Monday, April 05, 2010

Scottish Courts Service becomes an ‘arm's length’ independent quango led by Lord President & corporate board

Scottish Courts ServiceThe status of the Scottish Courts Service, the organisation which runs Scotland’s Courts has been changed by the Scottish Government into what some in the legal profession now describe as an ‘arm's length’, 'independent’ body, governed by a Corporate Board chaired by Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Hamilton. It is claimed, the new arrangements, introduced from 1st April, “will reaffirm the independence of the judiciary and help improve strategic decisions about the operation of the Scotland’s courts.”

The new arrangements, set out in the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, are intended to improve the justice system by modernising the arrangements for the judiciary and strengthening the relationship between the judiciary and the Scottish Court Service (SCS).

Lord Hamilton judicialLord President Lord Hamilton. Commenting on the changes, the Rt Hon Lord Hamilton, the Lord President and Chair of the SCS Board said: “The changes taking place today - the creation of a Scottish Court Service under the direction of an independent Board and the creation of a unified judiciary - are important constitutional changes. The effect will be to place the Scottish Court Service decision-making process closer to those who are directly involved in the delivery of justice. I believe the new arrangements will provide an opportunity for the creation of a better and closer relationship between judicial office holders and staff, working together to deliver to the public the sound and prompt judgments to which it is entitled.”

“The members of the Board have among them a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience of working within the courts, in government and in the commercial sector. This breadth of understanding will help us develop the direction of the Scottish Court”

“Service and the delivery of services to all those who have need to use them. It will allow us, over the next few months, to consider and develop the strategic direction for the Service. We face, along with the public sector generally, difficult financial conditions. We must not underestimate the challenges this presents.”

In addition to the Lord President, the Scottish Court Service Board includes 12 other members – six members from different tiers of the judiciary and six non-judicial members, including the SCS Chief Executive, an advocate, a solicitor and three members with experience and knowledge from other backgrounds, including business, finance and administration. The ‘new’ members of the Scottish Court Service Board are The Lord President, Lord Justice Clerk, Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service, The Rt Hon Lord Reed, Sheriff Principal R Alastair Dunlop QC, Sheriff Derek Pyle, Sheriff Iona McDonald, & Mrs Johan Findlay JP (all Judicial Members), Mr Robert Milligan QC (Advocate Member), Mr Mark Higgins (Solicitor Member), Mrs Deborah Crosbie, Mr Anthony McGrath & Mrs Elizabeth Carmichael CBE (Members from ‘outside’ the justice system).

The SCS Board will develop the strategic direction for the Scottish Court Service and deliver an operationally effective SCS, which is responsible for providing the staff, buildings and technology to support Scotland’s courts, the work of the independent judiciary, the courts’ Rules Councils and the Office of the Public Guardian.

The new SCS will work closely with the judiciary, Scottish Government, other justice agencies, professional bodies and consumer and court user organisations to help maintain and strengthen public confidence in the Justice system. SCS Chief Executive Eleanor Emberson has been appointed as Chief Executive to the new organisation. Ms Emberson has been Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service since 2004. The Scottish Court Service remains part of the Scottish Administration and staff continue to be civil servants.

Those interested in the changes to the Scottish Courts Service status, which have come about from the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 can view video coverage of the Lord President’s appearance at the Scottish Parliament at LawyerTV where the Lord President was questioned by members of the Justice Committee. While Lord Hamilton, the Lord President was mostly in favour of the bill, former Court of Session judge Lord McCluskey was more critical of many key points, including the amount of Judicial Administration Duties involved in the now passed legislation, along with questions over Judicial Independence.

Lord Hamilton on appointing the Judiciary – An element of trust involved …

Profiles of the members of the ‘new’ Scottish Court Service Board :

The Rt Hon Lord Hamilton, Lord President and Lord Justice General (Arthur Campbell Hamilton).Chair of the Scottish Court Service BoardLord Hamilton was appointed Lord President in December 2005. He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Session in 1995. He is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford (BA, Worcester College) and Edinburgh (LLB). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1968.

The Rt Hon Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk (Brian Gill) Lord Gill was appointed Lord Justice Clerk in November 2001. He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Session in 1994. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow (MA, LLB) and Edinburgh (PhD). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1967, appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981 and is a member of the English Bar.

Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service. The Board appointed Eleanor Emberson as Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service in February 2010. Ms Emerson was Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service from 2004.The Board will appoint a chief executive in due course, who will also be a member of the Board.

Members of the Board appointed by the Lord President

The Rt Hon Lord Reed (Robert John Reed)
Lord Reed has been a judge of the Court of Session since 1998. He was appointed to the Inner House in 2008, having previously been the principal judge of the Commercial Court. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983.

Sheriff Principal Alastair Dunlop QC
Alastair Dunlop QC has been Sheriff Principal of Tayside, Central and Fife since 2000. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and the University of Dundee (LLB). He was admitted as a solicitor in 1976 and called to the Faculty of Advocates in 1978. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. He is currently a member of the Judicial Studies Committee and chairman of the three local criminal justice boards in his sheriffdom.

Sheriff Derek Pyle
Sheriff Pyle has been a sheriff for ten years. He is based at Dundee and was, prior to that, a sheriff in Inverness. He was formerly a solicitor in private practice in Edinburgh, specialising in commercial litigation. He has a particular interest in the reform of civil law and procedure in commercial disputes and was instrumental in founding the Highland Commercial Court.

Sheriff Iona McDonald
Sheriff McDonald was appointed a part-time Sheriff in 1995 and a full time Floating Sheriff in 2000. She has been Senior Sheriff at Kilmarnock since 2007. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow (MA, LLB) 1978 and was a solicitor in private practice for almost 20 years.

Mrs Johan Findlay JP
Johan Findlay has been a Justice of the Peace since 1986 in Dumfries and is immediate past Chairman of the Scottish Justices Association. She was a Member of the Parole Board for Scotland from 2000 to 2006 and is an Honorary Sheriff. She is author of ‘All Manner of People, the History of the Justices of the Peace in Scotland’.

Mr Robert Milligan QC
Robert Milligan took silk in 2009. He is a graduate of the universities of Oxford (BA, University College) and Edinburgh (LLB and Dip LP). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1995

Mr Mark Higgins
Mark Higgins is a practising solicitor and a member (partner) of the multinational firm Irwin Mitchell LLP. He is a graduate of the University of Glasgow (LLB (Hons) and Dip LP) and is the author of the book Scottish Repossessions (W Green, 2002).

Mrs Deborah Crosbie
Deborah Crosbie graduated from Strathclyde University in 1991 BA (Hon) in Business law and industrial relations. She has had a successful career in the financial services industry and is currently Chief Information Officer for the UK businesses (Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank) of the National Australia Bank.

Mr Anthony McGrath
Anthony McGrath, graduated from Glasgow University in 1978 BSc (Hon) in Mathematical Statistics. He has had a successful career in marketing and management in the food and drinks industry, including 11 years with Scottish and Newcastle, latterly as a member of its Group and UK management boards. Since 2005 he has been managing director of a chain of public houses.

Mrs Elizabeth Carmichael CBE
Elizabeth Carmichael graduated from Edinburgh University in 1970 MA (hons) History. She has spent most of her working life in the Civil Service, retiring in 2007. From 1999 – 2007 she was Head of the Community Justice Services Division, and since then she has taken on governance roles in the public and voluntary sector, as a Board member of the Scottish Social Services Council and the Deputy Chair of SACRO.

MacAskill tight lippedScotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Kenny MacAskill Cabinet Secretary for Justice made little comment on the changes, simply saying : “Today marks a milestone in the work being done to modernise and strengthen arrangements for the Scottish judiciary and administration of the courts. It is fundamental to any democracy that the judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.”

For my part, I note the appointment of Sheriff Alastair Dunlop QC, who represented me in the case against crooked Scottish Borders lawyer Andrew Penman, and was prepared to take Mr Penman to court and have his negligence & deceit exposed for all to see.

However, the then Alastair Dunlop QC, was speedily appointed to the bench as a Sheriff after just a week had passed after I'd met him, denying my access to my own legal counsel & court as I couldn’t find another advocate who was allowed to continue the case.

I have the feeling we are looking at the formation of yet another quango to run the justice system in its own interests, rather than the interests of the public who has to pay for it through taxes … and only time will tell if any actual improvements come about through these ‘changes’ …


Anonymous said...

