Calls to include Justices of the Peace in Recusals Register. SCOTLAND’S top judge has been called upon to include nearly five hundred members of the Judiciary of Scotland in a Register of Judicial Recusals which was created in response to a five year Scottish Parliament probe on lack of transparency within the judiciary.
The Lord President – Lord Carloway (real name Colin Sutherland) - is currently being consulted by the Head of Strategy and Governance of the Judicial Office on collecting recusal data from Justices of the Peace courts.
The move comes after journalists queried why JPs were not included in the current register of recusals listing when judges stand down from a case due to conflicts of interest.
The addition of Justices of the Peace to the recusals register follows recent development where Lord Carloway conceded to calls for full transparency on judicial recusals, reported here: RECUSALS JUST GOT REAL: Judicial Office concedes to reforms for Judicial Recusals Register, full case details where judges stand down from court hearings to be entered after media & FOI probe success
However, amid an ongoing probe on Justices of the Peace – where it has now been established some JPs have undeclared criminal convictions - there has been no explanation provided by the Judicial Office as to why some five hundred Justices of the Peace who comprise the bulk of membership of the Judiciary of Scotland - were left out of the publication of recusals by Lord Gill during the register’s creation in April 2014.
Moves by Scotland’s judiciary to become more transparent and open up the workings of Scotland’s courts and judiciary to the public, have come in response to MSPs consideration of judicial transparency proposals contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.
The petition, 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.
The creation of such a register would ensure full transparency for the most powerful people in the justice system – the judiciary.
The resulting publicly available register of judicial interests would contain 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.
A full listing of evidence in support of the petition calling for a register of judicial interests can be found here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Evidence lodged by Judicial Investigators, campaigners, judges & journalists in four year Holyrood probe on judges’ interests - points to increased public awareness of judiciary, expectation of transparency in court.
The move to create a register of judicial interests has also secured the support of two Judicial Complaints Reviewers.
Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) - appeared before the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament in a hard hitting evidence session during September of 2013.
At the hearing, Ms Ali supported the proposals calling for the creation of a register of judicial interests.– reported here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer tells MSPs judges should register their interests like others in public life.
Scotland’s second 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.
Both of Scotland’s recent top judges - former Lord President Lord Brian Gill, and current Lord President Lord Carloway, have testified before the Scottish Parliament on the petition, both failing to prove any case against creating a register of judicial interests.
A report on Lord Brian Gill’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament in November 2015 can be found here: 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”
A report on Lord Carloway’s widely criticised evidence to the Scottish Parliament in July 2017 can be found here: REGISTER TO JUDGE: Lord Carloway criticised after he blasts Parliament probe on judicial transparency - Top judge says register of judges’ interests should only be created if judiciary discover scandal or corruption within their own ranks
The National newspaper reports on the call to include Justices of the Peace in the Judiciary of Scotland Register of Judicial Recusals.
Exclusive by Martin Hannan Journalist The National 3rd October 2017
SCOTLAND’S Justices of the Peace should have to register their recusals when they step aside from cases in their courts due to conflicts of interests, according to the man who is leading a campaign on judges’ interests.
The judicial register of recusals was established by Scotland’s most senior judge in April 2014, former Lord President Lord Gill, and the judiciary website shows all such recusals by judges and sheriffs and the reasons why they stepped away from a case.
Now legal campaigner Peter Cherbi has called for the register to be extended to Justices of the Peace, who are lay magistrates dealing with less serious cases such as breach of the peace or minor driving offences.
For five years Cherbi has been petitioning the Scottish Parliament on the issue of judges’ interests, and he sees a register of recusals as vital for public confidence in all the judiciary.
Cherbi said: “Given there are nearly 500 Justices of the Peace in Scotland who must act in accordance with the same rules laid down for other members of the judiciary, JPs should now be included in the Register of Recusals.
“I am surprised Lord Gill omitted Justices of the Peace when he created the Register of Recusals in April 2014. This was a significant omission, given the numbers of JPs across Scotland, and Lord Gill should have corrected this flaw before he left office in May 2015.
“I note Lord Carloway (left) has not attended to this glaring omission since taking office as Lord President in January 2016 until now being asked to do so.
“The omission of Justices of the Peace from the Register of Recusals has left out a significant portion of the judiciary and therefore concealed a more truer representation of numbers of recusals and interests across Scotland’s judges and courts, which are of significant public interest.
“I shall be informing the Public Petitions Committee of this development and if the need should arise, I will request MSPs write to the Judicial Office and Scottish Justices Association to make enquiries as to when JPs will be added to the Register of Recusals, and to seek an explanation why they were originally left out from the data, despite it being a relatively simple operation to include JPs in the recusals statistics.”
The National contacted the Scottish Justices Association, which represents the Justices of the Peace, but no reply had been received by the time we went to press.
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.