Friday, August 14, 2015

REGISTER, M’LORD: Former top judge Brian Gill called to Scottish Parliament as Judicial watchdog tells MSPs - Judges should declare their interests in public register

Judges should be subject to register - Judicial watchdog. A REGISTER of interests for judges should exist - says Scotland's Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) in answer to questions from MSPs who are currently investigating proposals to increase judicial transparency as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

In response to questions from members of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, JCR Gillian Thompson OBE told MSPs: “I do not see that there is a reasonable argument to be made against people who are in public service—I might go further and say, in particular, people who are paid by the public pound—providing information, within reason, about their other activities.”

As msps deliberated the evidence presented by the JCR, committee member Jackson Carlaw (Scottish Conservative) also called for the now retired Lord Brian Gill to be invited again to the committee to give evidence and account for his stern opposition to the judicial transparency proposals.

Gill (73) –  waged a bitter two year long battle against proposals to create a register of judicial interests. The now retired Lord President previously refused two invitations to attend the Petitions Committee.

The judicial transparency petition which has been the subject of a two year investigation by Holyrood - proposes the creation of a publicly available register of judicial 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.

During the evidence session - held prior to Parliament’s summer recess - it also emerged the Scottish Government took legal advice on the proposal to require judges to declare their substantial wealth, links to big business and others.

The existence of the legal advice emerged from a Freedom of Information request recently passed to the Petitions Committee as part of their investigation of a judicial register.

Committee member & independent MSP John Wilson called for enquiries to be made of the Scottish Government in relation to the nature and origin of the legal advice – the details of which have not yet been made public to msps.

Facing further detailed questions from the committee, JCR Gillian Thompson remained of the view judges should declare their interests including business activities, shareholdings and more – in a publicly available register of judicial interests.

Gillian Thompson’s backing for a register of judicial interests continues the position taken by Moi Ali – Scotland’s first JCR – who continues to support the creation of a register of judicial interests.

Moi Ali previously attended the Scottish Parliament for an evidence session during September 2013, giving powerful evidence on the position of the judiciary and the lack of transparency & accountability of judges in Scotland. Moi Ali’s meeting with msps was reported by the media, along with video footage here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.

Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, John Pentland MSP commented: “The question for the Committee is this: is it reasonable for the ordinary man and woman to expect transparency from our judges in their dealings and their interests? Gillian Thompson, the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer believes it is, and echoed the views of her predecessor when she gave evidence to the Committee.”

Mr Pentland continued: “The Committee will continue to consider what further work could be done to increase transparency. It was unfortunate that Lord Gill felt it was inappropriate to give evidence while he was Lord President of the Court of Session, But as he has now stepped down from his role, the Committee has agreed to extend another invitation to him to discuss his perspective on this important topic. We also look forward to inviting the new Lord President to give evidence to the Committee, once they are in post.”

The Petition Committee's call to bring the former top judge before msps was reported in the Scottish Sun on Sunday newspaper:

IT'S TIME, LORD

Ex-judge faces parly secrets probe order

EXCLUSIVE by RUSSELL FINDLAY 28 June 2015

FORMER top judge Lord Gill could be forced to face a grilling by MSPs over secret business links.

He has twice snubbed requests to attend Holyrood.

As Lord President, he was free to opt out of giving evidence about proposals for a register of judges’ hidden interests, including commercial ties.

But since he retired this year, Lord Gill, 73 — who is against the plans — can be ordered to appear if he turns down a third invitation by parly's petitions It was issued after a plea by Tory Jackson Carlaw.

Mr Carlaw, right, said: "We need to hear from Lord Gill what it is he believes is risked by such a register.

"Another refusal would confirm the suspicion he doesn't fancy having to do what almost everyone else in public life has to do." Committee chief John Pentland confirmed the request.

The Labour MSP said: "As Lord Gill has stepped down, he has again been invited to give his perspective on an important topic."

In keeping with documenting the full debate on judicial interests, video footage and the full transcript of the Public Petitions Committee evidence session with JCR Gillian Thompson are reprinted below:

JCR Gillian Thompson OBE evidence to Scottish Parliament: Register of Interests for Judges Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 23 June 2015

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458), Evidence from Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE

The Convener (John Pentland): Good morning and welcome to the 13th meeting in 2015 of the Public Petitions Committee. I remind everyone to switch off mobile phones and electronic devices, as they interfere with the sound system. No apologies have been received.

