Monday, April 14, 2014

Publicly Funded Scottish Arbitration Centre lawyers to ‘arbitrate’ contractual disputes with Scottish Government says Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham

A TEAM of lawyers who receive tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money each year will ‘arbitrate’ or ‘settle’ disputes between contractors and the Scottish Government, says Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Roseanna Cunningham who announced earlier this week the Scottish Government’s contractual default dispute clause is now Scottish arbitration under the guise of the Scottish Arbitration Centre.

However, the Minister did not reveal in her statement the close links between the SNP, the Scottish Government and the Arbitration Centre itself which may leave some of its intended users questioning the impartiality of the organisation and any subsequent arbitration it conducts between external parties and the Scottish Government.

Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Legal Affairs said in a statement: “Arbitration can play an important role in meeting the needs of businesses, their customers and their employees in finding cost-effective resolution to complex issues"There is a fantastic level of expertise within Scotland’s legal community in arbitration, and we want to capitalise on this to make Scotland a world leader in the lucrative arbitration market. We have been determined in our commitment to provide businesses and lawyers with the infrastructure they need to make Scotland an international centre for arbitration and enhance this country's global competitiveness. As part of our efforts, this Government is actively inserting Scottish arbitration clauses in all Scottish Government contracts."

Welcoming the commitment, Andrew Mackenzie, chief executive of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, said he hoped it would encourage other public sector bodies, including the UK Government, to follow suit. "We understand that arbitration business is generally on the increase in Scotland, and have been informed that the Scottish Arbitration Rules have been inserted into numerous private sector contracts. This bodes well for the domestic arbitration market”, he commented.

The Scottish Arbitration Centre’s Andrew MacKenzie is a solicitor on secondment from the Scottish Government Justice Directorate.  Becoming a solicitor in 2004, he advised the Scottish Government Health Department.  In 2008, he was appointed by Lord Cullen to be Secretary of his Review of Fatal Accident Inquiry Legislation.  In 2009, he became Head of Courts and Legal Services Reform in the Scottish Government Justice Directorate, and had policy responsibility for the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill and civil court rules.  Since August 2010, he also had responsibility for policy on alternative dispute resolution, including the Government commitment to establish a Scottish Arbitration Centre.

The Scottish Arbitration Centre’s Directors are:

  • Brandon Malone (nominated by Law Society of Scotland)
  • Neil Stevenson (nominated by Law Society of Scotland)
  • Gordon Bathgate (nominated by Chartered Institute for Arbitrators)
  • Sarah Speirs (nominated by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors)
  • Janey Milligan (nominated by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors)
  • Gordon Reid QC (nominated by the Faculty of Advocates)
  • Alan Summers QC (nominated by the Faculty of Advocates)

Anyone involved in contractual disputes with the Scottish Government may wish to check up on the impartiality of the Scottish Arbitration Centre and its members who are mostly from the legal profession and other self regulating industries which rely on the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Arbitration Centre, a business headed by a former SNP legal spokesman, Brandon Malone, who made a name for himself in the letters column of the Scotsman newspaper a few years back, receives TENS OF THOUSANDS OF POUNDS of public money from the Scottish Government in the form of annual payments along with access to Scottish Ministers, according to information disclosed by the Scottish Government under Freedom of Information legislation. However, the centre has not publicised any big successes as of late.

john_murray_qcEx-Court of Session Fettesgate Judge Lord Dervaird made Hon Vice President of SNP/Law Society backed Scottish Arbitration Centre One of the appointments made to the Scottish Arbitration Centre raised eyebrows, in the shape of LORD DERVAIRD (aka Prof. John Murray QC) the Court of Session judge who STUNNED the Scots legal establishment in the early 1990s by resigning in a cloud of rumours connected to the FETTESGATE ‘Gay Justice Conspiracy' scandal has today been appointed as an Honorary Vice President of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, a ‘joint venture’ opened by the SNP’s Fergus Ewing and backed by the Scottish Government, the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Faculty of Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors

The Scottish Arbitration Centre came about after a specific proposal for an arbitration centre was presented by Brandon Malone, solicitor advocate, on behalf of the Scottish Government’s steering group at a meeting last year between Fergus Ewing and representatives of the bodies authorised to act as Arbitral Appointments Referees (AARs) under the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010. Mr Malone, who also happens to be Chairman of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, has been involved with the SNP for many years and was the party’s “Assistant Spokesperson on Justice & Equality” in the late 90’s, famed among other things yet to be published, for writing letters in the Scotsman newspaper defending the legal profession.

The much hyped Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 pushed through by the SNP Scottish Government which the Scottish Arbitration Centre is using as a business model, aimed to promote domestic & international arbitration under Scots Law and, laughably, seeks to promote Scotland as a place to arbitrate disputes, legal & otherwise.

Critics of the Arbitration (Scotland) Act 2010 and its passage through the Scottish Parliament point out the legislation was put through Hollyrood at the suggestion of the Scots legal establishment to corner the arbitration market, seen as a lucrative business to be controlled before ‘outside elements’ took it over. The legislation seeks to increase the number of arbitrations under Scots Law while also increasing the level of business for arbitration advisers and the number of appointments of arbitrators based in Scotland, as long as they are agreeable to, or members of, or are under the control of the organisations who back the Scottish Arbitration Centre.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

FREQUENT FLYER: Law Society Chief Exec Lorna Jack gets £7K a year publicly funded Highlands & Islands Airports board position from Scottish Government

THE Scottish Government has announced the appointment of Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland as one of two new non-executive directors appointed to the board of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd. Ms Jack already commands several other paid positions, including of course a significant salary in her position at the Law Society of Scotland.

