Thursday, August 21, 2014

LORD JET SET: Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill takes 5 day STATE VISIT to Qatar as investigation reveals judiciary's international travel junkets spree

Scotland’s judges prefer taxpayer funded jet travel to dull court duties. SCOTLAND’S wealthy, well connected judges are back on the jet set junket despite an alleged clampdown announced two weeks ago by Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill after a controversy over justices of the peace trying to join the judicial travel circuit junket spree.

An investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper has revealed Scotland's top judges spent £26,000 on thirty three international trips funded by taxpayers in the last year - including journeys to destinations such as Russia, Israel, Switzerland,Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania.

The country’s top judge, Lord Gill – who is still refusing to appear before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee  to answer questions from msps on judges undeclared wealth & interests, also jetted off on a FIVE DAY STATE VISIT to Qatar, and gave a sixteen page speech on judicial ethics.

Asked for further details of Lord Gill’s itinerary in Qatar, a spokesperson for the Judiciary of Scotland said no information could be provided as the Lord President is  currently on holiday. The Judicial Office has claimed there are no photographs or video footage of Lord Gill’s trip to Qatar, even though the trip was paid for by the taxpayer.

The Scottish Sun reports:


Beaks Trips on Taxpayer

Exclusive : By Russell Findlay Scottish Sun

JET-SETTING judges spent £26,000 of taxpayers' cash on overseas trips last year, a Scottish Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal.

Top beaks flew out to destinations including Russia, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Qatar.

The most expensive was a £5,800 trip to Canada by Scotland's second most senior judge, Lord Carloway. Lord Gill - who is the Lord President - also spent five days on a £2,800 trip to Doha, Qatar, where he gave speech on judicial ethics.

Our probe found he jetted to the desert state — criticised for its human rights abuses - after twice snubbing calls to appear in front of the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee just 800 yards from his office.

Committee member John Wilson MSP said: "During his speech in Qatar he said that he had much to learn from that country's judicial system. But Qatar has a poor record on human rights, as identified by Amnesty International."

Legal campaigner Peter Cherbi added: "Judges are supposed to sit in courts, not in jets.

"It's hard to believe that Scotland and our judiciary can learn anything from Qatar, a country accused of funding war. mass murder and chaos throughout the Middle East."

In the past year the Judicial Office for Scotland has paid for Lord Carloway — who earns £208.000 a year - to take part in law events in Vancouver. Canada, and Dijon. France.

It also forked out public money for Lord Armstrong, Lord Boyd and Lady Dorrian to meet other Euro pean judges on a three-day trip to Luxembourg.

Lord Eassie travelled to legal events in St Gallen, Switzerland, and Yalta, Ukraine.

And Lady Clark spent four days at an Anglo-Israeli conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, while Lord Hodge went to Paris.

Meanwhile four sheriffs — Wendy Anne Sheenan, Frank Crowe. Nikola Stewart and Thomas McCartney — attended a four day family law event in Ireland.

It took place at luxury Carton House hotel and spa in Co Kildare where the itinerary included a lack tie gala dinner and optional round of golf on the hotel's course.

Last year Lord Gill — whose salary is £216,307 - also travelled to Jersey, while in the previous three years he went to Ireland, South Africa, Slovenia and Canada.

Last week he announced a clampdown on overseas travel by judges, sheriffs and JPs.

He will only allow judges to travel if they give a good reason to do so and they will also have to write a report about their trips.

The SNP's Mr Wilson added: "Given the pressures on our courts, it's welcome that Lord Gill is seeking to curtail future judicial travel and will hopefully lead by example."

The Judicial Office for Scotland was asked to give details of Lord Gill's itinerary for the rest of his Qatar trip and whether he regretted going after snubbing Holyrood.

A spokesman said they couldn't help as the Lord President is on holiday.

