Transparency register now essential for judges. THEY HAVE the power to strike down legislation from our elected Scottish Parliament, enact their own versions of the law with Acts of Sederunt, suspend your liberty, and dodge questions on their activities - yet figures reveal Scotland’s secretive judicial elite who control our courts – have received a staggering £471 million of public cash for salaries and judicial related ‘activities’ since the financial crash of 2008.
Judges on up to £230K a year - some holding judicial posts for well over twenty years, have also directly benefited from a massive £885 million of public cash thrown at Scotland's courts since 2008 - including a £58 million taxpayer funded refit of Parliament House – the headquarters of Scotland's current Lord President & Lord Justice General - Lord Carloway.
And, don’t forget the staggering £1.207 billion of legal aid – yet another public cash subsidy for the legal profession to prop up our creaking, expensive and exclusive billion pound courts who close their doors as soon as they hear the word “transparency”.
Yet - the collection of Senators of the Court of Session, temporary judges, sheriffs of varying titles, tribunal & land court judges – (around 265 in number) and an army of up to 450 justices of the peace - declare not one single interest, connection, item of wealth, property value, or paid outside work, outside of revelations in the media of judges' links to big banks & dodgy businesses contained in the SCTS Board register.
There is no other group in society who are allowed such a privilege of secrecy - while benefiting directly from billions of pounds in public cash.
The weak, disabled and most vulnerable in society are strip searched and harassed day & night, whenever they dare ask for help.
Even an elected councillor, msp and all other public officials must tally up their stationery costs and claims for rubber bands.
Yet there are no questions, requirements of transparency or accountability for the judiciary - who jet set at-will around the world on taxpayers cash, operate a judicial version of a diplomatic service and rake in cash for speeches, conference attendance, and legal work - without fear of having to declare one single item of their wealth, connections to despots, the rich & powerful and links to big business - in public.
By any stretch of the imagination, this scenario, is shocking.
The figures - sourced from the Scottish budget on judicial salaries, travel, junkets, ‘training’ and various enterprises operated by the Judicial Office for Scotland falling under the term “Courts Group” to various related courts & tribunal support entities- reveal the total spend on Scotland’s judiciary since 2008 stands at £470.6m.
Budget spend on judiciary: 2007-2008: £41.8m, 2008-2009: £44.3m, 2009-2010: £46.3m, 2010-2011: £51.1m, 2011-2012: £50.0m,2012-2013: £52.4m, 2013-2014:£52.1m,2014-2015: £51.6m, 2015-2016: £40.5m (missing £11.1 switched to SCTS budget), 2016-2017: £40.5m (missing £11.1 plus - switched to SCTS budget)
Courts Group had overall responsibility for financing the cost of the Judiciary, including Scottish Government contribution to the superannuation costs of the judiciary, for the fees to part-time judiciary, for the running costs of a number of small departments and other judicial expenses (training and travel etc).
Judicial salaries are defined as non-voted spending which is met from the Scottish Consolidated Fund but is also part of the Departmental spending limit.
Courts group was renamed Courts, Judiciary and Scottish Tribunals Service during 2012. In the latest Scottish Government 2016-2017 budget, the designation defining judicial costs is tagged as “Judiciary”.
Figures sourced from the Scottish Budget reveal the total spend on Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) since 2008 stands at £884.7m with the added-in £58m for the Parliament House refit.
Budget spend on courts: 2007-2008: £79.4m, 2008-2009: £81.3m, 2009-2010: £94.7m, 2010-2011: £93.5m, 2011-2012: £79.9m, 2012-2013: £77.0m, 2013-2014: £72.3m, 2014-2015: £72.3m,2015-2016: £87.4m (includes missing £11.1m from courts group responsible for Judiciary), 2016-2017: £88.9m (includes missing £11.1m plus - from courts group responsible for Judiciary).
As you read these facts and figures, remember – this is about how public cash to the tune of half a billion pounds is spent by a group of the most powerful people in the land - who resist declaring their interests, how the judiciary operate, create umbrella institutions without accountability and outwith the scope of Freedom of Information laws, make policy on their own and operate without any oversight.
