Calls for tribunal members to publish interests & recusals. WITH THE announcement earlier this week of at least thirty solicitors have joined the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland, Housing & Property Chamber – there are calls for all members to be held to account by way of the publication of registers of interests for those who wish to take part in judgements affecting the lives of others.
The move comes after media enquiries have established a number of members of the tribunals have links to property businesses including letting, landlords services and other related interests which are not yet publicly declared by the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service (SCTS).
And, with the existence of a Register of Judicial Recusals since 2014 – which recently saw significant improvements after a media investigation exposed failures to record judges standing aside in cases – there are also calls for a fully pubic Register of Tribunal Recusals to be published with equivalent detail on cases and Tribunal members as is currently disclosed by the Judiciary of Scotland.
Moves to improve transparency in the Tribunals system - and bring it up to speed with the judiciary - have come about after a number of cases have been brought to the attention of the media – where Tribunal members have failed to declare significant interests or step aside from hearings – which some participants have described as “rigged”.
An enquiry to the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service last month – in the form of a Freedom of Information request – also revealed the SCTS is failing to keep any records of recusals of Tribunal members – despite the requirements in place for over three years that members of the judiciary have to notify and publish their recusals from court hearings.
In a response to the FOI request, the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service refused to provide any information on Tribunal members standing aside from cases. The SCTS – who manage the tribunals - indicated no such information was held.
The SCTS response ended with a note all Tribunal members are subject to the same guidance to judicial office holders in terms of the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics – which has already been found to be flouted on a regular basis by even senior Court of Session judges who have been the subject of cases now reported in the media where they deliberately concealed conflicts of interest.
The SCTS said in response to the request asking for information on Recusals of Tribunal members: “The only information held by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service that falls within the description of your request is contained within guidance issued to judicial office holders. That guidance is the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics.”
A Tribunals User Charter for the Tribunals managed by the SCTS makes no mention of Tribunal members recusals or any registers of Tribunal members interests.
The announcement of the latest intake of members into the Tribunals system – an intake which is managed by the Judicial Appointments Board, was made by the Judiciary of Scotland here:
Thirty new Legal Members and 19 Ordinary Members have been appointed by the Scottish Ministers to the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland and assigned to the Housing and Property Chamber by the President of Scottish Tribunals, Lady Smith.
The announcement follows a recruitment round by the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (JABS), which invited applications from any suitably qualified individuals who wished to be considered for appointment.
The new members were recruited to assist in managing the increased jurisdiction of the Housing and Property Chamber that will handle more private rented sector cases from December 2017, including the new letting agents’ regime; transfer of jurisdiction from the sheriff courts; and new private tenancies.
The new members are as follows:
Yvonne McKenna; Lesley-Anne Mulholland; Nairn Young; Shirley Evans; Alastair Houston; Steven Quither; Petra Hennig McFatridge; Colin Dunipace; Lesley Johnston; Anne Mathie; Kay Springham; Alan Strain; Aidan O’Neill; Jan Todd; Alison Kelly; Valerie Bremner; Eleanor Mannion; Virgil Crawford; Pamela Woodman; Lynsey MacDonald; Karen Kirk; Neil Kinnear; Fiona Watson; Nicola Irvine; Graham Dunlop; Andrew Upton; Joel Conn; Melanie Barbour; Lesley Ward; Andrew McLaughlin.
Eileen Shand; Elizabeth Williams; Janine Green; Jennifer Moore; Linda Reid; Angus Lamont; David Fotheringham; David MacIver; David Wilson; Gerard Darroch; Gordon Laurie; James Battye; Leslie Forrest; Tony Cain; Elizabeth Currie; Frances Wood; Jane Heppenstall; Melanie Booth; Sandra Brydon.
The appointments came into effect on 18 September 2017.
Under changes to Scotland’s tribunals system which came into effect in July 2014, the Lord President is the head of Scottish Tribunals. He has various statutory functions, including responsibility for the training, welfare and conduct of its members.
The Lord President has assigned Lady Smith to the role of President of Scottish Tribunals. She has various statutory functions, including responsibility for the efficient disposal of business in the Scottish tribunals, for the assignment of members to individual Chambers within the First-tier Tribunal, and for review of the members.
The First-Tier Tribunal for Scotland comprises a number of separate Chambers within which similar jurisdictions are grouped. The Housing and Property Chamber, which was established on 1 December 2016, performs the functions of the former Private Rented Housing Panel (PHRP) and the Homeowner Housing Panel (HOHP) in relation to tenancy and property related disputes. The Chamber will also start to handle more private rented sector cases from December 2017 including those arising in relation to the new letting agents’ regime; transfer of jurisdiction from the sheriff courts; and new private tenancies.
Appeals from the First-tier Tribunal go to the second tier of the new structure, the Upper Tribunal for Scotland.
Appeals from decisions of the Upper Tribunal go to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
Further information about the Scottish Tribunals visit the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service can be found here: About Scottish Tribunals
The Tribunals (Scotland) Act 2014 created a new, simplified statutory framework for tribunals in Scotland, bringing existing jurisdictions together and providing a structure for new ones. The Act created two new tribunals, the First-tier Tribunal for Scotland and the Upper Tribunal for Scotland.
The Lord President is the head of the Scottish Tribunals and has delegated various functions to the President of Scottish Tribunals, the Rt Hon Lady Smith.
The Upper Tribunal for Scotland: The Upper Tribunal hears appeals on decisions of the chambers of the First-tier Tribunal.
The First-tier Tribunal is organised into a series of chambers .
From 1 December 2016, the Housing and Property Chamber was established and took on the functions of the former Home Owner and Housing Panel and the Private Rented Housing Panel.
From 24 April 2017, the Tax Chamber was established and took on the functions of the former Tax Tribunals for Scotland.
Tribunals Administered by the SCTS:
If you have any experience before any of these Tribunals, or information in relation to cases, Diary of Injustice journalists would like to hear about it. All information and sources will be treated in strict confidence, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Previous reports on moves to publish judicial recusals in Scotland and a media investigation which prompted further reforms of the Scottish Register of Judicial Recusals can be found here: Judicial Recusals in Scotland - Cases where judges have stood down over conflicts of interest