Thursday, May 07, 2015

Lord NO-NO to GO-GO: Scotland’s top judge Lord Brian Gill steps down after controversial three year term as Lord President - amid battles with Holyrood, media & transparency

Lord Gill to ‘retire’ after run-ins with politicians, press & transparency. SCOTLAND’S top judge, Lord President Lord Brian Gill has announced he is stepping down from office on 31 May 2015. Until a successor is found, the Lord President’s duties will be taken up by the Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Carloway.

Gill (73) who is Scotland's longest serving judge, has served a short three year term as Lord President, compared to previous holder of the office Lord Hamilton, who held the post for seven years.

In the course of a long and distinguished legal career Gill presided over significant changes to the Scottish legal system.

He also famously branded much of the Scots legal system as “Victorian” and “unfit for purpose” in his Scottish Civil Courts Review - which sought to change some of the antiquated structures of Scotland’s expensive, closed shop and out of reach civil courts.

However, many of the Civil Courts Review proposals were watered down by the Taylor Review, carried out at the insistence of the Scottish Government and the legal establishment - who feared giving the public easier and cheaper access to court may affect law firms’ profits.

For the past two years, Lord Gill fought a very public and bitter battle with the Scottish Parliament concerning MSPs investigations of transparency and accountability in the Scottish judiciary, amid plans to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary

The proposals to create a register of judicial interests envisages the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world.

Gill refused three invitations to appear before MSPs to give evidence on his intense opposition to a register requiring judges to declare their significant wealth and links to big business.

Faced with a no-show of Scotland’s top judge, members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee took evidence from Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) Moi Ali. During questions at the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Moi Ali told msps there was little transparency or accountability in Scotland’s judiciary.

And, in spite of Scottish Ministers attempts to thwart a debate at Holyrood last October 2014, msps overwhelmingly backed a motion urging the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests – reported along with video footage & the official record, here: Debating the Judges

At the recent Commonwealth Law Conference held in Glasgow during March 2015, Lord Gill fired another salvo at politicians, transparency and the democratic process – branding all as “insidious”.

Lord Gill told his startled audience: “The threats to judicial independence do not always come with a knock on the door in the middle of the night.  In a society that prides itself on the  independence  of  its  judiciary,  the  threat  may  come  in  insidious ways, even at the hands of well-meaning governments and legislators, in the name of efficiency and, ironically,  in the name of  transparency.”

After the speech, Gill and several judicial figures including Lord Neuberger fled the conference after learning Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was booked to speak at the event.

Lord Gill also supported the retention of corroboration – a key legal safeguard against miscarriage of justice - where evidence must be verified by two sources.

Brian Gill was first appointed as a Senator of the College of Justice in 1994. He was appointed Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General in June 2012, having held the position of Lord Justice Clerk from November 2001.

Under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will now establish a panel to recommend individuals who are suitable for appointment to fill the vacancy.

It has been rumoured for several months senior figures in the Scottish Government have lobbied for a female candidate to become Scotland’s first Lady Lord President.

Court of Session judge Anne Smith, who was made President of the tribunals service by Lord Gill last summer, is seen by some as ‘a good bet for the post’.


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.”

Even though Scotland’s top judge opposes the creation of a register of interests, MSPs held a debate in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on Thursday 7 October 2014, which saw cross party support for the proposal. MSPs overwhelmingly supported motion S4M-11078 - in the name of Public Petitions Convener David Stewart MSP on petition PE1458, urging the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a register of interests for judges.

The parliamentary debate was reported by Diary of Injustice along with video coverage here: TRANSPARENCY TIME: Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests

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 can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary

Civil Courts Review : Scots Justice still “Victorian” years after judge called for reforms:

The Scottish Civil Courts Review of 2009 authored by then Lord Justice Clerk, now Lord President Lord Brian Gill, castigated Scotland’s Civil Justice System as being Victorian, costly, and unfit for purpose, yet years on from the review, little of the proposed reforms have been implemented due to pressure from vested interests in the legal world, and a lack of political will to deliver access to justice to all Scots.

