Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Court Speeding: Court reforms hasten trial hearings - according to taxpayer funded report compiled by the Courts

Scotland’s courts are faster – claim the Courts. NOTORIOUSLY slow for the past 400 years - as any solicitor, crook, client & litigant can testify – delays in court – from the Court of Session to Sheriff courts and the broom cupboards of Justices of the Peace - are commonplace.

However, Scotland’s courts have now managed to reduce waiting time for criminal trials – so say the people who ‘run’ the courts.

The ‘proof’ - offered up in a report compiled by - the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) - claims almost all trials in sheriff courts in 2016 began within 16 weeks, whereas two years earlier the ‘official’ figure was half.

The SCTS claim this was despite a significant increase in mostly criminal cases, particularly relating to domestic abuse and sexual violence.

However, the report – widely seen as more Public Relations than fact – fails to take account of rising numbers of cancelled or abandoned prosecutions of criminals and secretive plea deals by Crown Office prosecutors which have the effect of speeding up trials awaiting court time.

Compiled at taxpayers expense, the SCTS report goes on to claim the closure of 17 courts - 10 sheriff and seven Justice of the Peace courts - had been successfully implemented, with savings already realised of £2.1m and further annual savings expected of £1.3m.

SCTS said while concerns were expressed that court performance would suffer as a result of the transfer of business from smaller centres, there has been "strong and improved performance".

New Court Structure Allows Targeted Investment

Three years on from the report which described a future court structure for Scotland, an evaluation report confirms the vision set out in ‘Shaping Scotland’s Court Services’ is fully on track. To date:

The closure of 10 sheriff courts and 7 justice of the peace courts has been successfully implemented;

The business redistributed following those closures is handled within normal performance targets at the receiving courts;

The expected level of financial savings from the changes are being realised,

The SCTS has been able to target funding more productively on the maintenance and development of its retained estate; and

The longer term vision for an efficient court structure is largely in place and the remaining  elements continue to progress in parallel with the deployment of the new summary sheriff posts.

While there were concerns expressed that court performance would suffer, the evaluation data clearly demonstrates strong and improved performance.  In all courts, the 16 week waiting period between the first calling availability of a criminal trial is being achieved, indeed, in some courts we have re-adjusted the programme as the waiting period was becoming short, with the risk of not allowing sufficient time for crown and defence preparation. Similarly, all courts are meeting, and in most cases significantly below, the 12 week waiting period for civil proofs and hearings. 

This level of performance continues to be achieved against the background of a significant increase in case levels in both summary and solemn business, particularly in relation to domestic abuse and sexual offences, with a far greater proportion of these cases proceeding to evidence-led trials. 

In April 2014 the percentage of sheriff courts setting criminal trials at the optimum 16 weeks was 50%, at April 2016 this figure is 95%. 

Referring to the evaluation report, SCTS Chief Executive Eric McQueen said: “The SCTS Board’s ten year vision is to create a stronger court service which improves access to justice, reduces delay and costs, and maximises the use of digital technology to improve our services. We are now delivering on that, the evaluation report confirms that annual recurring savings of £1.3 million will be achieved, allowing us to target investment to create a modern court structure throughout Scotland, with digital innovation at its heart.

Last year we installed new ICT infrastructure that provides the speed and resilience we require for digital evidence presentation, video links, case management systems and Wi-Fi access across our courts.  This technology supports digital access, particularly for vulnerable witnesses and our prison to court facilities which reduces personal appearances by the accused. 

With the introduction of the new civil simple procedure later this year, we are planning to make online processing available for most payment actions up to £5000. This includes an online portal to enable the legal profession and the public to commence actions, submit case documents, pay fees and track progress online. We will extend this to all areas of simple procedure by mid-2017, allowing over 60% of all civil business in the sheriff courts to be processed online.

Our priority now is to develop the recommendations in our “Evidence and Procedure Review – Next Steps” report. For too long it has been easy to describe our criminal courts as products of the Victorian age. Our task now is to bring them right into the 21st Century, not by tinkering at the edges, but by radical digital reform to improve the quality of justice for all concerned.  Through technology we can allow children and vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence, and have it examined, outwith the trauma and pressures of the court environment and modernise the way we do business in summary criminal cases through a digital case management system.”

Feeling any faster in court – tell us about it! – Ed

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tenant farmers face few rights after 2012 Landowners Human Rights ruling by Lord Gill & Court of Session - which resulted in suicide of farmer Andrew Riddell

Farmer shot himself in 2012 after Lord Gill ruled landowners Human Rights breached. TENANT farmers continue to fight eviction from their farms after Lord Brian Gill ruled in 2012 that landowners human rights were breached by legislation aimed at protecting tenant farmers passed by the Scottish Parliament.

This week, another eviction of a tenant farmer has been reported where a petition attracted over 19,000 signatures backing Andrew Stoddart, of Colstoun Mains Farm, Haddington, who is fighting eviction by his landlord -  the Colstoun Trust

Mr Stoddart and his young family have been told they have to leave by November 28, with the trust claiming it wants to have “greater involvement in the running of the farm”.

The Stoddarts, along with the two workers they employ on the 900-acre arable and sheep farm, will have to leave their homes and livelihoods behind. This would also be without compensation for the investment they have made.

The eviction follows a 
ten-year dispute over a rent review requested by Mr Stoddart.

It is worth remembering how these evictions have come about.

The quest by Landowners to eject tenants from land was made all the more easy by Scotland’s own landed gentry at the Court of Session after another ten year legal battle - which saw Lord Brian Gill rule in favour of landowners ‘Human Rights’ in 2012.

In the upheld appeal, senior judge Lord Gill ruled that measures put in place to protect tenants in such areas were not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Gill’s ruling in Salvesen v Riddell [2012] CSIH 26, 2012 SLT 633 allowed billionaire landlord Alistair Salvesen to evict tenant farmer Andrew Riddell (52) from land his family had farmed for 100 years.

