SUBBING FOR THE BENCH:

SUBBING FOR THE BENCH: Legal Affairs Minister set to appear before MSPs to answer questions on proposal to create a register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary

Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse to face MSPs on judges register plan. WITH the departure of Kenny MacAskill as Justice Secretary, it has been revealed the new Community Safety & Legal Affairs Minister – Paul Wheelhouse – is to attend the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee on December 9 2014 to face questions from MSPs on calls to create a register of judicial interests as contained in Petition PE1458: Register of Interests for members of Scotland’s judiciary.
The move comes after the recent lively debate on judicial interests in the Scottish Parliament’s main chamber on Thursday 7 October 2014,  where msps overwhelmingly supported motion S4M-11078 – in the name of Public Petitions Convener David Stewart MSP on petition PE1458 and urged the Scottish Government to give further consideration to a register of interests for judges. The debate was reported by Diary of Injustice along with video coverage here: TRANSPARENCY TIME: Top judge & Scottish Government told to rethink refusal on declarations of judges as Holyrood MSPs support calls to create a register of judicial interests
Petition PE1458 – a proposal to increase judicial transparency and submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee in late 2012 envisages the creation of a single independently regulated register of interests containing information on judges backgrounds, their personal wealth, undeclared earnings, business & family connections inside & outside of the legal profession, 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.
Previously, during the last Holyrood hearing of the petition – on 28 October, MSPs agreed to call in the then Justice Secretary – Kenny MacAskill – to face questions on the proposal to register all of Scotland’s judges interests. Mr MacAskill had previously opposed the proposal, almost to the letter of the opposition vented by Scotland’s top judge, the Lord President & Lord Justice General Brian Gill.

MSPs also demanded to see the unredacted 2014 annual report of the Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR), Moi Ali – who has since quit the judicial investigator role – comparing it to “window dressing”. So far, the Scottish Government have not published Moi Ali’s 2014 annual report.

Public Petitions Committee : Register of interests for Scotland’s judiciary Petition PE1458 Scottish Parliament 28 October 2014

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTBb_aCkgl4?list=UU2rXyF0JbZTvHwyOpdSVhiw]
However, it can now be revealed that in response to the Committee Convener’s invitation letter to Mr MacAskill asking him to appear before the Petitions Committee, the Scottish Government instead selected the then Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham – who gave a speech for the Government in place of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice during the October debate – to attend an evidence session in place of Mr MacAskill.

Now, with the sacking of MacAskill and Ms Cunningham’s shift of portfolio amid the Cabinet Reshuffle by Scotland’s new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the torch has been passed to Mr Wheelhouse to appear before MSPs and answer why the Scottish Government has so-far sided with secrecy and judges who are worried exposure of their mega riches and connections may damage their judicial privacy.

Legal insiders say it will be interesting to hear how the new Legal Affairs Minister will respond to questions as to why Scottish Ministers have previously stated they believe the motley collection of judicial oaths and rules, all approved and written by the judges themselves –  are sufficient ‘safeguards’ to deter calls for full transparency of the judiciary’s vast wealth, business & family connections, and links to big business including companies convicted of criminal offences.

While the Scottish Government have made clear their objections to the transparency proposal,  the call to create a register of judicial interests is widely supported in the media, and has the backing of Scotland’s first Judicial Complaints Reviewer, Moi Ali – who gave her support for the petition during an evidence session before MSPs at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee last September, 2013.

TOP JUDGE WHO SAID NO-NO TO TRANSPARENCY & SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT:

Scotland’s top judge Lord President Lord Brian Gill fiercely opposes calls for any form of transparency & public accountability of the judiciary and Scotland’s Courts.

Over the course of nearly two years, Scotland’s top judge Lord Gill has focussed his anger on a Scottish Parliament investigation into calls for a register of judicial interests. The register proposal would reveal the judiciary’s vast personal, undeclared wealth, extensive family and business connections throughout the legal profession, links to big business, offshore trusts & investments, ownership of numerous and high value properties through a variety of ‘creative’ arrangements, directorships, shareholdings, and even unpublished criminal records of members of the judiciary.

Lord Gill refused at least two invitations to appear before the Scottish Parliament to give evidence and face questions on his opposition to the proposal to create a register of judicial interests. The top judge has also used the Scotland Act as a loophole to avoid further scrutiny on the matter.

Lord Gill’s challenge to MSPs declared judicial opposition to transparency. In Lord Gill’s opening letter to MSPs on the call for a register of judicial interests, the judge claimed “In practical terms it would be impossible for all judicial office holders to identify all the interests that could conceivably arise in any future case. The terms of the Judicial Oath and the Statement of Principles of Judicial Ethics ensure that such a difficulty does not arise and that the onus is on the judicial office holder to declare any interest at the outset.”

In what was a hint of the sheer hostility felt by the judiciary against a call to bring transparency to judges interests, Lord Gill went onto accuse the media, press, litigants, court users and just about everyone else with an interest in transparency of being potentially hostile and aggressive, simply because someone may wish to raise questions of judges interests similar to the same kinds of questions which are raised of interests in other public officials and those in public life, politics & government.