The Civil Courts Review can be viewed online here : Scottish Civil Courts Review Synopsis, Scottish Civil Courts Review Vol1 Chapters 1-9 & Scottish Civil Courts Review Vol2 Chapters 10-15

Gill, giving a speech to the Law Society of Scotland’s 60 year anniversary conference several years ago, reproduced in full here said : “The civil justice system in Scotland is a Victorian model that had survived by means of periodic piecemeal reforms. But in substance its structure and procedures are those of a century and a half ago. It is failing the litigant and it is failing society.

“It is essential that we should have a system that has disputes resolved at a judicial level that is appropriate to their degree of importance and that disputes should be dealt with expeditiously and efficiently and without unnecessary or unreasonable cost. That means that the judicial structure should be based on a proper hierarchy of courts and that the procedures should be appropriate to the nature and the importance of the case, in terms of time and cost. Scottish civil justice fails on all of these counts. Its delays are notorious. It costs deter litigants whose claims may be well-founded. Its procedures cause frustration and obstruct rather than facilitate the achievement of justice."

Previous articles on the Civil Courts Review and reforms of Scotland's antiquated civil justice system can be found on Diary of Injustice here: Scottish Civil Courts Review.


Anonymous said...

Threw in the towel did he?
Not surprised given he obviously mishandled the whole register thing.
You are a credit to Scotland Mr C.

Anonymous said...

Oh well his fault have no sympathy at all completely ludicrous way to behave just because you asked them to declare their stuff

Anonymous said...


I don't think so.

Sounds more like resignation.

Anonymous said...

Lady Smith for Lord President?
No thanks!

Anonymous said...

Regardless of his achievements Gill will always be remembered as Lord NONO

Anonymous said...

CLC2015 and the insidious speech too much for him to smooth over?

Anonymous said...

I hope it was worth it as you have landed us with Carloway, for now anyway


Anonymous said...

How did you find out about lobbying re a female LP?
This is/was only known to a few people..

Anonymous said...

Law blogger topples judge.
Not something you see every day.

Anonymous said...

He cant stand the heat so he has got out of the kitchen. Goodbye No No.

Anonymous said...

"The proposals to create a register of judicial interests envisages the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, offshore investments, hospitality, details on recusals and other information routinely lodged in registers of interest across all walks of public life in the UK and around the world."

Obviously too much for Gill to cope with.What an embarrassment. Scotland's longest serving judge from our world renowned justice system falling flat at the first hurdle of transparency.

Anonymous said...

He said all that at the Law Society and then turns on you and the parliament?
Not a very good top judge is he.Anyway well done hope we get someone better although reading around your blog all the lawyers in Scotland are the same prolly best avoid the lot!!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant news Peter.

Brilliant campaigning for truth on your part. You deserve a medal.

Hopefully now Moi Ai can make a swift return where she can begin where she left off packing-up Gill's personal belongings and opening the front door for him.

Anonymous said...


Scotland dodged a bullet there?

Only 2 years 11 months of total bampottery

Anonymous said...

Some jumped up little shit who works for Gill said in the boozer round from the CoS his boss was going to have you and the msps on that committee put in jail if your petition kept on going.

I believe you know who I am talking about.I heard the story got back to an msp although not sure if on petitions committee.

I am okay with you publishing my comment.

Anonymous said...

Better late than never I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Looks like he has had enough in the picture.What now and who will replace him?Any more reform friendly judges around or are they all as bad as Gill?

Anonymous said...

Have to wonder if this has got anything to do with that £58 million spend on the courts you have been writing about.

It is an enormous amount of money gone on what exactly? and then there is the stuff Andy Wightman wrote about the Parliament House titles all happening on Gill's watch and basically not a word nothing said until now.

Anyway good work you deserve some kind of credit for it even if the legal press try to put the whole thing off on fantastic career and elderly bloke retires to his allotment.

Anonymous said...

Well done Peter!

Anonymous said...

He stood down because you are right and he is wrong.It is THAT obvious.

Anonymous said...

so he prefers to go in disgrace rather than clear up the mess he caused over the register of interests

good riddance I say

Anonymous said...

