Saturday, June 22, 2019

POLICE STORY: Ex-Lord Advocate linked to Police union complaints lawyers - says Police should continue to investigate themselves, complaints against top cops should be heard by ‘quango style’ panel - headed & appointed by Scotland’s top judge

Police should investigate Police – report. A FORMER Lord Advocate once accused of undermining the judiciary by Scotland’s top judge – has delivered a preliminary report as part of a review on handling of complaints and investigations against officers of Police Scotland.

However, the report from Dame Elish Angiolini on “Independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing” - continues to advocate Police should continue to investigate themselves - on the vast majority of complaints.

Angiolini also goes on to outline an eerily familiar procedure where – in the case of complaints against the most senior cops –  a ‘quango’ style panel will be convened and headed by Scotland’s top judge - along with selected ‘independent’ persons from other quangos or organisations - appointed to the panel by - Scotland’s top judge.

The report from Elish Anglioni – who herself is linked to lawyers & law firms which represent Police Officers against complaints - states “The vast bulk of complaints should properly be investigated by the police service itself” and “it is critical that those processes are clear, transparent and trusted”.

As far as the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is concerned, Angiolini states that “Independent supervision and audit is also critical. In those cases rightly requiring independent investigation the police must also provide the fullest co-operation and assistance to allow timely and effective action.”

In a recommendation linked to deaths in custody, and with relevance to the death of Sheku Bayoh who died in 2015 after being restrained by police in Kirkcaldy.

Angiolini’s report states that Police officers involved in a death in custody should be separated to prevent them conferring and contaminating evidence.

This recommendation comes after what happened following the death of Mr Bayoh, where up to nine officers involved were together in the same room for more than eight hours - which led to allegations the cops conferred with each other in compiling their reports of what happened during their involvement in the incident which ultimately lead to Mr Bayoh’s death.

Angiolini’s report states “Police officers involved in a death in custody or serious incident, whether as principal officers or witnesses to the incident should not confer or speak to each other following that incident.

“Early separation of officers, other than in pressing operational circumstances, is the best way to ensure non-conferral in practice, give transparency to the process and preserve the integrity of each individual’s evidence.

“This is in the interests of both the individual police officers themselves and the public interest in order to safeguard public confidence in the integrity of their evidence.”

“In any group of people there is a danger of group-think that could contaminate or colour evidence inadvertently or otherwise.”

However, what is not revealed anywher in the report is that Elish Angiolini – has frequently used the legal services of the same lawyer – Peter Black Watson - who also represented Police Officers involved in the same incident which led to the death of Mr Bayoh.

In a BBC Disclosure investigation, it was reported : Days after his death, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) lawyer Peter Watson told the media that "a petite female police officer was subjected to a violent and unprovoked attack by a very large man who punched, kicked and stamped on her."

The new evidence obtained by BBC Disclosure casts doubt on this account.

More on the BBC investigation can be read here: Sheku Bayoh: Fresh questions over death in police custody

It was also reported Peter Watson – who represented Angiolini in some high profile cases – had hit out against the family of Mr Bayoh over criticisms relating to the death in custody.

BBC News reported: Peter Watson of PBW Law said: "Comments made by those representing the family of the deceased promote a completely inaccurate and misleading account."

He added: "The officer injured remains off work, has had several hospital visits and is now in rehabilitation.

"An examination by a leading consultant confirms her injuries were significant. The injuries have been documented and photographed.

"The officers involved have never refused to provide statements. It was agreed at the outset with the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) that they would revert to us when they wanted statements and when they were clear on the basis that statements were to be given.

"PIRC emailed me this morning at 10:46 asking for our assistance to organise interviews and we answered at 11:29 confirming we would be pleased to assist. Those are the facts."

Peter Watson, and also his former law firm of Levy & Mcrae, both remain as legal service providers to the Scottish Police Federation – and have represented Police Officers facing complaints, and criminal charges – yet neither are identified in Angiolini’s report nor is her use of both Watson and Levy & Mcrae flagged up as a conflict of interest issue.

The report on scrutiny of complaints against the Police comes in a tough year for Police Scotland - after the appointment of Iain Livingstone to the top post of Chief Constable even after questions surfaced over Livingstone’s suitability for the role after he once faced five allegations of serious sexual assault against a female officer.

The allegations against Livingstone - who was demoted over the sexual assault allegations and then reinstated upon appeal after the case was heard by a male-led Police tribunal – resurfaced in the print media earlier in 2019 – and in a BBC Scotland investigation into cover ups and scandals at Police Scotland.

Previous articles reporting the sexual assault allegations against Iain Livingstone are available here: Scotland's Chief Constable & what happened to five allegations of serious sexual assault against a female officer

Full report available here: Independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing

On complaints against top cops - Angiolini’s report on misconduct investigations against senior officers is critical of current procedures, and recommends responsibilities be transferred away from the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – due to fears of familiarity between top cops and SPA figures, and a perceived lack of impartiality.

The report states: Police Scotland’s senior officers form a small group of 12 officers above the rank of Chief Superintendent. The members of this group are in regular contact with members and officials of the SPA at meetings of the Board of the Authority and its committees. The SPA, by its nature, also consists of a small group of members and executives. Regular engagement is right and proper and an essential part of the current accountability arrangements whereby it is the statutory function of SPA to hold the Chief Constable to account for the policing of Scotland. However, the regularity of that contact and the familiarity of senior police officers with board members and senior officials could lead to actual or perceived partiality, or antipathy, when it comes to disciplinary matters in which any of those same officers might be involved as the officer under complaint, a supporter to a subject, or a witness.

However, Angiolini’s solution to probes involving top cops - is to create a quango style panel of selected individuals - chaired by a very senior member of the judiciary or Scotland’s top judge – the Lord President – who will also appoint every one of the ‘independent’ persons to the quango style panel hearing complaints against senior cops.

From the report: The key stages of the senior officer misconduct proceedings (both misconduct and gross misconduct) should in future be removed from the responsibility of the SPA and made subject to consideration by an independent legally chaired panel appointed by a very senior member of the judiciary such as the Lord President. The Lord President should be consulted on this matter. The other members of the Panel should consist of an expert in senior policing and a lay person.