JUDGES JUNKETS - Overseas Travel of Scotland’s Judges 2013-2014:

6-10 May 2013 Lady Clark  Anglo Israeli Conference in Tel Aviv £2,404.00
15-17 May 2013 Sheriff MacFayden ERA seminar in Brussels  £1,057.37
22 to 25 May 2013 Lord Eassie European Association of Judges meeting in St Gallen, Switzerland £373.30
7-9 June 2013 Lord Tyre ERA meeting in Trier £753.73
5-7 June 2013 Lord Hodge ENCJ GA in Sofia £863.26
5-7 June 2013 Sheriff Normand ENCJ GA in Sofia £775.63
January - June 2013 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£162.22
January - June 2013 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£162.23
21 - 27 September 2013 Sheriff Liddle CMJA Conference – Jersey £237.34
22 - 24 September 2013 Lady Scott Judicial and Academic Visit in Luxembourg £368.30
22 - 26 September 2013 Sheriff L Wood Commonwealth Law Conference – Jersey £106.71
22 - 26 September 2013 Sheriff Fletcher Commonwealth Law Conference – Jersey £1,445.02
24 - 28 September 2013 Lord Gill Attendance at CMJA Conference – Jersey £102.95
26- 28 September 2013 Lord Hodge Franco-British Judicial Colloque in Paris £425.73
4 - 12 October 2013 Sheriff J P Scott Conference IAJ Yalta £734.50
4 - 12 October 2013 Lord Eassie Conference IAJ Yalta £1,019.64
24 - 27 November 13 Lord Armstrong Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
24 - 27 November 13 Lord Boyd Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
24 - 27 November 13 Lady Dorrian Meeting of Judges of Member States @ the Court of Justice of European Union: Luxembourg £294.80
9 - 10 December 2013 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Brussels £481.76
9 - 10 December 2013 Sheriff Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting in Brussels £514.48
July - December 2013  Reimbursement by ENCJ -£157.82
July - December 2014 - - Reimbursement by ENCJ -£157.83
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff Sheehan Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £599.92
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff Crowe Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £550.50
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff N Stewart Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £817.11
7-9 February 2014 Sheriff McCartney Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £576.03
16 - 18 February 2014 Sheriff Normand ENJC meeting in Warsaw, Poland £396.89
23 - 24 January 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ project group meeting in Brussels £642.01
21 - 27 June 2014 Lord Carloway ISRCL Conference in Vancouver Canada £5,820.16
4 - 6 Feb 14 Lord Carloway European Conference,Dijon, France  £59.15
7 - 9 Feb 2014 Lord Brailsford Four Jurisdictions Family Lawyers Conference 2014 £167.56
24 - 26 Mar 14 Lord Carloway Evidence & Procedure Review Study Visit £232.93
23 - 26 March 2014 Sheriff Normand ENCJ Project Group meeting in Lithuania £451.81
23 -25 March 2014 Lord Tyre ENCJ Project Group meeting in Bucharest £631.58
23 - 26 March 2014 Sheriff Normand 23 - 26 March 2014 ENCJ Meeting in Lithuania £146.00
13 - 18 April 2014 Lord Gill Official visit to Qatar £2,855.52

Friday, August 15, 2014

JUDICIAL RICH LIST: Register reveals top judges investments in dodgy justice system providers, companies linked to international bribes scandals, mercenaries, tax avoidance & banks fined for financial markets manipulation

Judges shareholdings in companies guilty of breaking the law raise questions of ethical investments. DISCLOSURES of judges personal shareholdings obtained under Freedom of Information legislation from the Scottish Court Service have revealed a startling snapshot of the wealth of several key members of Scotland’s judiciary who sit on a controlling quango which flexes its muscle over the entire court structure in Scotland.

The declarations of the seven judicial members of the Scottish Court Service Board – including Scotland's top judge, the Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill on £220K a year - reveal members of the judiciary benefit financially from shareholdings in companies who won huge public contracts to provide services to the courts & justice system, companies convicted of breaking the law around the world, companies involved in ‘industrial’ espionage against countries such as China, banks fined for international financial market manipulation, and companies involved in bribes, bid rigging, and tax dodging to name but a few.

The documents – handed over by the Scottish Court Service after officials initially denied holding the information in an effort to delay full publication, bring further revelations on top of reports in the Scottish Sun newspaper where it was revealed Sheriff Principal RA Dunlop holds shares in Weir Group - hit with a £13.9 million Proceeds of Crime fine for dodging UN sanctions by paying bribes to Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Sunday Herald also revealed Sheriff Principal RA Dunlop held shares in Tesco while presiding over a case involving the multi national supermarket giant.

