Lord President opens legal year

26 Sep

The new King's Counsel welcomed by the Lord President, Lord Carloway, at the Opening of the Legal Year

THE Lord President, Lord Carloway, has cautioned that the impact of the pandemic on outstanding criminal cases “should not be understated.”

In an address marking the Opening of the Legal Year in Parliament House today, Lord Carloway said this was a significant problem which was being addressed.

“The SCTS began the Recover, Renew and Transform programme in September last year. As part of that programme, a criminal court recovery programme, which aims to reduce the backlog of trials, was launched. There always has to be some backlog of criminal cases. The overall aim of the programme is to return the number of outstanding trials to what were satisfactory, if not ideal, levels pre-Covid,” said Lord Carloway.

Updated modelling for the programme was published last week, showing that during its first year the backlog had been reduced by almost 9 000, albeit mostly summary, trials.

Four new temporary High Court judges, 15 part-time sheriffs and 17 part-time summary sheriffs have been appointed since September 2021 in order to run the programme.

“I am acutely aware that the appointment of additional judicial office holders will have an impact on the profession, who are being asked to prosecute and to defend an increasing number of cases,” said Lord Carloway. “I am very grateful to the Faculty and the Law Society and to all those counsel and solicitors who practice criminal law for their efforts in keeping business running. I shall continue to do what I can to support the profession and to take steps to alleviate any pressures where it is within my power to do so.”

In his speech, the Lord President paid his respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and marked the accession of King Charles III.

He said: “We convene only three weeks after the sad death of our longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. As a mark of respect, courts and tribunals across Scotland adjourned on 9 September and were closed on 19 September for Her Majesty’s funeral. The period of national mourning has now ended. We may now begin to settle down in anticipation of things to come as we enter the first legal year to commence during the reign of Charles III."

In his address the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Roddy Dunlop KC, said: “At the opening of the last legal year, I spoke of the challenges that Covid continued to pose, and expressed confidence that we could build a system for the administration of justice that is modern, and forward-thinking; that seizes the many benefits of the advances that SCTS had brought forward in light of Covid; but which equally would not impair that administration, or ignore the interests of those that serve it. I am delighted that this has proven to be so. The resilience and adaptability of the court system and of those that practise before it has been patent.

“We have returned to a situation in which substantive business is conducted in many ways as it always has – in person, with all the benefits that this brings – and yet in many other ways wholly differently. Of note has been the speed with which the judiciary and the profession have embraced technological advances, with electronic papers and the capacity to conduct business remotely, particularly procedural but sometime substantive, where that is in the interests of parties and of justice itself, “ he said.

“That is not to say that no challenges remain. Whilst civil business is very much proceeding ‘as usual’, the backlogs in the criminal courts continue to pose conundrums, and will do so for years to come. But these can and will be tackled.”

Lord Carloway welcomed 16 new silks to the Court and said: “The rank and dignity of King’s Counsel is hard earned, but it is well deserved for each of you. I offer you my sincere congratulations and best wishes for this next chapter in your legal careers.“

Fourteen of the new King’s Counsel are members of the Faculty of Advocates: Gavin Anderson; Michael Anderson;  Louise Arrol; Steven Borthwick; Isabella Ennis; Lorraine Glancy; Gareth Jones; Anthony Lenehan; John McElroy; Alasdair McKenzie; Paul Nelson; Christopher Pirie; Richard Pugh and Calum Wilson.

The list was completed by Christopher Fyffe, Solicitor Advocate; and John Keenan, Solicitor Advocate.