After the ruling from the Court of Session, it was widely reported in the media Mr Riddell committed suicide. He was found dead after he had harvested his final crop.

The father of four killed himself just weeks before he was due to leave Peaston Farm, near Ormiston, East Lothian.

Andrew had been involved in a 10-year court battle with his landlord, Scotland’s third richest man Alastair Salvesen.

Mr Riddell's battle began in 2003 when he was given notice to quit by landowner Alastair Salvesen, who bought the farm in 1998.

The problem stemmed from an outdated law that left the family few rights despite being on the land since 1902.

Salvesen served notice to the farmer after a ruling from Lord Gill and the judiciary enforced a notice for the farmer to quit.

The ruling overturned Mr Riddell’s previous security of tenure award in 2010 that meant he could stay living on the land.

Speaking in 2012 after the suicide of Mr Riddell, his neighbour and close friend George Mudie, 60, said: “The farm was Andrew’s life. He was affected very badly by the court’s decision.”

Lord Gill: The Landowner

Records now show at the time of Lord Justice Clerk Lord Gill’s ruling against tenant farmer Andrew Riddell, Lord Gill owned or had an interest in several properties, among them - a large Victorian mansion in one of the richest parts of Edinburgh.

The mansion – owned by the top judge was put on the market last year for £1.7m just before the independence referendum in 2014.

Gill also declared in his now publicly available register of Scottish Court Service Board interests he owns or holds property interests in London identified by an entry in the SCS Board register as “Vestry Court Ltd” –which leads to a multi million pound property listing in London.

Documents at Companies house list Lord Gill and his wife as holding interests in “Vestry Court Ltd” dating back to the mid 1990’s.

Friday, November 06, 2015

CLUB TIE JUDGES: Diversity in judiciary proposals dubbed ‘window dressing’ as Law Society recommend back to school approach for angry old white male club tie judiciary

Scotland’s judiciary - elderly, white, rich and male. CALLS to promote diversity within Scotland’s predominantly elderly, white, wealthy judiciary will not be significantly advanced by today’s publication of recommendations by the Law Society of Scotland to widen the club class ranks of Senators of the Court of Session, Sheriffs & even the occasional JP.

Scotland’s judiciary - many of whom share the same private school backgrounds and jealously guard their secretive earnings & business interests need fear not for any impending change to their club class ranks and tap on the shoulder techniques for recruitment.

The latest instalment on judicial diversity, in which the Law Society promotes outreach work in schools, mentoring and reviewing the current skill set for sheriffs and judges as a method of creating a more diverse judiciary means current ways will be preserved for a few pounds years more – much to the relief of the many ermine clad ranks of Scotland’s current judicial fraternity.

Law Society publishes recommendations to improve diversity in Scotland’s judiciary

The Law Society of Scotland has published a series of recommendations in a paper responding to a judicial appointments diversity steering group (DSG) report on its conference ‘Merit and diversity – Compatible aspirations in judicial appointments?’.

The Law Society, a member of the DSG, believes that while good progress has been made in increasing diversity within the judiciary, more can be done to bring about further improvement.

Rob Marrs, head of education at the Law Society, said: “There have been great strides made since the inception of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland in improving transparency in the appointments process and other more recent changes resulting from the conference held last year on merit and diversity within the judiciary, including a review of its application process to make it more accessible and increased engagement and outreach work with interested parties.

“However it’s undeniable that there is currently a lack of diversity in our judiciary and, with men making up more than 70% of judicial posts, it is not representative of the legal profession or of the population at large.

“Our key recommendations include reviewing the existing criteria for judicial appointments and examining if there are unnecessary barriers which prevent potential candidates from applying. It’s important that as well as considering those recommended for appointment, we look at what can be done to broaden the pool of potential candidates.

“We also think there should be more consideration given to career development and ensuring that judicial appointment is an attractive option for a range of would-be candidates. This could include developing a distinct judicial career path– a model adopted in several European jurisdictions – with specific training for advocates and solicitors who are interested in a career on the bench.

“Informing and engaging groups who may be interested in becoming a sheriff or a judge should start at the earliest opportunity and there could be outreach work done in schools, during university and at the early stages of people’s legal careers. Providing shadowing and mentoring opportunities for less well represented groups has also worked well in England and Wales, where there has been a lot of work done on this, and could easily be adopted here to encourage those who may not previously have considered applying for judicial appointment.”

The Law Society has also recommended a review of the current criteria and eligibility for those who can apply for a judicial appointment.

Marrs said: “It’s important that we consider the attributes needed by those on the bench. For example, at the moment a key part of the criteria to become a sheriff is experience in court work and case presentation skills. This means that more court practitioners will apply as they can more easily provide evidence to meet the required competencies for the role. However, while this type of experience may be highly desirable, it is important to consider the full range of skills required to prevent any artificial barrier to potential appointment.

“In our view the relevant competencies for a judicial appointment are the ability to make good reasoned decisions within a reasonable time frame, knowledge of the law, knowledge of the rule of law and court procedure. These sit alongside the ability to deal with and understand those appearing before them and to be able to communicate complicated concepts in straightforward language – something which could become increasingly important if more people choose to represent themselves in court if they are unable to access legal aid.”

The Law Society has also recommended having specialist judges who have an in depth knowledge of certain areas of law and a review of the current barriers in place which prevent tribunal judges, who are experienced in dealing with highly complex cases, from moving to judicial posts in Scotland’s courts.

“Our paper sets out several areas where we think there are opportunities to improve diversity within our judiciary. Instigating change will take a coordinated approach from all the organisations which are involved or have an interest in judicial appointments and I look forward to discussing our ideas in more detail with them.”

