Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If the judge has nothing to hide, the judge has nothing to fear: Transparency of interests must apply to all in court, including the wealthy, vested interests of the judiciary

Judges are not accountable without a register of judicial interests. IN the wake of the latest revelations of a further two Scottish judges dodging criminal prosecutions in front of their own colleagues and in their own courts, this time for serious motoring offences, there are growing calls for a much wider scope of judges background, character & now records of criminal activity to be added to a proposal for a judicial interests register being considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee: Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

And, while Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Brian Gill and his judicial colleagues appear to be more concerned with how accountable they are to each other, rather than how accountable they are to the public, the fact is that without a fully transparent and public register of their interests, Scotland’s judiciary are effectively a law unto themselves who can have little claim to public trust or public confidence in their judgements.

If the Lord President has such confidence in his judicial colleagues that they have nothing to hide, then he has nothing to fear.

However when Scotland’s judiciary from the top man down takes a position of such powerful opposition against transparency of judges financial & other interests, and then dares to effectively threaten Scotland's sovereign Parliament with loopholes within the very act of law in the Scotland Act which founded our current Parliament, there is very much something to hide, Lord Gill.

Petition PE1458 calls for a published register of interests documenting full disclosure of judges sizeable financial wealth, hidden family & business connections within the legal profession and controversial topics such as directorships, secret earnings from law firms & big business, criminal records of judges, and offshore ‘tax efficient’ trusts and investments which currently remain secret.

Those who are following the debate on Petition PE1458 will be well aware of support for the petition from Moi Ali, Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR).

In a recent letter to the Petitions Committee, the JCR revealed Lord Gill had made some concessions on changes to the way in which complaints are dealt with my his own office.

Lord Gill will now provide the Judicial Complaints Reviewer with information on the ultimate outcome of complaints referrals made by the JCR to the Lord President’s office. And, complainers will now be provided with at least a summary of the investigation report into their complaint, where previously no further information was given out to complainers about what happened to their complaint.

The JCR also revealed to MSPs that, contrary to the Justice Secretary’s comments regarding the status of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission in providing office space for the Judicial Complaints Reviewer, the SLCC did not believe that they should provide the JCR with any administrative support, given the fact the SLCC is paid for by lawyers (who recoup their subscriptions from hiking client fees).

The full text of the letter to the Public Petitions Committee from JCR Moi Ali is reprinted below:

Judicial Complaints Reviewer wrote to msps expressing view on recusals only data. In a letter to the Petitions Committee, Moi Ali, Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer said the Lord President’s proposal was “of limited value” The Judicial Complaints Reviewer told MSPs:

Consideration of Petition PE1458

On 9th October 2013 I followed up my evidence to the Petitions Committee with some additional information. I am now in a position to provide a further update which the committee may find helpful in advance of its deliberations this coming Tuesday.

When I wrote in October, it was to inform the Committee that the Lord President had confirmed that he would not be willing to provide me with information on the ultimate outcome of my referrals to him. I am pleased to report that he has since indicated that he recognises that it is helpful for me to be advised of the result of my referrals and that this will now happen. I very much welcome this development.

Another positive development is that the Lord President has agreed to my suggestion that complainers should, as a minimum, be provided with at least a summary of the investigation report into their complaint; previously they received no indication of what investigation had been carried out.

I am also pleased to see that the Lord President intends to publish information on recusals. While this is a step in the right direction towards greater transparency and accountability within the judiciary, regrettably it does not go far enough to address the concerns that complainers raise when they contact me.

As I understand it, the Lord President's proposal is simply to publish recusal information, but what about the occasions where a judicial office holder is unwilling to recuse despite being challenged to do so? Will such cases be reported upon publicly?

Since I gave my evidence to the committee last year, I have reviewed further cases in which conflicts of interest have been at the heart of the complaint. The recusal information the Lord President intends to publish will not help in situations where an alleged conflict of interest only comes to light after a court case is heard. The publication of a register of interest could actually avert the need for such complaints by enabling participants in a court case to challenge perceived conflicts of interest in advance or at the time, rather than after the case is heard. Without the publication of a register of interests, the publication of recusal data, while welcome, is of limited value.

If the issue were solely one of providing public access to recusal data, the Lord President's proposals would be of value. However, the issue from my perspective –as the only individual in Scotland who deals with judicial complaints reviews –is that the concern raised by complainers is failure to recuse; they do not complain about a dearth of recusal data.

It might be helpful if I outlined a typical scenario to help you see how the publication of recusal data alone will fail to address the concerns that those using my service report. Let us say that a defendant appears in court and the case is heard. Later the defendant discovers a potential conflict of interest and makes a complaint about the judge’s conduct. In my experience it is likely that the complaint will be dismissed as being about ‘judicial decision’(a decision that it is for a judge to make). Even if it proceeds to investigation –and most cases that reach me do not get this far –that investigation will be undertaken by a fellow judge. Should the complainer ask me to undertake a review, my hands are tied because all I can do is check that the complaints handling rules were followed. The rules say that a judge can investigate a complaint in whatever way they wish, so there are severely limited grounds on which I can challenge an investigation. Even if I believe that the wrong decision was reached, I cannot overturn that decision or even ask for it to be reinvestigated. Were there to be a register of judicial interests, individuals would be armed with the information to seek a judge’s recusal if necessary, and would not be left having to deal with the matter after the event using the complaints system. This would be in everyone’s interests.