Agenda item 1 is consideration of a continued petition, PE1458, by Peter Cherbi, on a register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary. As previously agreed, we are taking evidence today from the judicial complaints reviewer. Members have a note by the clerk and a submission from the petitioner, and they were sent a link to the previous judicial complaints reviewer’s annual report.

I welcome Gillian Thompson OBE, the judicial complaints reviewer, to the meeting and invite her to make a short opening statement of no more than five minutes, after which we will move to questions.

Gillian Thompson OBE (Judicial Complaints Reviewer): Good morning and thank you for inviting me. I will say a few words to put my appearance today in context. I have been in post since September 2014. I have a background in public service. I was a civil servant for 36 years, and since then I have gathered to myself a group of board memberships on charities and third sector organisations and now the post of judicial complaints reviewer.

I will tell you where I am with the work, because that was something that you asked my predecessor. Since I took up post, I have had 22 requests for review, 17 of which are outstanding. I am actively looking at three this week, and I hope to get rid of those by Friday. I inherited a backlog of 14 from my predecessor and I cleared those around 25 March 2015. That gives you a bit of a feel for how the work is going. The waiting time for people is around four to five months. I have not had any complaints about that, although I appreciate that it is not ideal.

I wrote to the committee at its request on 12 January. I am supportive of a register of interests. I always have been and that remains my position.

The Convener: Thank you, Gillian. In your letter to the committee, you wrote:

“We live in an age in which transparency about interests and activities of those in the public eye is regarded as good practice. There is a perception that anything less is the result of attempts to hide things.”

That suggests that anything less than the degree of openness that is associated with a register of interests would not constitute best practice and would be perceived as an attempt to hide things. Is that a fair interpretation?

Gillian Thompson: Absolutely. That remains my view.

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): Good morning. In your opening statement, you said that you were in favour of a register of interests. Will you expand a wee bit on why you are in favour of it?

Gillian Thompson: For the reasons that I set out in my letter in January, I do not see that there is a reasonable argument to be made against people who are in public service—I might go further and say, in particular, people who are paid by the public pound—providing information, within reason, about their other activities. People in this room, including me, keep a register of interests. In my experience, it is not particularly onerous. Of course, we would be talking about there being a register somewhere that somebody would have to keep and all the points that I made in my letter. However, registers need to be updated reasonably regularly. I will update mine shortly because I am taking on some new and different responsibilities.

For me, it is about a mindset. I cannot see arguments against it, I have to confess so, although I am experienced in giving a balanced view, I am not sure that I can do so on this occasion. People want to be able to feel that they are getting an even-handed response at court, whoever sits in judgment. They want to feel that there is no bias, and a register would go part of the way—it is all part and parcel of a wider picture—towards reassuring them that nobody is hiding anything.

Jackson Carlaw (West Scotland) (Con): Good morning. Do you consider yourself to be part of the establishment?

Gillian Thompson: I suppose that that depends on where you are sitting. No, I probably do not.

Jackson Carlaw: I do not know whether I am relieved. As far as I can see, the establishment—in so far as it exists—has been unanimously against any such register, as has the Government in, no doubt, the personage of Mr MacAskill, who was in the Government at the time we received the advice. He will speak for himself in due course.

Your predecessor was quite sympathetic towards a register of interests and, from what we have read, you are too. The former Lord President’s principal argument seemed to be that, unlike members of the Parliament, members of the judiciary would not have the opportunity to answer back if they were challenged in some way. Ironically, however, he did not deign to come before the committee to answer back in person to defend any of his assertions on these matters, so we have always had to try to read the runes. I think that our former convener and deputy convener were able to meet him privately, but they are no longer here.

The former Lord President’s argument was essentially that there was no need, in this era of transparency, for light to shine on the judiciary, and that some great malfeasance of justice could occur if it were to do so, but primarily it was that there was an obstacle to being able to rebut any assertions or claims that were made based on the register. Does that resonate with you as sufficient ground to disbar such a suggestion?

