The status of the Scottish Courts Service, the organisation which runs Scotland’s Courts has been changed by the Scottish Government into what some in the legal profession now describe as an ‘arm's length’, 'independent’ body, governed by a Corporate Board chaired by Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President Lord Hamilton. It is claimed, the new arrangements, introduced from 1st April, “will reaffirm the independence of the judiciary and help improve strategic decisions about the operation of the Scotland’s courts.”
The new arrangements, set out in the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008, are intended to improve the justice system by modernising the arrangements for the judiciary and strengthening the relationship between the judiciary and the Scottish Court Service (SCS).
Lord President Lord Hamilton. Commenting on the changes, the Rt Hon Lord Hamilton, the Lord President and Chair of the SCS Board said: “The changes taking place today - the creation of a Scottish Court Service under the direction of an independent Board and the creation of a unified judiciary - are important constitutional changes. The effect will be to place the Scottish Court Service decision-making process closer to those who are directly involved in the delivery of justice. I believe the new arrangements will provide an opportunity for the creation of a better and closer relationship between judicial office holders and staff, working together to deliver to the public the sound and prompt judgments to which it is entitled.”
“The members of the Board have among them a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience of working within the courts, in government and in the commercial sector. This breadth of understanding will help us develop the direction of the Scottish Court”
“Service and the delivery of services to all those who have need to use them. It will allow us, over the next few months, to consider and develop the strategic direction for the Service. We face, along with the public sector generally, difficult financial conditions. We must not underestimate the challenges this presents.”
In addition to the Lord President, the Scottish Court Service Board includes 12 other members – six members from different tiers of the judiciary and six non-judicial members, including the SCS Chief Executive, an advocate, a solicitor and three members with experience and knowledge from other backgrounds, including business, finance and administration. The ‘new’ members of the Scottish Court Service Board are The Lord President, Lord Justice Clerk, Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service, The Rt Hon Lord Reed, Sheriff Principal R Alastair Dunlop QC, Sheriff Derek Pyle, Sheriff Iona McDonald, & Mrs Johan Findlay JP (all Judicial Members), Mr Robert Milligan QC (Advocate Member), Mr Mark Higgins (Solicitor Member), Mrs Deborah Crosbie, Mr Anthony McGrath & Mrs Elizabeth Carmichael CBE (Members from ‘outside’ the justice system).
The SCS Board will develop the strategic direction for the Scottish Court Service and deliver an operationally effective SCS, which is responsible for providing the staff, buildings and technology to support Scotland’s courts, the work of the independent judiciary, the courts’ Rules Councils and the Office of the Public Guardian.
The new SCS will work closely with the judiciary, Scottish Government, other justice agencies, professional bodies and consumer and court user organisations to help maintain and strengthen public confidence in the Justice system. SCS Chief Executive Eleanor Emberson has been appointed as Chief Executive to the new organisation. Ms Emberson has been Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service since 2004. The Scottish Court Service remains part of the Scottish Administration and staff continue to be civil servants.
Those interested in the changes to the Scottish Courts Service status, which have come about from the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 can view video coverage of the Lord President’s appearance at the Scottish Parliament at LawyerTV where the Lord President was questioned by members of the Justice Committee. While Lord Hamilton, the Lord President was mostly in favour of the bill, former Court of Session judge Lord McCluskey was more critical of many key points, including the amount of Judicial Administration Duties involved in the now passed legislation, along with questions over Judicial Independence.
Lord Hamilton on appointing the Judiciary – An element of trust involved …
Profiles of the members of the ‘new’ Scottish Court Service Board :
The Rt Hon Lord Hamilton, Lord President and Lord Justice General (Arthur Campbell Hamilton).Chair of the Scottish Court Service BoardLord Hamilton was appointed Lord President in December 2005. He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Session in 1995. He is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford (BA, Worcester College) and Edinburgh (LLB). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1968.
The Rt Hon Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk (Brian Gill) Lord Gill was appointed Lord Justice Clerk in November 2001. He was appointed a Judge of the Court of Session in 1994. He is a graduate of the Universities of Glasgow (MA, LLB) and Edinburgh (PhD). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1967, appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981 and is a member of the English Bar.
Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service. The Board appointed Eleanor Emberson as Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service in February 2010. Ms Emerson was Chief Executive of the Scottish Court Service from 2004.The Board will appoint a chief executive in due course, who will also be a member of the Board.
Members of the Board appointed by the Lord President
The Rt Hon Lord Reed (Robert John Reed)
Lord Reed has been a judge of the Court of Session since 1998. He was appointed to the Inner House in 2008, having previously been the principal judge of the Commercial Court. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1983.
Sheriff Principal Alastair Dunlop QC
Alastair Dunlop QC has been Sheriff Principal of Tayside, Central and Fife since 2000. He was educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond and the University of Dundee (LLB). He was admitted as a solicitor in 1976 and called to the Faculty of Advocates in 1978. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1990. He is currently a member of the Judicial Studies Committee and chairman of the three local criminal justice boards in his sheriffdom.
Sheriff Derek Pyle
Sheriff Pyle has been a sheriff for ten years. He is based at Dundee and was, prior to that, a sheriff in Inverness. He was formerly a solicitor in private practice in Edinburgh, specialising in commercial litigation. He has a particular interest in the reform of civil law and procedure in commercial disputes and was instrumental in founding the Highland Commercial Court.
Sheriff Iona McDonald
Sheriff McDonald was appointed a part-time Sheriff in 1995 and a full time Floating Sheriff in 2000. She has been Senior Sheriff at Kilmarnock since 2007. She is a graduate of the University of Glasgow (MA, LLB) 1978 and was a solicitor in private practice for almost 20 years.
Mrs Johan Findlay JP
Johan Findlay has been a Justice of the Peace since 1986 in Dumfries and is immediate past Chairman of the Scottish Justices Association. She was a Member of the Parole Board for Scotland from 2000 to 2006 and is an Honorary Sheriff. She is author of ‘All Manner of People, the History of the Justices of the Peace in Scotland’.
Mr Robert Milligan QC
Robert Milligan took silk in 2009. He is a graduate of the universities of Oxford (BA, University College) and Edinburgh (LLB and Dip LP). He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1995
Mr Mark Higgins
Mark Higgins is a practising solicitor and a member (partner) of the multinational firm Irwin Mitchell LLP. He is a graduate of the University of Glasgow (LLB (Hons) and Dip LP) and is the author of the book Scottish Repossessions (W Green, 2002).
Mrs Deborah Crosbie
Deborah Crosbie graduated from Strathclyde University in 1991 BA (Hon) in Business law and industrial relations. She has had a successful career in the financial services industry and is currently Chief Information Officer for the UK businesses (Clydesdale & Yorkshire Bank) of the National Australia Bank.
Mr Anthony McGrath
Anthony McGrath, graduated from Glasgow University in 1978 BSc (Hon) in Mathematical Statistics. He has had a successful career in marketing and management in the food and drinks industry, including 11 years with Scottish and Newcastle, latterly as a member of its Group and UK management boards. Since 2005 he has been managing director of a chain of public houses.
Mrs Elizabeth Carmichael CBE
Elizabeth Carmichael graduated from Edinburgh University in 1970 MA (hons) History. She has spent most of her working life in the Civil Service, retiring in 2007. From 1999 – 2007 she was Head of the Community Justice Services Division, and since then she has taken on governance roles in the public and voluntary sector, as a Board member of the Scottish Social Services Council and the Deputy Chair of SACRO.
Scotland’s Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Kenny MacAskill Cabinet Secretary for Justice made little comment on the changes, simply saying : “Today marks a milestone in the work being done to modernise and strengthen arrangements for the Scottish judiciary and administration of the courts. It is fundamental to any democracy that the judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches of government.”
For my part, I note the appointment of Sheriff Alastair Dunlop QC, who represented me in the case against crooked Scottish Borders lawyer Andrew Penman, and was prepared to take Mr Penman to court and have his negligence & deceit exposed for all to see.
However, the then Alastair Dunlop QC, was speedily appointed to the bench as a Sheriff after just a week had passed after I'd met him, denying my access to my own legal counsel & court as I couldn’t find another advocate who was allowed to continue the case.
I have the feeling we are looking at the formation of yet another quango to run the justice system in its own interests, rather than the interests of the public who has to pay for it through taxes … and only time will tell if any actual improvements come about through these ‘changes’ …