The process should follow the steps specified: 1) receipt of the complaint/allegations by SPA; 2) meaningful preliminary assessment and scrutiny of the complaint (within a strict deadline) by a senior Director; 3) prompt referral to the PIRC, or in the case of a criminal allegation to COPFS; 4) an independent investigation by the PIRC of the allegations which should remain confidential unless or until a prima facie case is established; 5) referral by the PIRC to an independent legally chaired panel and determination by the panel as to whether, in the light of the PIRC’s report, there is a case to answer of misconduct or gross misconduct; 6) a preliminary independent hearing by an independent, legally chaired panel to identify any evidence that is not in dispute and can be agreed, and any other matter which can be resolved prior to the formal hearing of the misconduct; 7) a hearing by the panel to consider the evidence, to determine the matter and if proven to decide the appropriate disciplinary action; 8) a right of appeal to a further and different legally chaired independent panel; and finally; 9) the implementation of the disciplinary action by the SPA as the “employer” of the senior officer. (Any constable may further appeal to a Police Appeals Tribunal against any decision to dismiss or demote him or her, and that should remain the case.)

The Panel should consist of independent people from other organisations or jurisdictions, and the Lord President should be consulted by the Scottish Government about the proposal that he should appoint suitable individuals. It is suggested that stages 5, 6 and 7 described in the preceding paragraph could be carried out by an independent 3-person panel comprising a legally qualified chair, one member with a senior UK policing background and one lay member; while the role of the SPA would be limited to stages 1, 2, 3 and 9. The appeal stage could also be conducted by a different independent panel appointed by the Lord President. 184. I believe that the principle of having an independent legally qualified chair for a misconduct hearing should also be extended to gross misconduct hearings for non-senior officers, that is, the rank of Chief Superintendents and below.

The Scottish Governemnt’s announcement of Elish Angiolini’s initial report mentions main points, does not allude to any relationships between the report’s author and law firms who have made millions of pounds from defending Police Officers from complaints and associated issues.

Independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing: preliminary report Published: 21 Jun 2019

Dame Elish Angiolini's independent review addresses complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing in Scotland, in the wake of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012.

Foreword

In June 2018 Michael Matheson MSP, the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, invited me to conduct an independent review on complaints against the police in Scotland. The Review commenced in September 2018. Six years have passed since the creation of radical, new policing structures for Scotland. This is an appropriate juncture to review the effectiveness of the new systems for dealing with complaints against the police in Scotland, how well such complaints are investigated and the processes reviewed. This review also provides a significant opportunity to contribute to work on matters of profound public interest in a key area of human rights.

My mandate from the Ministers is to make recommendations that will help to strengthen public confidence in policing in Scotland. This first report makes recommendations that are preliminary. It will be followed next year by a wide‑ranging report seeking to ensure that the future legislation, regulations, guidance and practice are fit for purpose. It will also examine in detail the structures of the individual organisations charged with dealing with complaints against the police. Despite the very different responsibilities and natural tensions between the four separate organisations involved in the process, it is crucial that relationships are professional, respectful, and focused on continuous improvement of policing in Scotland and securing the rights of those they serve.

In 2017 I was asked by the then Home Secretary to carry out a review of deaths in police custody in England and Wales. In my report of that Review[1] I observed that we ask a lot of those who police us in the 21st century. The need to interact and sometimes intervene in the lives and freedom of members of the public is a daily occurrence for the police. Such duties involve the power to arrest or intervene where criminal conduct is suspected or where the welfare or life of that individual or others is at serious risk, as well as in many other emergency settings. The powers that flow from those duties are immense in their potential impact on citizens and are regulated by a complex framework of laws and regulations to prevent abuse or negligence in the exercise of those powers.

How those powers are exercised is also governed by the competence and integrity of the individual police officer as well as the wider police force within which he or she serves. In addition to law, training and guidance on how officers should approach encounters that may lead to detention, the community relies on the professionalism, wisdom, ethics and courage of police officers to approach incidents which may result in harm to the officers or others. These are often situations from which most in the community would wish to remove themselves immediately for their own personal safety. Where death or serious injury occurs for those detained by the police and, in other cases, where it is alleged the detention is unlawful, human rights considerations come into play and the state is obliged to carry out effective, timeous and independent investigations into those allegations. In those that result in death, the investigation must also be held in public and allow effective participation in the process by the next of kin of the deceased.

There is however a much wider set of complaints against the police which may involve other types of allegations of criminality. Serious complaints should also be the subject of independent investigation and consideration by a prosecution service independent of the police, others should be drawn to the attention of the prosecutor as soon as possible to allow the prosecutor to determine who should carry out the investigation. Further, members of the public who interact with the police may have complaints about the conduct or efficiency of officers or the quality of service they have received from the police service as an organisation. These matters represent the vast bulk of complaints and are principally directed at the quality of the service provided including rudeness, delay or ineffectiveness. These complaints are identified for a process which aims to be user friendly and capable of as swift and proportionate a response as possible by the police organisation itself, subject to independent supervision, audit and checks.

It can be seen therefore that the notion of a complaint against the police covers a very wide range of events, behaviours and conduct that can be very distinct from each other in character. There may also be occasions however where a combination of different categories of complaint can arise from any given situation. Similarly, the character of the complaint is not always apparent to those first to receive the intimation and further information needs to be sought or investigation undertaken before decisions are made about the route the complaint should take.

This variation in the nature of, and appropriate response to complaints, presents significant challenges for the police and appropriate agencies charged with supervising or investigating such matters; more so for any member of the public wishing to make a complaint. Any understanding of the operation of the different types of complaint and the complex routes for response flowing from the complaint has been described in another, similar context as displaying "the complexity of a wiring system from the star ship Enterprise"[2] This is certainly also the case in Scotland and it was put to this Review in evidence that "the current arrangements for handling complaints about the police are overly complex, lack clarity and can be open to a range of different interpretations".

