Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill threatens to end Scotland’s contribution to UK Supreme Court funding, why, because they made correct decisions?
Kenny MacAskill wants to cancel Scottish funding for the UK Supreme Court.
To that end, the Justice Secretary has ordered civil servants to investigate whether the Scottish Government can pull the financial plug on Britain’s most senior justices.
If the plug is pulled, it would mean that Scotland’s contribution of just under £500,000 would have been wrongly withheld.
And at present, it is doubtful that that the Scottish Government could stop the cheque anyway.
The Scottish Government is unhappy because the UK Supreme Court has handed down some decisions that they don't like and see it as an attack on centuries-old Scots Law.
Two rulings have sparked anger, the Peter Cadder ruling and the Nat Fraser ruling.
In both these cases the UK Supreme Court has acted totally properly delivering the right decisions regarding challenges made under the Human Rights Act 1998.
It is said that the Justice Secretary is angry over these two humiliating defeats at the hands of the UK Supreme Court.
Mr MacAskill said:
“When I go to the Law Society I say that I will not routinely fund ambulance-chasing lawyers. It should be said that I am not going to pay for ambulance-chasing courts. As a Government we have to pay for the Supreme Court of the UK and I think they should recognise that we’ll pay for our fair share of what goes there. But I am not paying money that would come out of the police budget, or prison budget or community payback budget because they are routinely taking cases that we as a country do not think should be going there.”
Well is this is a promise to fix the problems of Scottish law, the Crown Office and personnel?
“He who pays the piper, as they say, calls the tune.”
Is he saying that the Scottish Government should have the right to interfere with the independence of the UK Supreme Court because he doesn’t like judgments handed down?
In both cases, Cadder and Fraser, the issues were clear cut.
Although, the court was set up in 2009 to handle cases that used to end up in the House of Lords, civil appeals from Scotland, it was because of the Human Rights Act, it also became the arbiter of last resort on all human rights claims.
And that includes those involving Scottish criminal appeals.
So, the UK Supreme Court is fulfilling its mandate.
In Cadder which exposed how corrupt Scotland’s legal system actually is; that ruling caused chaos, because the Crown Office routinely denied people their Article Six rights.
The ‘defence’ by the Crown Office for denial of human rights could be put this way.
A ship is sinking.
People have a right to a seat on a lifeboat but the crew decide by themselves to change this policy and say that instead of a seat on the lifeboat they will be entitled to a lifejacket.
And then the crew’s union (the Appeal Court) argue that the lifejacket is the same.
That is the problem in the Scottish legal establishment; its ‘independence’ is suspect.
How can 7 Appeal Court judges dismiss the fact in the Nat Fraser case the withholding of evidence, a violation of human rights law is acceptable?
What ‘lifejacket’ did they think covered up the misconduct in the Crown Office?
It seems these Judges don’t understand that human rights apply all the time and cannot be taken away except under special circumstances.
An example of this is the right to liberty when a person is sent to prison.
Professor Tony Kelly, who acted for human rights group Justice in backing the Cadder appeal, said:
“This is a politician interfering with the judicial branch of government. That is simply constitutionally impermissible”.
“It’s an attack on judicial independence which we have never seen the like of in the UK. We have a politician issuing threats against a court because he does not like its decisions.”
Mr Kelly also added:
“I don’t see any evidence that the Supreme Court has committed any grievous error. If there were English judges importing English doctrines into Scots Law, I am sure there would be a raft of evidence for Nationalist politicians. But there isn’t.”
Solicitor-advocate John Scott said he did not believe withdrawing funding from the Supreme Court would have any impact on the court’s jurisdiction over Scottish matters.
“This is just political tub-thumping. It is a bit like somebody withholding part of their taxes because they don’t want to pay for nuclear weapons. It doesn’t work like that.”
First Minister Alex Salmond said:
“Our concerns are shared by senior members of the Scottish judiciary and respected legal figures who have spoken out, including Lord Fraser, the former Lord Advocate. This is a practical and moral issue which concerns the rights of victims and their families, whose search for justice is delayed, and leads to cases being decided by a court where the majority of judges are not expert in Scots Law.”
The point I would make to Alex Salmond, would he rather the human rights cases were heard in Strasbourg where there is a huge mountain of a backlog of cases?
Another point made by the First Minister is that Judges in England are not expert in Scots Law, are they expert in Strasbourg?
No, they are not, and they don’t have to because human rights are universal.
As clear as a bell!
Lord Hope, a former Scottish Lord President of the Court of Session, who sits as a Judge on the UK Supreme Court has dismissed claims he and his fellow former law lords are second-guessing the Scottish court of appeal.
“We are simply here to do what a court of appeal always has to do, which is to review a decision if there is reason to do so.”
At present the Scottish Government has decided to form an expert panel to look into these issues.
And they will come back and tell the First Minister and Justice Secretary that legally, they don’t have a leg to stand on.
Not even Westminster can change this and it is backed up with English case law that ruled Scots are legally entitled to the same rights as English people.
A case which is hundreds of years old!
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University