Thursday, June 19, 2014

LORD FLY-BYE: Scotland's courts in the slow lane as judges prefer law conferences, business & 'diplomatic' trips to life on the bench

Slow day in Court? Judges prefer international travel to dull legal hearings. AMID suspicions some of the wealthy, well connected members of Scotland’s judiciary who regularly fly around the world at taxpayers expense to attend ‘law related events’ have been using trips abroad to mix their official duties with private business, and apply a little soft power on behalf of Governments, the Scottish Court Service (SCS) are currently fighting a battle against publishing any further information in connection with the travels of Scotland’s elite, secretive judiciary.

The move by the SCS to stall the flow of information on what Scottish judges are up to outside of their role in court comes amid increased public debate on what judges actually do for the community and why, in spite of claims by Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill that the Civil Justice system is “failing society”, reforms which Gill himself proposed over five years ago never see the light of day while judges, lawyers and the justice system itself soak up billions more from clients, court users trapped in litigation hell, & taxpayers every year.

In previous information published by the media, it was discovered Scottish judges & sheriffs were also taking their wives on expensive trips abroad at public expense.

And in some expenses claims alongside the trips, members of the judiciary who are typically on salaries of over £140K a year with handsome pensions and numerous other ‘unspecified financial benefits’ also scooped up extra public funds for the hire of dinner suits, taxi expenses, and even malaria injections - while the rest of the country was being told to buckle down and public services including the National Health Service were being cut to the bone.

