Scottish Parliament probe judicial interests & register proposal. A FIVE YEAR Scottish Parliament probe into Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate.
The proposal, 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.
The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, is widely supported in the media and in public debate as a result of media coverage.
The petition has also secured the support of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewers Moi Ali, and Gillian Thompson.
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.
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 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 timeline of debates at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458:
The Committee decided to call for submissions on the petition from the Lord President, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and Crown Office.
Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to legislate to create a Register of Interests for Scotland's judiciary was heard today 5 March 2013. The Committee decided to call for further evidence and also to invite the Lord President Lord Gill and others along to speak to MSPs and be questioned on the matter.
A petition calling for a register of interests for Scotland's judiciary has again been debated at the Scottish Parliament, where upon the Lord President Lord Gill's refusal to attend the Petitions Committee to give evidence, the Petitions Committee decided to repeat its invitation to Lord Gill to attend, and also agreed to seek the views of the Judicial Appointments Board and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.
Members of the PPC decided to invite Moi Ali, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence and also to contact Dr Kennedy Graham MP of the New Zealand Parliament. Dr Graham currently has a bill before MPs in New Zealand calling for a Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges. During the debate it was noted Lord Gill has refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to discuss the petition and judge's interests, but has attended the Justice Committee to discuss court closures in Scotland.
Moi Ali, Scotland's Judicial Complaints Reviewer gives evidence to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament regarding Public Petition PE1458 calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland's Judiciary.
Following a private meeting between Scotland's top judge, the Lord President Lord Brian Gill, and the Convener & Deputy Convener of the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament,the Committee agreed today, 28 January 2014 to defer consideration of Petition PE1458 by Peter Cherbi calling on the Scottish Parliament to create a register of judicial interests, pending receipt of a letter from the Lord President.
The Convener, David Stewart MSP and Deputy Convener, Chic Brodie MSP reported back to members on what had been said at the private meeting with Scotland's top judge who refused to attend the Scottish Parliament to be questioned on his deep seated opposition to the proposal to requie Scottish judges to declare all their interests, hidden wealth, family & business links and other matters which may impact on cases being heard before judges in Scottish courts.
Committee Member John Wilson MSP requested details of the private meeting with the judge be put on the official record of the Committee, and Jackson Carlaw MSP drew attention to the fact had it not been for the Petitions Committee asking tough questions there would not even be any letters forthcoming from Lord Gill.
The petition will be heard once a letter has been received from Scotland's top judge, who appears to be set against any attendance to face questions on why judges should not be required to register their interests, unlike all other public officials, politicians, Government Ministers and others.
The Committee agreed to seek time in the chamber for a debate on the petition. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government.
The Committee agreed to continue the petition, and is seeking a debate in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament. The Committee also agreed to write to the Lord President and the Scottish Government for more detailed responses.
The next fifteen video clips are from the debate held at the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 09 October 2014, in which MSPs, Scottish Government ministers and members of the Public Petitions Committee spoke in the debate. The full text of the speeches of each MSP can be found here: DEBATING THE JUDGES: Cross party support for proposal seeking a register of interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary as Scottish Parliament holds first ever debate on judicial accountability & transparency
David Stewart: The committee’s motivation in giving consideration to the issue and in seeking time in the chamber to debate it is a point of principle and comes from the starting point of there being an assumption of openness and transparency in all areas of public life in order to shine a light, if you like, into every corner of Scottish society.
Roseanna Cunningham: The setting up of a register of judicial interests would be a matter for the Lord President, as head of the judiciary in Scotland. The Lord President takes the view that a register of pecuniary interests for the judiciary is not needed. Furthermore, a judge has a greater duty of disclosure than a register of financial interests could address.
Graeme Pearson: Until the petition was discussed, there was no knowledge of recusals in the public domain. I welcome the fact that, as of April this year, the Lord President has introduced a register of recusals. It is fair to say that without the petition and the work of the Public Petitions Committee, such a register would probably not have been considered.
Jackson Carlaw: It is perhaps difficult to take on the judiciary, because judicial independence is always mentioned. As I said, that is a cornerstone of democracy, but because there has been no separation of accountability and independence, it is easy for the judiciary to say, ‘We are independent, so don’t interfere in that.’ Unless independence and accountability are separated, legislation will continue to include no requirement for more openness and transparency.”
Angus MacDonald: If we as elected members have to register and declare our interests, I see no reason why members of Scotland’s judiciary should not be subject to a full and publicly available register of judicial interests.
Anne McTaggart: In Scotland, claims continue to emerge of trials that have been unfair as a result of religious, ethnic or national bias. As long as those claims continue to exist, it is the Parliament’s job to promote fair government. In conclusion, I declare my support for the petition and encourage support from all the other MSPs.