No one politician can or would dare unseat a chief justice.
You did, using honesty as your argument.
No one can ever take this away from you.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant news!!

A job well done!

Anonymous said...

Gill has left you a great legacy of arrogant judges set against transparency.You can build on this and clean up the judiciary not only in Scotland because people around the world will take note of what happened in this debate and begin to think about their own judiciary.It is already happening if you search the web there are countries now bringing in registers of interest for their judges.
I firmly believe this is down to you and your work in writing about and publicising the debate we are having in Scotland.Whether your intention or not you will have a long lasting and far reaching effect on how people view the judiciary.
Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Preferably Moi Ali.Pity she is not a judge because she sounds a lot more honest about the judiciary than Gill and the judiciary do!

Anonymous said...

So what do you have on him/his colleagues so strong he jumped?

Diary of Injustice said...

@ 7 May 2015 at 18:22

Yes, but he is unlikely to become Lord President given the opposition among members of the judiciary to his stance on corroboration.

And, in relation to how the campaign to remove corroboration was promoted by COPFS, interest groups and certain politicians it could be said this was a much more threatening moment for independence of the judiciary than a mere requirement to disclose judicial interests and wealth...

As for who will be the next Lord President, perhaps it is time for a lady to take charge and one of the favourites - Lady Smith occasionally gives some smoking rulings.

Anonymous said...

If you keep going on about Anne Smith she wont get it!

Anonymous said...

Firstly I congratulate DOI on the invaluable work it does and has done for several years - during many of which it must have felt as if it was a voice in the wilderness.

Secondly, despite the criticisms which have been made of Lord Gill's attitude - and no doubt justified criticisms in many instances - I do not believe we should ever forget that for whatever reason he was the man who effectively 'blew the lid off' the Scottish legal system by not simply being the first senior judge to identify its many failings but also of having hsd the guts to publish his findings. How many other of similar stature have previously passed that opportunity by and kept their heads down?

I do not believe for a moment that Lord Gill's successor will follow his example, but will intead be much sooner consider themself a prisoner of vested interests and as such ready instead to foster and protect the present injustices which distinguish the Scottish legal system and what has become in many respects a sham, and pale imitation of due legal process.

Anonymous said...

God help us all if Lady Smith gets within a mile of the post of Lord President - 'partner' of a senior solicitor, formerly a member of Sheppherd & Wedderburn if I recall your earlier reports correctly; sworn enemy of party litigants, and guilty of equally impolite and some would say biased behaviour towards any counsel appearing before her from 'down south'.

I recall one such unfortunate professional saying they had never been so badly or disrespectfully treated by a judge in any Court and they would never again agree to appear before her. Doubtless word has spread amongst the profession in England.

Anonymous said...

Bye Bye Lord Go Go

On the way out you should do a written apology to our Scottish Parliament for the way you carried on.

Anonymous said...

Is there a case for bringing in a Lord President from abroad, due to the Judges in Scotland being reared in such a notoriously corrupt environment?

Anonymous said...

wont be missed and always another to take his place

Anonymous said...

The real question is why have the msps not just gone ahead and made a law for the register of interests you are asking for.

It is not a difficult subject to grasp and I keep reading comments from people on your blog and on other sites along the lines of they always assumed judges declared whatever until all this started up in the papers.

Does Scotland really support transparency?If they do then get this register into law and the judges will have to deal with it like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Maybe No No's capitulation will stop the dramatic fall into disrepute of Scotland's Justice System.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Gill's thinking has become so muddled that he has thought he was a Labour candidate?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he should have been gone awhile back

Anonymous said...

well at least your version has the truth in it not like the bullshit edition of Gill's retirement in the papers

Anonymous said...

Good riddance.You were in the Sunday Herald yesterday along with Nicola Sturgeon who foolishly backed Gill.

There must be something heavy going on when a judge has to drag out a politician to help him block disclosure of his own assets..

Anonymous said...

Now that the dark shadow has gone, who can be brought in to be trusted to radically change the direction of travel from a car-crash justice system to one that is transparent, accountable, modern and fair?

Does such a person exist?

Maybe, the mistake is in giving a Scottish judge a managerial role?