Judicial trips & extra expenses claims 2010-2013

17/06/10  Lord Hamilton Meeting European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg £100.90
17/06/10 Lord Reed Meeting European Court of Human Rights Strasbourg £103.53
24/06/10 Lord Hodge European Commercial Judges Conference Rome £765.39
25/06/2010  Lord Pentland Reform of criminal law event, Lisbon £1083.34
08/09/2010  Sheriff MacNeill Anglophone conference Berlin £382.57
12/09/2010  Sheriff Normand European Network of Councils of the Judiciary Meeting Brussels £136.72
12/09/2010  Lord Hodge European Network of Councils of the Judiciary Meeting Brussels £46.08
16/09/2010  Sheriff Baird  OPG Conference Dublin  £367.84
16/09/2010  Nikola Milne  OPG Conference Dublin  £245.77
03/10/2010  Lord Gill Opening of Legal year Dublin £362.16
07/10/2010  Lord Reed Meeting of UK judges Conseil d'Etat Paris £376.66
11/10/2010 Sheriff Normand European Network of Councils of the Judiciary Brussels £314.21
15/10/2010  Lord Gill Commonwealth Law Conference India  £3724.66
06/11/2010  Sheriff Ireland International Association of Judges Conference Senegal  £1331.02
06/11/2010  Lord Eassie International Association of Judges Conference Senegal  £1223
12/12/2010  Lord Woolman Judicial Conference cross-border protection of children & families in Morocco  £1158.78
12/12/2010       Sheriff Normand European Network of Councils of the Judiciary Meeting Brussels £224.61
16-19/09/2010  Sheriff Welsh  OPG Conference Dublin  £349.48
23-27/06/2010 Lord Glennie European Commercial Judges Conference Rome  £621.17
24-29/06/2010 Sheriff Normand Reform of criminal law event, Lisbon  £992
31/01-12/02/2011  Lord Tyre  ERA Academy I & II Trier £177.90
8-10/12/2010   Sheriff Noble EU Seminar on Mutual Recognition and Trust in Amsterdam  £178.84
8-10/12/2010   Sheriff McColl EU Seminar on Mutual Recognition and Trust in Amsterdam  £163.84
10/04/2011      Lord Hodge  ENCJ Bucharest £181.17
12-14/5/2011 Sheriff M  Neilson Franco/British/Irish Colloque Dublin £367.89
12-15/5/2011 Sheriff T Welsh Franco/British/Irish Colloque Dublin £391.85
12-14/5/2011 Sheriff C Cunninghame Franco/British/Irish Colloque Dublin £493.79
12-14/5/2011 Sheriff K Ross Franco/British/Irish Colloque Dublin £770.91
10-12 April 2011     Sheriff A Normand ENCJ working Group - Barcelona £176
6-7/7/2011           Lord Woolman Hague Conference on PIL £284.67
7-11 June 2011    Lord Hodge General Assembly of the ENCJ Vilnius, Lithuania £295.59
7&11/6/2011      Sheriff Normand General Assembly of the ENCJ Vilnius, Lithuania £806.53
7-11 August 2011  Lord Gill ISRCL Conference, Ottawa, Canada £1053.39
14-22 July 2011 Sheriff Fletcher  CMJA Kuala Lumpur £4659.41
4-8 Sept 2011  Sheriff L Wood International Association of Judges, Istanbul £1815.08
15-16 Sept 2011  Lord Hodge ENCJ, Hague, Amsterdam £733.85
25 - 27 Sept 2011  Lord Reed European Court of Justice, Conference £380.74
6-12Aug 2011 UKIJSC Sheriff McFadyen ISRCL Conference, Ottawa, Canada £4010.29
12-15May2011  Lord Uist Franco-British-Irish Judicial Cooperation Conference 0
9-10 Oct11     Lord Hodge ENCJ Steering Committee meeting £80.34
30 Sept-3Oct11 Lord Hardie Opening of the Legal Year: Dublin £677.29
9-10Oct11       Sheriff A Normand ENCJ Steering Committee meeting, Brussels £830.50
20-23Nov11      Sheriff A McCulloch European Court of Justice, Luxemburg £37.90
20-23Nov11    Lord Hodge European Court of Justice, Luxemburg £1342.99
17-22July11  Sheriff N Morrison  CMJA Kuala Lumpur £4850.07
25-28Jan 2012   Lord Woolman Scottish Hague Network Judge, The Hague, Netherlands £1100.65
22-23Jan 2012   Lord Hodge ENCJ Steering Committee, Brussels £296.25
6-7May 2011      Lord Eassie European Association of Judges, Malta £996.31
4-8 Sept 2011   Lord Eassie International Association of Judges, Istanbul £1996.11
15-16 Jan 2012   Sheriff A Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting, Brussels £397.55 
22-23 Jan 2012    Sheriff A Normand ENCJ Steering Group meeting, Brussels £148.30
3-7March 2012    Sheriff A Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting, Palma Majorca £553.60
31Oct-3Nov 2011  Lord Malcolm Bordeaux to attend IOJT Conference £1245.58
31Oct-3Nov 2011  Sheriff Duff Bordeaux to attend IOJT Conference £1289.07
31Oct-3Nov 2011  Sheriff Welsh Bordeaux to attend IOJT Conference £1163.22
23-27Nov 2011     Lord Gill Ljubljana on official business £251.50
21-22June 2011  Sheriff Welsh QC non funded delegate EJTN General Assembly, Budapest  £672.56
25-26 Oct 2011  Lord Brodie  UKRIJSC Meeting £221.13
25-26 Oct 2011  Sheriff Duff  UKRIJSC Meeting  £240.43
9-13 May 2012   Sheriff A Normand ENCJ General Assembly, Dublin  £399.20
9-11 May 2012   Lord Hodge ENCJ General Assembly, Dublin £394.59
10-16Nov2012  Sheriff G Liddle IAJ Conference, Washington (USA) £3953.32
29-31 May 2012  Lord Brodie EJTN General Assembly, Copenhagen  £44.50
18/07/2012  Sheriff David Mackie Commonwealth Magistrates & Judges Association Conference Kampala  £2182.38
27-29June 2012           Sheriff K Maciver Extradition Seminar, Madrid £121.88
22-26 Nov 2012  Sheriff N McFadyen ISRCL Conference, Washington DC £2173.44
8-16 Sept 2012     Lord Gill CMJA Conference, Kampala Uganda £3519.97
7-16 Sept 2012     Sheriff Fletcher CMJA Conference, Kampala Uganda  £3781.14
17-18 Sept 12  Sheriff Normand  ENCJ - Brussels £120.00
18-20 Oct 2012  Lord Tyre ERA Conference in Trier £505.45
9-16 Nov 2012  Lord Eassie IAJ Conference, Washington (USA)  £2695.56  
17-Sep-2012          Sheriff A Normand ENCJ project meeting in Brussels £360.24
29Sep-1Oct 2012   Lord and Lady Brodie Opening of Legal Year Dublin £561.96
23-Sep-2012          Lord Doherty European Courts of Justice -Luxembourg  £114.96
29-Sep-12          Lord Doherty Opening of Legal Year - Dublin  £81.00
18 20 Oct 2012  Lord Tyre ERA Conference in Luxembourg  £72.77
26-29 Sept2012 Lord Malcolm Attending the European Forum of Commercial Judges, Warsaw £483.75
9-10Dec 2012   Lord Hodge attend working group of ENCJ in Vilnius £1070.02
29-30Sept 2012  Lord and Lady Doherty attend opening of the Legal year in Dublin (in place of LP and LJC) £721.48
12-20 April2013  Lord Carloway Attendance at Commonwealth Law Conference £5541.37
Apr-13                 Lord Gill Attendance at Commonwealth Law Conference £3233.31
8-12 Feb 2013     Lord Hodge Attendance at ENCJ working group Rome 10 & 11 Feb £556.91
Jan to Aug 2012 reimbursement by ENCJ -£320.59
Sept to Dec 2012 reimbursement by ENCJ -£166.47
29-May 2012           Lord P Brodie EJTN General Assembly, Copenhagen £391.50
15 & 22 June 12  Sheriff T Welsh EJTN Conference, Rome £584.99
17-21 Oct 2012      Sheriff T Welsh ERA 20th anniversary, Trier  £476.28
26-28 Nov 2012      Sheriff T Welsh EJTN meeting, £0
31Jan- 1Feb 2013   Sheriff  T Welsh UKIJSC Meeting, £407.21
31Jan –1Feb 2013  Lord Malcolm UKIJSC Meeting, Dublin £464.90

