Crown Office set to have new Lord Advocate SCOTLAND'S Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) - based in Edinburgh - would not be out of place in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Seriously.
Remember the opening sketch from At World’s End – where the line of accused sing while walking to the gallows - as various repeals of statutes, rights & laws are ordered suspended.
If one were to loiter around gatherings of prosecution robes in Sheriff courts up and down the land, one would quickly discover this is how some view justice and how to score a conviction, guilty or not.
Headlines and PR please. Who cares about due process and the quality of evidence – that is the stuff of entertainment, drama and fiction.
Thank goodness then, for criminal defence solicitors … well, at least the dutiful, attentive & hard working ones.
Evasion, introducing dodgy evidence into a trial – lets just call it lying, telling plod to read from an empty note book, dead people on witness lists, private briefings against judges who signed a petition to retain key parts of Scots Law such as corroboration.
The Crown has done it all. Ask any solicitor – well, a decent one. Even the judiciary know it. Not too difficult to spot.
Incompetence, corruption, links to gangsters, stage managed media, interference in investigations and subtle threats to anyone who stands in their way of a quick verdict.
What £110 million a year – the cost of the Crown Office - buys you. Really.
The truth is, standards have slipped at Scotland’s Crown Office. And we all know it.
Some may say, were there ever any real standards at the Crown Office? Well - there is an unpalatable answer to that one.
But let us not forget, we are here today to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the end of one Lord Advocates career in office ... and the beginnings of another.
Among the massed ranks of gangsters, corrupt public officials, legal aid thieving lawyers, the occasional declare-dodging judge waddling along with gemstones, krugerrands, loads-a-property and offshore trusts jingling in their back pockets, there are a platoon of prosecutors who are tasked with keeping the lid on all of it.
That lid – needs a boss.
You know – someone to keep Edinburgh’s version of Al Capone’s Hotel Lexington in fancy red carpets and baseball bats.
And so we come to the role of Lord Advocate. The boss of it all.
The current Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, announced back in March he plans to step down in May.
Mr Mulholland previously served as Solicitor General and succeeded Dame Elish Angiolini QC as Lord Advocate in 2011.
Speaking of his intention to quit, the Lord Advocate said: “It has been a real privilege to serve as Lord Advocate, leading Scotland’s prosecution service and providing independent legal advice to the Scottish Government . However, after nine years as a Law Officer – the last five as Lord Advocate - I have decided it is the right time to step down and do other things.
“In recent years the Crown has embedded specialisms in the way it does its job. Our expertise in handling offences including rape, domestic abuse, Serious Organised Crime, Counter Terrorism and Cold Cases has helped us become one of the most effective prosecution services in the world and given victims greater confidence to report crimes.”
He added: “It’s been an honour to do this job working with so many dedicated and talented people to deliver justice in some of the most demanding and challenging of cases.
He was duly praised by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said: “Frank Mulholland has fulfilled the challenging roles as head of Scotland’s prosecution service and as the Scottish Government’s principal legal adviser, with dedication, energy, integrity and intellect.
“He has played a central role in many innovations to our justice system, including leading Scotland’s first successful ‘double jeopardy’ murder prosecution and agreeing a historic communiqué with the heads of prosecution services from across the UK and Ireland to work together to tackle the cross-border crime of human trafficking.
“It is clear that he has worked to bring about change to ensure that the system makes a real difference to people’s lives, and his dedication to the law and his compassion for others has been behind that drive.
“Frank has made a substantial contribution to the law and Scottish society. I’m confident that he will continue to do so and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for his service and wish him well for the future.”
Nothing about the decision to refuse to prosecute anyone over the deaths of six members of the public in Glasgow Bin Lorry deaths case – and countless other deaths in similar situations.
Nothing about inaction in a three year probe of a £400 million collapsed Hedge Fund with links to the judiciary who just happened to represent Scotland’s top politicians and former Lord Advocate.
Nothing about shredding statistics so the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee could not investigate claims in the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012.
Nothing about significant numbers of collapsed cases involving notorious Scottish crime clans – this after being fed yearly Crown Office press releases on crime gangs & professional advisers, none of whom are ever caught.
Nothing about slipping £500K of bonuses to Crown Office prosecutors for a job not well done.
Nothing about the real reasons for the introduction of Double Jeopardy – because Prosecutors were - and are - just not up to the job.
Nothing about the Crown Office role in the plot to remove Corroboration from Scots Law. And what a plot that was.
Nothing about Prosecutors very own crime gang – where Crown Office Prosecutors teamed up with criminals, leaked case files, used drugs & much more.
Oh, and nothing about Prosecutors escaping jail for some of the worst imaginable crimes on the go.
Of course - as we all know - fond farewells are often fond - and written by candle light with a teary eye.
Perhaps not always fair to blame the boss, right? It’s the institution.
Some would say that. Even a clear thinking Scottish Minister, at least privately.
Institutionally corrupt, institutionally racist .. the Crown Office has been branded many things over the years, and rightly so with the evidence before our very eyes.
So, if the institution is to function as it should, a change is needed, much more than a simple elevation of another part of the problem to higher office.
Step up - the next overseas jet set junket, expenses claiming, bonus paying, investigation meddling & truth bending Lord Advocate.
For previous articles on the Crown Office, read more here: Scotland's Crown Office - in Crown detail
In completely unrelated news:
Currently, there is a dirty cash probe into the financial affairs of the Lord Advocate’s brother.
Previously, it has also been reported a relative of the current Solicitor General was convicted of criminal offences involving violence against women.
The same Solicitor General represented the Crown during the Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Glasgow Bin Lorry deaths - where a decision was taken not to prosecute anyone over the “preventable deaths”.
The Crown team’s failure subsequently forced the families of victims to attempt a private prosecution after the justice system and Crown Office, let them down.
And mystery now surrounds how one former high ranking law officer was rejected for a judicial position after intense lobbying for the candidate by a dodgy member of the judiciary linked to top politicians - raised several judicial wigs & brows.
Mulholland joins judicial bench:
In an update to this published article, the Scottish Government announced on May 11 2016 that retiring Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has been appointed as a judge.
Among five senators appointed to the College of Justice, Frank Mulholland QC, Sheriff John Beckett QC, Ailsa Carmichael QC, Alistair Clark QC, and Andrew Stewart QC will sit as judges in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary.
Their appointments take effect on dates to be agreed by the Lord President. Four of the appointments are to fill existing vacancies.
The fifth judicial appointment, to be taken up by Frank Mulholland QC, will take effect following the retirement of a senator later in the year.
The appointment of Mulholland to a judicial position comes after the recent appointment of Lord Carloway to the top post of Lord President – head of the Scottish judiciary.