Judicial Immunity from transparency - Lord Gill will not answer questions over judge’s financial interests. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has again refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to answer questions from MSPs who are considering the issues of judicial transparency raised in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary, filed by Scots law journalist Peter Cherbi.
The petition, which has caused several run-ins with Lord Gill, who was previously viewed as more open to change in the justice system, calls on the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a requirement that all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests.
The latest letter from Lord Gill to the Convener of the Public Petitions Committee, David Stewart MSP, which is dated 28 May 2013, cites issues of “constitutional principle” and the “independence of the judiciary” as reasons for Lord Gill’s refusal to attend the PPC to give evidence on judge’s interests and provide details on how the current system of judges recusing themselves operates in Scotland. The response from the Lord President also fails to answer questions now put twice to the Lord President, asking for statistical information on how the system of judges recusing themselves operates.
Again, the Lord President sidestepped all the questions from MSPs and merely stated “The Lord President has been responsible for matters concerning the conduct of judicial office holders since April 2010. During that period there has been no case in which a judge has been found guilty of misconduct for a failure to recuse.”
Lord Gill has now been asked twice by MSPs to provide information on how many judges have been recused and whether there is more detailed evidence on the effectiveness of the current system. Clearly these are not questions Scotland’s top judge can or is willing to provide answers to, raising serious questions over the honesty and integrity of Scotland’s judiciary.
Lord Gill went on to cite the Scotland Act, reminding MSPs they may not require a judge to attend proceedings for the purposes of giving evidence, claiming the missing part of the Scotland Act was not a loophole, rather a protection mechanism for protecting the independence of the judiciary from politicians. However, many will see this as a mechanism for covering the backs of the unelected judiciary who are bitterly resisting transparency and hold such power they can easily strike down legislation with one mere comment or opinion in court.
In an attempt to placate his stubborn position on the protection of judges vast secret & financial interests, as well as records of criminal convictions including Benefits Cheating, Lord Gill again cited an EU report which itself has been prepared and written by judges who have a vested interest in preventing any register of judicial interests going ahead. The report,which Lord Gill and the Scottish judiciary are relying on to keep their dirty linen secret, is available here : GRECO FOURTH EVALUATION ROUND Corruption prevention in respect of members of Parliament, Judges and Prosecutors.
Lord Gill conveniently left out of his letter to the PPC Committee Convener, any references to his judicial colleagues who had signed up to be interviewed to complete the EU report, rather than attending the Scottish Parliament to answer questions on their own secretive financial interests.
Lord Gill ended his letter by offering to meet the Committee Convener in private to discuss the constitutional implications of the Public Petitions Committee’s invitation. The irony of Scotland’s to judge holding secret meetings to discuss a call for transparency within the judiciary will not be lost on legal observers to this on-going battle over the hidden secrets of Scotland’s judges.
Lord Gill’s letter to the Convener of the Public Petitions Committee David Stewart MSP, in full :
Lord Gill’s second refusal to answer questions on judges secret & financial interests PUBLIC PETITION PE1458
Thank you for your letter of 18 April 2013. I regret that I again have to decline your committee's invitation to appear before it. I do so for reasons of constitutional principle. I intend no discourtesy to your committee.
Judges have from time to time given evidence to committees of the Scottish Parliament on matters that affect the administration of justice in Scotland. I hope that that has been helpful in the legislative process. Judicial participation in the work of the committees must however be kept within prudent limits.
Section 23(7) of the Scotland Act provides inter alia that the Parliament may not require a judge to attend its proceedings for the purposes of giving evidence. This is not a loophole. It is a necessary part of the constitutional settlement by which the Parliament is established. Its purpose is to protect the independence of the judiciary, a vital constitutional principle that is declared in section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008.
When a committee invites a judge to give evidence before it, I have to decide whether the subject matter might infringe the principle of judicial independence; and whether the evidence required could be satisfactorily given in writing.
In my correspondence with you I have set out carefully why I believe that a register of interests for the judiciary is both unnecessary and unworkable. I have directed you to an independent scrutiny of the judiciary in the United Kingdom that has on two occasions considered and rejected the need for such a register. I have also directed you to the decision of the United Kingdom Government to accept that finding, and to the decision of the United Kingdom Supreme Court not to create a register. That I think, is as much useful evidence as I am in a position to give on the subject; but if there is any further information that you feel would be relevant and helpful to the committee, please let me know and I will consider the matter further.
In your letter you have asked whether any central record has been kept of failures by judges to recuse themselves. The Lord President has been responsible for matters concerning the conduct of judicial office holders since April 2010. During that period there has been no case in which a judge has been found guilty of misconduct for a failure to recuse.
If you would find it helpful I would be pleased to meet with you to discuss the constitutional implications of the Committee's invitation.
Lord Gill earlier refused to attend the Petitions Committee to discuss issues raised in Petition PE1458, reported here : Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill refuses to attend Scottish Parliament to face questions over opposition to register of judicial interests
Diary of Injustice reported on an earlier meeting of the Petitions Committee on 5th March 2013 where MSPs initially invited Lord Gill to attend Holyrood, here : SILENCE IN COURT : Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill summoned to Parliament over ‘vested interests’ attempt to block Register of Judicial Interests petition and video footage of that earlier meeting is also available online here : Petition PE1458 Register of Judges Interests 5 March 2013 Scottish Parliament.
All previous reports from Diary of Injustice and further information on the drive to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary can be viewed here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary
A full report on the story along with details of judges jet setting around the world, and support from the Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali for the register of interests proposal, can be viewed in the Sunday Mail newspaper today HERE
JUDGES FEAR THE REGISTER - PETITION SEEKS TRANSPARENCY IN COURT WITH REGISTER OF JUDICIAL INTERESTS :
Petition PE01458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary calls for 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. Diary of Injustice has featured coverage of the petition in earlier reports, Register of Interests for Judges.
The petition also features references to debate in the Parliament of New Zealand who are considering legislation to create a register of interests for the judiciary. It is time for Scotland to move in the same direction and create a similar register of interests for the judiciary of Scotland and all its members, increasing the transparency of the judiciary and ensuring public confidence in their actions & decisions.
The full details of the New Zealand Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill, should be looked at for a model of similar legislation in Scotland, can be viewed online here Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill.
The New Zealand Law Commission’s discussion paper on a register of judicial interests which recommends further inclusion of court staff in a register of interests, can be downloaded here : NZLC IP21 - Towards a New Courts Act: A Register of Judges pecuniary interests? (pdf)
In comparison to New Zealand’s effort to ensure transparency in the judiciary, Scotland’s judges and the Scottish Government have, unsurprisingly backed away from any similar measures, even concealing criminal charges and convictions of Scottish judges, where in one case a Scottish judge was charged with fiddling benefits claims, exposed in a Diary of Injustice investigation into Judge’s financial fiddles, here : CAREER CROOKED : Investigation reveals Scottish judges are CONVICTED CRIMINALS, Drunk Drivers,Tax Dodgers & alleged BENEFITS CHEATS
The on-going investigation by Diary of Injustice into members of Scotland’s judiciary has already revealed a series of judges appear to be involved in OFFSHORE TAX AVOIDANCE schemes, associations with convicted criminals & organised crime, prostitution rackets, accepting hospitality & payments from well known corrupt solicitors representing dodgy law firms while others on the bench are engaging in questionable investments & duties which appear to be in conflict with their positions as members of the judiciary. More on these findings can be read in an earlier article here : Offshore trusts, property holdings, insurance syndicates, hospitality from dodgy lawyers, yet no plans for a register of interests for Scottish judges