The vast bulk of complaints should properly be investigated by the police service itself but it is critical that those processes are clear, transparent and trusted. Independent supervision and audit is also critical. In those cases rightly requiring independent investigation the police must also provide the fullest co‑operation and assistance to allow timely and effective action. The effectiveness of the relations among and between each of the four organisations charged with these responsibilities in Scotland is also critical to success of the process. While the interaction of these organisations requires a degree of autonomy, and in respect of the COPFS and PIRC, independence from the police, independence does not equate to isolation, which undermines the independence of an organisation. In order for the independence of organisations to be maintained and enhanced, and for checks and balances to be effective, there must be regular and meaningful interaction at all levels of these agencies. There must also be mutual respect and an atmosphere of genuine co‑operation.

This preliminary report identifies and discusses a number of issues about these central matters for immediate consideration and others about which further comment is invited before the full report next year. Elish Angiolini 21 June 2019

Independent Report or Political Interference by Scottish Ministers

After an earlier attempt by Scottish Ministers to interfere in complaints reports from the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner, some see the Angiolini report as a new attempt by Scottish Ministers to control how investigations are handled against Police officers and particularly officers who have shown political support for Scottish Government policies.

The review of Policing complaints handling came after the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner Kate Frame spoke out on the subject of who should investigate the Police in a Sunday Post article, here: So who should police the police? In her first interview in four years, Police Scotland watchdog breaks her silence

In the interview, Kate Frame called on MSPs to review who probes misconduct claims against officers and said whistleblowers should be able to turn to investigators outside the force.

Ms Frame said: “There is a discussion to be had about whether the police should investigate themselves.

“I think that from the public’s position, they would feel an independent investigation which has not been undertaken by the police would be preferable.”

In an earlier article it was revealed Police Complaints watchdog Kate Frame had accused Scottish Ministers of interfering in her functions as Scotland’s independent Police watchdog, reported by the Sunday Post here: Emails reveal police commissioner accused Scottish government of interfering after Justice Secretary’s aide asks her to delay scathing report

In an article featuring Scottish Government interference with PIRC, the Sunday post reported “the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner had to warn one of Justice Secretary Michael Matheson’s senior civil servants to back off after he attempted to persuade her to delay the publication of a damning report.”

”Ms Frame responded to the civil servant’s suggestion that her report might be delayed by writing: “My perception of your remarks is governmental interference with my independence.”

PROBE CONFLICT: Ex Lord Advocate used same lawyers who are paid to defeat complaints by Police Union

A FORMER Lord Advocate who has links to lawyers and a suspended judge who represent the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) and cops facing complaints – has been appointed to review how complaints are handled against cops.

However, details released of the review fail to mention that Dame Elish Angiolini (nee McPhilomy) – hired Levy and Mcrae - who have been paid hundreds of thousands of pounds by Police Scotland & the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) – to get cops off the hook from complaints - including probes into deaths.

One of the lawyers linked to ex Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini – is Sheriff Peter Watson –  who was suspended from the judicial bench by  Lord Brian Gill in 2015, after being named in a £28m writ linked to bust hedge fund Heather Capital.

Watson represents Police officers facing complaints and investigations by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner.

More on Elish Angiolini’s connections to law firms representing Police Officers facing complaints, and an investigation revealing she earned over £600K on inquiry appointments can be found here: PROBE CONFLICT: £604K public cash inquiry magnate Ex Lord Advocate appointed to investigate Police complaints – linked to lawyers representing cops facing complaints

The Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee is due to hear evidence on Monday 24 June 2019 from Elish Angiolini on the Independent review of complaints handling, investigations and misconduct issues in relation to policing.

Monday, June 03, 2019

JUDICIAL REGISTER: Justice Committee to hear evidence from ex-Judicial Investigator, top judge on judicial interests register, MSP says Scottish judges should not be involved with Gulf States implicated in unlawful wars, mistreatment of women's rights

Need for Judges’ Register. MEMBERS of the Scottish Parliament’s powerful Justice Committee have committed to further work and action on a cross-party backed petition calling for the creation of a register of judges’ interests - Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary

The petition 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.

Amid strong comments during last Tuesday’s Justice Committee meeting from MSPs supporting the need for action on judicial transparency from the seven year Scottish Parliament investigation – the Committee also decided to call for further evidence from Moi Ali - Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer, and Scotland’s top judge - Lord President Lord Carloway.

Commenting on the petition – John Finnie MSP made extensive observations on evidence presented to Justice Committee exposing involvement of senior Scottish judges in the Gulf States, and submissions from Moi Ali, and Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf.

John Finnie said: “It is very helpful to have all this information here. “There are a number of suggestions. I, for one, cannot understand what the problem with having a register would be.”

“The more people tell me that there is no issue, the more I am convinced that there is a need for a register. The submission from Moi Ali is very helpful. She refers to a letter of 23 April 2014, which is now a bit old.”

“We have also been provided with extracts from news coverage.”

“I do not agree with the idea that anyone connected with the Scottish judiciary could have any role whatsoever in the United Arab Emirates.”

“I looked yesterday at the Human Rights Watch world report, which does a country by country breakdown. The United Arab Emirates is a country that is intolerant of criticism, which has played a leading role in unlawful acts in Yemen, and whose treatment of migrant workers’ rights and women’s rights is shocking. It is a country that permits domestic violence.”

I do not think that any reasonable examination of the role of a public official—and I get the point about the separation of the judiciary—would say that involvement in such a country is acceptable.”

“I believe that we need to do something and I am not content with the cabinet secretary’s response, which is just playing out the same line as before—that there is nothing to see here and we should move on.”

“I do not think that this issue will move on until we have the openness and transparency that people rightly expect of public office.”

Adding to the debate, Daniel Johnson MSP referred to the Nolan principles, from the Committee on Standards in Public Life

Daniel Johnson said: I would like to speak in support of what my colleague John Finnie has just said.

“The Nolan principles are 25 years old this year. They are principles that have guided public life very well, in particular integrity, whereby holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties”;

“openness, which I think is self-explanatory; and honesty, whereby”

“holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest”.