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GOLD SWAGGER: Police Swoop at Edinburgh law firm sparks legal fight by Chief Constable for ownership of £1Million ancient gold crown

Top cop goes for gold after top prosecutor dropped case. A POLICE STING culminating in arrests of persons negotiating the sale of a 2,500 year old gold crown at the premises of Edinburgh law firm Balfour & Manson has led to a court fight involving Chief Constable Sir Stephen House of Police Scotland who wants to establish ownership of the ancient relic. The increasingly political case, heard by judge Lord Brailsford comes even though the Lord Advocate dropped any prosecution against the Turkish cafe owner who claims ownership of the gold artefact and is adamant the item is a family heirloom.

Chief Constable House has hired private law firm Morton Fraser to pursue the case at taxpayers expense, in an effort - legal experts say appears to be solely focused on handing back the treasure to the Turkish Government - even though Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland ordered the item returned to Murat Aksukalli after all charges relating to the swoop on the lawyer’s office in 2010 were dropped.

AND. in spite of attempts by vested interests to hinder public access to information of the court case, a Fife based transparency campaigner & amateur historian - Tom Minogue, has identified the wreath as one looted from a Greek tomb by the Earl of Elgin, famous for the Elgin Marbles. Mr Minogue has submitted evidence to the court and has written about it on his website here: The Gold Wreath riddle

The Scottish Sun newspaper published a highly detailed investigation into the affair:

CROWNED OFF: Cops nab Turk selling £1M relic, Legal fight for Golden Treasure : Ancient Trinket was looted from Tomb

EXCLUSIVE By RUSSELL FINDLAY Investigations Editor Scottish Sun 15 June 2014

UNDERCOVER detectives nabbed a Turkish cafe boss as he tried to sell them a 2,500-year-old gold crown — worth a staggering £1million. Murat Aksakalli claimed the stunning ancient relic had been left to him by his grandfather.