Shareholdings of top judges on Scottish Court Service Board:

Lord President Lord Brian Gill: Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Newton International Growth Fund, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Terrace Hill Group, Vestry Court Ltd

Sheriff Principal R A Dunlop QC: Astrazeneca, BHP Billiton, Blackrock AM UK Gold & General, Bluescope Steel, BNY Mellon Newton Global, CG Real Return Inc, Close Brothers Group, Diageo, Findlay Park FDS American Smaller Cos., G4S, Henderson Global Invs, ING Global Real Estate Securities, Intercontinental Hotels, JP Morgan Private Equity, Lomond Shipping Co, Lloyds Banking, M&G (Guernsey) Global Leaders, National Grid, Oakley Capital Investments, Origo Partners, Pernod Ricard, Prudential, Rio Tinto, Royal Bank of Scotland, Royal Dutch Shell, Scottish Oriental Smaller Cos, Tesco, Vodafone, Weir Group

Sheriff Iona McDonald: Glaxosmithkline, Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever, Equiniti, Barclays, Standard Life, HBOS

Johan Findlay OBE: Aviva, Vodafone, Santander, Unilever, Norwich Union, Legal & General, Fidelity Funds Network, Scottish Widows, Lloyds Banking Group, Thus Group, HBOS, Trafficmaster, Standard Life

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: “None significant”

Hon Lord Bannatyne: None

Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway: None (and no declarations of any kind whatsoever)

The registers reveal more of the judges shareholdings in companies with questionable histories - Sheriff Dunlop is also a shareholder in G4S who were fined £335,000 for court delays in Scotland after it was revealed the company brought prisoners to court late - on at least 21,735 occasions.

In March 2014, G4S agreed to repay £109 million to the UK government after a scandal involving overcharging on contracts to tag offenders. The overcharging is believed to include billing for monitoring the movements of 3,000 "phantom" offenders, including some who had been sent back to prison and even some who had died.

And the firm was also implicated in several scandals in Iraq where the company operate as ArmorGroup, supplying armed guards & security. A BBC Scotland investigation into G4S revealed the company had been warned not to employ a former British paratrooper who went on to kill two colleagues including Private security guard Paul McGuigan, from the Scottish Borders.

Dunlop also has shares in mining giant BHP Billiton – embroiled in an anti-corruption investigation by the US authorities into a lobbying scam aimed at defeating the landmark US climate change bill involving forged letters sent to US congressmen. BHP Billiton is also under investigation in another anti-corruption investigation in Australia over its major sponsorship of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the alleged payment of "tea money" to secure rights to a since-abandoned bauxite exploration project in Cambodia.

Another mining giant on Sheriff Dunlop’s extensive share portfolio is Rio Tinto - caught up in a spying and corruption scandal in China where four of the firm’s executives admitted bribery and were jailed. Sheriff Dunlop is also listed in the documents as holding shares in Vodafone - which paid no UK corporation tax for the past two years despite massive profits and sales of £5 Billion in Britain last year.

And, in what must be a humiliating slap in the face of the Scottish Government, documents show Sheriff Principal Dunlop also holds shares in drinks giant Diageo, who are supporting the drinks industry’s legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s minimum alcohol pricing policy.

Another judge, Sheriff Iona McDonald who also holds the position of Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran, is revealed to invest in pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. GSK are also caught up in a huge corruption scandal in China over allegations it’s sales team targeted influential doctors with bribes, expensive gifts and cash to win business.

Among the list of other investments of SCS Board members are banks such as Lloyds - fined £218 Million for manipulating the Libor rate and Barclays - recently fined £26 Million for gold price fixing. Barclays were also fined £290 million over their part in the Libor rate rigging scandal.

Also on the list are insurance firms who do business with law firms all across Scotland and are directly linked to the Law Society of Scotland’s Master Insurance Policy - which protects corrupt solicitors from damages claims by clients who have been ripped off. A Research Report by the University of Manchester School of Law linked the Law Society’s Master Policy to suicides of court litigants & clients of Scottish solicitors.

Speaking to Diary of Injustice, a legal insider said: “While it may not be of concern to members of the judiciary which firms they choose to invest in, it should be of concern to the public, as many of these companies and their subsidiaries are regulars in the courts where judicial recusals are historically hard to come by on financial grounds.”

