Thursday, November 19, 2015

JUDGE ANOTHER DAY: Sparks fly as top judge demands MSPs close investigation on judges’ secret wealth & interests - Petitions Committee Chief brands Lord Gill’s evidence as “passive aggression”

Lord Gill demanded MSPs close probe on register of judges’ interests. A ‘RETIRED’ top judge who twice snubbed giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament and instead flew to Qatar for a taxpayer funded five day state visit - has demanded MSPs close a three year investigation into proposals calling for judges to declare their interests.

In a stormy session at Holyrood last week, Lord Brian Gill (73) finally sat before the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee and called on MSPs to close down a three year investigation of judges’ interests & business links as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.

The proposals, widely backed by MSPs after the issue was debated in the Parliament’s main chamber last October 2014 - Debating the Judges - call for 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  tough exchanges between the ‘retired’ judge and MSPs, Lord Gill got into arguments with members of the Petitions Committee, reflecting his underlying aggressive tone at being hauled before MSPs he twice refused to meet.

In an angry exchange with MSP Jackson Carlaw, Lord Gill demanded to control the kinds of questions he was being asked. Replying to Lord Gill,  Mr Carlaw said he would ask his own questions instead of ones suggested to him by the judge.

And, in responses to independent MSP John Wilson, Lord Gill dismissed media reports on scandals within the judiciary and brushed aside evidence from Scotland’s independent Judicial Complaints Reviewers – Moi Ali & Gillian Thompson OBE – both of whom previously gave evidence to MSPs in support of a register of judges’ interests.

Facing further questions from John WIlson MSP on the appearance of Lord Gill’s former Private Secretary Roddy Flinn, the top judge angrily denied Mr Flinn was present as a witness – even though papers prepared by the Petitions Committee and published in advance said so. The top judge barked: “The agenda is wrong”.

And, in a key moment during further questions from committee member Mr Wilson on the integrity of the judiciary, Lord Gill angrily claimed he had never suspended any judicial office holders.

The top judge was then forced to admit he had suspended judicial office holders after being reminded of the suspension of Sheriff Peter Watson.

A statement issued by Lord Gill at the time of Watson’s suspension said: “The Lord President concluded that in the circumstances a voluntary de-rostering was not appropriate and that suspension was necessary in order to maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”

Several times during the hearing, the retired top judge demanded MSPs show a sign of trust in the judiciary by closing down the petition.

During the hearing Lord Gill also told MSPs Scotland should not be out of step with the rest of the UK on how judges’ interests are kept secret from the public.

Questioned on the matter of judicial recusals, Gill told MSPs he preferred court clerks should handle information on judicial interests rather than the details appearing in a publicly available register of interests.

Lord Gill also slammed the transparency of judicial appointments in the USA - after it was drawn to his attention judges in the United States are required to register their interests.

In angry exchanges, Lord Gill accused American judges of being elected by corporate and vested interests and said he did not want to see that here.

However, the situation is almost identical in Scotland where Scottish judges who refuse to disclose their interests, are elected by legal vested interests with hidden links to corporations.

Speaking after the evidence session, legal insiders said: “Lord Gill appeared to have been made Lord President for a day to go into the Scottish Parliament and order the closure of a petition.”

However, after hearing Lord Gill’s evidence, several MSPs on the committee – including Angus MacDonald (SNP) who earlier backed the call for a register of judicial interests – decided they did not want to call the new Lord President to give evidence.

The move goes back on a decision under the Committee’s previous Convener – John Pentland MSP – to call the new Lord President who is still to be named after a secret six month selection process.

Speaking to the Scottish Sun newspaper, Petitions Committee Convener Michael McMahon MSP said the committee would now write to the new Lord President instead.

And, while saying he was impressed by Gill’s ability to defend his corner, MSP Mr McMahon described Lord Gill as displaying “passive aggression” during his evidence before the committee.

The Public Petitions Committee will debate the evidence and demands from Lord Gill at a future hearing on 1st December 2015.

The Scottish Sun reports:

Holyrood axes plan for grilling top judge

Exclusive: By Russell Findlay, Scottish Sun 15 November 2015

POLITICIANS have axed plans to grill Scotland's next top judge on secret wealth and business links.

The U-turn came as the former Lord President finally agreed to discuss a judicial register of interests with MSPs.

After tetchy exchanges with Lord Gill, 73, the petitions committee have now dropped the move.

It will instead write to his successor then decide whether to invite them.

Committee chair Michael McMahon said: "Despite Lord Gill's passive aggression, I was impressed by his ability to defend his corner.

"The committee has reviewed its decision to automatically invite the incoming Lord President."

The peer twice snubbed committee invites when he held the £220,655 post.

Legal reform campaigner Peter Cherbi said: "The public is entitled to hear the views of the serving Lord President rather than the retired one."

Evidence of Lord Gill before the Scottish Parliament 10 November 2015

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener (Michael McMahon): Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 18th meeting in 2015 of the Public Petitions Committee. I remind all those who are present, including members of the committee, that mobile phones and BlackBerrys should be completely turned off because they interfere with the sound system even when they are switched to silent.

The first item of business is consideration of PE1458, by Peter Cherbi, on a register of interests for members of Scotland's judiciary. The committee will be taking evidence from the Rt Hon Lord Gill, who is a former Lord President of the Court of Session. I welcome Lord Gill to the meeting. He is accompanied today by Roddy Flinn, who is legal secretary to the Lord President. I invite Lord Gill to make a brief opening statement, after which we will move to questions.

The Rt Hon Lord Gill (Former Lord President of the Court of Session): Thank you, Mr Convener, for your welcome. Your predecessor wrote to me in June this year to invite me to discuss with the committee my views on what the petition seeks. I am happy to do that today. It seems to me that the petition raises some straightforward questions as to the purpose of the proposal and the problems that it seeks to deal with, if they exist.

Behind that, in my view, there are wider constitutional issues regarding the position of the judiciary in Scotland. Also, there is a question to be asked: what is the committee's opinion of the judiciary that we have?

I do not want to take up time—I want to leave as much time as possible for the committee's questions. For the moment, I shall simply say that I am not entirely certain what is to go into the proposed register, I am not clear what current problems there are that the register would solve and I am, therefore, sceptical about what it would achieve.

I hope that there will be time for us to take a wider view of the matter and to consider that perhaps the constitutional questions are such that the petition may not be the appropriate way to deal with them. It seems to me that there is a very serious question about why Scotland should wish to be out of step with every other jurisdiction in the United Kingdom, and with New Zealand, which is the example that the petition mentions.

With that, Mr Convener, I am happy to discuss whatever matters the committee wishes to raise.

The Convener: Thank you for introducing your thoughts for our consideration. I will pass over to members of the committee, because my throat may not last very long this morning; I do not want to use it too much.

John Wilson (Central Scotland) (Ind): I wish a good morning to Lord Gill and Mr Flinn. In what capacity is Mr Flinn here today in the witness chair? He works for the Lord President's office, and Lord Gill is a former Lord President. I just want clarity, given that when Lord Gill was Lord President he refused to come before the committee to give evidence. He met the previous convener and deputy convener privately to discuss the petition.

Lord Gill: I can answer that very simply. When I was Lord President, Mr Flinn was my legal secretary and he was closely involved in this aspect of the work of my office. He is here today simply because he is familiar with the documentation. If I need to refer to any documents, he will help me to do so. I think you said that he is a witness: he is not.

John Wilson: It is a matter of record in the paperwork that has been presented to the committee this morning. The agenda says that we will

"take evidence from—

Rt Hon Lord Gill, former Lord President of the Court of Session" and "Roddy Flinn, Legal Secretary to the Lord President."

I wanted clarification on that. I assumed that Mr Flinn was here because he was your legal secretary, when you were the Lord President.

Lord Gill: The agenda is wrong, Mr Wilson.

John Wilson: Lord Gill, I am reading from what I have in front of me. The agenda stipulates "take evidence from". I am sure that in your line of work—

The Convener: For clarity, if Lord Gill wants to defer to Mr Flinn to answer a question, or if a member of the committee wants to ask Mr Flinn a question directly, that will be perfectly in order, in which case Mr Flinn will be a witness. I do not think that it is any more complicated than that.

John Wilson: I am just trying to get it on the record because we had a problem when the

committee previously tried to get evidence. We will return to the issue later.

To get to the heart of the matter, we are discussing a petition that was lodged by Peter Cherbi. In your view, Lord Gill, is a register appropriate or necessary?

Lord Gill: I do not think that such a register is either of those things.

John Wilson: Right. Peter Cherbi has previously provided the committee with various pieces of evidence to justify his position. Since the petition was introduced, the register of recusals has been introduced. We now know of cases in which a judge or a sheriff has recused themselves because they have an interest. There was a situation in which a judge recused themselves because of a conflict that was represented by their membership of RSPB Scotland, which meant that they felt that they could not hear a case.