But police believe the precious artefact known as the Edinburgh Crown was looted from Turkey and should be returned. They launched a sting operation and Aksakalli was held as he tried to flog the intricate decorative wreath at a lawyers office in Edinburgh.

A source said they could make a movie out of this and call it Indiana Jones and the Edinburgh Crown. "Its an incredible saga involving a Turkish wheeler dealer, an undercover police sting, the chief constable and the Lord Advocate. The crown is now being held at Police Scotland's Edinburgh HQ as a legal battle is fought over its future.

A Turkish government report claims the treasure may have been plundered from a tomb in the ancient city of Milas between 2000 and 2010.

But 50 year old Aksakalli insists he inherited the controversial antiquity from his grandfather Fazil Aksakalli who died in rural Cemisgezek. And he claims he can prove he had the relic before the ancient tomb was raided.

He said: "I kept it tor years and forgot about it" "The police said that I went to Turkey in 2010 and just started digging and found it"

His lawyer Aamer Anwar added "Just because the Turkish Government say anything remotely connected to them belongs to them doesn't mean that's right in our legal system"

Aksakalli decided to sell the beautifully crafted crown when his cash and carry company hit financial problems. And two of his business associates Ali Sanal and Hakki Ozbey also helped in the attempt to find a buyer. They approached experts at posh auction houses Sotheby's and Bonhams in Edinburgh.

And Aksakalll claims that a police officer friend of his, Lawson Porter also spoke to the National Museum of Scotland about the ancient head decoration on his behalf.

But their activity caught the attention of the now defunct Serious Organised Crime Agency and an undercover cop was deployed in a sting operation. The officer going under the name Ahmed Shakur met Aksakalli it the Hilton and Marriot hotels in Edinburgh and asked to see the crown.

A third meeting was then arranged at the office of bluechip law firm Balfour & Manson in October 2010. Police swooped on the talks in in the city centre and Aksakalli, Sanal and Ozbey were held and the crown taken by detectives.

One source revealed "The official valuation for the purpose of the court action is £225,000 but the true value is thought to be £1million". "It's become known as the Edinburgh Crown because it was found in the capital".

There is no suggestion Balfour-Manson were involved in any wrongdoing. Following the raid Turkish embassy officials met with Detective Superintendent David Gordon and Lindsay Miller, head of the Crown Office 's organised crime division. They claimed the valuable object belonged to their country and demanded its return.

In December 2012, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland decided there would be no criminal proceedings against Aksakalli. But months later he agreed to send the crown to Turkey for seven days to undergo forensic analysis. An expert there concluded that the ornate metal wreath - which his decorated with 50 myrtle leaves and flowers - probably came from a Milas tomb and dated to around 350BC.

But in another twist, an amateur historical claims the golden crown may have been looted from Greece in the 19th century by the Earl of Elgin - famous for taking the sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens now known as the Elgin Marbles. Campaigner Tom Minogue found Elgin had bragged about discovering a golden wreath matching the description of the disputed relic seized in Edinburgh,

He has now joined the legal battle being fought over the crown, claiming it could be the same ancient artefact which was mentioned by Elgin. And he is demanding that the experts in Greece be allowed to examine the antiquity as well - just like the Turkish have already done.

Retired engineering businessman Tom said "There seems to have been a rush to judgement by the Police and the Lord Advocate who determined that a gold wreath was Turkish for no other reason than because the person in possession of it said so and happened to be a UK national of Turkish birth.

"There was no claim of any such gold wreath having been plundered from Turkey other than an unspecified generalisation. "This airy-fairy reasoning by the Turks has caused the Scottish authorities to send the gold wreath to Turkey, during which the Turks were allowed to do anything with it as they wished, without hinderance".

