Thursday, 24 March 2016

Crown Office musical chairs

Posted from Istanbul Atatürk Airport:

In the course of my great trek from the Roggeveld Karoo to Edinburgh, I have belatedly discovered (a) that the Crown Agent, the civil service head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal service, has resigned and (b) that the ministerial head of that department, the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, has announced that he will demit office after the Scottish Parliament elections to be held on 5 May 2016. 

Have the Megrahi case and the imminent submission by Police Scotland of the Operation Sandwood report on Justice for Megrahi’s nine allegation of criminal misconduct in the Lockerbie investigation, prosecution and trial any bearing on these departures? Who knows? And I have no doubt that the Crown Office would scathingly reject the suggestion. (Indeed, I see that it has done so.) Iain McKie makes some highly pertinent comments here.

As far as the replacement Lord Advocate is concerned, what I wrote when Mr Mulholland was appointed in 2011 is equally applicable to his successor:

“This appointment is not unexpected, but it is to be regretted. Virtually the whole of Frank Mulholland's career has been spent as a Crown Office civil servant. This is not, in my view, the right background for the incumbent of the office of Lord Advocate, one of whose functions has traditionally been to bring an outsider's perspective to the operations and policy-making of the department. Sir Humphrey Appleby was an outstanding civil servant of a particular kind, but his role was an entirely different one from that of Jim Hacker and no-one would have regarded it as appropriate that he should be translated from Permanent Secretary of the Department of Administrative Affairs to Minister (or, indeed, from Secretary of the Cabinet to Prime Minister). 

“The appointment by the previous Labour administration in Scotland of Elish Angiolini as Solicitor General and then as Lord Advocate was a mistake, both constitutionally and practically, as was her retention as Lord Advocate by the SNP minority government (though the political reasons for her re-appointment were understandable). It is sad that the new majority SNP Government has not taken the opportunity to return to the wholly desirable convention of appointing an advocate or solicitor from private practice to fill the office of Lord Advocate. The much-needed casting of a beady eye over the operations of the Crown Office is not to be expected from this appointee. This is deeply regrettable since such scrutiny is long overdue.”

The present Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson, like Frank Mulholland, was appointed from within the ranks of Crown Office staffers. It would be a grave mistake for her to be promoted to Lord Advocate.

1 comment:

  1. The deck of cards are falling 2 down 50 to go.l