Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Holyrood's Justice Committee Chief Bill Aitken who praised former Law Society boss after complaints scandal is forced to resign over rape comments

bill aitkenTory Justice Committee Convener Bill Aitken shamed into resignation over his comments on a rape case. BILL AITKEN, the well known Scottish Conservative & Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s sole Justice Committee for the past four years has been forced to resign his committee position after his comments in a media interview regarding a rape case in Glasgow where he inferred a rape victim may have been a prostitute resulted in a Parliamentary Motion lodged by Green MSP Patrick Harvie, calling for him to quit.

While the focus of most of today's news reports on Mr Aitken’s resignation remains on the actual comments made by the Justice Committee Convener & Tory spokesman on ‘Community Safety’, it should not be forgotten that Mr Aitken, who is no stranger to controversy himself, reportedly denied he had made the controversial comments regarding a rape case to the Sunday Herald newspaper, apparently changing his story to admit what he had said only after ‘reading a transcript of the interview’.

The Sunday Herald interview with Mr Aitken over a Glasgow rape case quoted Mr Aitken as saying : “I really think we need to know a bit more about these. They are not always as they seem to be, put it that way.If this woman was dragged halfway through the town then it just couldn’t possibly happen. So has nobody asked her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane? Somebody should be asking her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane. Did she go there with somebody? ... Now, Renfrew Lane is known as a place where things happen, put it that way.It’s an area where a lot of the hookers take their clients. Now that may not have happened in this case. But you know ... what was happening?”

The Sunday Herald further reported : When challenged on his comments by the Sunday Herald, Aitken denied making them until he read a transcript of the conversation. Asked whether there is a difference between the rape of women who work as prostitutes and those who don’t, he said: “Well, the prostitute has possibly put herself in a position of some vulnerability.”

Mr Aitken’s remarks were widely criticised from all quarters, including the Police, as was reported by Scottish Law Reporter, here : Cops claim Tory Justice Committee boss infers Hookers deserve it : Scottish Conservative’s Bill Aitken asks paper “Was rape victim a prostitute ?"

The Sunday Herald reported at the time the Scottish Conservative’s current boss, Annabel Goldie, refused to condemn her Tory Party colleague for his remarks, and then apparently “turned and walked away.”

The condemnation of Mr Aitken’s comments then reached the stage where a Parliamentary motion was due to be lodged yesterday by the Green MSP, Patrick Harvie, calling for Mr Aitken’s immediate resignation from the Justice Committee.

In the media release from the Scotland’s Green Party, Patrick Harvie said : "Bill Aitken's comments are way beyond the standards any party in Parliament should find acceptable from any MSP, but they make it entirely unacceptable for him to continue in post as Convenor of the Justice Committee. No-one who thinks we should blame rape victims should ever be allowed to hold that role in this country.”

Mr Harvie continued : "If he does not resign, the Tory leadership should force his hand. If they do not, Parliament must act to remove him, and act quickly. The alternative would a serious loss of confidence in Parliament as an institution, and the Justice Committee in particular."

Mr Aitken, who is also retiring from the Scottish Parliament and not standing in this year’s election said: "I am standing down as convener of the justice committee. I do so with a mixture of emotions: frustration at allowing myself to be misrepresented; anger at being misrepresented and remorse to rape victims and their loved ones for any hurt they feel, but also in the hope my true views can now be heard. In all my years as a city councillor, a JP and an MSP, I have spoken out against criminals and spoken up for victims of crime. That will not change in retirement. I will continue to battle for justice for all."

Conservative Party leader Annabel Goldie commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation, said: “Bill Aitken is a man of principle and honour. He was not prepared to let any issue compromise the work of the Justice Committee and he has shown his respect both for the committee and the party.”

However, in a stark indication of just how honest we can expect our politicians to be, neither Mr Aitken nor his Scottish Conservative Party boss Annabel Goldie chose to explain reports of why Mr Aitken initially denied his comments over the rape case to the newspaper until being shown a transcript of the interview.

A legal insider commenting on Mr Aitken’s resignation said today : “Changing stories to journalists only after being shown evidence of one’s comments is not the expected level of honesty or integrity to be shown by a Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee”.

While Mr Aitken’s political career has ended on a sour note over his comments regarding a rape case, he is well known for a habit of making controversial remarks, where in one instance he sought to praise a former Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland Douglas Mill in the Scottish Parliament’s debating chamber during a debate on the Legal Services Bill.