"The question of ownership of the golf wreath should be dealt with in an open, fair and unbiased manner, recognising the fact that Greece, the country that taught the world the meaning of democracy, deserves equal treatment to Turkey in the eyes of the law"

Last night Police Scotland confirmed the crown was still being held while the legal battle over its future continues. A spokesman said: "This item was seized in 2013 during a police operation at business premises in Edinburgh. "It is being held until ownership can be determined by the court"


By Russell Findlay

THE intricate golden artefact dubbed the Edinburgh Crown is thought to date from around 35OBC. It features thin branches wound around a wreath with around 50 deli­cate myrtle leaves and rosettes.

The relic is crafted from 98 to 99.5 per cent pure ancient gold and would have been placed in a tomb in either Greece or Turkey. And experts believe the treasure could be worth up to £1 million.

The Edinburgh Crown is very similar to one unearthed in the Piraeus in Athens by the Earl of Elgin in the 19th century.His discovery was recorded in a book about the aristocrat’s travels in Greece.

Elgin presented to parliament a list of the items that he had removed from the country.But missing from this list in 1811 was the gold wreath. The Earl speculated that the crown may have come from a site known as the tomb of Aspasia.

HISTORY & MYSTERIES 350BC Gold crown is buried in royal tomb in Greece or Turkey.

1816 Lord Elgin sells Greek artefacts to the UK but a gold wreath he discovered is missing. 1982 Aksakalli claims he inherits gold wreath from grandfather. 1989 He moves from Turkey to Scotland and claims he later brings over the treasure. 2000-2010 Looting takes place at archaeological ruins in ancient Milas, Turkey 2004 Campaigner Tom Minogue urges Fife Police to probe items taken from Greece by Elgin, including a gold wreath. 2007 Aksakalli begins exploring attempts to sell the crown. SEPT 2010 He meets potential buyer who is actually an undercover cop. OCT 2010 Aksakalli is arrested. 2011 Scots police and prosecutors meet Turkish officials. 2012 Lord Advocate drops case against Aksakalli. MAR 2013 Crown sent to Turkey for analysis, then returned. MAR 2014 Police go to court to try to legally obtain wreath and hand it to Turkey. APRIL 2014 Minogue lodges legal claim that crown may be the one taken by Elgin.


Top Cop goes for gold. Redacted documents relating to the civil action raised by the Chief Constable of Police Scotland over the gold wreath have now been released by the Scottish Courts.

The Chief Constable’s pleadings in court revealed: “In or around July 2010 Lothian and Borders Police received information that two men were believed to be in possession of a stolen golden wreath of Turkish origin and were attempting to sell it. On 5 October 2010 the first defender, along with Ali Sanal and Hakki Ozbey, was detained at the offices of Balfour & Manson, solicitors, 54-66 Frederick Street, Edinburgh on suspicion of reset. The three suspects were in possession of the fund in medio and were attempting to secure its sale. All three are Turkish nationals.”

“At interview the first defender asserted ownership of the fund in medio. The first defender and said Sanal and Ozbey were released without charge pending further inquiries. A report was submitted to the Procurator Fiscal. The pursuer retained possession of the fund in medio on the instructions of the Procurator Fiscal.”

“On 27 December 2012 the Lord Advocate instructed that no criminal proceedings would be taken against the first defender, or any other person, in respect of the fund in medio due to an insufficiency of evidence. The Lord Advocate instructed that the fund in medio should be returned to its owner.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LORD'S ATTACK: Scotland’s top judge lashes out at Judicial Complaints Reviewer transparency call to Scottish Parliament for register of judicial interests proposal

Anti-Transparency: Lord Gill protests independent support for proposal to declare judges interests. SCOTLAND’s top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has lashed out at support given by the independent Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali for Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary - a proposal under consideration by the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee which would create a register of judges interests for all members of Scotland’s Judiciary.

In a letter to Committee Convener MSP David Stewart MSP, the clearly frustrated Lord Gill hit out at earlier evidence in which Moi Ali told MSPs “a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

Gill, who has tried in vain for over a year to close down the debate on secret judicial interests & failures to recuse in court curtly declared: “I do not share Ms Ali's view that a register of interests is essential. I do not believe that such a register is necessary.” and went on to claim "I'm not aware of recent evidence that there's public concern about the integrity of the judiciary.”