“That is pretty clear. Although the cabinet secretary may well not view that there is a problem, that is not to say that this is not a positive step towards ensuring that we have a judiciary that is open and transparent and whose integrity is beyond question.”

“I absolutely believe in the independence of the judiciary, but I think that in order to maintain that integrity and independence, this step has merit in terms of transparency.

“The committee should think about taking some further evidence, certainly from Moi Ali, which is the suggestion from the petitioner. This is something that we should progress and seek to move forward.”

Liam Kerr added: “I am pretty much in the same place on this. I can see the argument for why we would take this further and hear more.”

“I have looked at the response from the cabinet secretary and the reference to the previous cabinet secretary, whose view has been that there is nothing particularly to examine here.”

“Having considered the force of the argument in favour of exploring it further, I am not convinced that it is good enough to say, “There is nothing here. Don’t worry about it.”

For that reason, I think that we should look at this in more detail.

Liam McArthur said: “I echo what Daniel Johnson has said and much of what John Finnie has said.”

“In reference to the United Arab Emirates, although I might share many of his concerns, I think that the point is that a register would be illuminating”

Minutes from the meeting reveal the Justice Committee agreed to take evidence at a future meeting on issues raised by the petition – which will occur later this year in September.

Video from the Justice Committee meeting, the full official transcript and further reporting follows:

Register of Judicial Interests Petition PE1458 Justice Committee 28 May 2019

Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener (Margaret Mitchell MSP): Our final item is consideration of petition PE1458. The petition is from Mr Peter Cherbi and asks the committee to consider the merits of establishing a register of interests for members of the judiciary. I refer members to paper 4. Since we considered the petition last time, we have received additional information from Mr Cherbi and also from Moi Ali. We have also received a letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. I invite members to comment on the correspondence and say whether they wish to make any recommendations or suggest further action.

John Finnie MSP: It is very helpful to have all this information here. There are a number of suggestions. I, for one, cannot understand what the problem with having a register would be. The more people tell me that there is no issue, the more I am convinced that there is a need for a register. The submission from Moi Ali is very helpful. She refers to a letter of 23 April 2014, which is now a bit old.

We have also been provided with extracts from news coverage. I do not agree with the idea that anyone connected with the Scottish judiciary could have any role whatsoever in the United Arab Emirates.

I looked yesterday at the Human Rights Watch world report, which does a country by country breakdown. The United Arab Emirates is a country that is intolerant of criticism, which has played a leading role in unlawful acts in Yemen, and whose treatment of migrant workers’ rights and women’s rights is shocking. It is a country that permits domestic violence.

I do not think that any reasonable examination of the role of a public official—and I get the point about the separation of the judiciary—would say that involvement in such a country is acceptable.

I believe that we need to do something and I am not content with the cabinet secretary’s response, which is just playing out the same line as before—that there is nothing to see here and we should move on. I do not think that this issue will move on until we have the openness and transparency that people rightly expect of public office.

Daniel Johnson MSP: I would like to speak in support of what my colleague John Finnie has just said.

The Nolan principles are 25 years old this year. They are principles that have guided public life very well, in particular integrity, whereby

“holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties”;

openness, which I think is self-explanatory; and honesty, whereby

“holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest”.

That is pretty clear. Although the cabinet secretary may well not view that there is a problem, that is not to say that this is not a positive step towards ensuring that we have a judiciary that is open and transparent and whose integrity is beyond question.

I absolutely believe in the independence of the judiciary, but I think that in order to maintain that integrity and independence, this step has merit in terms of transparency. The committee should think about taking some further evidence, certainly from Moi Ali, which is the suggestion from the petitioner. This is something that we should progress and seek to move forward.

Liam McArthur MSP: I echo what Daniel Johnson has said and much of what John Finnie has said. In reference to the United Arab Emirates, although I might share many of his concerns, I think that the point is that a register would be illuminating and, if there is a justification in engaging in order to improve the way in which judicial procedures operate in a third country, at least we would all know what the purpose of that engagement is.

I very much concur with what has been said about the need for transparency and the underpinnings of the Nolan principles.

I see from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service the details of the accountability report. I am not sure that that is a massive leap away from what the petition is seeking, and therefore this may be a bit of a journey that it is on, but I certainly agree that it would be worth the committee continuing to pursue this, and to take further evidence from Moi Ali.

That would seem to be a logical next step, as John Finnie suggested. The earlier evidence was in written form. It was a number of weeks ago. I believe that it would probably benefit us all to hear what she has to say and cross-examine that a little further. I would be very keen to keep the petition open.

Liam Kerr MSP: I am pretty much in the same place on this. I can see the argument for why we would take this further and hear more. I have looked at the response from the cabinet secretary and the reference to the previous cabinet secretary, whose view has been that there is nothing particularly to examine here. Having considered the force of the argument in favour of exploring it further, I am not convinced that it is good enough to say, “There is nothing here. Don’t worry about it.” For that reason, I think that we should look at this in more detail.

Fulton MacGregor MSP: I echo what others have said. John Finnie in particular made a very compelling argument for doing something further on this. Some people have commented on the cabinet secretary’s response. It is not my take on it that he is saying that there is nothing to see here, but I think that we should take more evidence and information in order to work out where to go from here. I agree with what has been said.

The Convener (Margaret Mitchell MSP): If there are no other views, I will summarise. The committee is keen to hear from Moi Ali. Her letter was dated in 2014, but she has said that it is still relevant. It would be good to get an update. The Nolan principles are 25 years old, so perhaps it is time to take some evidence from Lord Carloway, if he is prepared to give a view, and certainly from the petitioner, and to give the cabinet secretary an opportunity to respond more fully than he did in his letter. If there are any other witnesses, we will be looking to do this in September. Are we agreed that that is how we will move forward?

Members indicated agreement.

