Scottish Sheriffs certainly do fear for revelations of their past .. so much so that their Association intervened in the Justice 1 Committee "Regulation of the Legal Profession" inquiry back in 2001 and demanded .. or perhaps .. required .. that the Justice 1 Committee withdraw from any inquiries into Sheriffs .. and you can read Sheriff Lockhart's intimidating letter to the Justice 1 Committee informing the Parliament they might be taken to Court on ECHR grounds if they tried to investigate Sheriffs ..
How's that for fearing transparency ? I'd say ... quite good evidence ... Threaten a Parliamentary Inquiry with Court if they investigate Sheriffs ... quite good evidence of a cover up, by using the threat of Court Action .. which would be judged by one of their colleagues .. no doubt in their favour ...
In Scotland,a Sheriff is a Judge, who is usually assigned to work in a particular local Sheriff Court or who travels around the Sheriff Courts system anywhere in Scotland when they are needed, as a 'floating Sheriff'.
There are now 142 full-time Sheriffs in the various Courts and a number of part-time Sheriffs, all being appointed by a Judicial Appointments Board which is further from transparency than the rules of the Scottish Parliament (a fiddler's charter, one could say).
Sheriff Courts deal with legal cases & procedures which include things like
(1) Solemn and Summary Criminal cases
(2) Large and Small estates upon a death
(3) Fine payments
(4) Civil actions under Ordinary, Summary Cause and Small Claim Procedures
(5) Adoption Cases
(6) Bankruptcy Actions
What & who, are Scottish Sheriffs ?
Well, Scottish Sheriffs are lawyers .. well, former lawyers, and Advocates (fancy name for a lawyer who practices in the Higher Courts of Scotland) .. and so on. So, we shouldn't have any trouble then with them, should we ? Sheriffs, being former lawyers ? .. that should be ok, right ? Not at all ... as events have revealed.
Since Sheriffs come from Scotland's near 10,000 lawyers ... who have about 5000+ complaints made against them each year ... we certainly do need to be concerned about their background ... especially the bits which the Judicial Appointments Board conveniently pass over .. in other words, their regulatory history as a lawyer or advocate .. and in this, lies a problem .. a BIG problem.
A friend of mine, a journalist, has been trying to uncover the history of certain Scottish Sheriffs, and has uncovered some sinister details of the history of certain Sheriffs from when they were lawyers. Nothing of course, which doesn't surprise me ... stuff like, embezzling funds from clients, ruining deceased clients estates & plundering clients wills, overcharging clients for work, intentionally mis-selling clients properties for reduced sums to preferrential clients & personal friends, even, allegations of picking up under age rent boys for sexual adventures ....
How come we never see anything of the complaints histories then, of a lawyer or advocate, who then goes on to be a Sheriff ?
Well, we don't see anything like that, because the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Sheriffs Association, and the Judicial Appointments Board .. don't want us to see it .. because if we did .. there would have to be a few resignations from the Bench.
Isn't it about time that some people started asking to see the regulatory histories of these lawyers who are appointed Sheriffs ?
Well, surprise .. that information - their history as a lawyer, how many complaints they had made against them .. etc .. appears not to be subject to FOI Law .. (Freedom Of Information) .. and that is because, the Law Society of Scotland - who collect regulatory data .. even when they don't want to admit it .. got itself an exemption from the FOI Act ... so .. basically, they can do whatever they want .. and if a crooked lawyer refuses to disclose their regulatory history to the public or the Judicial Appointments Board - then we will never know anything about it.
It goes much deaper than that though ... Sheriffs are still lawyers, even though they are Sheriffs ... still lawyers, licensed to practice law .. and they still pay into the sinister, corrupt Master Insurance Policy run by the Law Society of Scotland & Marsh UK ... and that in itself is an interesting point .. as there are a few Sheriffs now on the Bench in Scotland who were subject to long protracted negligence claims by clients .. but the Law Society of Scotland wiped their records of crooked offences clean .. and hid the dirt so they could go on to become Sheriffs.
So, we have situations where, Sheriffs, who have been caught stealing clients money .. stealing their possessions ... embezzling what they could, as a lawyer ... are now sitting in judgement on other fraudsters .. who of course, can't get away with it so easy .. because of course ... the people up before them .. don't serve the law .. or do they ?
What would happen, for instance, if a crooked lawyer who had embezzled their clients funds, stolen assets, looted wills, possessions, ruined clients lives, fitted up complaints so they got off the hook, etc .. came up before a Sheriff .. who had done the same when they were a lawyer ?
Well, guess what ? It's happened .. and the Sheriff certainly didn't dismiss himself from the case .. because of course, he hadn't told anyone he had been a crooked lawyer in the past .. so he didn't really need to.
Now .. if this were America .. probably, the lawyer representing the client who had a negligence claim against the crooked lawyer, would point out that the Judge ... had been a crooked lawyer too in his past .. but no .. that doesn't work in Scotland .. because the Sheriff is also, still, a member of the Law Society of Scotland ... so lawyers never reveal things like that agains their colleagues .. do they ...certainly not to aid their client against a fellow colleague ...
I found it interesting that a Sunday Newspaper recently ran a story about a lawyer who was subject to some 12 negligence claims. TOP LAWYER AT THE CENTRE OF 12 NEGLIGENCE CLAIMS .. well, there are some who are currently sitting on the Sheriffs Bench .. which the Scottish Executive know all about ... who were also embroiled in negligence claims from clients
Of course, the Scottish Executive, the Judiciary, and the Law Society of Scotland, would prefer this information never got out, and would certainly prefer the public not to ask such questions of their Sheriffs .. even to the point of threatening a newspaper and a journalist's career (or more than his career) .. if word got out .. but I think it's time, people started asking for more of the background of these Sheriffs ... because they are certainly NOT what they seem to be ... as some of us well know. Be nice to see the story eventually break though ...
Here's a little unrelated article from last weeks Scotsman on the rising number of Sheriffs ...
Now go and ask some questions everyone on the appointment of Sheriffs... and just what they have been up to in their past
Number of Scottish sheriffs reaches record levels
NINE appointments have taken the total of Scotland's sheriffs to a record 142, it was announced yesterday.
The appointment of the seven men and two women was approved by the Queen after they were nominated by Jack McConnell, the First Minister.
He did so on the basis of a report to him by the independent judicial appointments board that was set up in 2001.
The appointment of a part-time sheriff was also announced and Mr McConnell said he has asked the board to recommend more part-timers.
The nine sheriffs will serve in some of Scotland's 49 sheriff courts. Some of the newcomers will serve in specific areas where help is most needed.
Mr McConnell said: "These appointments will bring the complement of sheriffs up to a record level of 142. I am sure that they will make an early impact in reducing delays in criminal trials and civil cases being heard."
The new sheriffs are Ruth Anderson QC, 59; solicitor Maxwell Hendry, 50; Martin Jones QC, 50; solicitor Desmond Leslie, 51; solicitor Elizabeth McFarlane, 45; solicitor advocate Alan Mackenzie, 50; Charles Macnair QC, 51; solicitor Thomas Millar, 52, and advocate Nigel Ross, 43.