Not so much a quango just more of a reorganisation but I take your points.

Also I see you have been busy with the video footage of John McCluskey.

Anonymous said...

The SNP have obviously taken notice of Glasgow City Council's ALEOs and created a few themselves.This being one of many.

Anonymous said...

"The Scottish Court Service remains part of the Scottish Administration and staff continue to be civil servants."

If this is the case why were the changes needed ?

I think the Scottish 'Govt' were just trying to put their own stamp on the courts

Anonymous said...

Just another example of 'smoke and mirros' by the SNP. This allows them to distance themselves from
the present mess, laughingly referred to as the Scottish Justice System, and allows the very people who have been responsible for it to continue as before unhindered.

Anonymous said...

Do forgive my insolence but Hamilton sounds over the limit in the video!

Anonymous said...

from the Scotsman:

Independent thinking called for from the man at the top

Published Date: 05 April 2010
By John Forsyth

THE imperatives of journalistic brevity have long struggled with a neat phrase for the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General. Sometimes "Scotland's top judge", but that implied the existence of a periodic judging championship, like Crufts or the SPL. Often "Scotland's most senior judge", but that was a source of irritation for the incumbent's elders on the bench.

Last Thursday, Lord Hamilton slipped quietly into his undisputed status as the head of Scotland's judiciary. The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 gives him responsibility for the welfare, training and conduct of every Scottish judge from the Justice of the Peace benches to the Court of Session.

The buck will also stop with him on matters of bricks and mortar, technology and staffing from the remotest JP court to Parliament House. The Scottish Courts Service changed on 1 April from a government agency responsible to the Scottish justice secretary to become an independent body governed by a 13-person board, including three lay members, but with a majority of judges.

"This statute is a very significant piece of legislation," says Lord Hamilton. "It not only declares the independence of the judiciary, but it is more than just a declaration. It puts in place the mechanisms for securing it."

Perhaps the biggest change for Lord Hamilton, who succeeded Lord Cullen as Lord President, etc, in December 2005, will be the visibility of the post as the act finally disentangles the judiciary from the legislature and the executive arms of Scotland's governance.

An apparently shy man, he nevertheless seems to welcome the tasks that go with greater accountability – not always the hallmark of Scotland's judiciary in the past.

"The strongest voice a judge has is in his or her judgment. The views of the judges on the circumstances of the cases in front of them will be expressed in the judgment, and should always be so," he says. "That is their route to explaining why they have done the things they have decided.

"We regard broader communication as being an important aspect of the Scottish Court Service work. To assist the public, we have developed a practice in recent times of releasing sentencing statements to the press at the time when a sentence has been pronounced in some particularly controversial case. In the end of the day, it is the judgment itself that speaks.

"However, there will be a difference in other aspects of our work. I can see that there will be, from time to time, occasions on which I will want to speak out, whether that is publicly, or whether it is before the parliament."

Lord Hamilton has already appeared before committees of the Holyrood parliament on several matters. Could he imagine some of his more imperious predecessors, such as Lord Emslie, taking kindly to a request to explain himself to a committee of politicians?

"Well, Lord Emslie certainly had brio," he says. "There's no doubt about that. His moustache might have twitched a little. But things have moved on quite significantly since those days. I think if you are part of the community that regards itself as the third arm of government, alongside the legislature and the executive, you have to recognise you may have to speak out on matters of importance. The act itself provides, for example, for the Lord President to represent the views of the Scottish judiciary to the parliament or to ministers and also provides for putting in written representations on matters of important to the community."

Anonymous said...

3rd part:

In political terms, it is usually considered to be unsatisfactory to take on responsibility for everything except your budget. Times, we are advised, are going to be increasingly tight in public spending.

"We were never going to get control of the budget," he goes on. "We have what is known as a line in the Scottish budget, and we shall have to fight for the appropriate figure in that line. And no doubt, along with other areas of the public services, we will not get as much as we would like to have.

"When we were setting up the arrangement, one of the examples was taken from the Republic of Ireland, where they overhauled their system in the 1990s. But they did that in their years of plenty. We are in danger of entering years of famine. In some ways, if there is less money around you have to be sharper, more alert and disciplined in finding ways in which the money can be best spent."