Although Law Society of Scotland officials prefer not to emphasise the salaries of their officials in media releases, the CEO’s office is thought to be worth several hundred thousand pounds, comparing similarly to the salary of it’s English equivalent, at around £400K a year.

The publicly owned HIAL operates 11 airports, including Dundee, Inverness, Barra, Stornoway and Islay.

Ms Jack, who joined the Society in January 2009, replacing the controversial Douglas Mill, has held a number of senior posts including President Americas for Scottish Development International, the Scottish Government’s trade and investment arm, and chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley.

A chartered accountant by profession, Jack is also a trustee and treasurer of the McConnell International Foundation which was started by ex First Minister now Lord Jack McConnell.

The appointments, which run from 1 March 2014 to 28 February 2017, are part-time and attract a remuneration of £6,987 per annum for a time commitment of two days per month.

Bruce Beveridge, President of the Law Society of Scotland, commented: “I am delighted that Lorna has been appointed to this position, which will allow her to contribute her considerable business skills and experience to supporting HIAL’s work in some of the more remote parts of Scotland.Lorna will take up this role in addition to her responsibilities at the Society. In recognition of the support she has received from her colleagues, Lorna has arranged for her remuneration to be paid to the Society.Along with everyone at the Society, I wish her well in this new and exciting position.”

The other appointment is James McLaughlin, previously HR director for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Friday, March 28, 2014

CONTRACT KILLED: ‘Toxic brand’ ATOS exit work assessment contract early as Condems rush to appoint new benefits assassin to go after the disabled, weak & vulnerable

Benefits test company ATOS to leave work assessment contract early. ATOS, the French IT company contracted out by the Tory led Condem Westminster Government to cut the sick, disabled & elderly’s benefits to nothing, is to finish its contract early, Government ministers have confirmed. The early termination of the work assessment contract with ATOS – who were branded “Contract Killers” in hearings at the Scottish Parliament ten days ago, comes amid mounting criticism of the company’s treatment of disabled people and media investigations that linked ATOS to the deaths of hundreds of Scots & thousands of the disabled, ill, vulnerable & the elderly across the UK.

However there is mounting speculation that some kind of back door financial deal has been done between the Westminster Government and ATOS to get the company out of the headlines before next year’s General Election, and this year’s Independence Referendum in Scotland, where ATOS cuts to benefits claimants have particularly hit hard among Scots communities of the vulnerable, long term ill and disabled, leading to hardship, poverty, homelessness and rising numbers of suicides.

The early quit notice from ATOS, who were due to finish their contract in August 2015 follows feeble UK government criticism over "significant quality failures". Commenting on ATOS desire to end its contract, Disabilities Minister Mike Penning said a new company would be appointed in early 2015. Mr Penning also claimed Atos would not receive "a single penny of compensation".

BUT ATOS will also continue with assessments for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit  in Scotland, the north of England, London and the south of England. Another company, Capita, provide PIP assessments in central England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

PIP, which replaced DLA (Disability Living Allowance) is another controversial reform introduced by the Condems who want to cut all benefits claims from disabled persons for even the lowest level of payments which could make all the difference in their lives.

ATOS claimed in a statement it would "work hard to support transition to a new provider", adding: "We will be transferring our infrastructure and employees to ensure consistency of service to those going through the process. "There will be no change for those applying for Employment and Support Allowance."

Last month, ATOS said it was seeking to end its government contract under which it carried out the Work Capability Assessments in Scotland, England & Wales. However, ATOS will continue to carry out the assessments in Northern Ireland under a separate contract.

All claimants applying for Employment and Support Allowance must undergo the ATOS Work Capability Assessment to see how their illness or disability affects their ability to work. Atos has been criticised over the number of these assessments it has made as well as for lengthy waiting times and refusals which have led to many deaths of people throughout the UK, a figure put at a staggering 32 benefits test related deaths every week. Disability campaigners have described the work tests as "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair".

Public and Commercial Services union general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said the assessments were "designed to harass vulnerable people and take their benefits away rather than provide support and guidance".

"Doctors, MPs and disabled people all believe the tests should be scrapped so, instead of replacing the failed Atos with another profit-hungry provider, the government should bring the work in-house and invest in it properly."

And charity Sense called for a "root-and-branch reform of the system to ensure disabled people are judged fairly on their ability to work".

PETITION TO HOLRYOOD SLAMMED ATOS AS CONTRACT KILLERS:

MSPs heard company linked to deaths of disabled claimants should be dropped from Commonwealth Games sponsorship. A PETITION to the Scottish Parliament calling on the organising Committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to drop the ATOS sickness benefits assessment company as the games sponsors was heard by MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday 18 March 2914. ATOS has been linked in the media to the deaths of hundreds of Scots & thousands of the disabled, ill, vulnerable & the elderly across the UK.

The petition, which readers are urged to support, calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the organising Committee to drop ATOS as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games because ATOS have taken disability and sickness benefits away from poor and vulnerable people, reducing them to penury and extreme poverty.

The petition further states that “In addition, many people have died before the ATOS Fit for Work Assessment has been completed. The practices of this company are not compatible with Scottish social democratic values and therefore we call on the Petitions Committee to put our case to the Scottish Parliament so that the Parliament can reflect the opinions of many people in Scotland that ATOS be dropped as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

Sean Clerkin, and Iain MacInnes, Secretary, Glasgow against ATOS, gave evidence to msps on the practices of the ATOS company contracted by the Westminster ConDem coalition to cut benefits spending. ATOS have been widely linked in the media to deaths involving disability victims after they had been judged fit for work and had their benefits taken away.