Part of the difficulty, as I understand it, is that the register of recusals is a voluntary register; it is up to judges and sheriffs to decide to recuse themselves from hearing a case. Surely if we had the type of register that is suggested by the petition, there would be less need for recusal because the interests of the person sitting on the bench in judgment of a case would be publicly available.

Lord Gill: There are two points to make in answer to that. One is that the register of recusals is not voluntary. To the best of my knowledge, the clerks of court are scrupulously accurate in keeping the register and therefore, wherever there is a recusal, you may depend upon its being recorded in the register.

However, perhaps the more important point is that there are countless cases in which the register does not even come into play. You may find in a sheriff court—particularly in the country areas—that the sheriff will say to the sheriff clerk that they should make sure that the sheriff does not get any cases that come to the court involving such-and-such a body or person, because they have a connection. The result is that such cases never reach the sheriff, so the register never comes into play. That has always been the case. After a while, most sheriff clerks will know exactly the sorts of cases to which the local sheriff may have some sort of connection. I do not really see it as a problem.

The other thing of course—forgive me for adding this point—is that what has become very clear from the register of recusals is that the vast majority are related to circumstances that a register such as that which the petition proposes would not cover in any way. For example, if the sheriff sees the defender's witness list on the night before a case and recognises the name of someone who is a close friend, he would immediately recuse himself. However, a register of assets such as the petition proposes would be of no value in a situation like that.

John Wilson: In your opinion.

We have heard from the current Judicial Complaints Reviewer and the previous one, both of whom indicated that they would welcome a register of interests. The current Judicial Complaints Reviewer added that she would like the register to include information about hospitality that had been given or received. Are the Judicial Complaints Reviewers wrong in their opinion that there should be a register, and is the current reviewer wrong in her opinion that the register should include information about hospitality that has been given or received? A recent press article highlighted a situation with regard to sheriffs who were involved in overseas trips. One sheriff in particular has called for all his peers to be removed from their committee because he has accused them of leaking information about sheriffs' overseas trips. Surely if we had a register in which such matters were publicly declared, there would be less need for accusations to be made against sheriffs or judges in relation to their activities in the UK, Scotland or elsewhere in the world.

Lord Gill: The first Judicial Complaints Reviewer was very strongly of the opinion that there should be a register of assets for judicial office holders. As you will obviously infer, I disagreed entirely with her about that. As for the current reviewer, I think that she probably came here to speak about something rather different but was asked about the suggested register of assets and expressed her views. All I can say is that I do not agree with them.

However, I think that in your question you have perhaps rather changed the agenda of this meeting; my understanding is that what we are here to discuss the proposal in the petition that there be a register of judicial office holders' assets and property. If you are now suggesting that you want a register of gifts and hospitality, that is a separate issue that would have to be dealt with separately.

John Wilson: I was referring to comments by the current Judicial Complaints Reviewer, who came to the committee to discuss the petition that is before us this morning. In response to questions that she was asked, she indicated that she felt that there should be a register of interests and that she would extend it to include hospitality that had been given or received. I agree that that would widen the scope of the register that is proposed by the
petition, but the issue was raised by the Judicial Complaints Reviewer in her evidence to the committee.

Lord Gill: I have read her evidence.

David Torrance (Kirkcaldy) (SNP): Good morning, Lord Gill. Can you expand on why you think that the current safeguards are sufficient?

Lord Gill: It is very obvious that, for a long time in Scotland, the judiciary has operated on a basis of integrity deriving from the judicial oath that they take on appointment. The terms of that oath are stark and plain; they are the lamp by which every judge is guided in his judicial path. In the modern era, we have added to that the code of judicial ethics, which is a carefully crafted document that went through a wide consultation process. That code gives every judicial office-holder clear guidance on all the ethical problems that are likely to occur.

The question is: does the Public Petitions Committee trust the judges of Scotland to do what they do with integrity and honour or does it feel that, among the judicial office-holders of Scotland, there are men and women who are liable to act wrongfully? It depends on how you approach the problem. It may be that, if your starting point is a belief that among the judges and sheriffs there are men and women who are capable of hearing cases in which they have a personal interest and therefore are capable of being guilty of misconduct contrary to their oath, I can see that there is an argument for having a register. However, as you can imagine, Mr Torrance, I take the opposite view.

After nearly 50 years in the legal profession, I believe more strongly than ever that the Scottish judiciary are dedicated and committed, honourable and loyal to their judicial oath and that they have integrity. If I had thought that, among the judicial office-holders in Scotland, there were men and women who did not have that standard of honour, I would not have wished to be their leader.

John Wilson: In your term of office as Lord President, how many judges or sheriffs were suspended or removed from the bench for inappropriate behaviour?

Lord Gill: None that I know of.

John Wilson: What about acting sheriff Watson?

Lord Gill: Sheriff Watson was a temporary sheriff—

John Wilson: Acting sheriff.

Lord Gill: Just a moment—may I finish? He was not, as you put it, removed from office. What happened was that a litigation arose in which he was involved and I, in the exercise of my discretion, suspended him from sitting as a temporary sheriff until the matter was resolved.

John Wilson: I go back to my original question, convener. How many sheriffs or judges were suspended or removed from the bench during your term of office as Lord President?

Lord Gill: As I told you, the answer is that I suspended temporary sheriff Watson and I did not suspend any other judicial office-holder. It was not in my power to remove them from office, because judicial office-holders can be removed from office only by a procedure that involves the First Minister and the Scottish Parliament.

The Convener: If there had been a register and that temporary sheriff had registered an interest, would that have helped at all or had any implications for your decision?

Lord Gill: No. You have made my point, convener. That would not have been caught in a register. By the way, we cannot make any judgments of fact about that case because it is still, as I understand it, under litigation. We do not know what the facts are.

Angus MacDonald (Falkirk East) (SNP): Good morning, Lord Gill and Mr Flinn. As we have heard, one of your main arguments is that judges have a different role from that of other public officials. Will you explain in more detail the way in which the role of a judge is different from that of other public officials and why that merits the judiciary being treated differently in respect of a register of financial interests?

Lord Gill: If someone is, let us say, a councillor in a local authority, and they are engaged in the business of the authority, they will be involved in making decisions that involve the spending of council money, the placing of contracts, the purchasing of services and so on. It is perfectly understandable that, when an individual councillor votes on whether a company should be given a contract, it should be publicly known what if any interest that councillor has. Judges fulfil an entirely different function: they administer the law, they resolve disputes between parties and, by their imaginative development of the law, they improve and extend the law, explaining it in their judgments. That is an entirely different constitutional function.

In a devolved Scotland, the ministers, the legislators such as you and the judges, as I once was, carry out their different functions in their own different ways. That is dependent on their doing so in a spirit of mutual confidence in which the three organs of the state carry out the functions in the knowledge that they have the trust of the others. That is why, in Scotland today, our devolved democracy is working so well.

The assumption underlying the petition raises a matter of extreme concern. The petition implies that there are judicial office-holders in this country who are unfit to hold that office. If the committee accedes to the principles behind the petition, that would be regrettable, because it would mean that the committee had evinced its own belief that there are judges and sheriffs who are not to be trusted. I invite you, as a committee, to demonstrate your confidence in Scotland's judiciary. If you were to do that, I am convinced that both you as legislators, and the judiciary, would be all the better for it.

Angus MacDonald: Thank you. It was important to get that fundamental view on the record.

What is your view of the fact that the United States of America has successfully introduced a register of judicial interests? Has the system in the States increased public confidence in the judiciary?

Lord Gill: I do not know that we would want to have a judiciary here that is like the one in the United States. It depends on your personal point of view. I do not give you my view, but I am sure that you can guess what it is.

Angus MacDonald: I will not pick up on that particular point.

Has there been any evidence on the impact that the US system has had on the independence of judges or the way in which the media treats judges in the USA?

Lord Gill: I would be very sorry to see a judiciary in which candidates ran for election and in which candidates' election campaigns were based on fundraising from companies and corporations that might be litigants in their courts. I would also be very sorry if the day ever came where, before appointment, judges had to come before a committee of this honourable legislature for confirmation and for examination of their political, ethical and social views.

Jackson Carlaw (West Scotland) (Con): Lord Gill, I am delighted that you are with us this morning. When the petition first came before us, in 2012, I thought that it was rather vexatious, but we went through our normal process and initiated inquiries, as is our wont. What surprised me, given that you have a record of giving evidence to other committees of the Parliament and given that there is nothing terribly controversial in the evidence that you have given us this morning in response to the petition, was that you felt it inappropriate to comment to the committee at that much earlier stage, before the petition started to gain attention and momentum in the media.