Bill Aitken offers praise for the then Chief Executive of the Law Society, Douglas Mill, claiming “Scottish Lawyers have an excellent reputation (click image to watch video)

The Scottish Parliament’s website, in a slightly differing verbatim account of the above footage reports Mr Aitken as saying : “Scottish lawyers have an excellent reputation. Members of the Law Society, such as Douglas Mill, have contributed to the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives. That is indicative of the way in which Scots lawyers are regarded elsewhere. Other distinguished members of the Law Society staff have played international roles, which is to be encouraged.”

Just a few weeks later in January 2008 after Mr Aitken’s fawning comments for the Law Society Chief Executive, Douglas Mill himself was forced to resign his position after a video recording of a clash between Mr Mill & the Scottish Government’s Finance Chief, John Swinney was posted to the popular video file sharing website You Tube.

Douglas Mill 4Former Law Society boss Douglas Mill received praise from Bill Aitken during Parliamentary debates, only to be forced into resignation a few weeks later after memo scandal. The video footage from an earlier Scottish Parliament Justice Committee investigation of the Law Society & regulation of the legal profession in 2006, quoted Mr Mill as denying he had become involved in interfering with claims & complaints made by members of the public against crooked lawyers. John Swinney then produced one of Mr Mill’s own secret memos which proved Mr Mill and a number of others within the Law Society, including its then President and insurers had colluded against complaints & damages claims made by clients against Scottish solicitors.

John SwinneyJohn Swinney revealed copies of secret memos which contradicted Douglas Mill’s testimony to an earlier Justice Committee over protection of crooked lawyers. Mr Swinney, then in opposition battled on with Mr Mill in a clash before the Justice Committee lasting several minutes, at the end of which no one was left in any doubt the Law Society of Scotland and Mr Mill had been involved in preventing claims for damages against ‘crooked lawyers’ from going ahead. The incident was reported in the Herald newspaper at the time in an article titled Would granny swear by the law society ?” in a reference to Douglas Mill claiming he had not intervened in claims against ‘crooked lawyers’ by swearing on his granny’s grave.

Bill Aitken’s misplaced idol ? : Douglas Mill & John Swinney come to blows over corruption at the Law Society & its Master Policy insurance, revealed in Mr Mill’s own secret memos (click image to watch video)


A legal reform campaigner speaking this afternoon to Diary of Injustice said he felt Mr Aitken’s praise for the Scottish legal profession was misplaced, particularly in view of the 2006 revelations of the Law Society of Scotland’s conduct towards members of the public in complaints & claims for compensation.

He said : “Mr Aitken’s remarks in the Parliament praising lawyers sound like they come from a lobbyist, not an elected politician."

He continued : "Any msp who openly praises the legal profession when there is such blatant evidence available as Douglas Mill’s memos which clearly show corruption right at the heart of the Law Society should examine whether they are in the right job. Maybe they should go and work for the Law Society instead of pretending to represent the majority of voters who are not lawyers and don't work in or for the legal profession.”

Justice CommitteeThe current Holyrood Justice Committee under Mr Aitken’s term as Convener has not been ‘consumer friendly’ to reforms of regulation the legal profession. Mr Aitken’s term as the Convener of what has been one of the most disappointing Justice Committees since the Scottish Parliament was re-established in 1999, saw members of the public excluded from giving any evidence on their personal experiences with Scotland’s legal services market during the Justice Committee’s investigation of the Legal Services Bill, which instead saw a platoon of appearances from the legal profession & the Law Society of Scotland, who proposed ordered so many amendments to the Legal Services Bill, its initial aims of widening access to justice for Scots have been completely ruined.

I reported on msps final vote on the Legal Services Bill, here : 'Choice' but not as we know it : Legal Services Bill passed, Scots access to justice remains mostly under Law Society's control

You can read my full coverage of the Legal Services Bill and how it passed through the Scottish Parliament, here : Legal Services Bill for Scotland - Scots denied access to justice on the Law Society's orders

To demonstrate the rather one sided approach to the Legal Services Bill taken by Mr Aitken’s Justice Committee, readers can view my report of the Law Society of Scotland’s ‘easy ride’ testimony on the Legal Services Bill here : Little mention of consumer protection for Scots as Law Society give evidence to Holyrood on Legal Services Bill reforms

In comparison to the way members of the Law Society were treated by Mr Aitken and the Justice Committee, my coverage of the OFT & Which? testimony on the Legal Services Bill, in which consumer interests were noticeably ripped apart by msps, is available here : OFT & Which? call for independent regulation of lawyers as Justice Committee hears evidence on Legal Services Bill

In reality, as far as battling for justice goes, Mr Aitken’s term as Holyrood’s Justice Committee Convener appears to have been less along the lines of battling for justice for all, and more along the lines of battling to keep the current status quo as it is where justice in Scotland is far out of reach for most Scots, and questions over the honesty & integrity of the Scots justice system such as the Lockerbie case and the many more cases of injustice or the public’s access to justice remain unanswered.

