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Chamber and committees

Justice Committee

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Agenda: Decision on Taking Business in Private, Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 (Post-legislative Scrutiny), Subordinate Legislation, Petitions



Judiciary (Register of Interests) (PE1458)

The Convener

Under item 4, the committee will consider two petitions. I refer members to paper 4, which is a note by the clerk, and paper 5, which is a private paper. The committee is asked to consider and agree what action, if any, it wishes to take in relation to each petition. Possible options are outlined in paragraph 5 of paper 4. I remind members that if they wish to keep a petition open, they should indicate how they would like the committee to take it forward. If they wish to close a petition, they should give reasons. We will consider each petition in the order in which they appear on the agenda.

This is the first time that the committee has considered PE1458. The petition calls on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to introduce a register of pecuniary interests of judges bill, or amend existing legislation, to require all members of the judiciary in Scotland to submit their interests and hospitality received to a publicly available register of interests. Do members have any comments or questions?

John Finnie

I seem to have mislaid the paper, but from memory there were a number of recommendations around requiring further information. I would support that approach. Future generations will be surprised that we do not have such a register already. We need to be best informed, so I suggest that we get that additional information and consider the petition again.

Rona Mackay

I agree with my colleague, John Finnie. The Public Petitions Committee believes that a register is not unworkable and recommended it. As John Finnie said, we need to explore the petition further and get as much information as we can so that we can take it forward.


Daniel Johnson

We all need to be mindful that we have a legal duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary, but transparency enhances independence. I very much support the comments that colleagues have made. We should take the petition forward. It makes an awful lot of sense to do exploratory work.

The Convener

Is it the committee’s wish, therefore, that we keep the petition open and seek further information?

Members indicated agreement.

Private Criminal Prosecutions (PE1633)

We move to PE1633. Members have a submission from the petitioner. I invite comments or questions.

Rona Mackay

I have an interest in the petition, as the petitioner is a constituent of mine.

I will raise a couple of the points in the petitioner’s submission. The issue is complex, but I have put down some bullet points to try to simplify it. The petitioner believes that there is a clear gap in the law, particularly in relation to the Health and Safety Executive, which must produce a report before the Crown Office can act in relation to private criminal prosecutions. The Health and Safety Executive has admitted in a response to a freedom of information request that sportsmen and sportswomen are treated differently from other employees and that private criminal prosecutions are based on a random process. The petitioner believes that people should be able to make a report directly to the Crown Office after an incident, rather than a report being made by one of the various bodies that are entitled to do that. He has a list in his submission.

I am in favour of keeping the petition open, getting more information from the Lord Advocate and perhaps inviting the petitioner to give oral evidence.

John Finnie

Health and safety is an important matter for the trade union movement. I do not know whether the Public Petitions Committee received comments from trade unions, but I would certainly welcome their views on whether they feel that there a gap in the law.

The Convener

I am interested in how the rest of the UK dealt with the issue. The petitioner referred to that. We seem to see it as a problem here, but the rest of the UK does not, so perhaps we could get some more information on that.

At the same time, could we reflect on the wording in the petition and whether it seeks to remove the requirement that the Lord Advocate must first give permission before a private criminal prosecution can be commenced? There is a suggestion that a private prosecution can go ahead without the concurrence of the Lord Advocate, although a high test of exceptional circumstances would need to be met before the High Court permitted that.

I would like to tease out those issues and bring the petition back to the committee, for the reasons that I have just given. Do members agree?

Members indicated agreement.

The Convener

That concludes our consideration of the petitions.

Our next meeting will be on 2 October, when we will continue with our post-legislative scrutiny of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012; we will also hear evidence as part of our pre-budget scrutiny.

12:33 Meeting continued in private until 12:59.