Gillian Thompson: No. My understanding of what Lord Gill had said before was that, as far as he was concerned, judges took an oath to uphold certain values, so nothing further than that was required, because the public would be able to rely on people in that position to know what they needed to do and to do it. I understand that, since the judicial complaints reviewer post was put in place in 2011, there is now a recusal process. Judges can recuse themselves and there is a register, or at least a list, of those people who have done so.

However, I am not persuaded by that argument. At the moment, people are able to make a complaint about the conduct of a judge in whatever form. I would have thought that some way could be found of challenging or answering back or having a review taken, if there is a list. I can see that there might be a need to extend the complaints process, but I do not know. It is a normal part of public service that people keep a register. It seems to me to be common sense.

Jackson Carlaw: Thank you.

Kenny MacAskill (Edinburgh Eastern) (SNP): I see the logic of where you are coming from, but who would impose the sanction in the event of a breach or failure? Would it come back to the Lord President or to yourself? Who would be the final arbiter of a failure to register or a failure to properly register?

Gillian Thompson: It is a bit of crystal ball gazing, is it not? The judicial complaints reviewer role stands and it does what it says on the tin in terms of the regulations. All that I can do at this juncture is to examine whether the rules have been followed in relation to the complaint. I do not look any further beyond that at all. There would obviously need to be consideration of how the process would work, but the Lord President currently has responsibility for sanctioning judges in the event that something is found against their conduct under the rules. I would have thought that responsibility would sit squarely on the shoulders of whoever comes along as Lord President in future.

Kenny MacAskill: Presumably, the register would be financial and pecuniary. A lot of the recusals that are made at the moment will be because a judge has knowledge of a witness or a relationship with them.

Gillian Thompson: Yes. It is a register of interests. I gave you my little register of interests, including what I am paid and which charities I support, and including my membership of the Scottish Dachshund Club, just to underscore the point. The answer to your question is yes. Why should not whatever is deemed appropriate for others, such as yourself and Government ministers, also be deemed appropriate for people who are sitting in judgment on others?

John Wilson (Central Scotland) (Ind): Good morning. I note that a voluntary register of recusal has been established. Can you confirm that, at present, a judge or sheriff can recuse themselves voluntarily?

Gillian Thompson: As far as I am aware, that is the case.

John Wilson: I make the point, because we have just seen the establishment of the first private bank for 150 years. It claims to have 250 shareholders, and it has been reported in the press that some of those shareholders are judges and sheriffs. Do you think that it would be appropriate for those judges or sheriffs to put themselves on the register if they were shareholders in a private bank?

Gillian Thompson: Why would they not?

John Wilson: Well—

Gillian Thompson: I am just raising the question—it is not an issue that I have thought about before now. My view is that anything at all that could be construed by a person in the street using everyday common sense as getting in the way or which might be perceived as getting in the way should go on a register. However, we should remember that it would not be for me to make such decisions, even if we were to get to that position.

John Wilson: My understanding is that you have been invited along to give us your views, because we respect the role of the judicial complaints reviewer—

Gillian Thompson: I appreciate that.

John Wilson: —and because we also took evidence from your predecessor in pursuing this petition. Your evidence will, I hope, indicate to the committee where we should go with this petition and the kinds of issues that it raises.

You said—and I am paraphrasing—that the ordinary person in the street should get to know whether a judge or sheriff has interests that might impact on their service or their hearing a particular case. How far would you want to take that? After all, there are issues about financial interests or people appearing in front of judges and sheriffs who might be members of the same golf club or, indeed, the Scottish Dachshund Club that you mentioned. If a register of interests for judges and sheriffs were to be established, how far would you want it to go?

Gillian Thompson: As I said on record at the outset, I am supportive of my predecessor’s position. There should be a register for judges in which they note their interests. Would we ever reach the point where a judge would say in court, “I want to register the fact that I know this person. We play at the same golf club,” or, “I don’t know this person”? In the context of this conversation, I have to say that I do not know. It would be necessary to give a bit more thought to the practicalities of that. All I can say is that, when I go to a meeting, we are asked at the beginning whether, for example, there has been any change to the register of interests that we keep in a particular context.

Just for the sake of clarification, I am supportive of a register of interests. I think that that is what the public, if they have thought about the matter, want. I might be asked for my opinion on what that might look like in its absolutely final state, but sitting here today, I am not sure that I can go into all the ins and outs of that.