The Judicial Appointments Diversity Steering Group (DSG) is a collaborative group of organisations with an interest in diversity in the judiciary. Its diversity conference report is available to read on the Judicial Appointments Board website: Judicial Appointments Diversity Steering Group report.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Revealed: The ex Lord Advocate appointed to review deaths in Police custody, and the £56K public cash link to the suspended Sheriff advising cops involved in Sheku Bayoh custody death

Custody deaths review role for ex Lord Advocate linked to lawyer advising Police in Sheku Bayoh custody death. A FORMER Lord Advocate with links to a suspended judge who is now representing Scottish Police Officers in a controversial custody death case - has been appointed by the Home Secretary to chair a UK wide review into deaths & accidents in Police custody.

Last week, Home Secretary Theresa May announced Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC will chair the independent review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody.

However, it can be revealed Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC (55) (nee McPhilomy) used the services of the very same suspended Sheriff - Peter Watson - who is now representing and advising  Police Officers involved in the death in Police custidy of Sheku Bayoh.

According to documents in the possession of Audit Scotland – who are investigating claims about public cash spent by the Crown Office – Elish Angiolini billed taxpayers for upwards of £56,000 for personal legal services provided by Peter Watson and his former law firm – Glasgow based Levy & McRae.

The final amount of public cash paid to Watson & Levy & McRae for their services to Angiolini may be higher - as the Crown Office are resisting calls to disclose documents and final figures.

Levy & McRae – where Watson was based until late last year - are also known to have represented Police Officers who were charged and prosecuted for a number of serious criminal offences including rape, assault & fraud.

Watson (61) served as a Sheriff until he was suspended earlier this year by Scotland’s top judge, Lord Brian Gill.

The suspension came after Sheriff Watson was named in a multi million pound writ seeking £90m in damages for the collapse of hedge fund Heather Capital.

Levy & McRae are also named in the writ, which alleges the firm was involved in multiple fraudulent cash transfers to offshore jurisdictions.

In August of this year, the Court of Session heard how Watson received a £200K payment from an Gibraltar based law firm – Hassans.

Suspended from his judicial duties, Watson is now giving legal advice to and issuing media comment on behalf of Police Officers involved in the controversial death in custody of Sheku Bayoh.

Last week, a Press Release was issued by Media House International on behalf of suspended Sheriff Peter Watson -  in his role of representing Police Officers involved in the Sheku Bayoh case.

Watson, along with former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – attacked public interest media coverage of the death of Sheku Bayoh while in Police custody.

The 31-year-old trainee gas engineer, who left Africa and settled in Kirkcaldy, died in May of suspected asphyxia while in police custody after he was restrained by up to nine officers .

A post-mortem examination revealed he had cuts and bruises all over his body, including more than 20 facial injuries and tiny blood spots in his eyes.

Sheku’s death is being investigated by PIRC - Scotland's Police Investigations and Review Commissioner - but former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill appeared to prejudice the investigation in comments he made last week. MacAskill said he did not expect police officers to face charges .

And, right after MacAskill made his remarks - as if following a script - current Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland intervened, appealing for calm following a row between Kenny MacAskill and Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Mr Bayoh's family.

Yesterday, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said on BBC Politics Scotland it is not helpful if people give a "running commentary" on the death in police custody of Sheku Bayoh.

It has since emerged Police Scotland tried to have the body of Sheku Bayoh returned to his country of birth - Sierra Leone - two days after Mr Bayoh died in Police custody.

Police Officers in Scotland contacted the High Commission (Embassy)of Sierra Leone to discuss repatriating his body but officials at in London were alarmed and contacted the father-of-two’s family – who were unaware of Police Scotland’s attempt to remove the body from the UK.

Press Release from suspended sheriff Peter Watson claimed “open season of hunting Police Scotland”:

Last week, a Press Release was issued by Media House International on behalf of suspended Sheriff Peter Watson -  in his role of representing Police Officers involved in the Sheku Bayoh case.

Watson, along with former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – attacked public interest media coverage of the death of Sheku Bayoh while in Police custody.

The Press Release, featured in some Scottish newspapers earlier this week read: SHEKU BAYOH – THE 10 VITAL QUESTIONS (Issued on behalf of Prof. Peter Watson BA LLB SSC of PBW Law)

Glasgow, October 19, 2015: Kenny MacAskill, the former Justice Secretary, has made a timely and important intervention in openly criticising the media campaign waged against Police Scotland, the PIRC and the officers involved in the Sheku Bayoh case.

He points to an “open season of hunting Police Scotland” rather than allowing due process to follow and for the investigation to be completed. He highlights the importance of protecting the integrity of whatever judicial process will follow, most likely a Fatal Accident Inquiry. He also points to a litany of assumptions of racism and homicide, and the misrepresentation of statistics of deaths in custody in England.  The statistics surrounding deaths in custody in England have little to do with what happens in Scotland, where most deaths in custody relate to drink or drugs.

Mr MacAskill rightly points to the poisonous atmosphere which has been created and  recognises that those who are the subjects of these wild accusations and criticisms cannot comment as they are involved in this process, and can do no more than co-operate in that process.

Prof. Peter Watson said: “As the lawyer representing the Police Officers involved, I welcome these comments from the former Justice Secretary and I agree the sooner we get to whatever Judicial Proceedings are to follow the better. This will most likely be a Fatal Accident Inquiry. This will establish the facts and do so on evidence tested in Court. In broad terms, the Inquiry will set out to explain what happened on  May 3 which led to Sheku Bayoh, known locally as Chris and by some as “socks”  to be on the streets of Kirkcaldy in the early morning, being confronted by the Police and sadly dying.

