Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lord Cullen defends the poor record of the judiciary

Lord Cullen - the Judge who presided over the whitewash of the Dunblane Massacre where a politician friendly freemason murdered 16 schoolchildren & a teacher, then ordered a 100 year secrecy order over papers gathered in the course of the investigation (which was somewhat relaxed with the release of what many suspect to be 'cleaned' files & papers bearing only a brief relation to original evidence), runs to the defence of the judiciary over public critisisms of judges sentencing

Read on for the article, from the Herald, at :

Lord Cullen joins row over public criticism of judges’ sentences
ROBBIE DINWOODIE, Chief Scottish Political Correspondent September 13 2006

JUDGES must be free from political influence and allowed to pass sentence without undue criticism or public vilification, according to Lord Cullen, until recently one of the country's most senior judges.

The judge, who presided over both the Piper Alpha and Dunblane inquiries, said last night that he and other senior lawyers welcomed scrutiny.

He insisted: "You should not understand what I have said as meaning that judges should be immune from criticism.

"Well-informed criticism is a healthy feature of a free society and if a judge has made a mistake in sentencing there is a recognised means of putting the matter right.

"Regrettably, however, there are occasions when a judge who has passed a sentence has to endure not simply criticism, but vilification.

"A judge is expected to discharge in modern times. He has to be alert not simply to the application of the law, but also to the interest of the public and the various persons involved in the trial."

The significance of the pre-trial stage has been transformed by the changes made by reforms which came into force in April 2005 after ministers accepted Lord Bonomy's reforms of High Court procedures which tackled the issue of late plea changes.

Lord Cullen said: "The main factor which gave rise to the recommendations was that, for reasons which I do not need to explore, trials in the High Court were too often being delayed or disrupted, causing a waste of public money and inconvenience to witnesses and jurors."

Lord Cullen, who was giving the annual lecture of Apex Scotland last night, said of new laws intended to streamline procedures: "The judge should be responsible for a form of case management in the interests of the due administration of justice.

"That is to say, seeing that, so far as practicable, time and public money are not wasted, and inconvenience and distress caused to persons involved, through trials being aborted, delayed or disrupted."

He added that in each of the jurisdictions in the United Kingdom judges were expected to give their reasons for their sentences at the time when imposing them, referring in particular to the approach in Northern Ireland.

"In an effort to avoid misunderstanding or misrepresentation, it has become the practice that, in cases where it is important that the public are given accurate information about those reasons and the circumstances which have been taken into account, judges arrange that the text of their sentencing remarks is issued to the media.

"For this purpose they are assisted by a public information officer who is in regular communication with the media."

He said that in order for justice to be done – for the accused and for society – judge and jury had to discharge distinct, but complementary, duties.

He said the judge had to deal with disputes on the admissability of evidence. The judge was expected to give the jury directions, so that they understand the issues in the case and the law which they have to apply to them and the judge had to see that advice to the jury was competent, clear and unambiguous.

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