John Wilson: I appreciate that, Ms Thompson. Thank you very much for your evidence.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): Good morning, Ms Thompson. Following on from that point, there is an argument that the information on a register could be abused by the media, hostile individuals or dissatisfied litigants. Do you have any views on that?

Gillian Thompson: It is an inevitability that, when you put information into the public domain, different interests might cross over. I had personal experience of that recently. I had to deal with an issue that arose with what looked like some sort of cross-purposing of some different roles that I hold. However, that was just a misunderstanding on the part of the person who was seeking to investigate a bit further. In my experience, one has to spend a bit of time unscrambling such misunderstandings, but I would not say that that is a reason for not having a register.

These things need to be managed, of course, as I indicated in my response in January. Somebody would need to hold the register and it would need to be managed—there is an on-cost to all of that. However, as I understand the nature of the petition, it is about seeking some clarity for those people who are going to court about interests that judges may hold that are not known.

Angus MacDonald: While I have the floor, I will go back to a point that was raised earlier. You indicated that you agree with your predecessor’s view that the powers of the JCR to review the complaints process are limited. If that is the case, do you have any plans to review the complaints process?

Gillian Thompson: It is not for me to review. I have said to the Scottish Government that we are four years into the role and I am the second person in the role so it is probably time to start thinking about the possibility of reviewing whether what was originally envisaged under the primary legislation, which was passed in 2008, is what is still required.

As a former civil servant, I am always supportive of the idea that, if we have a policy and a concept and the Parliament has agreed to legislation, once it has been in force for a while, at some point or another—a three or four-year period seems not unreasonable—we should go back to have a look at the legislation to see whether it still meets the requirements.

I am sitting in the role, but a review might say that we do not need a JCR. I am not saying that; I am just saying that there are a lot of ways to look at the issue and I would not be putting my hand up to say that we absolutely have to have the role. Bluntly, I am interested in whether the role is value for money for the public. At the moment, generally speaking, I hope that I am giving value for money. I am getting more efficient at doing the reviews, and the speed will come.

However, it is a very narrow role that looks only at whether the rules have been followed. It does not involve looking at anything else over and above that. It does not involve looking at the whys and the wherefores or asking how something could possibly happen or whether it is reasonable. There is none of that. I may have thoughts, but that is not my role.

Should there be a review? Yes, but it is not for me to do. I can give input, but the review is for someone else to carry out should they decide that there is scope and appetite for it and that it fits with all the other work that needs to be done.

Angus MacDonald: I presume, however, that it will be a priority that you will raise with the new Lord President once he or she is appointed.

Gillian Thompson: I will raise it, as I have already raised it with the Scottish Government and my contacts in the Scottish Government, including Mr Wheelhouse, whom I met in January.

Hanzala Malik (Glasgow) (Lab): You made a comment about it taking perhaps four to five months to deal with cases and you have suggested that that is perhaps a little long. What would be a reasonable time? Will you be able to meet that in the near future and reduce the time that it takes? I know that you have not been in post for very long, so I appreciate that I am effectively asking you to set yourself a challenge.

Gillian Thompson: I have already done that. As you may be aware, the Scottish Government’s contract with the JCR is for up to three days a month. I have been working more days than that, by agreement with the Scottish Government. From the middle of December 2014, I have been working four days a month.

The backlog refuses to go down, which is largely because of input. It is demand led, and a demand-led service on a restricted number of days will always be a bit of a headache for the person who is delivering the service and for the people who are waiting.

I put a proposal to the Scottish Government in May, I think, and it has agreed for me to do six days this month, next month and in August. Will I clear the backlog? No. However, with two days extra over and above the four, which is effectively twice as many days as what the contract says, I should be able to push through enough cases, but I would not like to say exactly how many. That of course depends on their complexity. Some cases are straightforward, whereas some require me to give a bit more thought and perhaps to seek clarification. Everybody is entitled to have me spend a bit of time thinking about what I will say. As the second person in the role, I have been able to pick up the processes that Moi Ali put in place. They probably need reviewing, but I do not have time to do that.

My hope is that, by the end of August, I will have substantially moved through the backlog. I have a background in public service, specifically in front-line service, and I do not think that it is appropriate for people to wait for as long as four to five months. I write to people to keep them up to date on how much longer they can expect to wait.

