Moi Ali was ‘frozen out’ by Lord Gill and secretive judiciary. MOI ALI, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer appointed by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to independently review judges handling of complaints made about judges has been cast aside by successive Lord Presidents who have apparently refused to even meet her or cooperate in investigations. Even worse, in the single case where the JCR found rules had been breached, Scotland’s current Lord President, Lord Gill, revoked the findings, had the case sent back to a fellow judge who then dismissed it.
In an excerpt from the JCR’s first report, available here: Judicial Complaints Reviewer Annual report 20011/12 document that allegations of inappropriate judicial conduct were raised and found to be wanting, however “When the Judicial Office made an initial assessment of this complaint, it was not reasonable for them to conclude that the behaviour complained about, which left the complainer “insecure and scared”, fell into the category of judicial decision/case management/court programming. According to the Rules, they should have referred that element of the complaint to the disciplinary judge for consideration. This did not happen, and instead the complaint, in its entirety, was dismissed. For that reason I made a referral to the Lord President, who then revoked that part of the original determination and referred it to the disciplinary judge, who then dismissed the complaint.”
Further references were made throughout the JCR’s report to a lack of information sharing & cooperation from the judges and the judicial office, who clearly resented the presence of the Judicial Complaints Reviewer.
Article from the Sunday Mail newspaper, who also report Scotland’s Lord President has angrily attacked and rejected a public petition being considered by the Scottish Parliament calling for requirements of judges to disclose their pecuniary interests :
May the watchdog appointed by the Scottish Government to investigate complaints against judges have leave to approach the bench, Your Honours? NO.. SHE MAY NOT!
EXCLUSIVE : Russell Findlay Sunday Mail 10 February 2013
A watchdog appointed to look into complaints against Scotland's judges fears she is being frozen out.
Moi Ali has accused the country's most senior judge, Lord President Lord Gill, of undermining her work by blocking access to vital documents.
She revealed her frustration in her first annual report since taking up the newly-created role of Judicial Complaints Reviewer.
Ali said she was only seeing the correspondence between the Judicial Office, who act for the judges, and the complainers.
But she was not allowed to see the internal memos and reports between the office and the judges about complaints.
She said: "I believe that in order to conduct a review, and to make wider recommendations on complaints handling, I need to see files in their entirety. "Without this, it is difficult to satisfy myself, let alone complainers, as to the fairness of the process. "I have continued to complete reviews but have made it clear to complainers that I have not had access to all documentation in their complaint file."
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill defied judicial opposition to create the part-time job to monitor how complaints against judges, sheriffs and justices of the peace are handled.
And Ali fears there is still resistance from within the judiciary to her role as an independent investigator.
She said: "With any profession, there's a feeling that regulation should come from within. "But this is the first time that the judiciary have been exposed to this kind of scrutiny, which other professional groups are more used to. "Most have accepted there is some kind of mechanism to scrutinise their conduct. That doesn't mean that we don't have a free and independent judiciary."
Ali also revealed that she has still not met 70-year-old Lord Gill, who was appointed to his £214,165-a-year post last June, and did not meet his predecessor Lord Hamilton.
She said: "I'm not overly concerned but I'm slightly surprised that the Lord President did not proactively suggest a meeting. I don't need to meet him but I think it would have sent out a positive message."
Ali is more concerned at the decision to block her access to documents.
She said: "This came to light because in review number one I was sent all the documents but then I didn't get the same ones for the second review. "At that point I discovered that I had been given them in error the first time. "I can't see any reason why and that worries me because I can't understand it."
Ali also voiced concerns that judges being investigated could evade punishment by quitting before the probe is complete. And she found there has been a breach in the rules in the way one of the four complaints she reviewed had been handled. Ali also urged the judiciary staff to use plain English when dealing with the public.
Her lack of administrative support was also highlighted - on her first day, she did not have a computer, printer, phone, email address or stationery - and she said it meant she was "unable to give the level of service that I would like to provide".
A Judicial Office for Scotland spokeswoman said: "In the short time the JCR has been in the post, we have worked very closely with Ms Ali in implementing, developing and reviewing the rules and how they are applied.
"With any new system, there is always a period of adaptation and adjustment and we are grateful to Ms Ali for the helpful suggestions and recommendations she has put forward and which, for the most part, have been implemented.
"A review of the rules is due to take place shortly and the Lord President is committed to working constructively to ensure the complaints procedure develops effectively."
TOP JUDGE REJECTS REGISTER OF INTERESTS
Lord Gill has rejected calls for judges to register their interests - because he fears they may be harassed by "aggressive media".
A petition lodged with the Scottish Parliament is calling on the judiciary to reveal any commercial, business or legal links in case they raise possible conflicts with their cases.
But in a letter to the public petitions committee, Scotland's most senior judge said current safeguards are enough.
Lord Gill said: "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."
He said details held on a register could be abused by "aggressive media or hostile individuals, including dissatisfied litigants".
The call for a register has also been rejected by the Law Society of Scotland.