You met the then convener and deputy convener, but only privately—I presume, to say to them what you have said to us today. Unfortunately, that gave wind to those who felt that there was something slightly paternalistic in the suggested approach, which was along the lines of saying, "I am not terribly interested in discussing this. I have told you that I think it is largely a bunch of nonsense. Please accept that to be so and carry on," if I can put it like that. I am interested in knowing what your reluctance was. Also, what did you feel could be said only in private then that you feel able to say today?

Lord Gill: I do not know whether it was you, Mr Carlaw—I think that it may have been you—

Jackson Carlaw: I probably added a bit of colour.

Lord Gill: You said that I looked down upon the hoi polloi.

Jackson Carlaw: I freely admit to adding a bit of colour in order to compensate for the magisterial response that we received, Lord Gill.

Lord Gill: Your remark might have come as a surprise to people who know me. However, that is all water under the bridge and we cannot keep harping on about it forever. The main thing today is to discuss the petition, which is what I am here to do. You have asked the question and I have a jolly good answer for you. Here it comes.

In two detailed letters, I set out my reasons for being against the petition. I hope and I think that I set out those reasons with the greatest clarity. I had no further reasons to add; therefore, I was quite satisfied that I had placed before the committee all the help that I could give it.

I have appeared on numerous occasions before the Justice Committee in this very room, so it is not as though I have an aversion to appearing before committees. I am happy to be here today and I am enjoying this stimulating conversation. However, as I had given you all that I could give you, there was nothing to be gained by my coming here.

I also had to consider the office of the Lord President, which I then held, and my judgment was that it was not a situation in which, under the Scotland Act 1998, it was necessary that I should come here for examination before the committee. That was my view. I am aware that you take a different view and I hope that, in differing on that, we will not fall out.

Jackson Carlaw: I am sure that we will not.

Lord Gill: Thank you for that.

Jackson Carlaw: Obviously, you met the then convener and deputy convener privately to explore the very issues of the advice that you felt you had given us. I only suggest that your doing so created, beyond this committee, an impression that there was a reluctance to bear witness to the advice that had been given or to allow us to explore with you the contrary advice that we had received from the former chair of the JCR, which you have dismissed again this morning.

Lord Gill: No. I think that that is a highly overdramatised view of what I did. It seemed to me that, since there was concern among the committee, it was perfectly reasonable for me to meet the then convener and discuss his concerns. What came out of that was really quite helpful, because I was able to tell him things that he did not know. For example, I told him that, if he wanted to know what all my assets were, he could go to the Scottish courts website and find them. He did not know that. I also told him that I was perfectly happy to institute a recording system for recusals if that would help, and he said that he thought that that would be a good idea. I went back to my office and my staff duly implemented it.

Jackson Carlaw: Okay. I should say that I remain—

Lord Gill: Have you got any questions for me about the merits of the petition, Mr Carlaw?

Jackson Carlaw: I remain broadly sympathetic to the views that you have expressed. I simply say to you that it was unfortunate that we found ourselves in the position that we did. You spoke movingly—

Lord Gill: Mr Carlaw, this is water under the bridge now. I am here to talk about the petition.

Jackson Carlaw: That is why I am moving on.

Lord Gill: Well, please ask me some questions about the petition. That would be the most profitable use of time.

Jackson Carlaw: I will ask questions on the petition and on the remarks that you have made in opening and in your responses to questions. Forgive me, but allow me to frame my own questions rather than have them suggested to me.

Lord Gill: Please do.

Jackson Carlaw: You spoke movingly and with conviction about why you feel that the petition is inappropriate and unnecessary. The leaders or representatives of every profession that has ever been the subject of such a register probably said much the same about the character of the individuals with whom they kept company. That in itself is not an argument against a register.

You said that the register would put us out of step with the rest of the United Kingdom, which is something of a monkey see, monkey do argument. Scotland has led the way on a number of aspects of legislation, and the fact that other parts of the United Kingdom have chosen not to do something is not in itself an argument.

Despite the eloquent way in which you spoke about the character of the individuals who are involved, uncomfortably for us both, perhaps, do we not live in a more cynical age in which transparency and the aims of the petition have become part of commonplace life and something that many members of the public now expect of us irrespective of where we serve?

Lord Gill: You may be right. It may be that the public and perhaps even the legislature are in a more cynical frame of mind than in the past. That might be just an aspect of the modern world. However, I know of no example of a case that such a register would have prevented from occurring. As far as I can see, any problems that are likely to arise in the area are exactly the sort of problems that the petition would not address. I have mentioned the most common one, which is the case in which the judicial office-holder knows one of the parties or one of the witnesses. A register would not pick that up.

The petition also mentions the New Zealand situation. As the committee may know, when the proposal was put to the New Zealand Parliament in February, it was defeated by 104 votes to 16. If the committee does not have the documentation about that, I would be happy to make it available. I read it in preparation for this meeting. That proposal arose from a most unfortunate situation in which a judge in a case owed money to one of the lawyers. Obviously, it was deplorable that such a judge would sit in that case, but you will appreciate that that would not be caught by the proposed register. What it really comes down to is that a register would not meet what appear to be the concerns. On the contrary, there is no evidence base to support the proposal.

Jackson Carlaw: In essence, your argument, beyond all others, is that the objective as established in the petition by the petitioner would not necessarily satisfy the objective that he is potentially trying to seek.

Lord Gill: That is my view.

Jackson Carlaw: Finally, given that you have accepted that we may live in a more cynical age than either of us might wish, is there in your mind something that might arise in the foreseeable future, in the most general terms, that might give further public confidence? You have given us the illustrations of the oath and the process that currently exists. Do you think that those are properly understood by the public in relation to the confidence that they can have in the judiciary?

Lord Gill: Yes, I do. I feel very strongly that the people of Scotland have a judiciary whom they know and trust. That is one of the reasons why one would want to live in a country such as this. It is important that the public should know that the Scottish judiciary enjoys a reputation throughout the judicial world that is out of all proportion to the size of our small nation. The influence that it exerts in judicial thinking is enormous. The Scottish judiciary is admired, is respected and plays its part in the international world of judicial affairs. We should be very proud of that. It is one of Scotland's best assets. It would be a tribute to our judiciary if the committee were to acknowledge that by its decision in the present case.

Hanzala Malik (Glasgow) (Lab): Good morning, Lord Gill. I have to be honest with you: I am very impressed by what you have said to us this morning. I want to ask your opinion on something that no one has raised. If—and I use the word "if" guardedly—there was to be a register, do you think that it could put our judiciary at risk in relation to security and terrorism?

Lord Gill: I do not think so. I do not see that as a serious problem. As you will have gathered from my previous answers, I simply think that it would achieve nothing.

Hanzala Malik: I ask because I think that a register would introduce another layer of information—it perhaps would give more information than is currently available—despite the fact that it might not have a practical role. Would it be wise for us to have that information out there in the open?

Lord Gill: I really do not think so.

The Convener: Short of agreeing with the petition—I know that you are encouraging us not to do that—do you believe that an enhancement of the complaints system could address any concerns that people may have about the interests of a sheriff or a judge when they sit in a case?

Lord Gill: Given the number of cases that go through the Scottish courts in a year, the volume of complaints that come to the Lord President is remarkably small, and very few of those complaints are upheld. There is a very efficient system of investigation. It is carried out thoroughly and effectively, and I do not think that it is in any urgent need of improvement because it is working well. Of course, we have to remember that the role of the complaints reviewer is not to deal with the merits of complaints but to ensure that complaints are handled correctly and that the process is carried out in accordance with the regulations. That is a useful function, and it is very helpful to have a reviewer. However, on the merits of complaints, I think that you may be reassured by me that that aspect is being handled very well.

The Convener: In normal circumstances, who makes complaints? Are they made by defence lawyers or witnesses, for example?

Lord Gill: Very often, the complainer is the losing party in a litigation, which is perfectly understandable. There are very few official complaints, if I can put it that way. Complaints are mostly from members of the public, and we have a very effective system of dealing with them. As soon as they come in, they are immediately assigned to the disciplinary judge, who then reads the papers; if there is a reasonable basis for investigating them further, they are then investigated by an independent investigator. For example, a complaint against a sheriff would probably be carried out by a sheriff principal from another jurisdiction. The matter is gone into very thoroughly, and at the end of the day it comes before the Lord President with a recommendation, which he is free to accept or modify.

The Convener: I suppose the follow-up point is that if someone was to make a complaint, they must already have had a suspicion that something was untoward with regard to the sheriff who presided, in which case it would be irrelevant whether that information was on a register.

Lord Gill: You would be surprised how few of the complaints have any substance to them. When they do, in my experience it tends to be to do with the behaviour on the bench rather than any personal interest on the part of the judicial office­holder. Sometimes judicial office-holders get exacerbated on the bench—you would be surprised.