I do not want to put a figure on it today, other than to say that I am moving through the cases more quickly now. It takes about a day or perhaps a day and a half to do a reasonably complex case. I can do two cases in one day if they are pretty straightforward and there is not much paperwork. I would like to reach a position where there was no backlog and I was dealing with things as they came in but, frankly, I think that that is unlikely.

In addition to the 22 cases that have come to me since 1 September 2014, I have had seven inquiries. I have put a telephone number on the website, whereas there was not one before, so I get telephone inquiries, too. There are also events such as this meeting today and other meetings, which I do on days when I am not working. We need to be realistic about these things.

Hanzala Malik: I genuinely appreciate your response, which is honest and balanced. However, I do not think that what you are telling me actually helps you. It suggests that there is more pressure on what you are trying to achieve. I do not suggest for a moment that your work would be diluted, but there is a lot of pressure on you to get through the cases in the time that you are working. I suggest that you may want to explore the possibility of either getting more help or more days to try to achieve the good goals that you would like to achieve. I wish you good luck with that.

Gillian Thompson: Thank you. If there was to be a review, that would need to be part and parcel of it. Bear in mind that I do everything, such as housekeeping and maintaining the website, which really need attention. Those are things that I dream about at night—they do not keep me awake, but you know what I mean.

Hanzala Malik: Yes, I do—thank you very much.

The Convener: In an earlier response to Angus MacDonald, you said that it was not your responsibility to do a review of the rules. Do you believe that the current rules are fit for purpose?

Gillian Thompson: Are you talking about my role or the rules? The rules belong to the Judicial Office for Scotland.

The Convener: Do you believe that the complaints process that is run by the Judicial Office for Scotland is fit for purpose?

Gillian Thompson: It is fit for the purpose that is currently in place. I am in absolutely no doubt that the process that is in place at the Judicial Office for Scotland improved during the time when my predecessor was in post, although when she left she felt that she had not added the value that she would have wished to. Picking up where she left off, and having had a number of conversations and meetings with the Judicial Office for Scotland, I am satisfied that the process has grown organically and improved. The way in which the office deals with throughput and writes its letters has improved.

As we would hope, the complaints process has led to service improvement in the entity that the complaints are about. The new rules, which came into effect on 1 April 2015, are an improvement. There has been a bit of sequencing and streamlining of the rules and there is a bit more explanation for people who are trying to find their way through the system. The guidance leaflet was improved.

That deals with one part of your question. The other part—I am interpreting your question—is whether the JCR is fit for purpose. As it is currently constituted, it does what the regulations require of it. It could do more, but that would require somebody to say that more is needed. As I said, the JCR is very one dimensional.

The Convener: As you said, the new complaints rules were published on 1 April. How far did they go to addressing the concerns that your predecessor highlighted?

Gillian Thompson: They did so in small measure, I think. Forgive me if I am telling you something that you know, but Moi Ali had undertaken a mini consultation among the people who asked for a review. When the Judicial Office for Scotland did a consultation, Moi did her own consultation, which she passed to the Judicial Office. You may have seen that the Judicial Office, in tandem with publishing the rules, also published a consultation response, which set out what measures it had and had not taken on.

To answer your question, the Judicial Office went part of the way to responding to the concerns that the petitioner expressed about the rules and how they work. Some of that was around the understanding of a person who comes up against the rules. Sometimes, it is difficult for people who are inexperienced in such matters to understand properly what the different rules mean.

Because quite a bit of time went by, I was asked for my view, too. I offered what I hoped were helpful suggestions. The Judicial Office took a view on the totality of the responses that it got and made a determination to which the Lord President was able to agree. That does not fully answer your question, but it does in part. The committee might be interested in the Judicial Office’s response document. It is helpful in understanding the rule changes that were made.

John Wilson: Will you remind us how many responses were made to the review?

Gillian Thompson: I am not sure that I know. I have a piece of paper somewhere with me, which I can leave with you.

John Wilson: The information that we have in front of us says that there were five responses.

Gillian Thompson: It was a small handful; there were not masses. You can construe your own view on that.