I hope that you find the above helpful in your deliberations.

I also wanted to take the opportunity to respond to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice’s letter of 31st October 2013 to the Petitions Committee in respect of the comment that “Premises within the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission’s offices were secured for the JCR to allow her access to all workplace essentials and some administrative staff support. However, Ms Ali elected to work from home.”

The situation is that I arranged to use a shared ‘hot desk’ at the SLCC, but this was unsuitable as I did not know whether it would be available when I needed it and it was difficult to move files and equipment between my home and the SLCC. The SLCC do not believe that they should provide me with any administrative support, as their service is paid for by the legal profession and not the public purse.

You may know that I will not be seeking reappointment when my term of office ends in August. However, I am happy to provide any further information that the committee requires until that time.

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


Anonymous said...

The judges obviously do have a lot to fear so that is why they are hiding their interests

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Kenny MacAskill misled the committee about the support on offer for the JCR.

Why did this not come up in the discussions?Sounds serious enough to merit at least a comment..

Anonymous said...

Stands to reason judges have to declare their interests

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely with your headline.

Anonymous said...

Why cant the msps just pass the law?Everyone gets this idea judges should declare all their interests and whatever so what is the problem?
I am guessing judges and the legal fraternity doing some arm twisting behind the scenes and a bit of political skulduggery to keep everything under wraps but this is just not good enough.Register YOUR INTERESTS M'LUD!

Anonymous said...

There is a rumour going round a former eminent lawyer who went on to become a Scottish judge was connected to or gave advice and support to the Paedophile Information Exchange PIE.

I assume this will not be an interest any judge will want to declare!

The Daily Mail have done a sterling job on this story with their latest

Hopefully they can check out some of these lurid Scottish judges and put them in the frame as PIE was known to have lots of connections in Scotland with the legal profession.

Anonymous said...

So much for independence in the referendum,Even if we do vote for it we will have a judicial dictatorship dipping their hands in the till and ordering us all about in a so called independent Scotland but not independent of Gill and his cronies and their special interests

Anonymous said...

It is shocking that theses judges repudiate transparency. Who do they think they are, many people will assume they could not keep their interests secret because of the job they do. The judges are as Victorian in their attitudes as the Civil Courts system Lord Gill was going to reform, he is a spin doctor.

Anonymous said...

You must be some journalist to provoke a judge to threaten the parliament with the same law that created it.

I dont think this has ever happened before cant find another example so must be a first.You are worth more than your salt to get to this stage Peter Cherbi.

How dangerous an idea it must be to ask a judge to account for their interests.

Anonymous said...

I can see why Moi Ali said the Judicial Complaints Review role is merely window dressing.It is!
Lord Gill and his judge pals must be laughing at the rest of us because they can get away with anything they like including what are criminal offences for the rest of the population.


Diary of Injustice said...

@ 19 March 2014 23:16

Given some of the identities of members of the judiciary in Scotland which are doing the rounds in relation to the Daily Mail's PIE/NCCL investigation it would be more advantageous for the Daily Mail to establish this from their own sources and then go on to headline it in the press.

@ 20 March 2014 00:57

Good point ...

@ 20 March 2014 11:40

... but in doing so, one is marked for life ...

@ 20 March 2014 12:06

New information has come to light there are several further cases involving members of the judiciary which have not been disclosed ... a further investigation is ongoing.

Anonymous said...

... but in doing so, one is marked for life ...

Yes I can imagine taking on lawyers and corrupt judges has this side to it.

Judges and their kind are probably capable of creating a lot of harm to protect their own and all these undeclared interests of theirs.

Gill may look harmless on the telly however his letters to the msps about your petition come across as threatening and menacing.

Anonymous said...

More misleading statements from Kenny MacAskill.He should be pulled up for that and the rest.

Anonymous said...

This just shows you how rotten our courts are these judges have not been declaring for years decades probably and thousands of cases have been misheard because of it and this is the reason Gill is so against your petition

Anonymous said...

Good letter from Moi Ali but I think she will be the last JCR to have the chance to speak the truth.The next one will be a plant from the legal establishment to run alongside Gill like a little poodle

Anonymous said...

Moi Ali for First Minister!

Anonymous said...

Aye the judges can dish it out but cant take it.

They are all rotten to the core no doubt about it and if they had really ever been honest at all they would have already declared everything instead of all these threats and other innuendo.

Anonymous said...

A little more for readers about the secretive legalized crooks who control Scots lives.

Anonymous said...

A FOI request results in a statement to the effect that the Scottish does not hold the information requested, the one I refer to is PE1491. Masonic tyranny will get worse if Eck gets his way, it is bad enough now.

Anonymous said...

What is astonishing about this massive scandal is that it is not featuring in every daily news bulletins and that Kenny MacAskill and Lord Gill have not been sacked for the secrecy and deceit against the Scottish People?

It just shows how crooked a country Scotland has become?