Angus MacDonald: Clearly, you would like us to take decisive action on the petition. However, is it your view that there would be some merit in the Scottish Law Commission examining the issue in more detail?

Lord Gill: That is not a matter for me. The Scottish Law Commission will draw up its programme of work, and that will then be approved by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, who may make individual references to the commission on ad hoc topics. It may be that the cabinet secretary would wish to refer the petition to the commission, but that is a matter for him.

Angus MacDonald: You do not have a view on that.

Lord Gill: Not for the moment. Until someone can come up with a specific example of a case where the register would have made any difference, I will continue to take the view that it would achieve no purpose.

John Wilson: You referred earlier to the petition calling only for a register of pecuniary interests. However, the petition actually calls on the judiciary

"to submit their interests & hospitality received to a publicly available Register of Interests."

There are registers in place; registers have been instituted under you as Lord President, such as the public register of recusals and the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service judicial members' shareholding register, which the petitioner kindly furnished us with for today's meeting. Surely the petition has served some purpose. Action has been taken to address some of the issues.

You said that you referred to the register of recusals when you met the convener and the deputy convener of the committee in private. Surely the debate that we have had about the petition has been useful: it has moved the petitioner's issues forward, it has moved the Parliament forward and it has moved the Lord President's office forward.

Lord Gill: I disagree with you emphatically, Mr Wilson. All that the register of recusals has done is to prove exactly the point that I made to the convener at the time: there has not been a single example of a recusal that would in any way be connected to the petition. From my point of view, the evidence has been useful in demonstrating that what I imagined was the case is the case.

The register of interests for members of Scottish courts was in existence long before the petition was lodged, so the petition was not the cause of it.

John Wilson: Thank you.

The Convener: That appears to conclude our questions. Do you want to add anything else following the discussion, Lord Gill?

Lord Gill: No. Thank you very much for inviting me, convener. I thank members for the cordial atmosphere in which the session has been conducted. I have sincerely tried to help the committee, and I hope that what I have said has been helpful. I strongly urge the committee to refuse the petition.

The Convener: I do not think that we will make a final decision on the petition this morning. Does the committee agree that we should draw up a paper to be discussed at a future meeting so that we can collate all the information, including the comments that Lord Gill and others have made, and make a final decision at a future meeting?

Members indicated agreement.

John Wilson: I am sorry, convener, but we indicated at a previous meeting that we would try to invite the new Lord President to give formal evidence to the committee when they had been appointed. I am not sure whether the committee is still of a mind to wait for the appointment of the new Lord President and invite them. The new Lord President might have a different opinion from that of the former Lord President in giving evidence before the committee.

The Convener: I am open to whether the committee wants to do that. I was not party to the previous conversation, so I do not know what members agreed.

Hanzala Malik: I am happy and feel that I am in a position to make a decision, so I do not need any more meetings on the matter—

Angus MacDonald: Given the situation that we found ourselves in with the previous Lord President, perhaps some written evidence from the new Lord President would suffice rather than our asking him or her to appear at the committee.

Jackson Carlaw: There is a distinction between the petition that we are considering and some of the more general issues that have arisen during our consideration of it. The evidence that we have heard this morning is quite compelling in relation to the decision that we will arrive at on the petition. What we might suggest by way of any future examination of the broader issues is separate. I think that I now have the evidence that I require in order to arrive at a determination on the petition.

The Convener: I see most members of the committee nodding at that. It has been suggested that we bring a paper to a future meeting and make a decision then, having collated all the information that we have gathered. I do not see any desire among members to seek any further information or to wait until we can get a response from the new Lord President. I do not think that there is any demand for that.

Angus MacDonald: My comments were based on John Wilson's suggestion that we ask the new Lord President to appear before us, which I do not think would be helpful. I agree with colleagues that I now have sufficient knowledge to make a balanced judgment.

The Convener: Okay. We will bring a paper to a future meeting and debate the information that we have so far collated. Is that agreed?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener: I thank Lord Gill and Mr Flinn for attending this morning.

Lord Gill: Thank you, convener. I thank the members of the committee, too.

Meeting suspended.

Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations on judicial interests 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


Anonymous said...

Nothing "passive" about it.

Watch the video.Lord Gill was aggressive throughout the hearing.

Anonymous said...

So not much of a script to follow there!
The only one on the committee asking decent questions is John Wilson.He gets the answers and catches out Gill.The others sound like they were following a pre arranged line.MacAskill says nothing at all.Planned.
Three years this is on the go and they end up toasting marshmallows round a campfire with Lord Gill because he is shitting himself with anger his judges are going to be forced to declare all their interests.Are all the other MSPs afraid of the old judge and they might get a bollocking for asking a question or was it all scripted.
Very poor performance from the remainder of the committee.Did third convener in as many months McMahon bother to read up on things before asking those questions?Very poor.Where are the female msps on this all male committee?none!all banned?
I expected more.What happened was Lord Gill ran the hearing like he runs his own court and they let him,apart from Wilson.

Anonymous said...

I have been following your blog and the debate with interest.

Your Lord Gill only wanted to talk about New Zealand because the judges and legal establishment bullied our parliament into throwing it out.

I am from New Zealand and saw the whole thing unfold before my very own eyes.

Your Lord Gill has a vested interest in the same bully tactics we had here.Read all about it here

Anonymous said...

So just to get this right - if for example criminals show up at parliament and say they should not be investigated or declare their assets it will all be okay and passed?

Funny way of going about things when all you asked for is a bit of openness on the judges

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment at 13.59 Very good points!Why did they let the judge run the hearing!He was there to give evidence not to dictate the questions!

Anonymous said...

Interesting.Did not realise lack of female msps on Public Petitions committee until reading comments.
SLAB,SNP had two chances to appoint in recent months.Why the gender imbalance on a committee regularly touted by all as an outreach to Scots.
Who is Hanzala Malik kidding with his 'question' on terrorism.
Lord Gill's face during response says it all.Not very impressed.

Anonymous said...

I found this offensive and disgusting in equal measure.

This was all about Lord Gill putting his foot down and insisting on secrecy because it ultimately cost him his job.

I have never seen anyone more pompous and full of their own importance.

He says smugly that until they can come up with a case to support the Petition, then he was right?

Yes, but you are keeping the cases hidden and secret from the public.

This Petition should be entitled Transparency & Truth versus Secrecy & the status quo.

Gill is still insisting that as Lord President, all beneath him (including MSP's) should trust his Word and trust the Word of Sheriff's & Judges, as they must be considered to be incapable of breaking the law in order for the Public to have faith in the system.

i.e. Faith over Sense?

One glaring faux pas that was the elephant in the room is that not one mention of Compliance.

You can have all the written down Rules, Code of Ethics & Code of Conduct you want but they are totally irrelevant if their is zero Compliance to make sure they are being adhered to?

Gill could not produce evidence about the Compliance System because there is no Compliance System in operation. This was clearly spelled out by the previous Judicial Complaints Reviewer, who revealed that the Compliance was a myth and the reason that there were no successful complaints is that they did not want any complaints to succeed. Which is entirely different to their being few complaints or complaints without merit as argued in evidence.

Let's not just blindly trust Judges & Sheriff's Word and let us see some transparency so that they can back-up what they are saying to be true, after all, as Mr Cherbi has said over and over again, "if they have got nothing to hide, why doth they protest so much"

If they were honest, had integrity and had characters above reproach, would they not be the very body to be volunteering for checks and balances, like Mr Cherbi's Petition, to be initiated in order to prove that they are fit for office?

If it wasn't for Mr Cherbi's Petition, there would be no Register of Recusals, which shows that there is an alarming amount of Judges & Sheriff's who are/were Recusing themselves due to outside Interests, which Judges & Sheriff's are forbidden from having for precisely the reason that they interfere with the Process of Justice and get in the way of being able to have any trust in the Judiciary, as it appears they are more interested in making money over and above their vastly inflated salaries?

Anonymous said...

One thing is for sure - we need many more John Wilsons in the Scottish Parliament

Anonymous said...

So now Lord Gill attacks judges in the US presumably as Federal judges are required to declare their interests?What a chump!

Anonymous said...

Gill is supposedly retired so why was he allowed to take along his old private secretary to hold his hand?
Very fishy and see how only John Wilson raises this at the committee and you can see Gill becoming very angry at being asked.
Clearly not used to transparency at all this "top judge" so you better stop calling him a "top judge"

Anonymous said...

Where is Chic Brodie and David Stewart?
They managed to ask better and more even handed questions than some of the waddle I am reading in the transcript.
Hats off to John Wilson for a sterling performance.Full marks wish he was my msp!

Anonymous said...

Timid questioning allows Gill to hijack the debate and the entire committee

Anonymous said...

"After tetchy exchanges with Lord Gill, 73, the petitions committee have now dropped the move.

It will instead write to his successor then decide whether to invite them.

Committee chair Michael McMahon said: "Despite Lord Gill's passive aggression, I was impressed by his ability to defend his corner.

"The committee has reviewed its decision to automatically invite the incoming Lord President."

Did they go back on this willingly or on orders from Lord Gill because it looks like he was running proceedings as he does in court not like what we may expect at Holyrood

Anonymous said...

Very good.Your desire to show everyone judges should declare their interests is now well established by this brutal performance from Lord Gill.

Given we now know how this man reacts in public to questions on the judiciary's vested interests perhaps we should take the time to look through his earlier rulings and see through the myths perpetuated by certain quarters of the dwindling circulation 'media' who favour the legal weasels.

Anonymous said...

In an angry exchange with MSP Jackson Carlaw, Lord Gill demanded to control the kinds of questions he was being asked. Replying to Lord Gill, Mr Carlaw said he would ask his own questions instead of ones suggested to him by the judge.

Unbelievable the way he got away with that.Why didnt the Convener call order on the judge.What a disgrace!

Anonymous said...

Gill lived up to his nickname of Lord No-No

Anonymous said...

Now you see the reality of Scotland under the SNP.

Transparency of judges spiked by Sturgeon and her vested interests who need the same judges onside for their fantasy laws to control how people live,have kids and vote.

Then the watered down land reform proposals watered down by people with vested interests just like the judges

And dont forget the watered down lobbying register bill again watered down by people with vested interests just like the judges and Lord Gill

Anonymous said...

What a vile attitude to a petition calling for transparency.
What else do judges get up to that we should know about?Lots I bet!Did he go on like that in court?What an indictment of the courts if so.Major investigation needed on all of this instead of being left to a small group of politicians some of whom keep ranting about their praise for the judge.

Anyway who the hell praises someone for demanding to remain secret!Unless they have an interest they are also hiding!

Anonymous said...

BBC Scotland did well to keep Lord Gill's tantrums off the news.Pocketing a few legal favours are they?

Anonymous said...

What happens now?The convener says in the newspaper they are going to write to the new Lord President instead of inviting he/she (MacDonald says "he") so maybe already in on it since MacAskill is sitting right next to him.

What a very poor showing apart from John Wilson catching out Gill right left and centre.Good to know there are the occasional honest msps out there daring enough to ask questions and be trusted to get to the bottom of it.

Anyone watching these clips can tell the judge is brimming over with anger and hostility.

A truly shocking display of arrogance and demands we should all be wary of.This is a judge in his true light not the carefully made up image they present on television.

Anonymous said...

I take it you are aware of this? Good enough reason again to have a register of interests surely!

Judge in Alistair Carmichael court case was an "active member" of the SNP

Exclusive by Tom Gordon

ONE of the two election court judges deciding the fate of former LibDem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael was previously an "active member" of the SNP.

Lord Hugh Matthews was an SNP branch convenor and constituency treasurer, and spoke a number of times at the party’s national conference.

He also spoke “from time to time” with Nicola Sturgeon, provided legal advice to the SNP on several occasions, and once appeared for the party at the Court of Session.

Lord Matthews disclosed his SNP links in advance of Scotland’s first election court for 50 years in a so-called ‘Hoffmann declaration’, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald.

Although much of the activity took place in the early 1990s, when Lord Matthews was an advocate, he said his conversations with Ms Sturgeon were more recent, with the last around 2005.

One senior Labour source said Lord Matthews’s role in the Carmichael case was now “the talk of the steamie” at Westminster because of his Nationalist connections.

SNP sources said Lord Matthews, 61, had been active in his home town of Kilmarnock.

Four of Mr Carmichael’s constituents are trying to overturn his election as MP for Orkney & Shetland on the basis he lied about leaking a Scotland Office memo about the First Minister.

Lord Matthews and Lady Paton heard evidence from the MP during a three-day hearing earlier this month, and are now considering their judgment.

If they find Mr Carmichael broke electoral law, there could be a byelection and Mr Carmichael’s political career would be in tatters.

The SNP, who came second in May by 817 votes, would be clear favourites to win the seat.

An SNP gain would leave the LibDems with no MPs in Scotland and just seven in the UK.

Lord Matthews revealed his SNP activity to both sides in the case via email on July 22, two weeks after he replaced Lord Eassie on the election court rota.

Sent by a clerk, the email said "Lord Matthews has today instructed me to advise parties of his previous involvement with the SNP", then listed his activities.

His involvement in politics "necessarily came to an end" only when he was first appointed to the bench, as a sheriff in Glasgow, in 1997.

It ended: “Could parties please confirm, as soon as possible, that there are no objections to his Lordship sitting on 7 and 8 September?”

Neither side subsequently applied for him to step aside or “recuse” himself from the election court.

The Lord President’s office said that, because the parties had waived any objection to him hearing the case, “and having regard to his judicial oath, Lord Matthews concluded that he should hear the case”.

The Scotland Office memo at the heart of the Carmichael case was leaked to the Daily Telegraph in April in order to damage the SNP in the general election.

It wrongly claimed Ms Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to stay in power and did not consider Ed Miliband Prime Ministerial material.

Mr Carmichael denied knowing about the leak, but a Cabinet Office inquiry reported later confirmed that he and his special adviser, Euan Roddin, were the culprits.

Judges are required to cease party membership when appointed.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: “Many judges will have been involved in politics before taking up judicial office.

“Lord Matthews declared his previous involvement to both parties prior to the commencement of proceedings.

“Following this declaration, no motion for Lord Matthews to decline jurisdiction (recuse himself) was made.”

A LibDem spokesman said the party had "absolute confidence in the neutrality of Lord Matthews".

Anonymous said...

Yes good idea this judge is hostile to this petition and judges having to declare their wealth and other interests so we must look closely at how he rules in other cases and who benefits from his rulings.About time someone looked into the judges instead of all the praise heaped on them for doing bugger all.In some stories about judges you would think they are the saviour of the entire world yet who do you call when you need help?Not some pack of elderly gents who want to keep the contents of their wallets a secret you call professionals way down on the public pay scale who are a hell of a lot more trustworthy and dedicated to their job than judges who grimace at politicians and any attempt to expose the truth about their connections to corporations and the rich.
Good for you Mr Cherbi and the newspapers who cover this I wish I had found your blog much earlier.

Anonymous said...

Jackson Carlaw might not be so chummy and sympathetic with Gill if he knew someone from the courts was briefing against him.Email from a gov addy to a colleague tells of alleged missing assets from a car dealership.Obviously an interest is trying to make sure msps shut you down.If not for Paris your petition would have appeared in the paper.

Anonymous said...

Amateur hour.Aside from Wilson no one seems to know what they are talking about at all.There was a report yesterday Lord Smith said Holyrood is failing to hold Scottish Ministers to account.
The same goes for Holyrood failing to hold judges to account.Gill's appearance and performance is one of enduring hostility.This is about how the judiciary behave and what they declare.Gill's constant rant about constitutional problems due to the petition are a complete nonsense.

Anonymous said...

It really doesn't matter who said what because everyone knows Gill is a lying tosser who has swung court decisions in favour of his interests just like the rest of them.

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill:The agenda is wrong, Mr Wilson.

Lord Gill is always right and everyone else is wrong.
Both judicial complaints reviewers are wrong.
The media are wrong and transparency is wrong because the judge says so.It is Gill who is WRONG!!!

Anonymous said...

Gill:"To the best of my knowledge, the clerks of court are scrupulously accurate in keeping the register and therefore, wherever there is a recusal, you may depend upon its being recorded in the register."

Rubbish.What about any recusals refused or withdrawn and what about recusals discussed in a wee huddle in front of the judge and counsel then sent back to their clients with tails between their legs and nothing more said about it.

Gill can fool the committee except Wilson.Gill cannot fool the public any more.

Anonymous said...

To the comment at 20:02

I am not surprised.

However this part of the Herald story says

"ONE of the two election court judges deciding the fate of former LibDem Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael was previously an "active member" of the SNP.

Lord Hugh Matthews was an SNP branch convenor and constituency treasurer, and spoke a number of times at the party’s national conference.

He also spoke “from time to time” with Nicola Sturgeon, provided legal advice to the SNP on several occasions, and once appeared for the party at the Court of Session.

Lord Matthews disclosed his SNP links in advance of Scotland’s first election court for 50 years in a so-called ‘Hoffmann declaration’, a copy of which has been obtained by the Herald."

So why is this Hoffman declaration only coming out now via a newspaper because if there was a register of interests like the petition is asking for,the Hoffman declaration would have to be in it or at least Lord Matthews current or former connections to the SNP and we would all know about it at the time instead of only finding out about it now.