“I will not engage in speculation as to the outcome nor make wild allegations. The information which has come into the public domain suggests there was a fight in a house, and that Sheku Bayoh had taken drugs.  This information will shape some of the questions which must be answered. The family say there is no justice without truth. There are, I suggest, ten questions that will lead us to the truth:

Along with 10 questions, alleging a number of ‘what ifs’, Prof. Watson added: “These questions will be asked. Answers to these questions will help get to the truth, as will the post mortem and toxicology reports.  The family have their own reports. Although information has been drip fed to the media with details of bodily injury, the family have so far refused to release their reports, whilst at the same time demanding that the PIRC or the Crown release evidence, which as the investigating agencies, they clearly cannot do. There is no reason why the family cannot release the reports they hold if they want the public to have a full and balanced understanding of their position.

“I doubt whether these questions will be answered until evidence is given in Court by all those involved but my hope is that until then, the PIRC and the Crown are allowed to complete their investigation in an atmosphere free of orchestrated media events and unsubstantiated allegations.”

The press release issued on behalf of Peter Watson came after a number of media reports revealed a number of allegations including racism & violence against Police Officers involved in the Bayoh case.

Concerns have also been expressed by many including the family of Mr Bayoh on the progress of an ‘independent’ investigation by PIRC - Scotland's Police Investigations and Review Commissioner into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Bayoh while he was in Police custody.

Ex Lord Advocate linked to lawyer defending custody death cops - to chair deaths in Police custody inquiry:

The Home Office website reveals the terms of reference for the Home Office inquiry chaired by Elish Angiolini on deaths in Police custody:

  • to examine the procedures and processes surrounding deaths and serious incidents in police custody, including the lead up to such incidents, the immediate aftermath, through to the conclusion of official investigations. It should consider the extent to which ethnicity is a factor in such incidents. The review should include a particular focus on family involvement and their support experience at all stages.

  • to examine and identify the reasons and obstacles as to why the current investigation system has fallen short of many families’ needs and expectations, with particular reference to the importance of accountability of those involved and sustained learning following such incidents.

  • to identify areas for improvement and develop recommendations seeking to ensure appropriate, humane institutional treatment when such incidents, particularly deaths in or following detention in police custody, occur. Recommendations should consider the safety and welfare of all those in the police custody environment, including detainees and police officers and staff. The aim should be to enhance the safety of the police custody setting for all.

It has also been confirmed that there will be a formal role for INQUEST, a charity that offers advice to families bereaved by death in police custody. Deborah Coles, Director at INQUEST, has been appointed as a special adviser to the chair and the charity will:

  • facilitate family listening days so that the Chair can hear evidence first-hand from those who have lost loved ones in police custody to ensure their views are taken into account.

  • play a leading role on an advisory board which will offer expert advice to the Chair during the course of the review.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: I am pleased that Dame Elish Angiolini has agreed to chair the independent review into deaths and serious incidents in police custody. When I announced this review, I said that the Chairman would be someone with the ability to work closely with victims, families and the police alike, and with a proven track record of being willing to ask difficult questions. Dame Elish has all of these qualities.

Thankfully, deaths and serious incidents in custody are rare. And no one – least of all police officers – wants such incidents to happen, and I know everyone involved takes steps to avoid them. But when such incidents do occur, they are a tragedy that has the potential to undermine the relationship between the public and the police. As Home Secretary, I have been struck by the pain and suffering of families still looking for answers.That is why I set up this independent review and I’m grateful to Dame Elish and Deborah Coles, as special advisor to the chair, for agreeing to take on this important work.

Failing to mention any previous link to suspended Sheriff Watson, Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC said: “This is a matter of critical importance to many families and I hope that this review can identify pragmatic and effective responses to this longstanding issue.”

The Home Office has not commented on the links between Angiolini & the suspended Sheriff Peter Watson.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Quango Law: Scottish Sentencing Council established after two top judges condemn Ministers sentencing quango as an 'attempt to undermine independence of the judiciary'

Judges must now give nod to quango on sentencing. SIX YEARS after proposals to create a Scottish Sentencing Council (SSC) were condemned by Scotland's longest serving judge as a "quango" - with constitutional issues, the sentencing body has finally been established by the Scottish Government, with a brief to “raise public awareness and understanding of sentencing practice”.

The ‘arms length’ body – which some fear may begin to interfere with sentencing on a case by case basis, is headed by the Lord Justice Clerk - Lord Carloway.

Carloway previously backed the Scottish Government’s ‘unfinished plan’ to remove the long held safeguard of corroboration – where evidence in a criminal trial is required from two separate sources for a conviction.

Earlier this week, legal insiders told SLR it was revealing the sentencing council has only came into being after the retirement of Lord Gill from the post of Lord President, earlier this year.

Gill, who was opposed to the Scottish Government’s plan to create a quango style sentencing council retired in May 2015.

It is thought Gill remained opposed to the idea of political meddling in sentencing to the end of his term as Lord President.

Welcoming the establishment of the Sentencing Council, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said: “The creation of the Scottish Sentencing Council is extremely important for the criminal justice system in Scotland and I welcome today’s official launch. We know that sentencing can be an extremely complicated and emotive issue which is why we want to provide greater clarity and openness around why and how sentences are decided.

Matheson also claimed, unconvincingly, the courts would remain independent of ministers desires for sentencing headlines to suit the Scottish Government’s policy of cooking the books on crime statistics & convictions.

The Justice Secretary said: “While the independence of Scotland’s judiciary of course remains a fundamental part of the Scottish legal system, as does judicial discretion in individual sentencing decisions, the Council will help to ensure transparency and consistency in all sentencing decisions made in Scotland, as well as helping the public better understand the sentencing process.”

However, legal insiders say the sentencing quango is little more than thinly veiled political meddling in matters constitutionally reserved to the courts.

Both of Scotland’s previous Lord Presidents have publicly criticised the sentencing council since proposals were first made in 2009 as part of the The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010.