The existing lack of judicial transparency and accountability allows this to continue, unchecked and unchallenged.
There is a proposal to create a new layer of transparency and accountability to the judiciary as exists in all other areas of public life.
In an effort to bring greater transparency to Scotland’s judiciary - Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary - first debated at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in January 2013 – calls for the creation of a publicly available register of judicial interests – containing information on judges’ backgrounds, figures relating to personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, membership of organisations, property and land, 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.
A full debate on the proposal to require judges to declare their interests was held at the Scottish Parliament on 9 October 2014 - ending in a motion calling on the Scottish Government to create a register of judicial interests. The motion was overwhelmingly supported by MSPs from all political parties.
The proposal to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judges’ is also backed by the highly talented individuals who were appointed to provide oversight of judicial complaints – Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) – Moi Ali, and the current JCR – Gillian Thompson OBE.
The full transcript of evidence from former JCR Moi Ali to the Scottish Parliament during her term as Judicial Complaints Reviewer can be found here: Evidence from Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali to Public Petitions Committee on Petition 1458 Register of Interests for Scotland’s Judiciary, video footage of the hearing can be viewed here: JCR Moi Ali gives evidence to Scottish Parliament on a proposed Register of Judicial Interests.
Read the full report & transcript of JCR Gillian Thompson’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee here: REGISTER, M’LORD: Former top judge Brian Gill called to Scottish Parliament as Judicial watchdog tells MSPs - Judges should declare their interests in public register.
JUDICIAL REGISTER: What interests are currently declared by Scottish judges?
The latest declarations by a select few powerful judges who control the running of Scotland’s Courts – is more revealing in what is missing from the limited disclosures in the 2016 annual report of Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).
Ruling over our courts in their ermine robes - in some cases decades longer than any Prime Minister could hope to remain in office – the handful of judicial declarations after years on the bench and millions in taxpayers cash - are even less than newly minted msps cobble together in their first few weeks at Holyrood.
Decades of near £200K taxpayer funded salaries produce singular declarations for a handful of judges, while the other 700 members of Scotland’s judiciary declare not one single item.
This year, Scotland’s current top judge, the Lord President & Lord Justice General - Lord Carloway – (real name Colin Sutherland), has but one declaration (Trustee, Scottish Arts Club) – dwarfing the vast listing of directorships & positions of his predecessor – Lord Brian Gill.
Lord Carloway (62) was appointed to the Court of Session since 2000. Sixteen years later, and now in the top job – his salary is currently listed in the UK Government guidance on judicial salaries as of 1 April 2016 as £222,862.00.
Another judicial member of the SCTS Board - Lady Smith (61) was appointed to the Court of Session in 2001. Fifteen years later, her salary as a judge of the inner house of the Court of Session is listed by the UK Government as £204, 695.00.
Lord Brian Gill (74) - appointed to the Court of Session in 1994, ‘retired’ from his judicial tenure in Scotland as Lord President 21 years later in June 2015 - on a salary of £220,665.00.