Anonymous said...

I sense the story on Lord Matthews is a little too cute and cuddly.

Long comment from Judicial Office with unnamed spokeswoman sounds like Elizabeth Cutting and Libdems say they are happy an SNP affiliated judge is hearing a case which could throw out their only Scottish MP.

An almost unbelievable chain of events.

Lord Matthews claims he has not met or spoke to Sturgeon since 2005.Ah well.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting comments today.Some need following up.

Anonymous said...

So what exactly is Lord Gill's argument against having a register of interests?All I read and see in the video is bully tactics and him demanding the msps have to trust judges or else.

Gill even says he can see an argument for a register "It may be that, if your starting point is a belief that among the judges and sheriffs there are men and women who are capable of hearing cases in which they have a personal interest and therefore are capable of being guilty of misconduct contrary to their oath, I can see that there is an argument for having a register."

So why wait any longer get this register into law there is plenty support for it everyone gets the idea judges fill out a register like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

All the more reason to allow your petition.

Watching the video gives me the chills.Are all judges like Lord Gill?If so we have major problems.They have far too much power for their own good.

Anonymous said...

No use relying on the New Zealand example.
From what I read NZ MPs were threatened with having their private lives in the press and surprise changed how they voted.
Mafia of the legal world have just as much pull here as they do in Scotland.
A nasty group full of corruption and intent on controlling anything they get their hands on.

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog for awhile I always give Scottish lawyers a wide berth.Cannot trust.
Same is true of your judges.They cannot be trusted now we see their attitude to democracy and openness.It is not Scotland the Brave more like Scotland the Myth.Whatever your country once was is no longer and shall never be again with judges like those in the video running the country for their own benefit.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many cases have been subject to the Judiciary perverting the course of justice for the vested financial interests. Yes big business have the so called independent Judiciary on their side.

Anonymous said...

The report on the Alistair Carmichael case verges on the sinister.

We have sat through days of testimony from the Election Court and no one from the Scottish Courts or Judiciary of Scotland thought to make Lord Matthews Hoffmann declaration public until now?

This is very wrong.

May I remind you it was political affiliations of a judge which contributed to the Sunday Times appeal against the decision of Tugendhat J in Cruddas v Calvert.

Anonymous said...

This was a threatening display of power by the ex-Lord President.

although it did remind me a bit of the character OZ in the Wizard of Oz (The man behind the curtain) bullying the subjects into believing a lot of bluff and bluster, where he had no clue, no evidence worth listening to and confirmed what I am sure most of the Scottish Public was thinking, "How did such a buffoon become The Lord President in the first place?"

Everything he said was from a petty, "This is my precious" point of view.

We are unaccountable to the Scottish People and that is exactly how we like it?

How dare you to presume that you can put a stop to our money making scam at the expense of justice?

I will decide what is the Rule of Law and there is nothing you can do about it?

It really was a sad indictment.

Remember, it was this man's JUDGEMENT that depended on people having their lives irrevocably torn asunder.


Anonymous said...

No credible reason has been given by Lord Gill regarding why would it be so terrible for Scotland to lead the way in the UK and follow the example of the USA - this does not require corporations to be involved in any capacity.

As I recall one of the Scandinavian countries does require its judges to register their interests, from memory, Norway.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but it is too easy to just say that 'Trust me, there are no cases of impropriety in Scotland's Courts', when as leader and sole arbiter, it has been all to easy to routinely dismiss real, valid and serious complaints as irrelevant, as some sort of righteous justification that Scottish Courts must not be found to be unreliable and irrevocably tarnished?

The reality, according to Press Investigations and the Sterling work of The Diary of Injustice Public Service Investigative Journalists show that the only person crowing about the Scottish Courts having a reputation above reproach is the same person who has been cramming the skeletons into the locked cupboards and daring all and sundry to keep the secrecy status quo?

This is the 21st Century not the Middle Ages and the sooner our MSP's wrestle back power from the unelected, out of touch Scottish Law Society and the Judiciary the better, if Scotland is to be considered a Democracy and a properly functioning country?

The MSP's have only one option, that is to rubber stamp Mr Cherbi's Petition forthwith and I hear that Coventry is nice this time of year Lord Gill?

Anonymous said...

"One thing is for sure - we need many more John Wilsons in the Scottish Parliament"

AGREED - he is the only one with the guts and integrity to speak the truth, small wonder he was expelled from the SNP and is now an independent. I hope to God his constituents have been watching these hearings because he has done them, and Scotland, proud.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of anyone anyone anywhere who in certain circumstances or having been placed under certain pressures might not act contrary to 'integrity and honour'?

The point of the Petition does not revolve simply around a question of trust, regardless of what Lord Gill says, it is primarily about the right of the Public to demand Public employees are required to operate in a system of transparency and openness consistent with democratic and accountable values.

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill suggests that only local authority Councillors have control over decisions about the awarding of contracts, the spending of money, purchasing of services.


Caselaw is full of examples where decisions by the Courts have a direct and/or indirect influence on precisely such matters when these are at issue between parties - and they can include local authorities.

Anonymous said...

Once again, John Wilson MSP stands head and shoulders above the rest of his colleagues on the Parliament's Public Petitions Committee, where he was en point, well read and well prepared.

It is a wonder that John Wilson's continuing high calibre of integrity, reliability and intellect has not marked him out for High Office within the SNP?

Maybe he is too honest?

What stood out a mile for me was the apparent ease with which Lord Gill, in his eagerness to Whitewash, spat back John Wlson's question by saying that there were no cases of concern under his watch, only to be caught out with his pants at his ankles teling porkies, that Lord Gill had to suspend Peter Watson for failing to report timeously that he had been implicated in a multi million Pound scam, still to be heard, which invalidated him continuing to appear as a Sheriff.

Of course, Gill tried to obfuscate and minimise this instance and tried to turn it around to being John Wilson unfairly using this example, which was perfectly fair?

Anonymous said...

I asked my own msp about this and he says they are all talking about how Gill ran the entire meeting and the only one who stood out was John Wilson.He said the evidence was a torrent of threats and nothing else.

Anonymous said...

Must be the first time a judge held his court in the Scottish Parliament and the msps were his subjects!

Anonymous said...

Not often you see a judge fly into a rage as much as he did and on such a simple question!


Anonymous said...

Gill turns the tables and effectively claims that anyone who votes in favour of this Petition - as the debate in the main chamber clearly supported - is effectively stating they have no confidence in the integrity and honesty of the the Scottish Judiciary.

That however is NOT what the Petition is about, rather it calls for parliament which apply programme requiring transparency and openness from those who serve the Public.

No any honest judge possessed of one iota of integrity would welcome such a reform, why then does Gill oppose it?

I think we all know the answer, courtesy of the DIO's splendid reporting.

Anonymous said...

Oscar Slater, Lockerbie, Willie Beck - just three examples where Scottish Judges have been found to be up their necks in dubious practises, no doubt at the behest of others.

Doubtless there are others, kept firmly under lock and key.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Old Lord Gill banging on about major constitutional questions over a petition.The guy is completely out of his tree.Why is anyone listening to him just go ahead and make the petition law!

Anonymous said...

Why, if Lord Gill was so sure of his position, was legal opinion commissioned and KEPT SECRET?

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill - a 'creature of the establishment' if ever there was one.

Anonymous said...

"This is all water under the bridge" says Gill - oh not its NOT!

Anonymous said...

Gill's position is clear, the Petition will not rectify foreseeable problems which have or might arise - SO LET'S DO NOTHING!

An absolute DISGRACE.

Anonymous said...

Jackson Carlaw is a Tory through and through and so is of course ever ready to support 'the establishment'. However Hanzala Malik is a Labour MSP and a disgrace in his fawning obeisance to Lord Gill's clearly flawed position.

One can only hope his constituents learn of his behaviour - and it seems, likely betrayal of their best interests - and allow him to join the rest of the Labour Party in Scotland in electoral oblivion.

Anonymous said...

"Lord Gill also slammed the transparency of judicial appointments in the USA - after it was drawn to his attention judges in the United States are required to register their interests.

In angry exchanges, Lord Gill accused American judges of being elected by corporate and vested interests and said he did not want to see that here.

However, the situation is almost identical in Scotland where Scottish judges who refuse to disclose their interests, are elected by legal vested interests with hidden links to corporations."

Hence the need for a register of your pompous arrogant Scottish judges interests.

I will be passing your blog around some contacts here.Well done for standing up to this collection of thinly disguised hoods.

Anonymous said...

Whatever now happens to your petition the fact is people now know there should be a register of interests for judges.

Watching Gill doing his nut over judges assets and links has to be the best reason ever to go for it.

Well done to both of you - for the petition and Mr Gill for proving you correct!