CROSS-PARTY calls are being made for all of Scotland's judges to declare their interests:

The issue of judicial transaprency and calls for judges to declare their interests was reported in more detail on Scottish Television (STV) - full article by visiting the link here: Scots judges facing pressure to declare their interests

The STV report states: Cross-party politicians on Holyrood's justice committee believe that increased transparency is vital to maintain public trust in the judiciary.

The committee will call Moi Ali, the former Judicial Complaints Reviewer and current Independent Assessor of Complaints at the Crown Prosecution Service, to give evidence.

She told STV News: "This is the 21st century and people have quite high expectations of openness and transparency.

"I don't really understand why one small but very powerful section of society should be allowed not to have to do that. It really doesn't make sense.”

SNP MSP Alex Neil plans to introduce legislation if a register is not introduced.

An in-depth investigation on judicial conflicts of interest and the need for a register of judicial interests to increase public trust in the courts, is featured on STV (full article by visiting the link below)

 Judging for ourselves if conflict of interest in courtsBy Russell Findlay

“Most people would struggle to name Scotland's top judge or many of the other 700-plus judicial office holders who preside in our civil and criminal courts.”

“His grand title is Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice General (previously Colin Sutherland, lawyer) and one of his jobs is to take the swearing-in oath of First Ministers.”

“Yet he and these other largely unknown judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace hold great power - including being able to send people to prison - and their decisions directly or indirectly impact on all our lives.”

“However, there are growing concerns about how little we know about their outside interests and concerns that these could potentially influence decisions on the bench.”

SCOTTISH JUDGES SERVING IN THE GULF STATES:

An exclusive investigation by Investigative Journalist Russell Findlay revealed Scottish judges were serving in Abu Dhabi & UAE courts while serious Human Rights abuses were taking place against British citizens in the same countries.

The investigation also reveals how Scottish and UK judges are lured to the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar with big money salaries are available here: JUDGES FOR SALE: Special investigation into top lawmen being lured with big money jobs in Qatar and the UAE and here: Scottish judges slammed for being on payroll of oppressive regimes abroad

The report reveals TOP judges are accused of selling the reputation of Scottish justice by working for Middle East countries with toxic human rights records.

Two judges are on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where domestic violence against women is legal and where regime critics are tortured and jailed without trial.

The most senior is Lord Hope of Craighead — Scotland’s former top judge, a member of the House of Lords and ex-deputy president of the UK Supreme Court.

Our investigation found that Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In recent years, retired UK judges have been increasingly lured with big paycheques to new civil courts in Qatar and the UAE states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Lord Hope is chief justice of Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts which also employs Lord McGhie and six other male judges from the UK and Commonwealth.

Another former Lord President, Lord Hamilton, sits in a court in Qatar which is accused of backing international terrorism and using migrant slave labour.

The Justice Committee’s meeting of Tuesday 28 May 2019, was also reported in The National newspaper, here:

Holyrood committee advance plans for register of judges' interests

By Martin Hannan Journalist 29 May 2019

SCOTLAND’S judges may soon have to register their interests after the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee yesterday defied Justice Minister Humza Yousaf and Scotland’s most senior judges on the issue of transparency.

Seven years after he raised a petition on the issue, journalist and legal issues campaigner Peter Cherbi admitted last night he was surprised that Holyrood’s Justice Committee were going to keep his petition “live” and take the matter up with Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord President, Lord Carloway.

Justice Minister Yousaf had told MSPs a register of interests was not necessary. Lord Carloway and his predecessors have also opposed it.

Cherbi told The National: “I am happy to hear that the Justice Committee are taking this petition forward and the supporting comments from MSPs today who clearly understand the value of bringing a register of interests to Scotland’s courts.

“Thanks to media coverage, including in the National, the issue has remained in the public eye and interest for seven years, and public debate has led to people asking why judges should exempt themselves from transparency and accountability – which are the core principles of any justice system.

“The benchmark evidence from Scotland’s first judicial complaints reviewer, Moi Ali, contributed in great measure to how the Public Petitions Committee took the work forward, with MSPs backing the petition in a major debate at Parliament, and through the seven years of work by the Public Petitions Committee.

“Perhaps it is now time for our judiciary to reflect on why they have resisted calls for transparency for seven long years.

“Where the Lord President and Scottish Government have failed to act, I look forward to the Justice Committee moving forward on this issue, and creating legislation for a publicly available register of judges’ interests, with proper rules and full, independent scrutiny in a manner which is equivalent to the register of interests which many other public servants, including our elected representatives and Scottish ministers, must sign up to.”

NOLAN PRINCIPLES

The 7 principles of public life apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes people who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in:

  • the civil service
  • local government
  • the police
  • the courts and probation services
  • non-departmental public bodies
  • health, education, social and care services

The principles also apply to all those in other sectors that deliver public services.

1. Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

2. Integrity: Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

3. Objectivity: Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

4. Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

5. Openness: Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

6. Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.

7. Leadership: Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

They were first set out by Lord Nolan in 1995 and they are included in the Ministerial code.

For further information on the 7 principles and the work of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, visit the Committee’s website and blogsite.

SEVEN YEARS JUDICIAL INTERESTS PROBE:

The judicial register 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.

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 lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland's judiciary.

TWO TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving 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”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving 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

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.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

JUDGE THE JUDGES: Seven years, and one year on from petition passed to Justice Committee, questions on judicial conflicts of interest & Scots judges swearing dual judicial oaths in Gulf States - time to move forward on legislation for register of judges’ interests

Seven years on - Judicial probe. OVER ONE year ago, and amid much positivity – a cross party backed public petition calling for the creation of a register of judges’ interests was passed to the Scottish Parliament’s powerful Justice Committee.

The transfer of the petition came after six years of a Scottish Parliament investigation on Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary – including work and evidence heard by Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee.

The Public Petitions Committee’s support for creating a register of judicial interests and transfer of work to the Justice Committee - was reported in detail here: JUDICIAL REGISTER: Holyrood Petitions Committee calls for legislation to require Scotland’s judges to declare their interests in a register of judicial Interests

Now, SEVEN YEARS on from when the petition was first filed at Holyrood, in October 2012 – further evidence from the petitioner, and supporters of judicial transparency – urge MSPs on the Justice Committee to press ahead with work on legislation to create a publicly available register of judges’ interests.