Battling for justice for the legal establishment, is a world away from battling for justice for the Scots public.

In a curious development this morning, a legal insider claimed the Law Society of Scotland were, prior to the scandal over the rape comments, discussing whether to offer Mr Aitken a role on one of its Committees after he retires from the Scottish Parliament. Whether the Law Society choose to proceed with their alleged offer in the light of Mr Aitken’s resignation, remains to be seen.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes what a surprise a politician says something to a newspaper then lies about it only to be told what he really said and admits it later!
Of course as Justice Committee Chief he should be investigated for it and maybe we are left wondering if he's lied on anything else!

Anonymous said...

That'll be an end to quotes from Aitken on just about anything going !

Anonymous said...

I think you hit it right on the head about Bill Aitken & douglas Mill.Also why was Aitken chosen to be Justice Committee convener if he is only the Tory spokesman on Community safety?

Deals behind closed doors so the SNP get their way on justice issues perhaps?

Anonymous said...

No doubt after the dust has settled Mr. Aitken will be quietly placed in a well paid position on a Quango.

Certainly the Law Society of Scotland would be a fitting billet for this longtime advocate of the Scottish Legal Professions 'closed shop'.

Anonymous said...

It’s an area where a lot of the hookers take their clients. Now that may not have happened in this case. But you know ... what was happening?”

You seem to know a lot about this place Mr Aitken, have you been there?

Glad to see you falling on your sword although your colleagues in the Justice Committee will keep protecting the establishment.

Perhaps Mr Mill has a job for you at Glasgow University?

Anonymous said...

Honestly I have to laugh about it being left to Patrick Harvie & the Greens to table that motion which incidentally I cant find ANYWHERE on the Parliament's website.

Wasnt it Harvie who tried to vary a law about bondage sex games and Aitken kind of supported it ?
http://www.heraldscotland.com/msp-drops-law-change-plea-over-sex-games-1.906408
MSP drops law change plea over sex games31 Mar 2009

MSPs today heard a plea for the fear of prosecution for assault to be lifted from those taking part in consensual bondage, sado-masochism, and similar practices.

MSPs today heard a plea for the fear of prosecution for assault to be lifted from those taking part in consensual bondage, sado-masochism, and similar practices.

The plea came from Green MSP Patrick Harvie who told a Holyrood committee the present law was an "anomaly".

But he dropped a bid to change the law after Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and other MSPs said lifting the threat of prosecution could provide a loophole for those charged with domestic abuse and sex crimes.

Mr Harvie made his plea when the Justice Committee today scrutinised the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill.

If passed, the Bill will radically overhaul existing law on rape and other sex crimes, and will redefine consent as "free agreement".

Mr Harvie tabled an amendment to the Bill under which the crime of assault would not be committed if consensual acts between those over 16 were carried out for "sexual gratification", if both participants agreed and where serious injury was unlikely.

He said he was tabling the amendment to trigger debate and to enable Mr MacAskill to explain why a change recommended by the Scottish Law Commission was not included in the Bill.

Mr Harvie told MSPs the practices covered by his amendment were known as "BDSM activity", a term which includes bondage, sadism, masochism, dominance and submission.

He accepted the Government feared such a provision could be misused by those accused of domestic abuse.

He argued that if the Government believed BDSM activity between consenting adults was a criminal offence, that was an anomaly.

"All other matters being equal, these situations should not be seen as a priority for prosecution," he said.

"In situations where consent is uncontested, where all the people involved agree there was free and informed consent between them, these should surely not be treated as assaults worthy of prosecution and punishment."

The present law could cause harm of the type once suffered by gay men, said Mr Harvie.

"Many ordinary people who simply have a different kind of sex life to other people can lose their jobs, their homes and their family as a result of public disapproval."

Mr Harvie said he was not talking about people like Formula One motor racing boss Max Moseley "who can put up a fight in the courts based on the principle of privacy", or those in the public eye, He said there was not clear law on privacy.

"But caught in the crossfire of that debate, people's lives can be ruined," said the MSP.

But other MSPs on the committee voiced fears that the change he argued for could provide a defence loophole in domestic abuse cases.