However, the top judge has refused several calls to appear before the Scottish Parliament in public to answer questions on the secret interests of judges & goings on in Scotland’s judiciary, where reports of judges convicted of fraud & other criminal offences have emerged in the media, as well as multiple failures of judges to recuse themselves in court over conflicts of interest and failures to declare other interests.

And the Lord President’s increasingly bitter opposition to transparency created by a register of judicial interests has made it clear judges fear the openness created by judicial disclosure – revealing their vast personal, undeclared wealth, extensive family and business connections throughout the legal profession, links to big business, offshore trusts & investments, ownership of numerous and high value properties through a variety of ‘creative’ arrangements, directorships, shareholdings, and even unpublished criminal records of members of the judiciary.

The Scottish Sun on Sunday reports:

Judge's gifts plan outburst

EXCLUSIVE : By RUSSELL FINDLAY Scottish Sun 8 June 2014

SCOTLAND'S top judge has slammed a watchdog in a row over whether law chiefs should reveal gifts and investments.

Lord Gill hit out at Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali over her support for a register of interest for sheriffs and judges.

In a letter to Holyrood bosses, the Lord President said: "I fail to see how the creation of a register would reduce the number of complaints.

"I'm not aware of recent evidence that there's public concern about the integrity of the judiciary."

A log could detail hospitality. gifts, property, shares, criminal convictions and links to outside bodies such as law firms.

But legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi said: "This letter smacks of yet more judicial arrogance.

It's about time the head of Scotland's judiciary realised that he is answerable to the public."

TOP JUDGE - Protests Transparency Register of Judicial Interests:

Top Judge Lord Gill’s latest letter of protest to Public Petitions Committee Convener. I do not share Ms Ali's view that a register of interests is essential. I do not believe that such a register is necessary. I set out my views in my letter to you of 5 February 2013. My views remain the same.

Ms Ali suggests that the number of complaints against the judiciary would fall were such a register to be published. In fact the number of complaints made against judicial office holders in Scotland is small by comparison with the number of cases with which they deal. Complaints cover a wide range of matters; but only rarely do they make allegations of personal interest. I fail to see how the creation of a register would reduce the number of complaints.

Ms Ali suggests that a failure to institute a register of judicial interests will create suspicion, and that this will in turn undermine judicial credibility. I am not aware of any recent evidence that there is public concern about the integrity of the judiciary. In my view the terms of the judicial oath, the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics and the provisions of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 for the regulation of judicial conduct are effective safeguards that enjoy public confidence.

The Judicial Complaints Reviewer suggests that the rules about complaints against the judiciary - the Complaints about the Judiciary (Scotland) Rules 2013 - are not fit for purpose. I disagree. Our  experience of operating the Rules, since they were introduced in 2011, is that they provide a system for review that effectively filters out complaints that are without substance, while providing an effective hearing mechanism in others.

I am considering amendments to the Rules in light of a consultation that was carries out last autumn. Ms Ali has annexed to her letter to you a submission dated 2 December 2013 setting out her views on the Rules. I will take her views into account when I instruct amendments to the Rules. It would be inappropriate in this letter to comment in detail on the points she seeks to make.

JUDICIAL COMPLAINTS REVIEWER - Support for register transparency:

Last year, Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali attended the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee  to give evidence to msps on proposals to create a register of judicial interests, reported previously here: As Scotland’s top judge battles on against transparency, Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life

Writing in a recent letter to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, Moi Ali, first Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer reiterated her strong support for the creation of a register of interests for Scotland’s judges, telling msps “a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public”.

Moi Ali said: “Given the position of power held by the judiciary, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity but crucially, that they are seen to have absolute integrity. Again, a register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case –financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any other way. Conversely, the refusal to institute a register of interests creates suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. So once more, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

And, responding to claims from Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill that a register of judicial interests was not needed due to “safeguards” put in place by MacAskill in consultation with the same judges who now oppose a register of interests, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer told msps: “As the person appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to review complaints handled under these rules, I can say from experience over nearly three years that the rules are not fit for purpose.”