The full list of declarations for the few judges who declare ‘some’ of their interests are as follows:
Rt. Hon. Lord Gill: (from 1 April to 31 May 2015) Director of Scottish Redundant Churches Trust, a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland (SC162884), Director of the Royal School of Church Music, a company limited by guarantee registered in England (Reg'd No 250031), President of the Royal Society for Home Relief to Incurable, Edinburgh, Trustee of the Columba Trust: a trust for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Endowment Trust: a trust for the benefit of RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Trust: a trust for the benefit of the RCS and its students, Trustee of the Royal School of Church Music: a registered charity for the promotion of church music in the Christian Churches (Reg No 312828) Vice President of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Chairman of Council, Royal School of Church Music
Rt. Hon. Lord Carloway: Trustee, Scottish Arts Club
Rt. Hon. Lady Smith: Chair and Trustee - Royal Scottish National Orchestra Foundation, President and Trustee - Friends of the Music of St Giles Cathedral, Honorary Bencher - Gray's Inn
Sheriff Principal Duncan Murray: Commissioner, Northern Lighthouse Board, Trustee Kibble Education and Care Centre
Sheriff Iona McDonald: Deputy Lieutenant for Ayrshire and Arran, Partner in property rental firm
Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: Chair West Fife Education Trust, Chair Relationship Scotland - Couple Counselling Fife, Committee Member Cammo Residents Association, Chair - Discipline Committee ICAS
Johan Findlay JP OBE Honorary Sheriff Justice of the Peace
Dr Joseph Morrow QC: Lord Lyon King of Arms, Member of Judicial Council, Trustee, Munday Trust, Dundee Trustee, Kidney Trust, Dundee Trustee, Tealing Community Hall Legal Assessor, South Episcopal Church President, Society of Messengers at Arms President, Scottish Genealogical Society Patron, Scottish Family History Society
Dr Kirsty J Hood QC: Self Employed Advocate Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Edinburgh – delivering seminars on one of the LLB courses, Regular ad hoc employment with the University of Glasgow - delivering lectures/seminars on one of the LLB courses, Contributor of updates to “Scottish Lawyers Factbook” (W Green. Publishers), Clerk of Faculty - Faculty of Advocates (non-remunerated) Member of the Scottish Committee of Franco-British Lawyers Society (non- remunerated)
Simon J D Catto: Member Gateley (Scotland) LLP: Head of Litigation, Member of Cornerstone Exchange LLP, Member of Cornerstone Exchange No2 LLP
Professor R Hugh MacDougall: None Eriska Trust, Cunningham Trust, Cross Trust, St Columba’s Hospice, Visiting Professor University of Edinburgh
Joe Al-Gharabally: Ernst & Young
Anthony McGrath: (from 1 April 2015 to 31 December 2015) Saltire Taverns Ltd, Consultation and mentoring assignment with Cantrell & Cochrane PLC. This includes sitting on the commercial Board of a subsidiary called The Shepton Mallet Cider Mill based in Somerset.
Col. David McIlroy: (from 1 January 2016) Independent Prison Monitor
Eric McQueen: Member of the Scottish Civil Justice Council
In August this year, DOI reported on the shareholdings of members of the same SCTS Board, in an article here: STILL BANKING, M’LORDS: Judicial quango in charge of Scotland’s Courts & Tribunals remains mired in financial links to Banks, investment funds, insurance, property & corporate vested interests
The current Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Board Register of Shareholdings reveals the following declarations of shareholdings:
Lord President - Rt Hon Lord Carloway: None
Lord Justice Clerk - Rt Hon Lady Dorrian: None
President of Scottish Tribunals - Rt Hon Lady Smith: Artemis Fund Managers, Barclays, Blackrock AM, Brown Advisory, Goldman Sachs, Global Access, Henderson Investment, Ishares PLC, JP Morgan, Lazard Fund Managers, Pimco Global, Vanguard Funds PLC, Fundrock Management CO Gsquaretrix.
Sheriff Principal Duncan L Murray: None
Sheriff Iona McDonald: None
Sheriff A Grant McCulloch: None
Johan Findlay OBE JP: Aviva, Vodaphone, Santander, Unilever, Norwich Union, Legal & General, Fidelity Funds Network, Lloyds Banking Group, Thus Group, HBOS, Trafficmaster, Standard Life.
Dr Joseph Morrow QC: None
Lord President – Rt Hon Lord Gill (note: Lord Gill retired on 31 May 2015 and was succeed by Lord Carloway). :Henderson UK Growth Fund Retail Class Acc, Newton Global Equity Fund, Aviva Investors UK Equity Fund, Scottish Widows UK Growth Sub-Fund, HSBC Balanced Fund (Retail Acc), Royal Mail Plc, TSB Group Plc, Urban and Civil Plc, Vestry Court Ltd.
Previous articles on the lack of transparency within Scotland’s judiciary, investigations by Diary of Injustice including reports from the media, and video footage of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee can be found here : A Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary.