Letter: Rights and wrongs

Letter: Rights and wrongs

Dear Editor

Over 20 years ago a consultation was announced by the then Scottish Executive entitled “Strengthening Judicial Independence.” Judicial Independence was not at that time in need of any “strengthening”. The real purpose of the exercise was to be found in the alternative title of the consultation viz “managing the judiciary”.

In a speech to a Sheriffs Conference on the consultation document at Peebles Hydro I unimaginatively used the expression “Executive Creep” to describe the course on which the Scottish Executive appeared to have embarked.

I regret to say that in the intervening years political influence being exerted on the judiciary has become a feature of our judicial landscape. “Management” of the judiciary is now seen as routine.

Somebody has to remind the now “Scottish government” that the justice secretary is not the line manager for the justiciary.

Twenty years ago I asked (i) how judicial independence needed “strengthening” and (ii) how the proposals would achieve that objective. I received no answer.

Today, faced with the latest political influence in the proposed abolition of jury trials for rape cases, I feel entitled to ask the same two questions which the latest Scottish government spokesperson failed to answer, viz (i) how do the rights of people involved need “strengthened” and (ii) how are those rights “strengthened” by the abolition of juries in rape cases?

I suspect that once again the questions will go unanswered because the underlying reason is to be found in political influence on the judiciary.

Kevin Drummond KC

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