And, if MSPs were unsure of the depth of Lord Gill’s attitude towards transparency, the top judge went on to refuse to appear before the Scottish Parliament, and used a loophole in the Scotland Act to justify his sweeping declaration he did not require to answer questions from Scotland’s democratically elected politicians. 

Lord Gill’s use of Scotland Act against MSPs was reported in the media. Writing in a letter to msps, Lord Gill implied cooperation with Parliament would be withdrawn over calls to make judges more transparent in register : “Section 23(7) of the Scotland Act provides inter alia that the Parliament may not require a judge to attend its proceedings for the purposes of giving evidence. This is not a loophole. It is a necessary part of the constitutional settlement by which the Parliament is established. Its purpose is to protect the independence of the judiciary, a vital constitutional principle that is declared in section 1 of the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008”
The judge continued: “When a committee invites a judge to give evidence before it, I have to decide whether the subject matter might infringe the principle of judicial independence; and whether the evidence required could be satisfactorily given in writing.”

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

20 comments:

Anonymous said…

Thanks for the Friday thrill.
Will Gill be providing the Minister’s script like he did for Roseanna Cunningham?

Anonymous said…

Interesting turn of events – although dont think anyone will miss MacAskill especially after his last video performance on the slcc reforms.

Anonymous said…

Sturgeon also supports the crooked judges keeping their secrets secret??

Anonymous said…

I think the best you can hope from the new justice minister is “we’ll look into it, but need time, new cabinet now, blah blah blah…”.

At worst he will simply follow the party line and mimic Gill’s opposition.

Hope I’m wrong.

Anonymous said…

Paul Wheelhouse – the stand-in for Lord NO-NO.

Wonder how the msps feel about being shunned by top judge + cabinet secretary and now having to make do with number three..

Anonymous said…

Everyone gets the argument judges must declare their interests so just make it the law!

Anonymous said…

Too much to hide not even MacAskill dare face the cameras on this one!says a lot about what the judges are up to probably with full knowledge of Ministers!

Anonymous said…

Sturgeon wont do any different from Salmond and MacAskill because Scottish Govt need the judges to keep the rest of us down.
This is what it is all about big gov using the judiciary to keep the peasants at bay so the judges are allowed to do what they want.

Anonymous said…

Amazed they are getting away with this – if Cab Sec for Justice asked to attend it should be him not substitute.

Anonymous said…

Jackson Carlaw sounded more believable when he said what the Law Society felt about the Petitions Committee in the other debate

Anonymous said…

Good thing you raised this petition because now we know the judges are absolutely crooked!!

Anonymous said…

What a relief at getting rid of the justice idiot the streets are a little safer!

Anonymous said…

I am surprised anyone speaks up for a judge who told the parliament to go stuff it.Another vested interest speaking up for a vested interest/

Anonymous said…

Anonymous said…
Paul Wheelhouse – the stand-in for Lord NO-NO.

Wonder how the msps feel about being shunned by top judge + cabinet secretary and now having to make do with number three..

28 November 2014 12:52
………………………………….

Far better a resolution than us putting up with a No. 2 but at least now he has gone.

Anonymous said…

The Lord NoNo headline should have an award of some kind,it must be the best story I have ever read about a judge and pins them down to exactly what they are – judicial dictators answerable to no one.

Anonymous said…

Dont bother breathing a sigh of relief at MacAskill’s departure,you will notice no change.

And for the record I saw Paul Wheelhouse at a UN climate change junket in Qatar a couple of years ago.

Just like your top judge no one goes to Qatar for the tourism.The conference circuit in Qatar is a holiday junket and they all have a good laugh away from the cameras.

I should know I used to work for a company in Doha which was shut down because the management did not pay enough bribes to ‘politicians’ – if you want to call them that.

Anonymous said…

I saw a television clip of Nicola Sturgeon being sworn in as the First Minister and could not help feeling that the line up of Scottish Judges glowering down at her with deep scowls on their faces was a very intimidating and was a power-play by Lord No No?

Lord No No must be livid with Nicola for disregarding the Law Society of Scotland’s selection for Justice Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and instead going for her own choice?

This shows real leadership and is a positive sign that she will not be tied-in to partial secretive self interests and that she has the confidence to stand up to the crooks who are dragging Scotland down?

Anonymous said…

After Kenny MacRaskill totally let down the Scottish People by being the Law Society of Scotland’s mouthpiece, it will be interesting to see if Paul Wheelhouse sticks up for the Scottish People or if he has already been got at by the Law Society of Scotland.

Diary of Injustice said…

@ 29 November 2014 12:22

Would like to hear more … please contact the DOI team.

Diary of Injustice said…

@ 29 November 2014 12:36

The proof will be in real actions.

Hope for change and off the record meetings behind closed doors along with the wolves in sheep’s clothing types bring no reform and nothing of use to change the status quo in Scotland’s self serving self protecting justice system.

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