Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Lockerbie trial judges

[On this date in 1999 the names of the judges for the forthcoming trial at Camp Zeist were disclosed in the media. The report in The Scotsman (which no longer appears on the newspaper’s website but is reproduced on Safia Aoude’s The Pan Am 103 Crash Website) reads as follows:]

The three Scottish High Court judges who will hear the Lockerbie bombing trial in the Netherlands were named yesterday. The appointment of Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and MacLean, with Lord Abernethy as a substitute, was seen as an indication that arrangements for the trial, scheduled to begin on 2 February [2000], were continuing in spite of a preliminary hearing in the case next week.

Yesterday, the Scottish Court Service announced that Lord Cullen, the Lord Justice-Clerk, had appointed the four judges who will be involved in the Lockerbie trial. The task of delivering verdicts, which can be by a majority, will lie with three of the judges, Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and MacLean. The fourth, Lord Abernethy, will sit with his colleagues and can take part in their deliberations, but will not vote in any decision, either on such things as the admissibility of evidence or the verdicts. However, should one of the three judges die or fall ill, Lord Abernethy will be asked to take over a full role.

“We've got a team of very experienced judges here. Really the top people in Scotland,” Alistair Bonnington at the University of Glasgow's Lockerbie briefing centre, told Reuters. “Because there is no jury, the trial is likely to be very technical and full of legal points. And one common link between all the judges chosen is that they are all considered excellent lawyers,” Bonnington said. [RB: I must disagree with Mr Bonnington. Three of the four judges were considered within the profession in Scotland to be good lawyers (“excellent” would be slightly over-egging the pudding in the case of two) and one was considered mediocre.]

Lord Sutherland (Ranald), 67, the presiding judge. Lord Sutherland has been a Judge since 1985. He is a member of the First Division of the Inner House. He is a graduate of Edinburgh University (MA LLB) and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1956. He served as an Advocate Depute from 1962 to 1964 and from 1971 to 1977 and was Standing Junior to the Ministry of Defence from 1964 to 1969. Lord Sutherland was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1969. He was a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board from 1977 until 1985.ed to the bench in 1985 and, next to Lord McCluskey, is the longest serving of Scotland’s current complement of 27 judges. In recent years, the majority of Lord Sutherland’s duties have been in appeal courts, which he often chairs. His seniority has been recognised in holding the post of Scottish representative to the International Association of Judges. The late Nicholas Fairbairn, QC, once said that Lord Sutherland was "a suave, curt, incisive silk (QC) with a taste for gin and a mind as sharp as his manner is glib his cigarettes are many and his words are few".

Lord Coulsfield (John Cameron), 65, became a Judge in 1987 and now sits in the Second Division of the Inner House and in the Lands Valuation Appeal Court. He is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford (BA, Corpus Christi College) and Edinburgh (LLB) and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1960. From 1960 to 1964 he lectured in Public Law at Edinburgh University. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1973 and served as an Advocate Depute from 1977 to 1979. Lord Coulsfield was a Chairman of the Medical Appeals Tribunal for Scotland from 1985 to 1987 and was the Scottish judge on the Employment Appeal Tribunal from 1992 to 1996. Prior to his appointment to the Court of Session, he was a Judge in the Courts of Appeal of Jersey and Guernsey. He is an editor of "Scottish Law and Practice Quarterly". Lord Coulsfield has been a judge for 12 years. In that time, he has heard a good number of headline-making cases. For example, he presided over the first trial in Scotland of a drug supplier who was charged with culpable homicide after the death of a user. Lord Coulsfield acquitted the man, holding he could not be said to have caused the death when the user had sought the supply of the drugs and had decided how much to take. However, the appeal court later overturned the judgment. Lord Coulsfield also chaired a committee which led to the creation of a specialised court in Scotland for commercial actions and was a "commercial judge" from 1996 to 1998.

Lord MacLean (Ranald), 60, has often been irritated by media portrayals of judges being out of touch and aloof. In 1997, after seven years on the bench, he hit back in a speech and said: "I do not understand why we are so consistently represented as remote, disinterested in ordinary folk, ignorant of everyday facts and insensitive." He added: "You cannot have practised successfully and widely at the Scottish bar without learning something about the general human condition. I may never have lived in the poorest areas of our major cities, but I believe that I have some insight into what they must be like." One of his most anxious cases, the first of its kind in Scotland, was in 1996 when he gave the go-ahead for a mentally handicapped woman to be sterilised. He said that removing the risk of the woman, 32, becoming pregnant was in her own best interests. A graduate of the Universities of Cambridge (BA, Clare College), Edinburgh (LLB) and Yale (LLM), Lord MacLean has been a Judge since 1990. He was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1964 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 1977. He served as an Advocate Depute from 1972 to 1975 and was Home Advocate Depute from 1979 to 1982. He has served on the Scottish Legal Aid Board, the Council on Tribunals and the Stewart Committee on Alternatives to Prosecution. Lord MacLean has been a member of the Parole Board for Scotland since 1998, a member of the Secretary of State for Scotland's Criminal Justice Forum since 1996, and the Chairman of the Governors of Fettes College, Edinburgh since 1996. From 1988 to 1996 he was Chairman of the Council of the Cockburn Association. In January 1999 he was appointed Chairman of a committee established by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Its remit is to review the sentencing and treatment of serious sexual and violent offenders including those with personality disorders.

Lord Abernethy (Alastair Cameron), 61, was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and joined the English bar before moving to the Scottish Faculty of Advocates, where he served as vice-dean for nine years and built up a strong reputation in the field of medical negligence. Lord Abernethy became a Judge in 1992. He is a graduate of Oxford University (Pembroke College, MA) and an Honorary Fellow of Pembroke College. He was called to the Bar (InnerTemple) in 1963 and in 1966 he was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1979. He was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Advocates from 1983 to 1992. He was an Advocate Depute from 1972 to 1975 and served as Standing Junior Counsel to the Department of Energy (1976-79) and the Scottish Development Department (1978-79). He was a Legal Chairman of Pensions Appeal Tribunals for Scotland from 1979 to 1992 and President of the Tribunals from 1985 to 1992. Lord Abernethy is an active member of the International Bar Association. He was Chairman of the Association's Judges' Forum from 1994 to 1998. Since then he has been a council member of the Association's Section on Legal Practice and its Human Rights Institute. He has been President of the Scottish Medico-Legal Society since 1996 and is the author of Medical Negligence: An Introduction (1983).

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