Committee convener and Tory MSP Bill Aitken said Mr Harvie was right to bring the matter to the committee.

Mr Aitken said there could be an argument that what took place between two consenting adults in private was a matter for them alone - but that had two key provisos.

The first was that the violence did not lead to injury, and the second was consent.

"I cannot envisage circumstances where a matter would come to the attention of police and the prosecution authorities which had not breached these caveats," said Mr Aitken.

Anonymous said...

What is it with these Committee Conveners ?

Here's another one A LIBDEM who has actually been caught/charged with solicitoring prostitutes !

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-12541212

Lib Dem candidate stands down over prostitute charges

The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Aberdeen Donside has stood down after being charged with soliciting prostitutes, BBC Scotland can reveal.

Councillor Gordon Leslie stood down as the candidate for the redrawn Aberdeen North constituency with immediate effect on Tuesday, the party confirmed.

Grampian Police said a 64-year-old man had been reported to the procurator fiscal.

He is due to appear at the city's sheriff court next month.

Mr Leslie declined to comment when approached by BBC Scotland.

There are five alleged contraventions of the Prostitution (Public Places Scotland) Act 2007.

Mr Leslie is the convener of the city council's children's services committee and the vice convener of the social care and wellbeing committee.

He has been asked to stand down from his committee roles.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Annabel Goldie wanted to save his job - maybe they were hoping for some more carnage in the middle east so it would all be forgotten

Anonymous said...

But he dropped a bid to change the law after Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and other MSPs said lifting the threat of prosecution could provide a loophole for those charged with domestic abuse and sex crimes. SEX CRIMES, SODOMY IN A PUBLIC TOILET.

THE LOOPHOLE IS THERE MR MACASKILL, THE CASES OF DOUGLAS HAGGARTY, THE PROCURATOR FISCAL INDECENCY CHARGE, THE SHERIFF CAUGHT IN THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT "HAVING A SHAVE" FORMERLY OF HAMILTON SHERIFF COURT.

ARE YOU BLIND MR MACASKILL? YOUR COLLEAGUES ALWAYS AVOID JUSTICE. THE LEGAL ESTABLISHMENT HAVE A WEAPON AT THEIR SIDE, IT IS CALLED JUDICIAL BIAS, FOR CHRISTS SAKE MAN AT LEAST HAVE BALANCED VIEWS IN PUBLIC AS YOU ARE MAKING A MOCKERY OF YOURSELF.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight

After $1billion spent on that "parliament" all its politicians can do is give comments on hookers getting raped and changing the law to allow bdsm/group sex parties?

Heh you guys are screwed up big time with these a$$holes in power!

NonTory said...

Actually I wasnt aware of Bill Aitken's comments about Douglas Mill which he has a bloody cheek making considering what all happened between Mill and Swinney.

Anyway the point I'd like to make is I have been trying to get a meeting with my msp for months on a planning case he tells me in letters he is very concerned about yet all that seems to matter with this lot is sex parties or calling women who get raped prostitutes.

SICKENING HOLYROOD POLITICS ARE RUINING SCOTLAND

Anonymous said...

The Sunday Herald reported at the time the Scottish Conservative’s current boss, Annabel Goldie, refused to condemn her Tory Party colleague for his remarks, and then apparently “turned and walked away.”

Evidence enough the Tories have lost it.What was she waiting for ?
Was she expecting everything to be fine the next day ?

Anonymous said...

A very creepy story regarding Aitken and the rape case especially the comment about MSP drops law change plea over sex games

Is this really what life with the Scottish Parliament is all about ??

Anonymous said...

Shocking

I begin to wonder what kind of company these politicians prefer when they come up with stuff like this

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Scotland's answer to Uriah Heep will 'reluctantly' offer his services as Bill Aitken's replacement, step forward Nigel Don?

Anonymous said...

I like how you tie it all back in to what goes on in the world of the legal mafia and the best thing is you have all that evidence at your fingertips.

Keep up the great work Peter!

Anonymous said...

“Scottish lawyers have an excellent reputation. Members of the Law Society, such as Douglas Mill, have contributed to the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives. That is indicative of the way in which Scots lawyers are regarded elsewhere. Other distinguished members of the Law Society staff have played international roles, which is to be encouraged.”

No doubt Mr Aitken believes this statement. Look at the evidence Mr Aitken, not the way you want things to look.

Anonymous said...

Douglas Mill must have some pull on Aitken to get a mention within a debate.