During evidence heard at the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee in 2009, Lord Brian Gill – in his role as Lord Justice Clerk criticised the sentencing plan,  branding the Scottish Government’s proposal to create a sentencing council as muddled legislation interfering with the sentencing duties of the courts.

Lord Gill said: I am slightly troubled by the term "inconsistency". Forgive me for going back to a slightly earlier point, but it relates to the point that has just been raised with the Lord Justice General.

If the legislation sets out to achieve what is described as consistency, it seems essential that it should define what it means by consistency and inconsistency. The consultation paper started off by talking about inconsistency and then spoke about a perception of inconsistency, which is rather a different thing. It is not quite clear yet what the legislation seeks to achieve. There is no definition of consistency in the draft, and it seems to me that those who would form a sentencing council would find some difficulty in knowing exactly what they were trying to do unless the legislation gave them a clear definition by which to judge their own views and decisions.

That raises in a clear way the constitutional issue that underlies legislation. It is part of the constitution that it is for the appeal court to determine sentencing, except to the extent that legislation lays down what the sentence should be. To read the bill, one might think that it involved merely the creation of some quango but, in fact, there is a huge constitutional question underlying the bill. That is what troubles me."

The Justice Committee also heard from the then Lord President – Lord Hamilton – who accused the Scottish Government of putting forward proposals to undermine the independence of the judiciary.

The current complement of the Scottish Sentencing Council includes 12 members selected by the Scottish Government are:

Lord Carloway (Lord Justice Clerk, Council Chair), Lord Turnbull (Senator Member), Sheriff Principal Ian R. Abercrombie QC (Sheriff Principal Member), Sheriff Norman McFadyen (Sheriff Member), Allan Findlay (Stipendiary Magistrate Member), Gillian Thomson (Justice of the Peace Member), Catherine Dyer (Crown Agent, Prosecutor Member), Stephen O’Rourke (Advocate Member), John Scott QC (Solicitor Member), Val Thomson (Assistant Chief Constable, Constable Member), Sue Moody (Lay Member with knowledge of victims’ issues), Professor Neil Hutton (Lay Member),

Sentencing quango member, Sue Moody, who has knowledge of victims’ issues, said: “I am delighted to be part of the new Sentencing Council. The Council is good news for the victims of crime in Scotland. It will help to demystify sentencing for the public, and will ensure that the interests and needs of victims are taken into account when sentencing guidelines are prepared. This is an important opportunity for victims to contribute their views.”

Chair of the Scottish Sentencing Council Lord Carloway said: “Sentencing is much more complex than it sometimes appears - there can be many different factors involved. The Council will work to raise awareness and understanding of sentencing practice - not only for our justice partners but for the wider public - helping to build confidence in our justice system. I expect the Council to take Scotland into a new era, in which we pursue a more principled approach to sentencing with improved consistency. This will be at the heart of our programme.”

The Scottish Sentencing Council will also:

help develop sentencing policy
conduct research into sentencing practice
publish information about sentences
provide general advice and guidance on sentencing
publish guideline judgments. (These are court opinions which provide guidance on sentences in similar cases)
The High Court, new Sheriff Appeal Court and Scottish ministers can request the Council to prepare or review sentencing guidelines on any matter.

Every three years the Council must prepare and submit a three year business plan to the Scottish Ministers, after consulting the Ministers, the Lord Advocate, the Lord Justice General, and any other people it considers appropriate.

The Council must also prepare and submit an annual report on its activities to Ministers.  The business plan and annual report are then laid before the Scottish Parliament.

A launch event for the sentencing council will take place on 17 November. Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice Clerk and Chair of the Council, and Mr Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, will speak at the event.

Members of the judiciary, justice partners and other stakeholders have been invited to attend, and further spaces may become available nearer the time. Those involved in the justice system who would like to be added to the waiting list, should contact

Carloway & Corroboration:

Earlier this year, Lord Carloway – who authored Carloway Review Report & Recommendations 2011 -  essentially backing up Ministers plans to remove corroboration - was criticised by lawyers after the judge accused the legal profession of opposing the removal of corroboration on the basis of financial greed.

Lord Carloway said in a speech at a conference of Commonwealth Law Reform Agencies in Edinburgh that his proposals to abolish corroboration has been met with “real hostility” from some lawyers.

He suggested in his speech that some of this ire came from lawyers who had a financial interest in retaining corroboration.

Lord Carloway said: “Reactionary or excessively defensive forces among the legal profession can, and often do, behave in a manner obstructive to progressive law reform, especially where there is transparent perceived financial self-interest.”

However, the remainder of the judiciary demanded corroboration be retained.

In October 2013, Scotland’s top judge Lord Brian Gill – who opposed the removal of corroboration, gave evidence to the Justice Committee, reported HERE, defining corroboration as one of the "finest features" of Scotland’s justice system.

And, Judges of the High Court of Justiciary opposed Carloway on the removal of corroboration, signing a petition against it, available here: Response by the Senators of the College of Justice to SG consultation : Reforming Scots Criminal Law & Practice .

Scottish Law Reporter previously reported on the Scottish Government's plans to remove corroboration from Scots Law, HERE

Friday, October 16, 2015

Allegations of dishonesty, missing files & funds - Investigations by SLCC & Law Society into Borders solicitor Andrew Penman stall after rogue lawyer is ‘signed off sick’ to protect from court & complaints

Andrew Penman – ‘signed off sick as protection from litigation - Law Society. A SOLICITOR from a now defunct law firm in the Scottish Borders - who was accused by Law Society of faking up evidence, deceiving banks and the Inland Revenue is now ‘signed off sick’ to protect him from ongoing investigations and court litigation – claim legal sources.