Afteral, what training has a judge undergone to learn about general management, skills and aptitude? It does not follow that just because a person is made Lord President that they somehow magically inherit managerial skills out of thin air?

Much better to retain The Lord President as Lord Justice General but to have a skilled manager to oversee the managerial functions of The Lord President?

This would not affect The Lord President being undermined or unduly influenced and his independence would be sacrosanct but a skilled manager would be able to improve transparency, improve efficiency and make the justice system more relevant and equitable?

This would have a knock-on benefit for Scotland's lawyers, who would, as a result better management control, be unable to continue to be slack, lazy and incompetent and would be forced to sink or swim based on their skill level rather than their self indignant right to charge and double bill whatever they want to screw their client's into the ground?

Anonymous said...

Some say, that Lord Gill had taken Scotland's Judiciary back further than the Dark Ages but if truth be told, it is rumoured that he was consulting with Fred Flintstone and Bobo about what he should do about transparency and Mr Cherbi's inspired petition?

Anonymous said...

The use of the Scotland Act to justify his sweeping declaration he did not require to answer questions from Scotland’s democratically elected politicians demonstrates that the Judiciary have too much power.

If Judges are not answerable to parliament and those who elect politicians they are free to do as they want. I assume Mr Gill does not now have to declare his financial business links and never will, and that is the real reason he has given up his tenure as Lord President. If you ask too many questions I don't want the job.

Anonymous said...

Logic dictates that someone needs to go through Gill's locked filing cabinet to uncover the hidden secrets.

Anonymous said...

It is essential that Moi Ali is begged to return, so that she can pick up where Gill cut her off, where she can put safe systems in place that no longer allow secrecy and self servitism to flourish.

Anonymous said...

This just goes to show the folly of entrusting Scotland's Lord President job to someone who was so anti-public that he put the wealth and secrecy of his fellow judges first before the best interests of the Scottish People, that Scottish Judges were somehow more 'special' than Scotland's People and by insisting the indefensible that Scotland's People were not entitled to know what Scottish judges were getting up to behind oak-panelled doors and the worst of it, that Scottish judges could do as they pleased because they were unaccountable to the Scottish People to the extant that they were above the law?

Anonymous said...

Now that the harbinger of secrecy and unaccountability has fallen on his wooden sword, we must now get to the bottom of the problem and have full disclosure of the convicted felons who are passing themselves off as Scottish judges, so that we can eradicate this corruption from our justice system?

Anonymous said...

A fine example of why judges should be elected and then screened at proper public hearings before the parliament like they do in the USA.

He is clearly long past his best and has done a lot of damage to the reputation of judges the way he has handled everything.

Anonymous said...

Looks like Gill forgot to tell that he had passed retirement age?

They call this the Monopoly benefit, for every year past retirement age they keep getting £200 (000) of the Tax Payer's cash for passing Go?

Anonymous said...

A ruthless yet very accurate appraisal of Brian Gill's term as LP.

Anonymous said...

Much you bet Gill will be demanding a £1Million leaving do, as befits such a State occasion?

Anonymous said...

General feeling in legal circles is you shaved a year off his term as LP..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
General feeling in legal circles is you shaved a year off his term as LP..

15 May 2015 at 15:20

A year.

More like a decade.

The ridiculously high cash salary is too much for them to give up willingly.

Should have been sacked for bringing the Scottish judiciary into disrepute?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
General feeling in legal circles is you shaved a year off his term as LP..

15 May 2015 at 15:20

Lord Gill shaved 100 years off the life of Scotland!

Anonymous said...

Is it true that Lord Gill wanted to return Scotland to the dark days of 1641 and the window tax, causing everyone to remove their windows and revert to wooden shutters?

All because he was against transparency?

Anonymous said...

No doubt about it in my mind, you push him out.Good for you.Proves there is a lot to hide and Gill knows this otherwise why else would he be so willing to go against the Scottish parliament over your petition.What a fool he made of himself and all the judges,the damage will never be repaired now until they come clean.

Anonymous said...

Amazing really looks like you won already he jumped because of the secrets and now judges look as dirty as the rest of the power and money set