The SCS Board register of interests, which date back to 2010 – also list the shareholding portfolio of the then Lord President - Lord Hamilton. Additional declarations in the register reveal a snapshot of current SCS Board members directorships, trusteeships, links to businesses and relationships with shady regulators of the accountancy profession:

Lord President Lord Gill: Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884). Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg'd No 250031). Trustee of the Carmont Settlement: a trust for the support of retired priests of the Roman Catholic Church. Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Endowment Trust: a trust for the benefit of RCS and its students. Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust: a trust for the benefit of the RCS and its students. Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music, a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828). Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Sheriff Principal R A Dunlop QC: Member of Stirling University Conference. Chair of Local Criminal Justice Boards in Tayside Central and Fife. Commissioner of Northern Lighthouses. Trustee of St John's Kirk of Perth Trust. Elder of Gorebridge Parish Church of Scotland. Member of Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club. Member of the New Club, Edinburgh.

Sheriff Iona McDonald: Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran. Partner in property rental firm.

Johan Findlay OBE: Honorary Sheriff & Justice of the Peace

Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Chair West Fife Education Trust. Chair Relationship Scotland- Couple Counselling Fife. Chair - Discipline Committee ICAS (Institute for Chartered Accountants of Scotland – Accountants self regulator). Committee Member Cammo Residents Association.

Hon Lord Bannatyne: Chester Street (Limited Partner) Ltd on behalf of the Board if the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh. Member of the Board of the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh. Shareholder as Trustee for the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh, in Chester Street (General Partner) Ltd. Member of the Clergy Disciplinary Tribunal of the Episcopal Church.

Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway: No declarations of Directorships or other positions.

Multiple property ownership and interests in real estate, buy to let and property companies is big business for members of the judiciary and their family members – however there are no details or disclosures of any property directly owed by the SCS Board members contained in the declarations released by the SCS. It is as if Scotland’s top judges are on the homeless register – but it is clear from their wealth, they don't use food banks.

The limited disclosures of SCS Board members contain no references to outside earnings & work, relationships to law firms, big business and others more detailed declarations which may be picked up by a fully published register of judicial interests as is currently being investigated by the Scottish Parliament’s public Petitions Committee.who are considering proposals contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

The registers as released by the Scottish Court Service have now been handed to MSPs who are to be asked to consider the question of ethical investments of the judiciary as part of their on-going debate on proposals to create a full register of judicial interests for all Scottish judges.

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 earlier debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 can be found here: A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

COURT SECRETS: Scotland’s anti-transparency top judge Lord Brian Gill threatens media censorship in row over reporting access to court papers

Top judge Brian Gill warns media will be blocked from access to courts. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill has issued an UNPRECEDENTED Judicial ‘notice’ warning the media they will be blocked from access to reporting on court cases because of “significant concerns” relating to public disclosures of cases going through Scotland’s hugely expensive yet slow moving courts system.

The move by Lord Gill to censor media access to court documents and public reporting of criminal or civil cases often stuck in courts for years at huge expense to taxpayers and litigants, comes after increasing questions from the media and the Scottish Parliament on the inadequate state of Scotland’s justice system, and the secret undeclared interests of top judges on huge salaries who head our publicly funded courts.

What is little short of a judicial proclamation from Lord Gill, originally marked ‘not for publication’ but now available HERE on the Scottish Court Service website, states “For some time the Court has been reviewing the practice of allowing journalists an opportunity to see complaints and indictments for note-taking purposes before cases call in court.” 

The judge goes on to claim court staff have disclosed “excessive” amounts of information to journalists on cases citing unspecified “recent breaches” of the current understanding between courts and the media on how cases are reported in the press. The judge then makes reference to the Data Protection Act 1998 as an excuse for blocking transparency in court activities.

Lord Gill concludes his edict on press freedoms by stating “the media are reminded of their responsibilities in the matter.”

This latest anti-transparency move by Lord Gill, who signed the media order as Lord Justice General, has drawn criticism from legal insiders who accuse the top judge of creating a de facto media law which may considerably affect or even alter the outcome of cases in court.