Andrew Paterson Penman, solicitor from the now closed down law firm of Stormonth Darling Solicitors  - based in Kelso, Scottish Borders - was suspended in October 2014 without any action before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal.

After a period of weeks were clients were unable to contact Mr Penman or gain control of their legal affairs, the Law Society of Scotland closed down Stormonth Darling. The law firm’s business was then taken over by another Kelso based law firm – Cullen Kilshaw.

It has now transpired both the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission are investigating serious complaints made by clients against Mr Penman and his former law firm.

Legal insiders claim there are allegations of significant amounts of money “gone missing”, allegations relating to fraud and the collection or payments of rents, and allegations relating to the misuse of trusts, wills and executries – with significant sums involved.

It has also been claimed the names of a number of other firms located in the Scottish Borders have cropped up during investigations into Penman’s conduct.

These include one firm of Borders accountants who appear to have been used to conceal client’s affairs, and two other law firms, one also based in Kelso – who both appear to have facilitated “transactions unauthorised by clients”.

One former client of Stormonth Darling described how in a previous case, Mr Penman had falsified documents in a bid to thwart an earlier investigation into allegations of fraud and missing funds.

Of the current situation, the former branded the Law Society & SLCC as protective of solicitors, telling SLR: “The Police should be brought in to investigate Penman and his activities.”

Another former client told how the wording of wills had been suspiciously altered, and how property titles “had disappeared without trace”.

Penman’s suspension was published in the Gazette: Notice is hereby given that the practising certificate of ANDREW PATERSON PENMAN, solicitor, Stormonth Darling, Bank of Scotland Buildings, 8/9 The Square, Kelso, TD5 7HQ was suspended under Sections 39a and 40 of the Solicitors’ (Scotland) Act 1980 with effect from 2 October 2014.

The order publishing Penman’s suspension was signed by James Ness, Deputy Registrar – the same solicitor who once defended Penman at Law Society Complaints Committees.

Ness - a partner at Austins Solicitors, Dalbeattie, Dumfries & Galloway - represented Penman at Law Society complaints hearings.

In one case, James Ness gave a submission on behalf of the suspended solicitor - demanding the Complaints Committee alter its decision to prosecute Penman before the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.

The move was controversial and heavily reported in the national and local press at the time.

Earlier this year, Penman was linked to a case in the Court of Session - A398/14 Ladykirk Estates Ltd v Stormonth Darling WS :

Ladykirk Estates Limited, Academy House, Shedden Park Road, Kelso, (Ledingham Chalmers Llp) Roxburghshire AG V Stormonth Darling W.S. Solicitors, Drew Penman, Terry Mcnally and Craig Wood, Bank Of Scotland Buildings, The Square, Kelso, Roxburghshire

Court staff indicated the case was one of a significant financial claim against Penman and other solicitors based at Stormonth Darling in Kelso.

Andrew Paterson Penman was employed as a Director (SOLICITOR) at LADYKIRK ESTATES LIMITED from 01 June 2007 to 17 September 2012 , Company address: LADYKIRK ESTATES LIMITED ACADEMY HOUSE, SHEDDEN PARK ROAD, KELSO, ROXBURGHSHIRE, TD5 7AL

Andrew Paterson Penman was also employed as a Director (SOLICITOR) at S.P.C. BORDERS from 31 January 2006 to 30 November 2014 Company address: S.P.C. BORDERS 27 MARKET STREET, GALASHIELS, TD1 3AF

It has also been revealed Penman and his law firm are being investigated by the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission & Law Society of Scotland in connection with a number of complaints made by clients where substantial sums of money into hundreds of thousands of pounds along with queries regarding unpaid rent and disappeared funds are alleged.

Late last year, Solicitor Craig Wood - the only remaining solicitor at Stormonth Darling ‘took ill’ leading to the Law Society closing the firm down.

Wood – who was named in a writ against the law firm at the Court of Session - has since died from his illness.

It is not known whether Mr Wood gave any statements to clients or the Law Society regarding the problems at Stormonth Darling.

In an update to the report, as of 23 October 2015, SLR has been approached by several individuals from Kelso and around the Scottish Borders who have provided documentation on their dealings with Penman and Stormonth Darling.

In one case, a client alleges he received visits from officers from the former force of Lothian & Borders Police after he raised questions with the Law Society over significant sums of missing funds & assets under the control of Stormonth Darling.

Solicitors based at Stormonth Darling and an accountant caught up in accusations of hundreds of thousands of pounds gone missing from a will – appear to have used their influence with public services based in the rural Borders backwater to cause difficulties in the lives of clients whose funds and assets were being systematically stripped by the now defunct law firm.

The names of two former LibDem politicians, one from Holyrood, another from Westminster - have also been connected to the difficulties at Stormonth Darling.

In 2009, Scottish Law Reporter covered a story relating to Ladykirk Estates & Andrew ‘Drew’ Penman – after both lost a legal challenge in Scotland’s Land Court. LadyKirk Estates objected to the transfer of a farm tenancy from an elderly tenant to his younger nephew. Ladykirk had also claimed their ECHR rights had been in breach. Full report HERE


Penman – Originally from Hawick then moved to Kelso to work at Stormonth Darling Solicitors, has been subject to numerous complaints from local clients in the Scottish Borders over the years, One investigation carried out by the Law Society of Scotland issued reports finding Penman had deliberately rearranged evidence before investigating officers took possession of the files in an attempt to prevent the Law Society’s own reporter from investigating the circumstances of the losses. The Law Society investigating reporter found “there was also evidence of what appeared to be a bungled and unsuccessful attempt to put the file into order”

The Law Society investigator recommended a prosecution of Andrew Penman, saying : “In respect of the extraordinary delays and the repeated failures to respond to correspondence and the apparent, deliberate attempt to mislead the Royal Bank the reporter was of the view that the professional misconduct was such that it would warrant prosecution before the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal The reporter was or the view that there had clearly been an inadequate professional service but in the, event of a referral to the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal this would be incorporated into the complaint.”

