Anti-transparency judge demands MSPs foot bill for rain travel & meals. SCOTLAND’S former top judge has demanded taxpayers pay his dining expenses & travel to Edinburgh - after he was forced to face MSPs over a three year Scottish Parliament investigation of plans to create a register of judges’ interests as called for in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.
Lord Brian Gill (73) - who twice refused to attend earlier hearings of the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee who are considering proposals to require judges to register their interests – submitted a £225.05 claim for first class return rail fare from London, a £19.50 claim for taxis and a £23.20 claim for a meal the former Lord President treated himself to the night before he finally showed up to face MSPs at Holryood on 10 November, 2015.
Gill – who was dubbed “Lord No-No” for his refusals to give evidence to MSPs on judges’ undeclared links to big business, secret criminal records & hidden wealth, handed the claim to the Scottish Parliament after a stormy session at the Scottish Parliament - where the former top judge demanded MSPs halt their public debate on the judiciary’s interests and close down a long running public petition calling for transparency on judges’ wealth – which is backed by both of Scotland’s independent judicial investigators.
The proposals, backed by cross party MSPs during a debate in the Parliament’s main chamber on 9 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.
As the petition was debated at Holyrood in the Lord President’s absence, it was revealed Lord Gill billed taxpayers for a five day state visit to Qatar. The top judge also travelled to numerous other international destinations – all charged to taxpayers.
An investigation by the Scottish Sun newspaper also revealed Scotland's top judges spent £26,000 on thirty three international trips funded by taxpayers - including journeys to destinations such as Russia, Israel, Switzerland,Germany, France, Bulgaria, Lithuania.
Previously, Lord Gill refused to give evidence to MSPs on their probe of the petition, instead, the top judge sent a series of letters to MSPs - demanding the judiciary remain exempt from the public’s expectation of transparency in Government and those in public life.
The Scottish Sun reports:
Lord Gill claimed £267.75 expenses bill
By RUSSELL FINDLAY, Scottish Sun.
A SENIOR judge is being challenged over claiming first class rail travel to a Scottish Parliament grilling.
Lord Gill, 73 — who stood down from his £220,655-a-year post as Lord President in May — has been asked by MSPs to explain a £267.75 expenses bill.
It covers a £225.05 first class return rail fare from London, £19.50 on taxis and £23.20 for a meal the night ahead of appearing before Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee last month.
The committee discussed the claim on Tuesday and its convener, Labour’s Michael McMahon, is now writing to Scotland’s former top judge about it. Last night, Mr McMahon declined to reveal the contents of the letter, saying: “I can’t discuss this as it was in private.”
But a source said: “There were raised eyebrows at the claim, and they intend to ask why he needed to claim for first class return rail travel. They may also ask about claiming for a meal the day prior to attending.”
After twice snubbing the committee while Lord President, Lord Gill spoke against law journalist Peter Cherbi’s petition for a register of judges’ business, financial and personal interests.
Lord Gill’s successor has still to be appointed. But we told last month, left, how the new Lord President will not be called before the committee.
Last night, a Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment.”
JUDGE DEMANDED MSPS CLOSE JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:
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.
Scotland’s first ever Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) - Moi Ali gave backing to the the judicial transparency proposal during a must watch evidence session held at Holyrood in September 2013.
Scotland’s current Judicial Complaints Reviewer Gillian Thompson OBE also backed the petition and the creation of a register of judicial interests during an evidence session at Holyrood in June 2015.
Scotland’s new top judge – Lord Carloway – who served as Lord Justice Clerk under Lord Gill - is to be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in connection with three year probe on proposals to require judges to register their interests,
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