David Torrance: Although I understand that conflicts of interest are on occasion declared in open court prior to taking on a case, the introduction of a register of interests would provide a more consistent and sound basis on which to move forward.
Neil Findlay: We need to do much more to make our society less secretive and less closed, and I think that the register that we are discussing is just one step towards that end. I, for one, give it my full support and urge other MSPs to do the same.
Joan McAlpine: I gently suggest to the Lord President, in whose gift it is to set up a register, as we cannot legislate for it in the Parliament, that he should be mindful of the need for the judiciary to move with the times, along with every other public institution, in order to retain the confidence of the public.
John Wilson: A register of interests for judges is an area in which we could move forward and build more confidence in the system that we have in place.
Stewart Stevenson: I encourage Lord Gill and his successors to think about recalibrating their relationship with Parliament.
Jackson Carlaw: Mind you, I would point out that we, too, swear an oath, but we nonetheless still subscribe to a register.
Elaine Murray: “Given the position of power held by the judiciary, it is essential not only that they have absolute integrity–but crucially, that they are seen to have absolute integrity.” Therefore, the issue is not that anyone doubts the judiciary’s integrity, but that the public need to see that integrity.
Roseanna Cunningham: A number of members referred to the register of interests of MSPs. However, the situation is different, because we are directly accountable to the electorate.
Chic Brodie: There is concern that a register would have unintended consequences—a phrase that has been used often in the debate—for the judiciary’s freedom and privacy and its freedom from harassment from the media or dissatisfied litigants. Those are concerns, but they are no less so for others in public life, including MPs and MSPs, who may be attacked publicly for non-declaration of interests. Although it is argued that the establishment of a register may have the unintended consequence of eroding public confidence in the judiciary, it might equally be argued that its absence might have the same effect.
The debate at the Scottish Parliament now returns to deliberations of the Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 – A Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s Judiciary:
Minister for Community Safety Paul Wheelhouse gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on their investigation of proposals to create a register of judicial interests as called for in Petition PE1458. Mr Wheelhouse on behalf of the Scottish Government opposes the creation of a register which will inform the public about what judges have, their interests, links to big business, banks, shares in corporations and tax avoidance scams.
The Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 12 May 2015. The Committee agreed to call Gillian Thompson OBE - Scotland's current Judicial Complaints Reviewer to give evidence on the creation of a register of judicial interests.
The Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee discussed Petition PE1458 on Tuesday 23 June 2015. The Committee took evidence from Gillian Thompson OBE - Scotland's current Judicial Complaints Reviewer who gave evidence in support of the creation of a register of judicial interests.
Lord Brian Gill, former Lord President and Lord Justice General of Scotland gives evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee on Petition PE1458 calling for a register of interests for judges.Gill refused two earlier invitations to appear before the Public Petitions Committee in 2013 and was dubbed "Lord No No.". Several times during the debate the 73 year old 'retired' Lord Gill called on the panel of MSPs to show faith in the UK judiciary and scrap the petition along with calls for greater transparency of judges interests.
Petitions Committee member Kenny MacAskill MSP calls for the committee to invite the new Lord President upon their appointment to appear to give evidence. Convener Michael McMahon MSP agrees to write to the new Lord President.
The Committee decided Lord Carloway is to be called to give evidence, MSPs will also contact Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde for evidence.
The Petitions Committee decided to call Lord President Lord Carloway to give evidence, and also hear from Professor Alan Paterson of the University of Strathclyde.
MSP Angus MacDonald (SNP) moves to call Professor Alan Paterson to give evidence to the committee and for msps to consider evidence from the Professor then to contact the Lord President, Lord Carloway.
Professor Alan Paterson evidence to Public Petitions Committee on creating a register of interests for members of Scotland's judiciary.
Members of the Scottish Parliament's Public Petitions Committee decide to invite Lord President Lord Carloway to provide evidence before the Committee at a future date, and to invite Alex Neil MSP to appear before the Committee at the same meeting. The decision was taken after Lord Carloway offered concessions on the recusal register of Scotland's judiciary - created as a result of this petition.
Lord Carloway gives evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on a proposal to create a register of judicial interests for members of Scotland's judiciary. The proposal has been investigated by the Scottish Parliament for five years, there is wide support for the register, from cross party msps to the media to both Judicial Complaints Reviewers.
The Petition will next be heard on Thursday 7 December 2017 where the Public Petitions Committee will be asked to consider taking evidence from Baroness Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court, and to seek further evidence on the operation of Norway’s Register of Judicial Interests.
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.