Neither the Law Society of Scotland or Scottish Legal Complaints Commission could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lord Advocate & Crown Office identify two ‘new’ Libyan suspects sought for questioning over 1998 terrorist bombing of flight Pam Am 103 over Lockerbie

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland

Old Lockerbie suspects sought anew by Lord Advocate. SCOTLAND’S Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has requested the help of Libyan judicial authorities for Scottish police officers and the FBI to interview two Libyan suspects in the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.

The request – 27 years after the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, comes after the Crown Office said earlier today that the two men are believed to have acted with Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted of the bombing, which caused the deaths of 270 people.

Neither suspect was named by the Crown Office although it is thought the identities of both have appeared in claims by prosecutors at previous stages of the case.

A Crown Office spokesman said today: "The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General have recently agreed that there is a proper basis in law in Scotland and the United States to entitle Scottish and US investigators to treat two Libyans as suspects in the continuing investigation into the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

"The Lord Advocate has today, therefore, issued an International Letter of Request to the Libyan Attorney General in Tripoli which identifies the two Libyans as suspects in the bombing of flight Pan Am 103. The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General are seeking the assistance of the Libyan judicial authorities for Scottish police officers and the FBI to interview the two named suspects in Tripoli. The two individuals are suspected of involvement, along with Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, in the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 in December 1988 and the murder of 270 people."

BBC News reported:

Two new Lockerbie bombing suspects identified

Scottish prosecutors want to interview two Libyans they have identified as new suspects over the Lockerbie bombing.

They believe the two suspects acted along with Abdelbaset al-Megrahi - the only person to have been convicted of the atrocity.

The BBC understands the pair are Mohammed Abouajela Masud and Abdullah al-Senussi.

A total of 270 people died when the Pan Am 103 flight was blown up on the evening of 21 December 1988.

The flight was on its way from London to New York when it exploded above Lockerbie, in southern Scotland, killing everyone on board and 11 people on the ground.

Senussi was the brother-in-law and intelligence chief of former Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi. He is currently awaiting execution in a Libyan jail.

Masud is reported to be serving a prison sentence in Libya for bomb making.

Scotland's Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC recently met the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, in Washington to review progress made in the ongoing investigation.

They have now requested permission from the Libyan authorities for Scottish police and the FBI to interview the two new suspects in Tripoli.

A Crown Office spokesman said: "The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General have recently agreed that there is a proper basis in law in Scotland and the United States to entitle Scottish and US investigators to treat two Libyans as suspects in the continuing investigation into the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

"The Lord Advocate has today, therefore, issued an International Letter of Request to the Libyan attorney general in Tripoli which identifies the two Libyans as suspects in the bombing of flight Pan Am 103.

"The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General are seeking the assistance of the Libyan judicial authorities for Scottish police officers and the FBI to interview the two named suspects in Tripoli.

"The two individuals are suspected of involvement, along with Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, in the bombing of flight Pan Am 103 in December 1988 and the murder of 270 people."

The Libyan attorney general declined to comment to the BBC on whether a letter had been received from the Crown Office and whether the Libyan government would be assisting in the investigation.

Rival governments

Libya has struggled to stabilise since ousting long-term leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Elections in 2014 produced two rival governments as Islamist and secular militias fight for control of the country.

The Crown Office said it would be inappropriate to confirm any identities to preserve the integrity of the investigation.

Megrahi's part in the bombing has been called into question in a series of books and documentaries.

And a petition seeking "Justice For Megrahi", backed by politicians and family members of some victims, was raised at the Scottish Parliament in 2012.

Jim Swire, whose daughter died in the bombing, told the BBC: "I think there is a need for evidence to be made available as to why these two are suspects.

"We have recently been refused permission in Scotland to have to have a further appeal held into Megrahi's conviction, and many in this country simply don't believe Megrahi was involved and that this was a miscarriage of justice.

"To try and bolt two more names on top of that is a very difficult situation. It will need to be supported by better evidence than was produced to achieve the conviction of Megrahi."

But Frank Duggan, president of Pan Am 103 Relatives, told BBC Radio Scotland's Newsdrive programme he was not confident there would be further prosecutions.

'Really gratified'

He said: "I would like to think there would be, but they would have to be indicted by the US government or by the Scottish government and the Libyan government would have to turn them over - the Libyans have always said they are not going to turn over anyone to a foreign government.

"And it's been 26 years. It's too long, people are dead, stories have been forgotten.

"I'd like to think that it will be one small measure of closure but I don't expect the kind of justice that we all hope for."

Stephanie Bernstein, who lost her husband in the bombing, told the BBC that she was "surprised, delighted and really gratified" by the announcement.

She added: "There are many, many people who I hope are not sleeping so well tonight knowing that the Scottish government and the US government are committed to pursuing this case."

Friday, October 09, 2015

TRIAL BALLOON: Lord Advocate deflects calls for inquiry on Crown Office handling of mortgage fraud allegations against solicitor who represented MP Michelle Thomson

‘Unconvincing’ Lord Advocate raises fears of cover up. DURING one of the worst performances ever by a Lord Advocate before the Scottish Parliament – top prosecutor Frank Mulholland said he did not think there should be an inquiry into the handling of an investigation of a lawyer who was struck off over property deals involving SNP MP Michelle Thomson.

Responding to questions on when the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) was informed of allegations of mortgage fraud involving solicitor Christopher Hales – Frank Mulholland told MSPs that he does not believe there should be an inquiry into when prosecutors knew and how the case has since been handled - after it emerged the Law Society briefly informed the Crown Office of the ‘issue’ in December 2014.