It is also clear Lord Gill’s sweeping judicial notice - widely being interpreted as a major policy statement from Scotland’s top judge, has come about with little open debate, discussion or consultation with Parliament.

A solicitor speaking to Diary of Injustice criticised the secrecy move by Scotland’s top judge, claiming Lord Gill’s threatened ban on the press may alter the course of justice where media attention and public interest in how the courts handle cases is both desirable and a necessity in a democratic society.

He said: “If the Lord President is minded to ban the media from court access to cases, does this also have implications for litigants and legal teams who may also be prevented in the future from securing necessary access to information and evidence crucial to a person’s right to a fair hearing?”

Lord Gill’s media policy statement:


1. For some time the Court has been reviewing the practice of allowing journalists an opportunity to see complaints and indictments for note-taking purposes before cases  call in court.The review was necessary because of significant concerns arising from the  Data  Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) in relation to the disclosure of personal data and sensitive personal data in these documents.

2.  The current  practice  gives  journalists  an  opportunity to attend and report  on noteworthy cases; but  it is now clear that the information being disclosed is excessive for this purpose.

3.  In due course the courts will  move to an electronic  portal-based system  that will enable the media  to access  securely  information about  forthcoming  cases and,  in  time,  other  information  such  as  reporting  restrictions.  This  will provide sufficient information for reporting  purposes  but will ensure that  the court will comply with the requirements of the DPA.

4.  In  the  interim  the  current  practice  will  continue,  but  on  the  strict understanding that no information obtained from a complaint or indictment is to be published before a case calls in court.  In the light of recent breaches of that  understanding,  the  media  are  reminded  of  their  responsibilities  in  the matter.

Brian Gill Lord Justice General Edinburgh 30 July 2014


Scotland’s top judge Lord President Lord Brian Gill fiercely opposes calls for any form of transparency & public accountability of the judiciary and Scotland’s Courts.

Over the course of nearly two years, Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill has focussed his anger on a Scottish Parliament investigation into calls for a register of judicial interests. The register proposal would reveal the judiciary's 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.

Lord Gill refused at least two invitations to appear before the Scottish Parliament to give evidence and face questions on his opposition to the proposal to create a register of judicial interests. The top judge has also used the Scotland Act as a loophole to avoid further scrutiny on the matter.

Lord Gill’s challenge to MSPs declared judicial opposition to transparency. In Lord Gill’s opening letter to MSPs on the call for a register of judicial interests, the judge claimed “In practical terms it would be impossible for all judicial office holders to identify all the interests that could conceivably arise in any future case. The terms of the Judicial Oath and the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics ensure that such a difficulty does not arise and that the onus is on the judicial office holder to declare any interest at the outset.”

In what was a hint of the sheer hostility felt by the judiciary against a call to bring transparency to judges interests, Lord Gill went onto accuse the media, press, litigants, court users and just about everyone else with an interest in transparency of being potentially hostile and aggressive, simply because someone may wish to raise questions of judges interests similar to the same kinds of questions which are raised of interests in other public officials and those in public life, politics & government.

And, if MSPs were unsure of the depth of Lord Gill’s attitude towards transparency, the top judge went on to refuse to appear before the Scottish Parliament, and used a loophole in the Scotland Act to justify his sweeping declaration he did not require to answer questions from Scotland’s democratically elected politicians.

Lord Gill’s use of Scotland Act against MSPs was reported in the media. Writing in a letter to msps, Lord Gill implied cooperation with Parliament would be withdrawn over calls to make judges more transparent in register : “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”

The judge continued: “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.”

At a time when questions are being asked as to why Scotland’s antiquated, slow moving and expensive justice system has not kept pace with reforms to other public services, Lord Gill’s attempt to cover over the failures of Scots justice by closing down media access to the courts raises questions over the honesty of proposed changes contained in legislation currently going through the Scottish Parliament, changes which are derived from many recommendations Lord Gill once made in his Civil Courts Review.

Lord Gill’s latest Victorian venture has no place in a modern society in 2014, where courts funded by the public purse to the tune of enormous sums of money must be transparent, accountable and open to all, instead of being run by an ageing judiciary as a symbol of personal power, secretive wealth & undeclared interests and ultimately, nothing short of a business venture for the legal profession.

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