Thursday, 7 October 2010

Lord Advocate condemned as ‘disastrous’

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Times. It picks up on the piece in Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm, which had itself picked up some comments that I made in a blog post and a comment. The article in The Times reads in part:]

The appointment of Elish Angiolini as Scotland’s Lord Advocate was “a disastrous experiment which should never be repeated”, according to one of the country’s leading QCs.

Robert Black, Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Edinburgh, condemned Ms Angiolini — who announced her resignation last week — as “a Crown Office staffer” and said there had been too close a link between the Lord Advocate and government. [Note by RB: Nowhere among my criticisms of Mrs Angiolini's appointment as a law officer is there any hint of her having "too close a link" with the government.]

The criticism from such a senior legal figure is the first open expression of a wider discontent within some sections of the legal establishment, which has simmered since the appointment four years ago of Ms Angiolini, the former Solicitor General and a former head of policy at the Crown Office.

“She had never in her working life spent a day outside the Crown Office, when the whole point of a Lord Advocate is that he or she is not a Crown Office creature,” Professor Black said.

“That’s why she was the wrong appointment: not because she was a solicitor, not because she was a woman — she would have been [an] ideal Crown Agent [the civil service head of the Crown Office], but she was entirely the wrong person be Lord Advocate.”

He added: “It is to be hoped that it will be recognised that the appointment of a Crown Office staffer as Lord Advocate was a disastrous experiment which should never be repeated.”

The criticisms come a week [before] the conclusion of a key case involving the Scottish Government in the UK Supreme Court, a ruling on Cadder versus Her Majesty’s Advocate (Scotland). [Note by RB: The Supreme Court's Deputy Head of Communications has kindly informed me that the decision in Cadder is to be handed down on 26 October.]

The case involves the conviction of Peter Cadder for two assaults and a breach of the peace. He argues that his trial was unfair because, in Scots law, police can detain a person for six hours without granting access to a lawyer, contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is widely expected that the bench of seven law lords will find in Cadder’s favour, to the huge embarrassment of the Crown Office. There is speculation that Ms Angiolini could be criticised in the judgment.

1 comment:

  1. Well certainly it could be asked why the Lord Advocate did not see these issues coming what with EU legislation more and more impacting on UK and Scottish legal processes. The bottom line, as they call it, for Scotland could very well cost us a small fortune when those tried and convicted but who did not have the right to a lawyer present at that first interview may very well skip out free with two fingers raised and then sue the taxpayer!