I think there should be an investigation into Aitken's term on the Justice Committee to see if all these Law Society amendments you told us about were properly considered.

Anonymous said...

Hmm all that about Patrick Harvie and the sex law stuff which Aitken supported is just too much for me.I am really appalled at all these goings on by our msps no matter if they are Tories SNP Greens Labour or whoever.
They are all an affront to Scotland wouldnt you agree Peter?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight

After $1billion spent on that "parliament" all its politicians can do is give comments on hookers getting raped and changing the law to allow bdsm/group sex parties?

Heh you guys are screwed up big time with these a$$holes in power!

22 February 2011 17:34

Do not be fooled into thinking we all dress in tartan and play the bagpipes.

What you are seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg and with attitudes like this about rape from the legal fraternity and their chums its little wonder there is rampant abuse rape child molestation and people trafficking in Scotland even at the highest levels of society and if anyone speaks out they are targeted for breaking the silence

Mr Aitken's comments clearly demonstrates a deep seated attitude of our politicians against victims of injustice or crime

Anonymous said...

Funny how Mill had to resign just after Aitken praised him in parliament lol

Good work!

Anonymous said...

Aitken sounds like a regular foot in mouth lawyer lovin' politician!

Anonymous said...

Disgusting!

Anonymous said...

also meant to say thanks for the videos of Mr Aitken bestowing the honours on his legal pals!

Anonymous said...

Never a dull moment in Scotland's legal world and I see you are one of the few who are allowing comment on the Aitken story.

Anonymous said...

He wont be much use to the Law Society for the time being but look on the bright side - if they do take him in you will get endless opportunities to write about it !

Anonymous said...

Do not be fooled into thinking we all dress in tartan and play the bagpipes.

What you are seeing here is just the tip of the iceberg and with attitudes like this about rape from the legal fraternity and their chums its little wonder there is rampant abuse rape child molestation and people trafficking in Scotland even at the highest levels of society and if anyone speaks out they are targeted for breaking the silence

Mr Aitken's comments clearly demonstrates a deep seated attitude of our politicians against victims of injustice or crime

Correct Julian Danskin a paedophile lawyer, abused boys, one of his victims committed suicide. What did Scottish do in his case. 9 months imprisonment for Danskin, 10 years each for two men who blackmailed him because of his filthy conduct.

I wonder of our justice minister thinks we owe a great debt to Danskin? We all know who suffers when masters make the laws regulating themselves Proportionate sentences I think not.

Anonymous said...

"So has nobody asked her what she was doing in Renfrew Lane"?

Perhaps she was looking for you Mr Aitken? Your innuendo above manifests itself as a suggestion if she is in a lane frequented by hookers she deserves all she gets.

Every woman has the right to say no, but attitudes like yours implicate the woman in wrongdoing. What a nasty little chap you are.

Anonymous said...

I hope Aitken is never a juror at a rape trial.

Anonymous said...

If he hadnt tried to blame the Sunday Herald and deny it he might have still had his job.Anyway what you've written about his words for lawyers he should be sacked just for that.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that a peaceful revolution along with cancelling any insurance policies which you may have with the RSA is the only way to go. These bastards have brought this on themselves and it is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

http://politics.caledonianmercury.com/2011/02/23/the-tory-msp-the-resignation-and-journalistic-ethics/

What are your thoughts on the Sunday Herald's Editor's reply in the Aitken story ?

Anonymous said...

Interesting slant to this story Peter and I can see now why you ran it.As someone already said Mr Aitken should not have tried to blame the newspapers for his own quotes.I mean if he thinks such things about rape then goodness knows what he thinks about the rest of us (except when it comes to an election of course)

Anonymous said...

Hmm was this praise voluntary or did he do it for benefit later on ?

I think we should be asking some questions about these msps praising very dangerous people in our parliament !

Anonymous said...

Get your facts right, the Law Society is not a quango and positions on LS committees are unpaid!

Peter Cherbi said...

# Anonymous @ 7 March 2011 11:57

Nobody suggested the Law Society is a quango unless you know different ?

On the other hand, the SLCC is of course, a quango.

You dont seem to know much about Law Society Committees ... payment in kind for services rendered has seen several members profit from their positions ... as one former Law Society employee admitted some time ago ...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Get your facts right, the Law Society is not a quango and positions on LS committees are unpaid!
7 March 2011 11:57

Oh dear it seems it is you who have not got your facts right Smartass!

How many bungs do these LS committee members get for seeing to it anyone who takes issue with the Law Society ends up face down in a field or cut up outside their own front door?