Petition 1458 is to be considered again by members of the Justice Committee on Tuesday 28 May 2019, fourteen months after the Public Petitions Committee agreed to back the petition, and pass it to the Justice Committee for further work.

However, it was revealed last week by Justice Committee clerks - that only one of the branches of the justice system requested to give evidence by the Justice Committee had replied to MSPs request for cooperation.

From the Crown Office, to the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates and even the Lord President himself – Lord Carloway –  all refused or ignored requests for evidence from the Justice Committee.

Quizzed on the work done by the Justice Committee in the last year, a Committee clerk informed the petitioner: “Before the Committee last considered your petition on 5 February, clerks approached those who have previously given evidence to the Public Petitions Committee to ask if they had anything to add to their previous submissions.”

“We approached the Lord President, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service and the Judicial Complaints Reviewer. Only the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service responded, stating that they had nothing to add”

From contact with the Justice Committee, it also emerged the Justice Secretary -  Humza Yousaf had written to MSPs, claiming judges should be allowed to judge themselves, and that the public must rely on judicial oaths & ethics – written and approved by the judiciary - instead of transparency in courts.

The Justice Secretary also, and erronesouly, claimed existing complaints rules negated the creation of a register of judges’ interests – a claim which prompted former Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali – to write to the Justice Committee in support of the petition, and to give her views on the effectiveness of judicial complaints rules.

Moi Ali’s letter was reported in further detail here: SCRUTINY FOR JUDGES: Former Judicial Complaints Reviewer to MSPs - Judicial complaints rules are no substitute for protection generated by a full register of judicial interests

Mr Yousaf also claimed in his letter that “no further evidence has been provided to the Justice Committee that strengthens the arguments already put forward in favour of the introduction of the register.”

Mr Yousaf’s letter was reported in further detail here: COPY MINISTER: ‘Copied’ content from ex Minister sent by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to Holyrood MSPs - Public must rely on judges judging judges for transparency, Scottish Government will not create register of judges’ interests

However, recent submissions to the Justice Committee including accounts of serving Scottish judges swearing dual oaths for high earning judicial posts in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and other Gulf States point to substantial new evidence submitted to MSPs, backing up the need for a full register of judicial interests.

Evidence and media reports in relation to the Gulf States service of Scottish judges was reported in more detail here: MSPs urged to take forward SEVEN year petition to create a Register of Judges’ Interests as Holyrood Justice Committee handed evidence of Scottish Judges serving in Gulf states regimes known to abuse Human Rights

Now, the petitioner has made a submission to the Justice Committee, calling on MSPs to hear further evidence if required, and take the petition forward to create legislation for a judicial interests regiser.

The full submission to the Justice Committee from the petitioner is reprinted here:

Submission re Petition PE1458 – A Register of Interests for Members of Scotland’s Judiciary

Noting the previous hearing of the petition, I am grateful to members comments in relation to openness and transparency not being a contradiction to the independence of the judiciary, and proposals by members to investigate the way other jurisdictions handle recusals and judicial declarations.

I would refer members to such jurisdictions as Norway and the USA – which both operate registers of judicial interests, and judicial recusals. I believe both could serve as a model to assist in the creation of a publicly available register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary.

Given members comments in relation to evidence collected by the Public Petitions Committee, I do feel it would be productive for the Justice Committee to hear further evidence from Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer – Moi Ali.

I believe such an evidence session would refresh members views, and support the confidence exhibited in previous expressions of cross party support during the main chamber debate on this petition in October 2014, and enhance the backing of the Public Petitions Committee in requesting the Justice Committee consider this matter.

As I have previously indicated, I believe members would also benefit by hearing in an evidence session - from Petitions Committee members whose work brought this petition forward, and hearing from MSPs such as Alex Neil – who have looked closely at how the judiciary have handled questions of transparency and conflicts of interest.

Noting the Justice Secretary’s response to the Committee, it appears unfortunate the Minister was not informed of new and widely reported evidence submitted to members in relation to senior Scottish judges holding dual judicial posts, both in Scotland and in the Gulf states – and notably with no reference to such by the Judiciary of Scotland.

It is worth noting, that due to the passage of time of this petition – considerable, and regular presentations of new evidence to the Public Petitions Committee - in relation to issues such as a lack of judicial transparency, failure of judges to interact or cooperate with parts of the Judiciary & Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 – particularly interaction with the Judicial Complaints Reviewer - and widely reported developments in court proceedings from conflicts of interest to failures to recuse – depict a markedly different view of the current state of judicial transparency, and how a Register of Interests would benefit both judges, and increase public confidence in the justice system.

None of these matters are in doubt. The Public Petitions Committee evidence – both in written form and live evidence sessions with witnesses – including two of Scotland’s top judges, both previous Judicial Complaints Reviewers, academics and Ministers, gave the Public Petitions Committee the confidence to support this petition and refer it to the Justice Committee for further action.

This is indeed contrary to the Scottish Government’s position that the judicial oath, the statement of principles of judicial ethics and the various rules made under the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 operate as a ‘safeguard’ when the overwhelming evidence is – they do not work in terms of increasing transparency, accountability or public confidence in the judiciary.

Indeed, the statistics in the Register of Recusals – created as a result of this petition – now total well over 100 instances of judicial conflicts of interest – and it is important to note we would not have known about previous to this petition and the investigative work of MSPs and the media who followed these events.

It is also worth noting the Recusals Register started out in April 2014 as a very bare reference log, without much detail - notably excluded tribunal members and still does not appear to include over 400 Justices of the Peace.

The Register of Recusals has only been reformed into the slightly more detailed state in which it currently exists, due to requests from the Public Petitions Committee, MSPs and direct discussions between myself and the Judicial Office – which I have previously provided to the Petitions Committee during their work.

Clearly, there is still much work to do on the Register of Recusals – and this may be an issue which the Justice Committee could investigate further.

Given the work by MSPs on this petition to-date, and the cumulative evidence collected by the Public Petitions Committee from witnesses and written submissions – from both sides of the debate, it is clear there is a considerable benefit to both the justice system and public expectation of transparency - to creating a register of interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary, in a form at least as already exists for all other branches of public life, including members of the Scottish Parliament.

SCOTTISH JUDGES SERVING IN THE GULF STATES:

An exclusive investigation by Investigative Journalist Russell Findlay revealed Scottish judges were serving in Abu Dhabi & UAE courts while serious Human Rights abuses were taking place against British citizens in the same countries.

The investigation also reveals how Scottish and UK judges are lured to the UAE, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar with big money salaries are available here: JUDGES FOR SALE: Special investigation into top lawmen being lured with big money jobs in Qatar and the UAE and here: Scottish judges slammed for being on payroll of oppressive regimes abroad

The report reveals TOP judges are accused of selling the reputation of Scottish justice by working for Middle East countries with toxic human rights records.

Two judges are on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where domestic violence against women is legal and where regime critics are tortured and jailed without trial.

The most senior is Lord Hope of Craighead — Scotland’s former top judge, a member of the House of Lords and ex-deputy president of the UK Supreme Court.

Our investigation found that Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

In recent years, retired UK judges have been increasingly lured with big paycheques to new civil courts in Qatar and the UAE states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Lord Hope is chief justice of Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts which also employs Lord McGhie and six other male judges from the UK and Commonwealth.

Another former Lord President, Lord Hamilton, sits in a court in Qatar which is accused of backing international terrorism and using migrant slave labour.

SEVEN YEAR TRANSPARENCY PETITION:

The judicial register 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.

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 lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland's judiciary.

The judicial register of 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.

TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving 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”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving 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

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.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

SCRUTINY FOR JUDGES: Former Judicial Complaints Reviewer to MSPs - Judicial complaints rules are no substitute for protection generated by a full register of judicial interests

Ex-Judicial Reviewer – register judges. SCOTLAND’S first Judicial Complaints Reviewer – Moi Ali – has hit out at suggestions complaints rules for judges act as a safeguard against judicial impropriety in place of a register of judges’ interests.

Writing in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee – Ms Ali said she was moved to contact MSPs after reading a letter from Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to MSPs, claiming complaints rules for judges make a register of judicial interests unnecessary.

Moi Ali wrote: “In 2014 when I was Judicial Complaints Reviewer, I wrote to the Public Petitions Committee in support of the Register.”

“I was moved at that time to write in response to the then Justice Secretary’s submission to the Committee that such a register was unnecessary.”

“He cited the complaints rules as being one of the three safeguards that made a register unnecessary.”

“Today I have been prompted to write this letter having seen the current Justice Secretary’s almost identically-worded submission to this committee.”

“It is simply not the case that the complaints rules offer protections such that a register of interest is not required.”

Ms Ali ends her letter by telling MSPs: “I hope that the committee will see that requiring the judiciary to meet the same standards of transparency as others in public life will in no way compromise their independence.”

Moi Ali also submitted a letter she wrote during her term as Justice Secretary, in response to previous end erroneous claims by Kenny MacAskill to MSPs which have since been repeated by Humza Yousaf.

In her letter to the Public Petitions Committee, Ms Ali states: “I write not from the viewpoint of the judiciary, who have a vested interest in this issue. I write from the perspective of the Scottish public. I write not on behalf of those who hand down justice, but those who are on the receiving end. It is important that their voice is heard. They have a right to know that justice is being done, an essential component of which is that it is seen to be done. A register of interests is a tangible way of showing that justice is being done.”

“The position of the judiciary is incredibly powerful. They have the power to take away people's assets, to separate families, to lock people away for years. Some of these people will not have committed a crime. They may be women who want protection from abusing partners, fathers who want access to their children, or people whose home is at stake due to various legal or family wrangles. People going through the court system face stress and anxiety, perhaps financial pressures, and fear about the future. Their perspective is important and must be a consideration in this matter.”

“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. Again, a register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case - financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any other way. Conversely, the refusal to institute a register of interests creates suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. So once more, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.”

Humza Yousaf’s letter to Margaret Mitchell MSP, Convener of the Justice Committee – repeated the claims by former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill that complaints rules for the judiciary meant there was no requirement to create a register of interests for judges.

The letter from the Justice Secretary to Holyrood’s Justice Committee was reported in depth here: COPY MINISTER: ‘Copied’ content from ex Minister sent by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf to Holyrood MSPs - Public must rely on judges judging judges for transparency, Scottish Government will not create register of judges’ interests

In the letter, Justice Secretary – Humza Yousaf – told Holyrood’s Justice Committee that judges should be allowed to judge themselves, and the public must rely on judicial oaths & ethics – written and approved by the judiciary - instead of transparency in the courts.

The judicial register 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 judicial register of 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.

The move to create a register of judicial interests enjoys cross party support, backing in the media, and crucial support from two of Scotland’s Judicial Complaints Reviewers – including Moi Ali

Moi Ali – who served as Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) - appeared before the Public Petitions Committee in a hard hitting evidence session during September 2013,and gave her backing to 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.

The lengthy Scottish Parliament probe on judicial interests has generated over sixty two submissions of evidence, at least twenty one Committee hearings, a private meeting and fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate and has since been taken over by Holyrood’s Justice Committee after a recommendation to take the issue forward from the Public Petitions Committee in March 2018.

A full report containing video footage of every hearing, speech, and evidence sessions at the Scottish Parliament on Petition PE1458 can be found here: Scottish Parliament debates, speeches & evidence sessions on widely supported judicial transparency petition calling for a Register of Interests for Scotland's judiciary.

MSP at Holyrood have previously heard over sixty two submissions of evidence, during twenty one Committee hearings, and a private meeting between two MSPs and a top judge, and two private meetings since early December 2017 to decide a way forward on their six year investigation.

Cross party support for the Petition at the Scottish Parliament saw fifteen speeches by MSPs during a full Holyrood debate spanning from 2012 to 2018.

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.