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 deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Monday, June 02, 2014

LORD NO-NO: Scotland's top judge spends one year ‘in-hiding’ over Scottish Parliament proposal to create register of judiciary’s vast secret wealth, business connections & vested interests

Top judge Lord Gill bitterly resists calls for judicial wealth & connections to be declared. ONE YEAR on from persistent refusals to appear before MSPs to give evidence on the judiciary's undeclared interests, Scotland's top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill continues to oppose any call for him to attend the Scottish Parliament and publicly explain his bitter opposition to calls for judicial transparency contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a requirement that all members of the Judiciary in Scotland to declare their sizeable financial wealth, hidden family & business connections within the legal profession, criminal records, directorships, secret earnings from law firms & big business and offshore ‘tax efficient’ trusts and investments. The proposals would see a publicly available Register of Judicial Interests available for all to inspect - a move the Lord President Lord Gill has bitterly resisted to-date.

The Sunday Mail’s coverage of 2 June 2013 reported on Lord Gill’s second refusal to show up at the Scottish Parliament. The exclusive report also features an article exposing the round the world travels of Scotland’s judiciary on the taxpayer, the very same Scottish judiciary who, after nearly eighteen months of discussion on judicial interests, still refuse to travel a few hundred yards to our sovereign Scottish Parliament and account for their secretive interests. The Sunday Mail reports :

LORD NO NO - Scotland's top Judge refuses second Parliament invite over Register of Interests - Sunday Mail 2 June 2013Scotland's top judge refuses to appear before MSPs for a second time to explain his opposition to a register of interests

EXCLUSIVE : LORD NO-NO : Gill snubs second invite from Holyrood Committee

By Russell Findlay 2 Jun 2013 Sunday Mail

SCOTLAND'S top judge has snubbed MSPs for a second time after they asked him to give evidence at Holyrood.

The Lord President, Lord Gill previously declined to attend the Scottish Parliament’s petitions committee to explain his opposition to a register of interests for judges. MSPs wrote asking him to reconsider his refusal to attend. But last week, in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Labour’s David Stewart, he rejected their second request to appear.

The top lawman, who earns £214,000 a year, cited the Scotland Act which prevents parliament from forcing judges to give evidence. He justified his refusal saying: “I do so for the reasons of constitutional principle. I intend no discourtesy to your committee. 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.”

The row follows a petition by legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi which calls for judges to declare interests such as hospitality, gifts, property plus any links to outside bodies.

In February, Lord Gill wrote to say a register was not needed and that it might mean judges would be harassed by “aggressive media”. His refusal to elaborate on that stance in person angered the committee. In April, they issued a second invitation but he has again refused to travel the 700 metres from his office to parliament to give evidence.

In his letter, sent to Stewart on Tuesday, Lord Gill did offer to meet committee members in private. Stewart now plans to meet Lord Gill along with deputy committee convener Chic Brodie. He said: “I’m disappointed but we will try to meet as soon as possible to get the information we require to deal with this very interesting petition.”

SNP MSP Brodie said: “He is at least willing to have discussions with representatives of the committee.”

Sources at Parliament say the judge has added insult to injury by agreeing to give evidence to the Justice Committee on Tuesday to defend heavily criticised cost-cutting reforms that will mean the closure of one in five sheriff courts.


Lord Gill's insistence that he will not appear in front of MSPs comes as a legal watchdog revealed two judges were investigated for alleged conflicts of interest last year. Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali, left, revealed the probes as she backed calls for a register.

Her submission to the committee said: "One review I undertook last year concerned a complaint about a judge who had allegedly used their judicial position to promote a body that was alleged to have breached international law." Another was a sheriff who allegedly participated in a social function organised by the defender during the proof hearing.

Ali - who was appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill in 2011 - can review how the the Judicial Office for Scotland have handled a complaint but can only pass on her concerns to the Lord President.