I should clarify that I went back to the Judicial Office to ask whether it had taken into account my predecessor’s responses on the matter. I seem to remember being told that it had not.

John Wilson: That was going to be my follow-up question. I was going to ask whether your predecessor’s responses were included in those five responses.

Gillian Thompson: They were included as one response.

John Wilson: As one?

Gillian Thompson: Yes, I believe so.

The Convener: As there are no further questions, we will move on to deciding what actions we want to take on the petition.

Kenny MacAskill: We should write to the incoming Lord President, whoever he or she may be, to ask them what their views are given the clear expressions of not just one but two Judicial Complaints Reviewers. The new Lord President may be otherwise minded on the matter. It is incumbent on us to wait until we see what they say before we consider the petition further.

Equally, given Ms Thompson’s view, it might be worth asking the Scottish Government whether now is an opportune moment to review the JCR. That would be for the Scottish Government to deal with, rather than the Lord President.

There is the possibility of a new regime for the judiciary with the new Lord President. Equally, after four years, and into the second Judicial Complaints Reviewer, is the job what we want it to be or should it be reviewed? That need not be a lengthy consideration or review. Is the service doing what we want it to? If the role were to expand, which would be dependent on the Lord President, how much further should that go were there to be a judicial register?

Jackson Carlaw: When the petition first came before us, I was deeply sceptical of it. However, given the reaction to it and to our inquiries, I became more persuaded that it may have merit.

I support what Mr MacAskill said. I wonder whether, subsequent to the incoming Lord President giving us their view, they would offer themselves up to the committee to allow us to examine that or whether they will have the same position on appearing before the committee as their predecessor. It might be worth inquiring about that. First, however, we must see what they have to say on the matter.

I think that the previous Lord President’s principal reason why it was not appropriate to come before the committee was that he did not see how, while in office, it was incumbent on him to do so. Now that he is not in office, I wonder whether he would be willing to do that, to allow us to understand further his perspective on the matter. I was always open to persuasion on the issue. It has been the lack of a reasonable, sustained argument that has led me to remain sympathetic to the aims of the petition.

The clerk has advised me that it is not competent for the committee to initiate a bill of its own. Of course, it is open to any member of the Parliament to do so, in this session or the next.

As Ms Thompson has said, there seems to be a clear public interest in the issue, which has found expression. In the absence of a more substantive argument than the impression that it is not something that people want, the committee should be reluctant to allow the petition to run into the sand. We should do all that we can to sustain it and pursue its objectives for as long as we feel able to do so.

I support the suggestions that have been made, but I wanted to offer those additional thoughts.

John Wilson: I suggest that, if we are writing to the Scottish Government to seek its views, we get clarification on the further evidence that has been provided by the petitioner regarding the legal advice that the Scottish Government sought.

We have the correspondence that the petitioner received, which states that the Government feels that it is not advisable to release the legal advice at the moment. Could we ask for clarification of when that legal advice was sought and why the Government felt it necessary to seek that advice?

The Convener: Do members agree to the action that has been proposed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: I thank Ms Thompson for attending. I suspend the meeting for a couple of minutes to allow for a changeover of witnesses.

10:12 Meeting suspended.

The petition will next be heard at the Scottish Parliament during late September or early October 2015.

Earlier this year it emerged a secret meeting was held in February between Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse and Lord Gill during February - to discuss joint efforts between the Scottish Government and senior judicial figures to undermine proposals for increased judicial transparency.

Some weeks after the meeting, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon issued a letter of intervention declaring she felt judges should be able to conceal their interests and other activities – activities which now extend from shareholdings in corrupt businesses to lobbying for fracking interests to tax avoidance and more. The Scottish Government’s attempt to thwart a register of judicial interests was reported in the media here: INTERESTS INTERVENE: First Minister joins top judge in bid to block register of judicial interests

Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse - who attended the secret meeting – was recently accused of misleading msps in an earlier evidence session at Holyrood held in December 2014

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

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good to see the msps sticking to their guns.Gill must now show up and explain himself.Well done all.

Anonymous said...

Missed that one!

Good to see the new Judicial Complaints Reviewer back up your petition and 'Why not' as Gillian Thompson says herself!

Anonymous said...