Around the world, it is relatively common that truly independent judiciaries can find themselves in conflict, or at least friction, with their parliamentarians or ministers over legislation by front-page headline. Can a more accountable judiciary retain its indifference to apparent outrage? Does Lord Hamilton see himself as a servant of the public or a leader in public life?

"In the end of the day, we are concerned with the administration of justice effectively, efficiently and deciding cases in a reasonable time. We are public servants, just as parliamentarians are. Neither of us should forget that.

"Judges have to make a decision that they think just in the circumstances of the particular case and cannot be swayed by what happens to be the current fashion or headline in relation to the things that might bear upon what they have to do. They are providing a public service, but defending their independence is part of their service to the public."

Anonymous said...

second part:

Representing the views of the judiciary raises the further question of how those views will be gathered.

"That will require to be explored under this new regime. I set up a mechanism, called the Judicial Council for Scotland, a few years ago. That meets once a term. It has representatives on it from the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom right down to the tribunals operating in Scotland. It communicates to me information and concerns at these various levels. It has a number of working groups and committees that convey views and concerns at these various levels of judicial office-holders.

"That doesn't mean I don't recognise there are other bodies in the judicial system that have an important representative role to discharge. For example, the Sheriffs Association has been an important player for a long time in this regard and has itself given evidence to parliament. I don't see its role diminishing. But I do see a greater role for the judges speaking as a body from time to time."

The Lord President has long had responsibility for welfare, training and discipline for the Court of Session judges. His writ will now cover every judicial office-holder in Scotland. Will there now be a more transparent procedure or explanation of the outcome when there is a complaint about a judge or sheriff?

"Previously, there were only two options in relation to matters concerning conduct – to deal with it informally, which was not a transparent process at all – or to deal with it in a 'fitness for office' procedure, which some described as the nuclear option. What this statute does is to provide for an intermediate stage in which the Lord President has certain disciplinary powers he can exercise. Some formalisation of procedure is required.

"At the end of last year, we sent out certain ideas on this not only to judicial office-holders, but to a wide range of interested persons, including Consumer Focus Scotland for comment. We've had quite a lot of comment back. In due course, we'll produce some procedural rules in relation to discipline, and one of the things we will be considering is what sort of reporting we make once a decision on a disciplinary matter has been reached."

Anonymous said...


How much are this lot getting for YET ANOTHER QUANGO ???

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The SNP have obviously taken notice of Glasgow City Council's ALEOs and created a few themselves.This being one of many.

5 April 2010 13:37

Glasgow City Council have nothing on the SNP for creating ALEOs.

Just look at the Scottish Futures [Joke] Trust and the amount of money swirling around there !

Anonymous said...

just another attempt to put the courts even more out of reach of the people

Anonymous said...

There is nothing "independent" about putting a group of lawyers and legal stooges in charge of the Scottish courts.I for one would rather it be under government management to ensure there is at least some outside scrutiny because under this crowd there will no accountability whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

That clip of Hamilton droning on about appointing judges is a laugh.Anyone who goes along with that must be out of their skulls!

Anonymous said...

First step to privatisation if you ask me

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Clearly a move to allow the judges to protect themselves from allegations of wrongdoing.Now they are in charge of the whole courts process nothing can be done and as someone else said its equivalent to judicial dictatorship.

Anonymous said...

"However, the then Alastair Dunlop QC, was speedily appointed to the bench as a Sheriff after just a week had passed after I'd met him, denying my access to my own legal counsel & court as I couldn’t find another advocate who was allowed to continue the case."

You did well getting Dunlop to take your case.Handy to know all that Mr Cherbi.Puts a new light on Penman's claims to the contrary.

I can see you were the biggest mistake the Law Society ever made!

Anonymous said...

He hardly sounds as if he knows where he is so should he really be put in charge of all the courts ?

Utter madness on the part of the Scottish Executive but you can be sure its for a good reason as everyone knows which is giving control of justice over to the judges.

Anonymous said...

Sounds as if all these people have plenty to be doing without being on this Scottish Court quango.
Anyone else wondering how much they are getting for these new positions ?
Please post their expenses claims !

Anonymous said...