Petitioner Sean Clerkin told MSPs he believed Atos were "contract killers" who were "not fit" to sponsor the 2014 Commonwealth Games, on 18 March 2014. Mr Clerkin's petition calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the 2014 Commonwealth Games' organising committee to drop IT company Atos as a sponsor. He told the Public Petitions Committee the company, who assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, were a "toxic brand".

Scottish Law Reporter has previously reported on difficulties in the benefits system, where it was revealed in an earlier report of the deaths of over ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE who had been declared ‘fit for work’ as a direct result of ‘fitness for work tests carried out by ATOS on the orders of the Conservative Liberal-Democrat Coalition Government in Westminster. Further reports on ATOS are HERE

In November 2012 The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published by the Spartacus network of disability researchers and campaigners.

This supplementary report of December 2013, which Ekklesia is pleased to make available and endorse, contains further compelling evidence of the need for change.

After introducing the issues and the annual reviews of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), it documents the reality for those directly impacted: deaths and suicides; accounts from MPs and advisers; the direct experience of sick and disabled people; views expressed by medical and other professionals; opinions from public bodies,;views expressed by Church leaders; and views expressed by charities and Disabled People’s Organisations.

The report then looks at the policy context: the UK’s human rights obligations under UN conventions; monitoring of standards; the financial cost of the WCA; contractual and audit issues; work-related obligations and sanctions; training of WCA assessors; progress on the audio recording of assessments; the long-delayed 'Gold Standard' Evidence Based Review; the Court of Appeal ruling that the WCA is discriminatory; a final summary and conclusion. (72pp., PDF format)

The Sunday Mail newspaper has previously reported on how badly the UK Government & ATOS are treating Scots in need:

ATOS A SICK JOKE Sunday Mail 17 July 2011 A SICK JOKE : Benefits clawback firm promise 'brighter future' but victim speaks out

Jul 17 2011 Mark Aitken, Sunday Mail

A PRIVATE firm hired to slash benefits are promising "a brighter future" to claimants whose payouts are stopped. Atos Healthcare are being paid £100million a year by the Tories to reassess people on disability and sickness benefits and drive them back to work.

They pay doctors up to £60,000 a year to assess whether claimants are fit to work. In a job advert for doctors, they claim: "You could make the difference that gives someone on incapacity benefit a brighter future." The advert, published on the British Medical Journal website, adds: "It's a vitally important role that aims to change lives for the better."

Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has campaigned on the issue, branded the ad as "insulting". The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP said: "The Tory-led government need to get a grip on Atos as a matter of urgency. "This advert is an insult to the thousands of people across the country who have been let down by the shambolic way Atos conduct their assessments.

"The idea that Atos are giving people on incapacity benefit a brighter future would be laughable were it not causing so much distress and pain to those who have been unfortunate enough to go through the process of their assessments."Rather than advertising for more highly paid staff, the Tory-led government should demand Atos sort themselves out, so their assessments are fair and reasonable."

Last week, the Sunday Mail revealed bungled rulings were costing taxpayers £50million. Around 30,000 people appealed against their decisions, with 40 per cent of them successful, which has cost the government around £50million. But UK employment minister Chris Grayling has admitted no money has been claimed back from the firm for poor medical advice.

An Atos spokeswoman said: "We have no comment on the advert."

Chemo patient's despair at ruling : Maggie Mackay was assessed by Atos as "fit to work" when she was still recovering from chemotherapy. The 51-year-old, from Glengarnock, Ayrshire, was a furniture restorer before breast cancer stopped her in her tracks.

She had radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery but was then assessed as being to fit to work by Atos and taken off disability benefit. Maggie, who bravely took part in our Breast Cancer Care Fashion Show last year, has launched an appeal.

She said: "Two weeks ago I had more surgery as my scar was not healing properly. My side effects include fatigue, not being able to sleep, very sore bones and memory loss. "The young woman didn't seem interested. I can't squat because I have two slipped discs."But she wrote in her report that I could squat. She made out I was perfectly fit and healthy. "Everything you say is twisted to make out that you are fit for work. I now have £8 a day to live on."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Scottish Parliament hear calls to drop ‘toxic brand’ ATOS benefits test company as sponsor of Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

MSPs hear company linked to deaths of disabled claimants should be dropped from Commonwealth Games sponsorship. A PETITION to the Scottish Parliament calling on the organising Committee of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to drop the ATOS sickness benefits assessment company as the games sponsors has been heard by MSPs at Holyrood earlier this week. ATOS has been linked in the media to the deaths of hundreds of Scots & thousands of the disabled, ill, vulnerable & the elderly across the UK.

The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the organising Committee to drop ATOS as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games because ATOS have taken disability and sickness benefits away from poor and vulnerable people, reducing them to penury and extreme poverty.

The petition further states that “In addition, many people have died before the ATOS Fit for Work Assessment has been completed. The practices of this company are not compatible with Scottish social democratic values and therefore we call on the Petitions Committee to put our case to the Scottish Parliament so that the Parliament can reflect the opinions of many people in Scotland that ATOS be dropped as a sponsor for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.”

Public Petitions Committee - PE01508 ATOS as a sponsor of the 2014 Commonwealth Games

Speaking to MSPs on Tuesday of this week, Sean Clerkin, and Iain MacInnes, Secretary, Glasgow against ATOS, gave evidence to msps on the practices of the ATOS company contracted by the Westminster ConDem coalition to cut benefits spending. ATOS have been widely linked in the media to deaths involving disability victims after they had been judged fit for work and had their benefits taken away.

Petitioner Sean Clerkin told MSPs he believed Atos were "contract killers" who were "not fit" to sponsor the 2014 Commonwealth Games, on 18 March 2014. Mr Clerkin's petition calls for the Scottish Parliament to urge the 2014 Commonwealth Games' organising committee to drop IT company Atos as a sponsor. He told the Public Petitions Committee the company, who assess whether benefits claimants are fit to work, were a "toxic brand".

Last month Atos confirmed it was seeking to end its government contract. Disability campaigners have described the work tests as "ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair". Mr Clerkin said it was disappointing no MSPs, apart from the convener David Stewart, asked any questions about the petition. Iain MacInnes from Glasgow against Atos also gave evidence.

After hearing the petitioners, the Committee agreed to write to the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, ATOS, the Scottish Government, the Scottish Trades Union Congress, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Disability Sport, the Department for Work and Pensions and sportscotland.

Scottish Law Reporter has previously reported on difficulties in the benefits system, where it was revealed in an earlier report of the deaths of over ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE who had been declared ‘fit for work’ as a direct result of ‘fitness for work tests carried out by ATOS on the orders of the Conservative Liberal-Democrat Coalition Government in Westminster. Further reports on ATOS are HERE 

In November 2012 The People's Review of the Work Capability Assessment was published by the Spartacus network of disability researchers and campaigners.

This supplementary report of December 2013, which Ekklesia is pleased to make available and endorse, contains further compelling evidence of the need for change.

After introducing the issues and the annual reviews of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), it documents the reality for those directly impacted: deaths and suicides; accounts from MPs and advisers; the direct experience of sick and disabled people; views expressed by medical and other professionals; opinions from public bodies,;views expressed by Church leaders; and views expressed by charities and Disabled People’s Organisations.

The report then looks at the policy context: the UK’s human rights obligations under UN conventions; monitoring of standards; the financial cost of the WCA; contractual and audit issues; work-related obligations and sanctions; training of WCA assessors; progress on the audio recording of assessments; the long-delayed 'Gold Standard' Evidence Based Review; the Court of Appeal ruling that the WCA is discriminatory; a final summary and conclusion. (72pp., PDF format)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NO JUSTICE: Victims of crime often end up as victims of secretive Crown Office prosecutors & Scotland’s “Gentlemen's Club” of a justice system

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland – Crown Office failed to explain dropped rape prosecution. AS questions grow over the Crown Office & Lord Advocate’s role in the dropped prosecution of footballer David Goodwillie for rape, and other cases come to light where victims of crime and their families often end up as victims of the justice system itself and the sinister role of the Crown Office across a multitude of cases, crime victims are launching a campaign demanding their voice is heard in Scotland’s justice system reports the Sunday Mail newspaper.

As most victims of crime in Scotland will know from experience, dealing with Scotland’s secretive, unaccountable Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) – which often pursues its own agenda in criminal investigations or prosecutions, often places victims of crime in a far worse position after inept prosecutors and COPFS staff frequently dither, delay or fail to present cases or evidence in court – especially when friendships, associations and the vested interests of Scotland’s notorious gentlemen’s club of a justice system come into play.

Police and prosecutors have let us down claim victims of crime as they launch new campaign for justice

Mar 16, 2014 08:41
By Marion Scott Sunday Mail

PARENTS Anne and Richard Craig whose son died in a school attack and Denise Clair, who claims to have been raped by a footballer, have spoken out about their experiences of Scotland's justice system.

CRIME victims joined forces yesterday to launch a campaign demanding their voice is heard in Scotland’s justice system.

Anne and Richard Craig, whose son Euan, 14, was punched to death at school, say their suffering was made worse by their dealings with prosecutors and courts.

They met Denise Clair, who fears her fight to discover the truth of what happened on the night she claims to have been raped by footballer David Goodwillie has been undermined by Crown Office decisions.

Anne, Richard and Denise were brought together by Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman Graeme Pearson, a former police chief, who is demanding extensive reform to improve the treatment of victims of crime.

The three – all supported by the Sunday Mail – have spoken to the MSP about their ordeals in a video to be shown at next weekend’s Labour conference in Perth.

Pearson, who has urged Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to act, said: “I spend a lot of my time speaking to families like the Craigs and victims like Denise Clair and it’s disheartening hearing what they have to say.

“Under this Government, we have a criminal justice system that no longer has victims at its heart.

“In fact, if they didn’t feel victimised enough before they entered the system, they most certainly do by the time they emerge at the other end.”

Senior firefighter Richard, 45, is disgusted that Darren Taylor was jailed for just three-and-a-half years for his attack on Euan, who died after being punched five times at Rosshall Academy in Glasgow two years ago.

Richard, of the city’s Cardonald, said: “Victims are the very last thing that matter today in Scotland’s criminal injustice system.

“If, like us, you suddenly find yourself thrust into that nightmare, you very soon discover victims are merely the audience in a pantomime.”

His wife Anne, 44, who works with homeless people, said: “We’ve just been told Taylor will be free in August.

“He’ll be free and we still don’t know how this could have happened to our boy, or how we can prevent it happening to other families.

“There’s more chance of winning the lottery than winning justice in Scotland.”

Denise, 27, was on a night out in Bathgate, West Lothian, in 2011 but woke the next day, naked, alone and terrified, locked inside a strange house in nearby Armadale.

Witnesses claimed she was so drunk or drugged that she was “100 per cent” incapable of consenting to sex but the Crown dropped Goodwillie’s rape prosecution.

He categorically denies doing anything wrong but Denise, who was given criminal injuries compensation for being attacked, is suing him in a civil action.

Denise will never know whether her drink was spiked because a specialist sex crime unit took too long to carry out blood tests.

She called police just after 9am but no doctor was available to do the tests until after 6pm.

Denise said: “My life will never be the same again but nobody has apologised, nobody has promised to ensure it won’t happen to other victims.”

The campaigners have described a culture of “institutional indifference” to Scotland’s victims of crime.

Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “Reporting rape can take a great deal of courage and far too many rape survivors continue to feel very let down by the justice system they believed was there to protect them.

“Only around a quarter of rapes reported to the police ever make it to court – and for those survivors whose cases do get to court, the experience can be very traumatic.

“Survivors often tell us of how violating they find the experience, particularly when their past sexual history is brought up in court.”

David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, said: “Our service is in every sheriff and high court in Scotland and we are available to assist witnesses and victims in every way we possibly can.

“We do recognise there is still work to do to improve the system.”

He said they hoped to establish a central information hub, which would reduce the number of times a victim of crime would have to give a statement about what happened to them.

The Crown Office declined to comment but the Scottish Government said: “Our Victims and Witnesses Bill, recently passed by the Scottish Parliament, has been developed in close dialogue with established organisations representing victims and witnesses, including Victim Support Scotland.

“The measures contained in the Bill will make important improvements to the criminal justice system for victims and witnesses.

“It will improve support, provide greater protection to their rights, ensure a more joined-up support across the system and give victims and witnesses confidence that their voices will be heard.”

The new law will also introduce a victims’ surcharge fund.

Case study: Denise Clair

What I believe happened to me that night was hard to come to terms with – but how I was treated by the criminal justice system was every bit as bad.

Because they let me down, I’ll never know what happened to me that night and that’s unforgivable.

If I’d known how I was going to be treated, I’d never have called the police that day. They did their job but the system went on to let me down at every turn.

I had to give up my career with the prison service because the criminal justice system left me
broken. They took everything from me and left me feeling worthless.

They told me the evidence in my case was good, then they pulled the rug out from under me and dropped the charge. No proper explanation was given.

I was told to go away and get on with my life. Now I’ve got the extra trauma of relying on the civil court for some form of justice.

I’m not alone – there are hundreds like me who mistakenly thought victims came first.

It’s taken me a long time to rebuild my self-confidence but I’m determined to come out fighting to help other victims.

Case study: Richard and Anne Craig

Richard: There was a great hue and cry about what a wonderful thing victim impact statements were going to be – but the forms have space for a single sentence.

Then, after all the pain of sitting down for hours, trying to put your loss into words, these statements aren’t read out in court.

Isn’t that what they were supposed to be used for?

We quickly formed the impression that prosecution lawyers are just not used to being challenged.

What the public already know, but the Crown Office appear to have failed to understand, is that we don’t have a justice system.

It’s about making deals behind closed doors and bending over backwards to ensure criminals aren’t too traumatised from the slap on the wrist they are undoubtedly going to get in what passes for sentences.

It’s not about making sure victims come out the other side feeling less victimised, or God forbid, that they’ve had justice.

Anne: The first thing we were told when we went into court was that prosecutors weren’t there to represent us.

I’d always believed they were fighting for victims but nothing could be further from the truth. They told us they were there simply to present the facts.

If only they’d at least done that, Euan’s killer might have received a sentence that matched the severity of the crime.

Instead, they sat silent while the defence presented a picture of a lad who made a mistake.

The prosecution refused to introduce evidence that showed another side to him.

Nobody talked about what a wonderful boy our son was or how our family have been devastated by his loss.

We were excluded, almost as if we were mere bystanders. We weren’t consulted about why the charges were reduced and when we asked questions we were treated like unwanted guests at a gentlemen’s club.

Graeme Pearson: Criminals have lawyers but victims don't

WE need to turn things around so ordinary people feel they’re at the centre of the system, not on the fringe.

Right now, they feel as if they’ve been spat out, not listened to.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill keeps boasting that there is a 30-year low in recorded crime. But if police are not out arresting people because they are now doing the jobs of support workers then the figures will reflect that.

We now have many more alternatives to prison than ever before, including police and fiscal fines and warnings. No wonder victims say they’ve lost all confidence in the system.

There are many police officers, support staff and prosecutors working very hard to bring justice to victims.

But until we make radical changes, victims will continue to come out the other end feeling victimised for a second time.

They need to be able to walk away feeling their voices have been heard. When you see things like the impact statement forms, you can see why families feel their input is completely disregarded.

I’ve seen better-structured insurance claim forms – and they should be read out in court if witnesses wish, as well as being read out at parole hearings.

I proposed all of those things but they were rejected by the Government.

Victims should be told at the point of sentencing when the earliest date of release is for those sentenced to prison.

The criminals have lawyers talking up for them but victims and their families have no one.

It’s really simple. We need a criminal justice system that protects witnesses from abuse and allows them to deliver the best evidence.

We need a system that works for victims and witnesses every bit as well as it works for the accused.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Concern as figures reveal nearly £2Million spent on prosecution of Child abuse allegations case involving claims against First Minister's Complaints Adviser & former Lord Advocate

Campaigner Robert Green re-arrested after alleged breach of interdict obtained by ex Lord Advocate Angiolini. A LONG running case involving allegations of child abuse in Aberdeen which has now become a cyber stalking case against campaigners has so far resulted in nearly two million pounds of public funds being spent on a series of legal gaffes, Police operations, prosecutions and imprisonments of persons who have made claims against members of Scotland's legal establishment including First Minister Alex Salmond's complaints adviser & Lord Advocate, now Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (nee McPhilomy)

The staggering figure, currently estimated at £1.7m by internal Crown Office sources but expected to rise substantially could have instead been used to employ 100 nurses on an average salary of around £20K.

Explanations for the massive spend of public funds on the claims & counter claims of campaigners, law firms, conspiracy theorists and activity in the courts has apparently seen large sums of taxpayers money being spent on multiple court hearings, multiple prosecutions, numerous legal teams & solicitors, legal aid, the setting up of a team at the Crown Office to specifically deal with Green and others, long term surveillance & forensic analysis teams, a special unit of former Grampian Police, now Police Scotland sent on numerous cross border trips into England to arrest 'campaigners' and confiscate items, prison bills and a rising bill from various law firms including one which itself represents First Minister Alex Salmond himself.

And a further development in this costly battle between anti abuse campaigners, and figures in Scotland's legal establishment has seen the re-arrest and detention of Robert Green from his home in England by officers from Police Scotland sometime in late February. Green was re-arrested after allegedly breaking an interdict obtained by the ex Lord Advocate during December 2013 in relation to a case reported earlier by Scottish Law Reporter

Information on Mr Green's current location & detention is difficult to obtain in terms of a clear picture, however the media has been told a bail application is to be made on Green's behalf "sometime soon".

Another individual somehow connected with the case, identified as Tim Rustige, was convicted of a campaign of harassment against ex Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, reported by Scottish Television here: HERE. Mr Rustige is due to face court for sentencing later this month.

As the costs rise in this case, legal sources close to the Crown Office today called for the full publication of all spending on work relating to the various cases in this saga, including full records of payments to private law firms.

Crown Office insiders have also let it be known their office has received enquiries from internet providers and corporations over the authenticity of court orders outside those already used by Police Scotland and the Crown Office.The enquiries came after a law firm which cannot be named for legal reasons served papers on several internet and email companies seeking access to personal email communications.

While the documents served on the companies appear to contain signatures of Scottish judges, no official or published records of the warrants appear to exist, prompting questions of whether fabricated documents have been used to obtain access to private communications.

No one was available from the Crown Office to give an official comment.

ANGIOLINI’S BATTLE WITH ABUSE CAMPAIGN :

Scottish Law Reporter previously covered Mr Green’s release from jail after he was sentenced to ONE YEAR in Aberdeen’s Craiginches Prison for a breach of the peace, by Sheriff Principal Edward Bowen. Reports on developments in the hugely expensive case also claimed Sheriff Bowen failed to declare relationships with key figures central to the case which included the now former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (née McPhilomy).

It was also revealed the case against the anti abuse campaigner ranked as Scotland’s most expensive ever Breach of the Peace trial which saw a record HALF A MILLION POUNDS spent on the investigation & trial of Mr Green, a case which tunnelled through the Scottish Courts system for over two years at huge cost to taxpayers.

A reminder of previous events in the trial of anti abuse campaigner Robert Green can be viewed in earlier coverage by Scottish Law Reporter HERE and further coverage of Hollie Greig. Scottish Law Reporter published an investigation into the knighthood of Angiolini, apparently recommended by the Scottish Government. Dame Elish Angiolini was also appointed Ministerial complaints adviser to Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. More recently, Dame Elish Angiolini was also appointed to the post of Principal of St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

Glasgow based law firm Levy McRae are well known for a ‘colourful’ list of clients, including shamed former Glasgow City Council Boss & Cocaine addict Steven Purcell and former Lord Advocate, now Dame Elish Angiolini who took on Levy McRae to sue anti abuse campaigner Robert Green. Levy McRae threatened several media outlets including law journal “The Firm” & other journalists over their reporting of the case, covered by Scottish Law Reporter HERE & HERE. The Purcell scandal caused some newspapers to ‘evaluate’ their relationship with Levy McRae, details of which were featured in a report here : HERE. Levy McRae are also known to work for clients in the well known tax dodging haven of the Cayman Islands.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskillJustice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has ties to Levy Mcrae. As details of the Hollie Greig case began to be reported in the wider press, it emerged the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill has personal links to LEVY MCRAE, the law firm employed by the then Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini in legal action over the abuse case allegations. Mr MacAskill has made no comment on the fact he served his apprenticeship at Levy McRae and also worked at the firm for a considerable time during his years as a solicitor before he entered politics. The revelations of MacAskill’s links to Levy McRae, the same law firm who represented Steven Purcell, were reported by Scottish Law Reporter at the time, HERE

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Corroboration to remain for now: Holyrood’s Justice Committee rebel against MacAskill’s ‘mad plan’ to remove Scotland's safeguard against miscarriage of justice

Corroboration to stay for now, says Justice Committee report. CORROBORATION, a long held safeguard against miscarriage of justice in Scots law where evidence in a criminal trial is required from two separate sources for a conviction, is to remain for now. The news comes as the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee have suggested Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ditch his plans to abolish corroboration in an effort to assist the Crown Office in obtaining higher rates of convictions, even where evidence is dodgy or practically non existent.

News of today’s development came after it was made clear in a report published today by the Scottish Parliament indicated that the majority of members of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, chaired by Christine Grahame MSP (SNP), did not support the much vaunted ‘reform’ put forward by MacAskill, who has served an unprecedented seven years as Scotland’s often accident prone Justice Secretary.

Contrary to much of the lobbying put out by the Crown Office and ‘campaign’ groups with a vested interest in removing Corroboration from Scots Law, the fact is that this long held safeguard against miscarriage of justice cuts across all criminal prosecutions, and not just rape or sexual offence cases, as anyone with an actual understanding of the law and a clear head will know.

Christine Grahame MSP: ‘Justice Committee Not Convinced Over Corroboration’

In response to the Justice Committee's rebellion against Mr MacAskill’s ill advised plan to remove corroboration, the Scottish Government have announced an inquiry to be led by former High Court judge Lord Bonomy, who will look at safeguards needed if corroboration is eventually abolished.