Holyrood’s Justice Committee are due to consider Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland's judiciary on Tuesday 28 May next week.

Moi Ali’s full letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee reads as follows:

The following submission is for the consideration of the Justice Committee when it meets on 28 May 2019 to discuss a register of interests for the judiciary.

In 2014 when I was Judicial Complaints Reviewer, I wrote to the Public Petitions Committee in support of the Register.

I was moved at that time to write in response to the then Justice Secretary’s submission to the Committee that such a register was unnecessary.

He cited the complaints rules as being one of the three safeguards that made a register unnecessary.

Today I have been prompted to write this letter having seen the current Justice Secretary’s almost identically-worded submission to this committee.

It is simply not the case that the complaints rules offer protections such that a register of interest is not required.

Rather than repeat the arguments again, I have attached the letter I wrote in 2014. It remains as relevant today as it did at back then.

I hope that the committee will see that requiring the judiciary to meet the same standards of transparency as others in public life will in no way compromise their independence.

Yours, Moi Ali

The following is the letter sent by Moi Ali in her capacity as Judicial Complaints Reviewer, to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament, who were considering the petition to create a register of judicial interests:

Assistant Clerk to the Public Petitions Committee, Scottish Parliament

Consideration of Petition PE1458

I understand that the Committee is due to consider this petition again shortly. In view of this, and in response to the Cabinet Secretary's letter of 22nd April 2014, this is an opportune time to pull together the reasons why the Judicial Complaints Reviewer believes that a register of interests for the judiciary is essential.

I write not from the viewpoint of the judiciary, who have a vested interest in this issue. I write from the perspective of the Scottish public. I write not on behalf of those who hand down justice, but those who are on the receiving end. It is important that their voice is heard. They have a right to know that justice is being done, an essential component of which is that it is seen to be done. A register of interests is a tangible way of showing that justice is being done.

I think it likely that the number of complaints against the judiciary would fall were there to be a published register of interest for judicial office holders. I have received complaints about perceived conflicts of interest that have come to light after court proceedings. A register of interests would allow issues to be dealt with at the time, thus averting the need for a complaint. That would be good for the judiciary and for the public.

The position of the judiciary is incredibly powerful. They have the power to take away people's assets, to separate families, to lock people away for years. Some of these people will not have committed a crime. They may be women who want protection from abusing partners, fathers who want access to their children, or people whose home is at stake due to various legal or family wrangles. People going through the court system face stress and anxiety, perhaps financial pressures, and fear about the future. Their perspective is important and must be a consideration in this matter.

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. Again, a register of interests is a way of demonstrating that a judicial office holder is impartial and has no vested interest in a case - financially, through family connections, club/society membership or in any other way. Conversely, the refusal to institute a register of interests creates suspicion that in turn undermines judicial credibility. So once more, a register of interests is good for the judiciary and good for the public.

The Cabinet Secretary for Justice states that there are sufficient safeguards already in place, citing the complaints rules as one of these safeguards. As the person appointed by the Cabinet Secretary to review complaints handled under these rules, I can say from experience over nearly three years that the rules are not fit for purpose. I have attached a document I prepared in December 2013, following consultation with members of the public who had made complaints under these rules, to support this assertion.

The Judicial Office's published statistics demonstrate either that judicial conduct is exemplary, and the public vexatious or unable to understand the rules; or they show that the rules are not fit for purpose. I suggest that it is the latter. For the first year in which the Rules were operational (a 13-month period to 31st March 2012), 107 conduct complaints were made to the Judicial Office and 98 were completed during that year. With one exception, all of them were dismissed without investigation. Only one investigation was carried out, following which the complaint was dismissed as "unsubstantiated".

The latest statistics have yet to be published, but year two figures (to March 31st 2013) show that 114 complaints were made (plus the 9 carried over from year 1). Of 116 concluded during the year, only 11 were investigated. Four of the 11 were still underway at year-end, meaning that 7 investigations were completed in Year 2. Of the 7, one was withdrawn; 2 resolved informally; and 4 were reported to the Lord President. Of the 4 reported to the Lord President, 3 were deemed to be without substance, unsubstantiated or vexatious. For the one remaining complaint, an apology was offered by the judicial office holder and the Lord President deemed that no further action was required.

In summary, in the first 25 months of the new complaints regime, the Judicial Office's published statistics show that of 221 complaints there were 12 investigations, one judicial office holder apologised for his or her conduct and no judicial office holders were disciplined.

My experience in this office leads me to the conclusion that the rules are not a sufficient safeguard. But even if they were, particularly when combined with the judicial oath and the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics, why not go further in enhancing transparency and accountability?

There are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent members of public boards from acting inappropriately - such as robust audit committees, external scrutiny and regulation, board meetings held in public and a rigorous appointments process. Nevertheless, such members are still required - and rightly so - to complete a publicly accessible register of interests in order to demonstrate transparency and accountability. It is right that public appointees and elected politicians are required to do this, and it is also right that the judiciary should too. Registers of interest are the norm now and the judiciary is out of step with standard practice. This undermines their standing with the public.

For all of the above reasons, it is in the interests both of the judiciary and of the public for there to be a register of interests.

I have been frank about my views in this letter, and I hope that I have not given the impression that I do not have a great deal of respect for the judiciary and the difficult work that they undertake for the greater good of society. Their work is essential, their independence vital. An independent judiciary underpins a civilised society. But with independence goes accountability, and a register of interests is a mechanism for enhancing accountability.

I will be standing down from my role as JCR in the summer, but until that time I am happy to provide further information to the committee if that would be helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Moi Ali, Judicial Complaints Reviewer

TOP SCOTS JUDGES FAIL IN HOLYROOD TRANSPARENCY PROBE:

Both of Scotland’s recent top judges failed to convince MSPs that a register of interests is not required for judges – even after both Lord Presidents attempted to press home the existence of judicial oaths and ethics – which are both written, and approved by – judges.

Video footage and a full report on Lord Brian Gill giving 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”

Video footage and a full report on Lord Carloway (Colin Sutherland) giving 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

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.