Diary of Injustice said...

Thanks to those who pointed out the coverage of Lord Matthews' Hoffmann Declaration on his political interests in the Alistair Carmichael Election Court case.

Given this has only now come to light weeks after it happened and after all the streaming media coverage from the Election Court itself, there are serious questions as to the motivation of the Judicial Office in now only issuing a statement when this information should have been made public right at the start.

The public have a legitimate interest in the publication of judicial interests, and again, this development only serves to reinforce the call for a fully published register of judicial interests, not only in Scotland but for the entire United Kingdom.

In response to comments relating to Lord Gill's evidence before the Public Petitions Committee, Lord Gill's hard hitting blows against transparency during his 49 minutes of bluster before MSPs are some of the best examples yet to justify a register of judicial interests.

The public had to see for themselves exactly how a top judge (albeit a retired one) would react in public when asked about his and his judicial colleagues' interests.

It is now crystal clear a register of judicial interests encompassing just as many interests & links as politicians enter in their own registers - is now required for the judiciary and without further delay.

In relation to comments offering information on issues connected with the judiciary, please email the blog at

Anonymous said...

Anyone watching that performance should know enough now ever to trust a judge again

Anonymous said...

Unlike Carlaw I am not sympathetic to the needs of judges to keep their dirty laundry secret.We are talking about a group of the most powerful people who are as corrupt as the rest of society and everyone knows this now thanks to what has come out of your petition and all the information we now have on these mobsters.

Anonymous said...

Water under the bridge Gill says, but this is the problem ya silly old fool the water keeps on flowing alright back under the bridge again collecting more & more new victims each time.

The problem is not the odd person that uses the court, it's every person, innocent people who desperately need help for injustices inflicted upon them by corruption emanating up from the lower ranks only to put up with nonsensical drivel from you & you're peers the proverbial final nail in what is now commonly known as a most horrendous journey.

Get your act together man you're a embarrassment & a proper disgrace.

Anonymous said...

John Wilson is the star of the show no doubt about it.

The clip with him arguing with the msp is priceless however I sense a lot of the questions from others are staged or rehearsed.A few times he gets questions allowing a long rant about how brilliant judges are.Obviously rehearsed along with some annoying pen clicking cues for others to come in.
The questions sound like they are either written by the judge himself or someone higher up the nut food chain.

Anonymous said...

Lord Gill – demanded MSPs close call to register judges’ interests. This one statement tell all about this man's view of how powerful he thinks he is. Must be lots and lots of hidden £££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ and bias toward those lining the Judges pockets.

Anonymous said...

Watching the staged reactions of some members of this committee I feel the decision has sadly been cast on your petition by Gill's greed is good speech

Anonymous said...

haha look at Gill's face at 38mins into the clip when he replies to Malik!
says it all LOL!
MacDonald sitting next to him looks straight into the camera you can tell why!!

Anonymous said...

Whatever the result the Scottish Public will see exactly what their politicians are made of and where their allegiances rest - Well done DOI!

Anonymous said...

"Lord Gill's hard hitting blows against transparency during his 49 minutes of bluster before MSPs are some of the best examples yet to justify a register of judicial interests."

Quite right.Who would have thought Scotland's most senior judge would be such a hater of transparency and all things accepted in the real world.

Proves what you have been saying all along - do not trust Scotland's courts.

Anonymous said...

Who is he kidding.

Judges dont vote for transparency just like bankers dont vote for rules on how they rig the markets!

Easy to see now the courts are rigged and you know what to expect long before you get anywhere near these kinds of people in a courtroom.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happens we know a hell of a lot more about judges than we did before and it is all thanks to you not the parliament.

Anonymous said...

Just goes to prove all along the courts are corrupt and as soon as they are asked questions the bullying and intimidation starts.

What does this say about judges claiming to support democracy and all that crap when as soon as they are asked to come clean they start acting like dictators.

Anonymous said...

First time I ever saw a 'witness' tell a committee what questions to ask and gets the kid gloves treatment!

As for most of the hearing it has a very arranged feel although from what I have seen of your "Scottish Parliament" this is very much par for the course.

Anonymous said...

Just like the Bilderberg Group Peter where another bunch of legalized crooks hide all they do for their benefit. I honestly think power distorts the mind and they believe we have no right to question them. A French friend was talking to me yesterday about the Masons and the attainment of high office in France and I told him about your blog and how Gill and his cronies want to keep operating in secret.

Anonymous said...

Talking about transparency have a look at the official web site.

Anonymous said...

creepy judge!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes big business have the Judges in their back pocket. If the truth were out the Judiciary would collapse.

Anonymous said...

There is only two words to describe Scotland's lawyers at all levels. LEGALIZED CRIMINALS.

Anonymous said...

Lawyers, Law Society, Judges are all clones of the legal system, talk to any of them and it is like talking to one person. I conclude this is a result of their training. Oaths are bull, there is no complaints system, and there is no justice against this faction of crooks. Avoid them like dogs dirt.

Anonymous said...

Mr Gill "I do not want to take up time—I want to leave as much time as possible for the committee's questions. For the moment, I shall simply say that I am not entirely certain what is to go into the proposed register, I am not clear what current problems there are that the register would solve and I am, therefore, sceptical about what it would achieve".
I am sceptical too that he is not clear about current problems, this guy beggars belief. Mr Gill represents a state within a state where he repudiates a register no wonder they can do what they want. The best advice members of the public should adhere to is stay away from these crooks as much as you can. Miss Ali hit a wall of resistance just like ruined clients, Gill has no interest in justice when it undermines a lawyers position. They are all the same, professional clones. Mr Gill you and your profession revile me.

Anonymous said...

As this system evolved the legal profession thought we will regulate ourselves so we can shaft everyone not in our club. Yes it's a big club of Masons and vested interests who screw the public for ££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££ and share the booty. Lawyers have got you by the balls, because they are their own judges.

Anonymous said...

We got the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission a front for the Law Society. Everything is a front with these goons to destroy lives for profit and protect reputations. Forget the politicians voters, most are there to convince you you have choice. You got no choice. Bug business interests control all the land, resources, and have the Judges in their back pocket in Western countries at least. Your case is decided before you go to court so they can crush you and I firmly believe they love and enjoy their corrupt power.

Anonymous said...

All I see is a 50 minute rant from a very bitter old man who hates your guts just because you dared to ask questions of the judges someone should have asked them a long time ago.
McMahon said passive aggression however it is apparent to anyone watching this is a very visible and overt display of hate and contempt for transparency.

Anonymous said...

Wow surprised this old Gill forgot to wear his Santa Claus judge outfit and bang the tables!

good one Peter you nailed him bang to rights on your petition!

Anonymous said...

John Wilson is the star of the show no doubt about it.

The clip with him arguing with the msp is priceless however I sense a lot of the questions from others are staged or rehearsed.A few times he gets questions allowing a long rant about how brilliant judges are.Obviously rehearsed along with some annoying pen clicking cues for others to come in.
The questions sound like they are either written by the judge himself or someone higher up the nut food chain.

22 November 2015 at 20:20


Very well spotted about the pen clicking I watched the clip again and sure enough thats exactly what they are doing. No doubt you seen them too Mr Cherbi.

Anonymous said...

If we made a survey asking people to name one writer whose works convey a negative outlook on life, Franz Kafka’s name is likely to come up at the very top. And at least at first sight, this ranking seems rather appropriate. Take, for instance, Kafka’s novel The Trial. It tells the story of Josef K., who is persecuted--and in the end executed--by an amorphous justice system without knowing what he is accused of. The novel presents a dark allegory of modernity, focusing on the hopeless struggle between the individual and the judicio-bureaucratic apparatus.

Anonymous said...

Astounding arrogance to put it mildly.
Judges have no right to exempt themselves from the same laws applying to the rest of us and it is about time the precious Scottish Parliament signaled its intention to make your petition law.

Anonymous said...

Gill is such a loser trying to control everything

Anonymous said...

In answer to an earlier comment "creepy judge" is putting it rather mildly.

I watched the video clip of Lord Gill's evidence to the committee and carefully read through your article.

I have to say I find the judge/ex judge? a vested interest all on his own and one very much worth declaring in the public interest.

With the exception of John Wilson who asked excellent questions of Lord Gill, I found some of the other contributions verging on suspicious, particularly those contributions allowing Lord Gill to go on and on about judicial integrity without any real follow up.

At one point during Jackson Carlaw's 'questions' to Gill I honestly thought Carlaw was going to pin a VC on Gill for showing up and asking for your petition to be closed.Alas Gill's menacing persona got the better of him and messed up the script with those hand movements and demands for [as I see it] prearranged questions to continue.

The only argument against your register of judicial interests appears to be "trust the judiciary or else".