"A REGISTER of interests for judges should exist - says Scotland's Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) in answer to questions from MSPs"

Yes indeed it should.However someone must now answer the question why such a register has not existed up to now given the corruption in our justice system and the links to big business and bankers.

Anonymous said...

“I do not see that there is a reasonable argument to be made against people who are in public service—I might go further and say, in particular, people who are paid by the public pound—providing information, within reason, about their other activities.”

Well said Gillian Thompson,completely agree!

Anonymous said...

Very good.
Gill must now attend given he is no longer a judge and he will have to face the music his own actions created.

Anonymous said...

An interesting debate and with Nicola Sturgeon trying to derail the investigation into judges you can just tell from that alone there is much to hide.Probably corruption at high levels and I assume a lot of court hearings where judges have stacked the odds for whichever side plays in their financial favor.

There is no argument against transparency.This is just to protect judges on the take and politicians in the Scottish Government who benefit from it.

Anonymous said...

Watching Jackson Carlaw sort out MacAskill was a treat and very well done.

Good to see your petition coming along fine and all this information now in the public domain - where it should be.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Gill does not have the courage to show up after what he did.You just need to read all those sarcy letters he sent to the committee if he shows up now how is it going to look after all those threats and intimidation he vented about you and the media and this Scotland act thing.

Anonymous said...

Kenny MacAskill looks totally deflated after hearing all that!
He must have been expecting another line sadly lost because everyone gets it - judges should declare their interests and it is so obvious this has to be made into law.

Anonymous said...

All judges everywhere (not just in Scotland) should declare their interests in some kind of register.It is just plain bonkers they have been allowed to get away with it for so long.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with Gillian Thompson anyone on the public payroll have to be transparent,it is what they require of us so works both ways.And in the case of judges obviously they have to be even more transparent so get declaring M'lord Gill and co.

Anonymous said...

If I read this correctly Scottish Ministers took legal advice about your petition?
When did this occur and what does it say?

Anonymous said...

I doubt Gill will attend..

Anonymous said...

Good comments there from John Wilson who seems to be well up on transparency related topics.

Holyrood needs more msps like him.

Anonymous said...

Just to add to a comment I just posted can you tell me what bank John Wilson is referring to in his comment

John Wilson: I make the point, because we have just seen the establishment of the first private bank for 150 years. It claims to have 250 shareholders, and it has been reported in the press that some of those shareholders are judges and sheriffs. Do you think that it would be appropriate for those judges or sheriffs to put themselves on the register if they were shareholders in a private bank?

Gillian Thompson: Why would they not?

Anonymous said...

How did it ever come about judges refused to publish their interests??

Anonymous said...

"The judicial transparency petition which has been the subject of a two year investigation by Holyrood - proposes the creation of a publicly available register of judicial 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."

And just why is such an honourable set of people such as the judges claim to be so dead against a register of their interests?

The answer must be they have too much to hide.Well from what I read on the internet this is happening in other countries now so as you say it is time to drag Scotland into the 21st Century and list the judges interests too.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I dont see how the parliament can back away from a judicial register now.Two judicial watchdogs support it and the only ones opposed are the judges who ended up resorting to threats and blackmail.
Whatever happens this has to be one of the better debates at the Scottish Parliament getting so far despite the judges and lawyers trying to put an end to it.
Good work.

Anonymous said...

The legal advice must be made public none of this secret advice nonsense again like with the EU liar and Salmond claiming he had legal advice to stay in the EU and sink with Greece

Anonymous said...

Wonder how many judges have hidden their assets and so on since the parly started investigating judicial interests..

Justice Diary said...

@ 14 August 2015 at 21:59

The extent of resistance to a register of judicial interests gives an indication as to the level of dishonesty in the courts and bowing to vested interests ...

@ 17 August 2015 at 18:33

The bank referred to is Hampden & Co, Edinburgh which featured in a Scottish Sun investigation, excerpts from which feature in a previous blog article YOUR BANK, M’LORD? The £40m trail of secretive judicial interests, billionaires, aristocrats & offshore trusts in Hampden & Co

@ 17 August 2015 at 09:55

The legal advice will be reported in an upcoming article.

Anonymous said...

MacAskill fell off the rails with that one.Given he opposed the petition as a Scottish Minister is he here doing Sturgeon's dirty work in an attempt to kill it off?