Very creepy how all those mixed up in the Drew Penman affair keep showing up in prominent positions.
You should do some digging on Lindsays because I've been told they have links to Penman's crowd in Kelso.

Anonymous said...

So here we have another one of the Scottish Justice System's crooked set ups where they are all waiting for Megrahi to die and where was Hamilton on his appeal ? Oops didn't want to hear it out just in case it exposed too much and revealed the truth ! and now they put the same man in charge of all the courts !

Scotland has gone mad !

Lockerbie bomber 'will die within a month'

Published Date: 05 April 2010
By David Maddox
Political Correspondent

THE Lockerbie bomber has less than four weeks to live, a leading cancer expert has claimed.

Karol Sikora was one of three specialists who refused to concur with the prognosis by a prison doctor last August that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi had just three months to live when he was released last year.

But over the weekend he said that information received from Libya on the state of Megrahi's prostate cancer suggested he would be dead within a month.

The only man convicted of the murder of 270 people when Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 has survived almost eight months since his release.

At the time justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said he was freeing the Libyan on compassionate grounds because he had less than three months to live.

Only the prison doctor was then willing to back up this prognosis.

But after receiving a hero's welcome in Tripoli, Megrahi appeared to respond well to chemotherapy and recent reportssuggested he had made a remarkable recovery. However, over the weekend Mr Sikora, who gets regular updates from Tripoli, said Megrahi is now in the last stages of his cancer.

Reports have said that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, liver, kidneys and pelvis.

Megrahi, who celebrated his 58th birthday last week, is reportedly no longer receiving chemotherapy because the cancer is no longer responding to it.

He is said to have had his hospital visits stopped and is remaining at home with his family and friends. "I say he will be dead within four weeks," said Mr Sikora, the medical director of CancerPartners and Dean of Buckingham University medical school.

"My understanding is that he is bed-bound, at home, not going to hospital, receiving palliative care and no active treatment at all."

He suggested that the bomber had lived longer than some expected because of the "psychological boost" of being at home with his family.

Abdurrham Swessi, the Libyan Consul General in Glasgow, confirmed that the bomber's health had rapidly deteriorated. "It is much, much worse," he said.

There were private concerns in the Scottish Government of the potential impact of Megrahi surviving more than a year after his release, making a mockery of the Scottish justice system and having a political impact on the SNP's bid to win power again in 2011.

Even if the new reports are true, Mr MacAskill is still likely to face questions over his release of Megrahi who has survived longer than any other prisoner freed in Scotland for health reasons.

Suggestions have been made that efforts to tap into Middle Eastern capital funds by SNP ministers may have been linked to the release. There were also several prominent Nationalists in the group lobbying for his release on the grounds that they believed he was innocent of the atrocity.

However, questions have not only been asked about the SNP's motives in releasing the bomber.

The process was kicked off by Tony Blair's prisoner transfer "deal in the desert" with Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi which – despite being rejected by Mr MacAskill – was done to stop Libya developing nuclear weapons and open up the country to British companies.

Anonymous said...

I doubt your Lord Hamilton would make it anywhere near the US Supreme Court with that kind of attitude

Anonymous said...

They might as well have put the Colombian drug cartels in charge of Scottish courts

Anonymous said...

people in developing country protest when this stuffs happens so whats wrong with you scottish ???
you stand by and let all this happen they take over all your human rights and freedom lost !


Anonymous said...

When are the hootsmon going to interview Hitler ?

I sincerely hope he doesn't use the "Trust me I'm an Austrian Corporal" argument again !

Anonymous said...

The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 was passed to stop people such as you and Mr MacKenzie coming along and asking Parliament to give us McKenzie Friends.
We all knew consumer driven changes would come sooner or later and something had to be done about it hence the change of who controls the running of the court system itself.

I'm not particularly in favour of the change as I too think it gives too much power to the judiciary over court administration but the parliament voted it through without too much fuss so if I were you I'd also throw some pertinent questions their way.Dont expect too many honest answers.

Anonymous said...

and we all know where those "arm's length quangos" end up !

Anonymous said...

I dont hear many protests from the legal profession over these changes so you can bet they are good for lawyers and bad for the public!
If it had been the other way around the lawyers would be screaming their heads off!

Anonymous said...

not much independence on this quango much like the Scottish Legal Crooked Complaints Commission !