspondingly informing her that they could not act on her behalf in divorce proceedings against her husband.”

“As I have already observed the lack of adequate explanation for that intervention causes me concern. I consider that that fact increases the risk of disclosure of confidential information which is the petitioners concern in this petition. I am also concerned that there has been incomplete examination of all sections of the petitioner's electronic file. This fact leads me to the conclusion that the court is still, notwithstanding that the respondents were given additional time to provide further information, in a position where it cannot be satisfied as to the precise level of any disclosure of confidential information which has occurred.”

Of further note in Lord Braislford’s opinion – “The petitioner's submission was developed to show that any information barrier which existed within TC in the context of the petitioner's file was of an "ad hoc" nature and therefore subject to the general criticism of ad hoc security arrangements made in Bolkiah (supra) and Georgian American Alloys (supra).

In support of the proposition that, in the context of the present case, ad hoc security arrangements were likely to be inadequate three principle factors were advanced. The first was that the petitioner's file was only "locked down" on 21 September 2018. This was three days after the present petition had been served upon TC. It was, further, four months after the summons in the divorce case was signeted and at least three and a half months after TC had ceased to act for the petitioner. This was said to clearly demonstrate that the information barrier being relied upon by TC was ad hoc and merely put in place to deal with contingencies as they arose. I was reminded that in Bolkiah (supra) Lord Millet observed that information barriers need to be "an established part of the organisational structure of the firm, not created ad hoc and dependent upon the acceptance of evidence sworn for the purpose by members of staff engaged on the relevant work".

The second ground was that a necessary implication of the date of lock down was that up to that date there was unrestricted access to the petitioner's file. A corollary of that was that TC required to rely upon "a large number of affidavits in which qualified and support staff set out their best recollection as to why they accessed the file, whether they recall anything about it and whether they would have discussed the contents with anyone."

That consideration increased the level of risk of disclosure of information of a confidential nature whether inadvertently or otherwise. Reliance was made in this respect to observations of Field J in Georgian American Alloys (supra).  It was also observed by counsel for the petitioner at this point that whilst no criticism was made of TC there were three persons who had accessed the file from which affidavits had not been obtained. This was said to demonstrate the difficultly which would arise when ad hoc security arrangements required to be justified. The ad hoc nature of an arrangement meant, as a matter of probability, that no record of access would be kept and therefore attempts to identify potential disclosure at a later stage would be correspondingly difficult.

The third area of criticism was directed at the work done by Turcan Connell in an attempt to demonstrate that there had been no disclosure of confidential information.

Mr Davie had interrogated the correspondence" area of Turcan Connell's electronic file for the petitioner. That exercise had enabled Mr Davie to show who had accessed that part of the file and what documents they had seen. He had not however sought to interrogate those parts of the electronic file relating to "emails", "finance" or "signed documents". That failure necessarily meant that who had accessed those parts of the file and what they may have accessed was unknown. In these circumstances it simply could not be said that there had been no disclosure of confidential information. It was submitted that there were was "no apparent reason why the respondent could not have provided the petitioner with the print offs for the remainder of the documents" which would have at least enabled them to satisfy themselves in relation to those parts of the file.

Having regard to all the foregoing considerations the submission was that it was impossible to know what the extent of the risk of disclosure in the past had been. Whilst it was accepted that the file had been locked down since 21 September it was further submitted that the risk of disclosure was not removed. The submission was developed by stating that the petitioner could see no obvious reason why TC required to retain the petitioner's file within its electronic system at all. It was suggested that if TC had taken the step of removing the information from its system and storing it off-site, a step which was taken in relation to files in Bolkiah (supra) as a matter of example, that could have gone further towards removing risk of future disclosure. In these circumstances it was submitted that TC had not demonstrated to the extent necessary that the level of risk existing was acceptable. The submission was further renewed that the appearance of justice and the broader ground of the need to preserve the administration of justice justified the granting of interdict as craved.

The full opinion is available here: OPINION OF LORD BRAILSFORD In the petition KAE ALEXANDRA TINTO or MURRAY Petitioner for interdict

Clients concerned as to the confidentiality of their files with solicitors should pay particular attention to events in this case, particularly where a solicitor moved between firms (not an uncommon thing) but of course, the implications of such a move on confidentiality and failure to protect it, as revealed in this case.

Interestingly, and of note – the following publicly available biographies of Yvonne Littlefield, and that of her partner – Peter Littlefield  on the Turcan Connell website - make no mention of any marital connection, despite considerable details in other areas.

Bio – Peter Littlefield

Peter works principally in the areas of contentious probate, succession planning, trust law, will drafting, tax planning, asset protection, executry administration and charities. Peter specialises in tax and estate planning for private clients, including entrepreneurs and landowners. His work includes advice in connection with complex issues arising out of estates and post-death tax planning. He also advises a number of major national charities on Scots succession law.

Peter joined Turcan Connell 2002. He is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). Peter graduated with an MA (Hons) degree in Sociology from the University of Edinburgh before completing his LLB degree and Diploma in Legal Practice. He speaks at seminars and conferences on succession and trust law.

Peter was assumed as a Partner in April 2011. He is married with two children, and enjoys skiing, mountain biking and the occasional triathlon.

Bio: Yvonne Littlefield

After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1997 (LLB HONS DipLP), Yvonne trained with a firm of Glasgow Solicitors.  Following qualification as a solicitor in 1999, Yvonne joined Turcan Connell in April 2001 and was promoted to Senior Associate in 2015.

Yvonne advises clients in all areas of asset protection, succession and tax planning during lifetime including in particular, the use of trusts.  She regularly advises on (inheritance) tax efficient Wills, and deals with the executry administration of complex (sometimes contentious) estates.  She is also involved in incapacity planning e.g. Powers of Attorney and, where necessary, guardianship  applications.

Yvonne has been invovled with several clients and their wider families spanning more than a decade, and values the ongoing relationships, and the benefits that can provide when offering advice.

Yvonne is a fully qualified member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) and a Notary Public. 


Monday, February 04, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members indicated agreement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The submission to the Justice Committee took the following form:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously, on the Register of Judicial Interests Petition -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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