She added "Registers of interest are a normal part of public life."It seems right that the judiciary should not be out of line with what is required of others who hold high public office."Better transparency would enhance the standing of that judiciary."


Scotland's judges have racked up thousands of air miles on overseas trips, including jaunts to the US, India, Morocco and Malaysia.

Taxpayers have paid £83,644 to send judges and sheriffs around the world in the past three years. In 2010/11, the total was £14,430 which rose to £35,107 in 2011/12 followed by £34,167 last year.

The most expensive trip last year was to Kampala in Uganda. It cost £7300 for Sheriff Michael Fletcher and Lord President Lord Gill to attend a judges' conference there. Lord Gill’s other trips since 2010 have included Dublin, Cape Town in South Africa, Slovenian capital Ljubljana and a £1050 trip to a conference in Canada.

One of the most widely travelled was Sheriff Andrew Normand who has been on 11 overseas trips in the last three years. The judges usually travel alone or with a colleague but on two occasions last year they were joined by their wives.

The figures were obtained by legal blogger Peter Cherbi. He said: "Instead of flying around the world, perhaps Scotland's judges should focus on the problems within our own legal system."

The Judicial Office for Scotland said: "Attendance at overseas events must be approved in advance and comply with agreed guidance."

Sunday Mail Opinion on Lord Gill No Show 2 June 2013Mail Opinion: Lord Gill has missed an opportunity to portray our justice system as open and accountable

2 Jun 2013 11:32

NO JUSTICE IF IT CANOT BE SEEEN : SENIOR judge's refusal to give evidence to MSPs shows a lack of transparency, says Mail Opinion.

WE'RE possibly not clever enough but it is difficult to understand the terribly important point of principle Lord Gill is defending when he refuses to give evidence to our elected representatives.

Scotland’s most senior judge insists that he cannot amble down the Royal Mile to Holyrood to appear before the petitions committee because he must maintain the crucial separation between our courts and the Government.

The Lord President told them that, with the greatest respect, MSPs cannot compel a judge to appear. This is not a legal loophole, he said, but a vital bulwark of our democracy.

Fine. We get it. But they are not compelling him to appear. They did not issue an order but an invitation.

Since he has apparently agreed to appear in front of the justice committee on Tuesday to discuss the closure of a fifth of our sheriff courts, we must assume that he is picking and choosing which MSPs might be given his valuable time.

You could be forgiven for suspecting that he believes MSPs scrutinising the calls for judges to register their interests are wasting their time – and is not allowing them to waste his. Fair enough but his disinclination to pitch up before the people who represent the people who pay his £214,000-a-year salary might look a little high-handed and disrespectful. It might and, to be honest, it does.

This wasn’t an ambush. It was an opportunity for Scotland’s top judge to go to Parliament and talk about how our legal system works and might work better. It would have added, as the public relations executives and politicians like to say, a little transparency.

It was a window of opportunity that Lord Gill politely, but very firmly, nailed shut.

By taking every opportunity to speak to MSPs, Lord Gill could do more to show our legal system is a modern, receptive institution than any number of gimmicks and sound bites.

Instead, his refusal has only hardened the suspicion that our judges live and work in a bubble smelling of horse hair wigs, vintage port and even more vintage attitudes.

But his decision is only one disappointing straw in what is becoming a mighty wind of official secrecy and needless silence gusting around every part of our justice system.

Police and prosecutors might not be using Lord Leveson’s criticism of newspapers to chill potential whistle-blowers and curb information being given to journalists, officially or unofficially, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

These days, the most simple, straightforward requests for the most simple, straightforward information from our law enforcement and legal authorities hit stonewall after stonewall.

It is a disgrace that Scottish journalists – and, through them, the Scottish public – are not being given basic information that would be passed on as a matter of course in, for example, England and the United States.

It is a disgrace and one that our MSPs should be discussing and debating. Not least because journalists are clearly not the only people our legal establishment are happy to keep in the dark.

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 deliberations on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary