Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee reluctant to ask judges about freemasonry A PUBLIC PETITION lodged at the Scottish Parliament by Dunfermline based Transparency campaigner Mr Thomas Minogue asking for legislation to compel members of the judiciary to declare if they have ever been members of organisations, such as the Masons, is yet to be officially considered by MSPs despite Holyrood officials having the paperwork for FOUR MONTHS.
Scottish Law Reporter has previously reported on the petition last November, 2012, HERE where details of the petition, now known as Petition PE1715 called “on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to amend the law or codes of practice to make it compulsory for decision makers such as sheriffs, judges, and juries at their courts, arbiters, tribunal panel members (income-tax, social security, employment, industrial etc) to declare if they have ever been members of organisations, such as the Masons, that demand fraternal preference to their brethren over non-brethren, or organisations which have constitutions or aims that are biased against any particular sect, religion or race.”
Mr Minogue also asks “That a register of such membership is held by the various bodies that supervise such judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals and that access to these registers is given on demand to the defendant, litigant, or plaintiff wishing to exercise their rights to a fair hearing in accordance with Article 6 of the ECHR.”
However, since the petition was lodged with the Scottish Parliament some four months ago, there is curiously no reference to the petition on the Parliament’s website with concerns being expressed that a number of “amendments to the title & background” of the petition which have been suggested by the Petitions Committee’s own clerks appear to heavily compromise the nature & intent of the petition itself.
Speaking to Scottish Law Reporter, Mr Minogue said : “The latest development with my public petition, which has been given the title PE 1715, is that the clerks to the PPC have suggested some amendments to the title, background and well just about everything else in my submission.
Mr Minogue continued : “While I can see why the Scottish Parliament would have a concern that petitioners were not asking them to do what is beyond their remit the matters they suggest should be amended go beyond that and smack of the censorship I wrote of in my Herald letter.”
Among amendments proposed by Parliamentary clerks were the “removing the references to particular types of tribunal as a number of the ones you specify are UK-wide tribunals and powers in relation to these are reserved to Westminster.”
In response to these demands, Mr Minogue told Scottish Law Reporter : “I do not agree that this is appropriate to remove the references to particular types of tribunals as I have good reason for including those that I have identified.”
Mr Minogue continued : “I do agree however that I should amend the wording of my Petition Summary to make it clear that I would only require declarations by decision makers in tribunals “that are convened and held in Scotland and as such are governed by devolved legislation, custom and practice”, which the Scottish Parliament has power to amend, or regulate by the introduction of new legislation. In the event that my petition is successful such matters would be dealt with as a matter of course by the Subordinate Legislation Committee.”
Scottish Law Reporter has also been handed a series of terse exchanges from Scottish Parliament officials over the content of the petition, and fraught explanations over the apparent deletion of key meetings & records of an earlier Scottish Parliament Petitions Committee who looked at a similar petition and heard from a serving Justice Minister, now Lord Wallace QC.
The issue of the missing Holyrood reports was also raised in the press by the petitioner, in a letter to The Herald which was published on Monday 3rd December. A fuller explanation of the amendments requested by the Scottish Parliament has been published on Mr Minogue’s website, here and Mr Minogue has now indicated he has raised the matter with his MSP.
Scottish Law Reporter will publish further updates on the progress of this petition as it progresses through the Petitions Committee.