The terms of reference for the group headed by Lord Bonomy include consideration of the following areas:

• Whether a formal statutory test for sufficiency based upon supporting evidence and/or on the overall quality of evidence is necessary

• Whether any proposed prosecutorial test or a requirement for publication of any such test should be prescribed in legislation

• The admissibility and the use of confession evidence

• The circumstances in which evidence ought to be excluded

• The practice of dock identification

• Jury majority and size

• The future basis and operation for a submission that there is no case to answer at the end of the prosecution case

• Whether a judge should be able to remove a case from a jury on the basis that no reasonable jury could be expected to convict on the evidence before it

• Whether any change is needed in the directions that a judge might give a jury, including a requirement for special directions in particular circumstances

• Whether any additional changes are required in summary proceedings.

Appeals are not expected to be considered by the review as they are for wider consideration, not related specifically to corroboration.

The group is expected to take a year in its deliberations. Any necessary legislative and practical change to be taken forward on the back of its recommendations will then be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny and commenced alongside the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill, abolishing the corroboration requirement – which as before, is intended to take place in the financial year 2015-16.

Commenting on the plans announced by the Scottish Government, Lord Gill, Scotland’s top judge said: “I am grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for his sensitive response to the widespread discussion of this proposal, and for his usual courtesy in letting me see the terms of reference before they were finalised. The proposed review will enable this issue to be looked at at greater length by a body of experienced professionals. The terms of reference should allow a thorough consideration of the issues. I am pleased that Lord Bonomy has agreed to Chair the Review and I look forward to seeing the results of the Review’s work.”

In October of last year, Scotland’s top judge gave evidence to the Justice Committee, reported HERE, defining corroboration as one of the "finest features" of the country's justice system.

The Lord President’s testimony at Holyrood backing the retention of corroboration came after a terse Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland appeared before MSPs, demanding the lifting of corroboration to enable often incompetent prosecutors to gain higher rates of convictions for cases the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) more often than not fail to take to court for one excuse or another.

And, contrary to intense lobbying by the Lord Advocate, Police Scotland, and campaign groups, it is widely known in the legal system the regular failures by COPFS in cases involving sexual offences are mostly due to the fact evidence and statements in such cases are so badly handled by prosecutors and Police, it is unlikely a prosecution could be presented in a court of law without incurring regular criticism from the benches of COPFS and the Lord Advocate himself.

The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which includes proposals to abolish the requirement for corroboration, is currently at Stage 1 in the Parliamentary process. Further information on the Bill is available from:HERE

It should be noted Scottish Law Reporter supports the retention of corroboration, and has reported on the issue in previous coverage HERE

BBC News reports further: Ditch corroboration plans, say Justice Committee MSPs

MSPs have suggested ditching controversial plans to abolish the requirement for corroboration from criminal justice legislation. It emerged that the majority of Justice Committee members do not support change.

The government said an inquiry led by former high court judge Lord Bonomy would look at safeguards needed if corroboration was abolished.Opposition leaders called on ministers to wait until after the inquiry. The reform is included in the Scottish government's Criminal Justice Bill.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he remained "committed to this essential and long-overdue reform as the corroboration rule can prevent strong cases which could be prosecuted in other jurisdictions from being taken forward".

He added: "Scotland is the only country in the world which has been identified as having the requirement and this is acting as a barrier to justice and denying too many victims their opportunity to have their day in court."

But MSPs on the Justice Committee said they were "concerned that the case for abolition has paid insufficient regard to the importance of this requirement within the Scottish criminal justice system".

Opposition party leaders pressed First Minister Alex Salmond during his weekly question time to delay abolition until Lord Bonomy's inquiry had concluded.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "What we as members are being asked to do is to vote through a bill which we know to be deeply flawed on the grounds that Kenny MacAskill says he'll sort it later. "There is an obvious solution here. Leave the scrapping of corroboration out of the bill. "Ask Lord Bonomy to report on the whole issue and then let us look at it again."

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie argued: "Appointing Lord Bonomy doesn't restore justice, it simply papers over the cracks with a veneer of respectability." He urged the first minister to overrule his justice secretary "before he does serious damage".

But Mr Salmond responded: "It's not a quick fix, it's a distinguished judge who's looking to make absolutely certain that as this change is made, appropriate safeguards are there to prevent miscarriages of justice."
'Archaic rule'

The committee has been scrutinising the Scottish government's Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, which includes plans to abolish the centuries-old requirement for corroboration - which means that currently evidence against an accused person must come from more than one source.

One of Scotland's top judges, Lord Carloway, called for the change in a review of the criminal justice system, insisting corroboration was "an archaic rule that has no place in a modern legal system".

Supporters include the police, victims' groups and prosecutors. Some have argued that the removal of corroboration could also help widen access to justice for victims, particularly in cases of rape and domestic violence.

Opponents, including many from within the legal profession, have said it could lead to rises in miscarriages of justice. Justice Committee convener Christine Grahame said the proposal had divided opinion among the MSPs.

The SNP MSP said: "The committee could not reach agreement on whether removing such a significant and integral part of the criminal justice system would improve 'access to justice' for victims of sexual offences in a meaningful way or indeed secure more convictions. "Some therefore asked the cabinet secretary to consider removing the relevant sections on corroboration from the bill. "Others felt that the case had been proved."

Ms Grahame also said the Scottish government needed to provide "much more information on its plans to review additional safeguards" before the Scottish Parliament as a whole voted on the general principles of the bill.

Mr MacAskill said he noted the committee's recommendations and hoped its members would "welcome today's announcement on safeguards".

He said: "I have always been clear that we are willing to listen and to work with stakeholders on building further safeguards into our reforms. "I therefore welcome the fact that Lord Bonomy has agreed to chair this reference group. "I am confident that he and his team will carry out a robust and thorough exploration of any additional safeguards which may be required in the light of the corroboration requirement being abolished."

The group is expected to take a year for its deliberations, and will not make any recommendations before the bill is voted on at Holyrood.

Monday, February 03, 2014

MSPs gained little from Lord Gill in private meeting as Scotland’s top judge battles Holyrood call for judicial transparency & register of interests

Click to watch: little gains from Lord Gill at private meeting with MSPs. IT HAS EMERGED Scotland’s top judge, Lord Brian Gill held a private meeting with two MSPs from the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee who are currently investigating calls to create a register of judicial interests in Scotland. The meeting, of which there is now a debate about exactly what was recorded, what was left out and whether or not the Lord President objected to notes being taken at all, was discussed at last week’s Public Petitions Committee hearing on Tuesday the 28th January.

AND, contrary to claims of progress, discussions on what gains had emerged from the  private meeting between Gill, Petitions Committee Convener David Stewart and Deputy Convener Chic Brodie, now appear to show the Lord President led the two msps into believing a small change in how the lumbering Scottish Court IT database reports information on recusals might suffice as an improvement enabling data to be made more public even though in many cases where counsel have dared to raise the issue of a recusal, no note of what was said, or any reference has in fact been placed on the official record or within the IT database referred to during the committee’s discussions.

The situation on a further point, relating to declarations by judges Gill, Carloway, Sheriff Principal Alistair Dunlop and judicial colleagues who serve on the board of the Scottish Court Service also became murkier when it was claimed that information of this nature had come as a revelation to the msps who privately met the Lord President and would be part of an expected letter from Gill to the Petitions Committee.

However, clerks to the committee have since confirmed the information on Gill’s SCS Board disclosures, which are of a narrow focus and limited declaration, was already on the Scottish Parliament’s website and was referred to in briefing notes for the Petitions Committee months before the private meeting with Gill took place.

Sunday Herald reports:

Scotland's top judge offers tiny concession as calls grow for judicial transparency

Paul Hutcheon
Sunday 2 February 2014

SCOTLAND'S top judge, who refuses to back a register of interest for members of the judiciary, has conceded a minor reform to boost transparency.

The Lord President, currently Lord Gill, is looking at pulling together information about judges declining to rule on cases due to a perceived conflict of interest.

MSPs who have criticised the lack of openness in the judiciary welcomed the shift in direction.

Holyrood's Public Petitions Committee is considering a proposal that would require judges and sheriffs to file a register of financial interests, which could include shareholdings and directorships.

Unlike other public servants such as MPs, MSPs and quango board members, judicial office-holders do not have to give details of their outside interests.

Gill, head of the Judicial Office for Scotland, told MSPs last year there were "sufficient safeguards" in place to ensure judicial impartiality.

He added that a register could infringe a judge's "freedom from harassment" from "aggressive media or hostile individuals".

The row deepened after Gill refused to give oral evidence to the committee: MSPs cannot legally compel a judge to attend.

As a compromise, committee convener Dave Stewart MSP and his deputy Chic Brodie held a private meeting with Gill at Holyrood.

At last week's Public Petitions Committee, Stewart revealed progress had been made with Gill.

He said the senior judge, while maintaining his opposition to a register of financial interests, had promised to "check whether the IT systems can be adapted to provide aggregate information about recusals".

A recusal is when a judge takes himself off a case due to a perceived conflict of interest. No list of them exists, but Gill is looking at pulling together the information.

Stewart added that such an outcome would mean "ordinary individuals with an interest here could find out how many recusals there were across Scotland".

He said that Gill would write to MSPs with further details.

Jackson Carlaw, a Tory member of the committee, said at the meeting: "But for the belligerence of this committee in pursuing the issue, there would be no letter forthcoming, and there would be no investigation. I think it rather vindicates the tenacity with which we pursued the matter."

However, SNP MSP John Wilson, who also sits on the committee, had concerns about the private meeting.

He told the committee it "should not be in a position to hold private discussions with individuals who we ask evidence from".

Wilson also asked for the note of the meeting to be made public.

A spokeswoman for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: "The Lord President is examining whether it is possible to capture the information on formal recusal to enable it to be made public.

"The Lord President will write to the convener [Stewart] in due course and no further comment can be made at this time."

EDITORIAL: JUDGES SHOULD NOT BE ABOVE SCRUTINY

It is always welcome when senior figures in public life agree to positive change.

The Lord President, who is the country's top judge, is against requiring his colleagues to list their financial interests, but he seems to have recognised political concerns about a lack of transparency.

To this end, he is investigating the possibility of compiling a register of "recusals", which means examples of judges ceasing an interest in a court case due to a perceived conflict.

However, the concession is only a tiny step forward and does not compensate for the way the Lord President has dealt with the bigger issue over the past six months.

To recap, Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee is considering a call for judges and sheriffs to submit a full list of their "pecuniary" interests.

Such a requirement is not unusual in the public sector, where MPs, MSPs and a host of other public servants have to provide details of shareholdings and directorships.

However, the Lord President believes the judiciary is different.

In written evidence to the committee, he argued that the disclosure of financial information could infringe a judge's privacy and encourage harassment from "aggressive media or hostile individuals".

MSPs on the committee wanted to question the Lord President about these views in person - an entirely reasonable expectation.

However, our most senior judge had other ideas and cited a little known legislative clause that means judges cannot be compelled to give parliamentary evidence.

In other words, he dodged scrutiny.

The standoff led to two MSPs on the committee holding a private meeting with Gill: out of sight, and out of mind.

It was in this context that Lord Gill made his concession.

This is clearly not an appropriate way to conduct public debate, and should prompt the government to do two things.

The first is to launch a consultation on whether legislation should be introduced requiring judges to lodge a register of interest.

The second is to open talks with the UK Government about closing the bizarre loophole that allows members of the judiciary to refuse requests to give parliamentary evidence.

Judges, like everyone else in society, are not above scrutiny.