This is not fit for purpose nor is Lord Gill going on the way he did at a committee he twice refused to attend - all of which was glossed over in the Carlaw Gill exchanges.

You asked for a register of interests.No big deal one might thing.Scottish Parliament - just do it.And no more red carpet for special interests.

Anonymous said...

You may not think it but Gill did you a big favour in coming across as the angry bully.

Anyone with an ounce of brain material should now understand from his reaction alone that judges should be declaring their interests like the rest of society.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile Ghana steals a march over corrupt Scotland and sacks corrupt judges!
Also should note BBC will cover stories about people digging up corruption on judges but they steer clear of your petition because of bias and must not upset our own judges and legal establishment of course even though the story is in all the papers and even STV covered your petition!

Ghana dismisses judges guilty of bribery charges
8 December 2015 From the section Africa

Twenty judges and magistrates have been sacked in Ghana after being found guilty of bribery.

The dismissals followed a thorough investigation into allegations of corruption in the judiciary, Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood said.

In August, a journalist revealed that he had evidence showing judges demanding bribes and sex to influence judgements in court cases.

The revelation shocked Ghanaians who packed cinemas to see his documentary.

Announcing the sackings, the chief justice said she wanted to assure the public that the judicial council, the regulatory body for judges, would take "prompt and resolute" action to "redeem" the image of the judiciary.

Judicial council secretary Justice Alex Poku Acheampong said some of the sacked judges had been stripped of their benefits.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Ghana's Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood says she will not tolerate corruption

However, the benefits of other judges had been retained, after they had shown show remorse and had apologised "profusely" for bringing the judiciary into disrepute, he added.

Ghanaian journalist Sammy Darko says many people feel the judges got off lightly, and are demanding that they be prosecuted.

The sacked judges and magistrates were from lower courts, and had been investigated by a committee appointed by the chief justice. One judge was cleared of the charges.

A second inquiry, focusing on similar allegations against 12 High Court judges, has not yet concluded its work.

Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas handed over nearly 500 hours of video evidence on tape to the chief justice in August.

Anonymous said...

Swap the topic under discussion for questions on bankers bonuses and you get exactly the same reaction from bankers - hands off our grubby money.

I trust viewers also noticed Lord Gill's ridiculous references to constitutional issues regarding your petition.Gill manages to use the phrase at least three times to menace the committee yet he gives no actual definition of what constitutional problems will be created if your petition succeeds.

Will Scotland fall apart if judges are required to register their interests?Certainly not.

If as someone earlier suggested another Lord President goes down the same hysterical route as Gill then it is as good as confirming the entire judiciary are so mired in vested interests and corruption they must avoid the same standards of transparency which apply to everyone else.

Although to be honest Peter from your fine work on judicial interests and the handle the papers have on all this I believe you have proved beyond reasonable doubt the judiciary are not the honest or respectable branch of the Executive they are portraying themselves to be.

Keep up the good work all.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust anyone who answers questions like this judge dude he is wayyy too aggressive!

Anonymous said...

Strange none of those headlines or details of the way this judge treated your Scottish Parliament appears on his entry in Wikipedia,they must have a deal to keep it off somehow

Anonymous said...

Dont be too concerned about the beeb giving you the silent treatment.It is one of the most self destructive organisations in existence today.I should know I used to work there

Anonymous said...

After reading your blog I watched the entire clip of Lord Gill at the Scottish Parliament.I am surprised no one pulled him up for his conduct.
Abusive combative disrespectful of proceedings and ultimately an underlying aggressive tone throughout.Would not have come out the same at Westminster I can assure you.

Anonymous said...

For what its worth I find it very creepy a judge carries on like this when asked about a petition.
Sentence after sentence I hear threat after threat and the underlying tone of a bully is easy to spot.
As others have observed a tough Westminster committee with the likes of MP Margaret Hodge in the chair would never have allowed the judge to rant on as he did without a call to order.
The flip side of Lord Gill's evidence is obvious - the judiciary have proved themselves to have no respect for the democratic process or transparency.

Anonymous said...

the man is full of threats and bile but the good thing is by his own words easy to see now what the judges really think of us

Diary of Injustice said...

@ 19 November 2015 at 14:54

The rules, codes and ethics currently in place to maintain 'standards' in the judiciary are written and approved by the judiciary themselves ... totally meaningless, to be flouted when required, and protective of an unaccountable elite judiciary who have lost their place in society.

@ 20 November 2015 at 10:57

Apt comparison ... although in the ex LP's case, more like the wizard of guff ... a long history of it too.

@ 8 December 2015 at 22:06

Ghana trumps Scotland! ... on the subject of Africa, several members of the Scottish judiciary have interests in companies, and like to fly off on taxpayer funded junkets to 'judicial conferences' ...

@ 12 January 2016 at 16:10

Unaccountable anti transparency judge meets elected politicians ... it was always bound to be this way hence his refusals to attend the Public Petitions Committee on previous occasions ...

Anonymous said...

Can I just say without being condemned as facetious.. that was THRILLING!

To watch this Lord Gill sit there with anger coming out of every hole just because he was asked to declare interests in a register must be the benchmark for how all these tax cheats are now reacting because their tax dodging in Panama is splatted all over the television and internet.

Ask any of them about it and they will start thumping the table just like the judge!

What has gone on during your petition you just could not make up!Hope you write a book about it all one day.I am sure there is much more to tell!

Anonymous said...

U must be like YESSSSSSSSSSSS when the old judge guy starts arguing with the politicos!!!!!!!!

luv ur blog and the way u present all the news!!!!!! XXXX

Anonymous said...

pointless HMRC asking judges to rule on cases involving Qatar when the judges are in bed with Qatar

HMRC loses £50m Chelsea Barracks tax appeal to Qatar
By Howard Mustoe Business reporter

HM Revenue & Customs has lost its bid to recover up to £50m in stamp duty from the sale of the Chelsea Barracks in 2007.

Three Court of Appeal judges decided that the tax office had pursued the wrong party for the tax.

The purchaser, a firm owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, had used a type of Islamic finance that meant a bank actually owned the property.

HMRC said it was "disappointed" by the ruling.

"The Court of Appeal ruling supports our view that SDLT [stamp duty land tax] is payable. We are disappointed that the decision makes that tax much harder to collect so we are considering an appeal," HMRC said.

The judges' decision is likely to reignite criticism of the complexity of the UK tax system, if HMRC itself can be caught off guard. It will also expose alternative financing arrangements to more scrutiny from tax campaigners.

In the ruling, Lord Justice Lewison said there was "nothing surprising" about which firm HMRC should have pursued for the tax.

Project Blue, the investment vehicle ultimately owned by the Qatari ruling family, claimed that HMRC was now out of time to pursue Masraf al Rayan, a Qatar-based bank.

The result, and how it was arrived at, shows that HMRC needs more resources to do its job, said Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research UK.

"This needs to be a serious kicking for the people involved including the senior management of HMRC," he said. "We cannot run a tax authority on the cheap."

The tax office had won a decision in a tribunal in December 2014 for £38m stamp duty land tax to be paid, based on a £959m purchase price for the site. However, this decision was then taken to the Court of Appeal.

HMRC then sought stamp duty land tax worth £50m against the £1.25bn paid by the bank to Project Blue - a figure that as well as the £959m purchase price included tax and further development costs.

Project Blue had used a type of finance that complied with Islamic law, which forbids lending money for interest. It used an arrangement called Ijara.

"Under an Ijara arrangement a bank or other financial institution buys the asset that the customer wishes to acquire and then leases that asset to him," said Lord Justice Lewison in the judgement.

"The rent is calculated in such a way that the bank will receive a return on its investment. The customer will also have an option to buy the asset. However, it is critical to appreciate that the bank will be the real owner of the asset for the term of the lease, and the customer will not."

Qatar is now a large player when it comes to investments in London. It is a joint owner of the Shard, has a 20% stake in the owner of Heathrow airport and a significant stake in Barclays after helping the bank avoid a government bailout in 2008.

Project Blue said in a statement: "In good faith, Project Blue Ltd paid the full original sum demanded in advance of the First Tier Tribunal hearing in 2013. We welcome the important clarifications provided by the Court of Appeal. Project Blue Ltd has always fully complied with all UK taxation matters and will continue to do so."

Anonymous said...

A man with such a long legal career reduced to anger and with the appearance of a bully at parliament
all because of a journalist's transparency petition.Poetic justice!

Anonymous said...

like foaming @ the mouth when they throw him difficult q's!!

Anonymous said...

Hell watching the vid was more fun than Trump v Clinton you gotta watch the judges more often they are well up to no good going on like they do!

The answers from that guy is like asking a question and in reply they punch you in the face!

Anonymous said...

what a display! should have been on the 6oclock news! the lord totally lost it!