Hales, who once listed his occupation as “Police Constable” – and is now struck off by the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal from working as a solicitor - handled numerous property deals for his client – SNP MP Michelle Thomson. Mr Hales acted for Ms Thomson before she was elected as an SNP MP.

According to a ruling by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal, a full version of which has been published by the Sunday Times, Mr Hales failed to provide key information to mortgage lenders in breach of guidelines designed to prevent fraud in numerous cases.

In the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie asked Mr Mulholland about the timeline in the case.

During the 10 minute session, Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland presented a timeline of events as the Crown Office saw it:

18 December, 2014 - The issue of solicitor Christopher Hales was raised "informally" by the Law Society of Scotland with the Crown Office. Neither the clients nor properties were named.

28 April, 2015 - The issue was raised again and it was noted that the matter of referral to the Crown Office was still under consideration by the Law Society. Neither the clients nor properties were named.

1 July, 2015 - The Crown was advised by the Law Society that it was required to obtain authorisation from its Guarantee Fund Sub Committee to formally refer the case.

3 July, 2015 - Referral was received by the Crown following the required authorisation. Documents were handed over to the Crown Office and in those documents the names of clients and properties were disclosed.

9 July, 2015 - A formal referral was made to the Crown Office and instructions were issued to Police Scotland.

Frank Mulholland  questioned by MSPs about when the Crown Office was first notified of allegations of mortgage fraud against Christopher Hales.

Mr Mulholland said: "As the Crown has made clear on a number of occasions, the case of Christopher Hales was first brought to its attention by the Law Society of Scotland at a meeting on 18 December, 2014."

Ms Baillie asked if Mr Mulholland believed there should be an investigation into the processing of information between the Law Society and the Crown Office.

She asked if he would order such an inquiry, given that there may have been "additional opportunities for alleged mortgage fraud" due to the delay.

Mr Mulholland responded: "I don't have the power to order an inquiry, and I don't think there should be an inquiry."

He said Police Scotland were instructed to investigate the allegations on 3 July 2015 and formally issued officers to do so on 9 July.

He said the issue was raised at routine quarterly meetings between the Law Society and the Crown Office.

Mr Mullholland said the Crown Office was first made aware on 18 December 2014 that the case was under consideration for referral. The issue was raised again on 28 April.
Image copyright PA Image caption Ms Thomson denies acting illegally

Mr Mulholland added: "The first time the Crown was made aware of the identity of the clients and the properties, was the 3rd of July."

Mulholland was also asked by Jackie Baillie if the Crown Office had begun any Proceeds of Crime actions against those involved.

Embarrassingly for the Lord Advocate, and appearing to have little clue as to the sequence of events, he responded “not yet”.

Police Scotland launched an inquiry only after the Crown Office was finally handed the detailed case files in the Hales case by the Law Society, some seven months from the day it first alerted prosecutors to the case.

Hales was banned from the legal profession in May 2014 over 13 property deals linked to Thomson and her business partners. The transactions involved “back to back” sales, where homes – often owned by vulnerable people – were bought at below full market value and then resold at far higher prices, in some cases on the same day; where large cash sums were transferred between the parties involved; where mortgage loans were sought that were higher than the price paid for the home, and where higher prices than those actually paid were recorded in the Scottish land registry.

Mortgage companies involved in those transactions, including Lloyds, which gave loans through its subsidiary Birmingham Midshires, and Virgin Money, which now owns the mortgage book for Northern Rock, which lent money for one sale, have confirmed they are now in contact with the police.

The Sunday Times disclosed it had submitted new evidence of an unusual property transaction to Police Scotland detectives after a couple who sold a home to Thomson alleged they had £32,000 deducted from the sale proceeds to pay off a loan they had no knowledge of.

The solicitor involved in that transaction, James Craig, had been found guilty of professional misconduct in February 2014 by the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SSDT), the body that struck off Hales three months later, and fined £2,500 for breaching money laundering regulations. There was no evidence that Craig acted improperly in the case reported by the Sunday Times.

The Sunday Mail reported that a second lawyer named in the SSDT judgment on Hales called Christopher Tulips, whose firms Strefford Tulips was involved in several deals for Thomson’s firm M&F Property Solutions, had also been censured and fined £2,500 for his role in back-to-back property deals. The published ruling by the SSDT on Tulips is anonymised, so it remains unclear whether his case involved transactions linked to Thomson.

Last week, the Law Society said its director of financial compliance Ian Messer "informally" raised concerns about the case of Mr Hales during two separate meetings with prosecutors in December 2014 and April 2015.

However, the Law Society did not "formally" submit its evidence to the Crown until July 2015, two months after Ms Thomson was elected SNP MP for Edinburgh West.

Law Society chief executive Lorna Jack gave an "absolute and categorical assurance" last week that the election played no part in the timings of the case.

She said Mr Messer would have seen Ms Thomson's name in the unredacted report into Mr Hales but may not have been aware she was a Westminster candidate.

The secretary to the Law Society committee that struck Mr Hales off, Sheila Kirkwood, is said to be a personal acquaintance of Ms Thomson with close links to the SNP.

Lorna Jack has pledged to look more deeply into Ms Kirkwood's links with Ms Thomson, but said she has received an assurance the secretary was unaware of the MP's links to Mr Hales until she read about it in media reports.

Ms Thomson is linked to 13 transactions Mr Hales conducted in 2010-11 where properties were said to have been bought cheaply from clients looking for a quick sale and then sold at a huge mark-up on the same day.

Complicated "cashback" deals were said to have been used to artificially inflate property prices in order to secure bigger loans from lenders.

Ms Thomson has denied acting illegally.Ms Thomson has surrendered the SNP party whip and has also stood down as the party's business spokeswoman at Westminster until the investigation into Mr Hales has concluded.

Previously, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied having any prior knowledge of a scandal which led to one of her most prominent MPs stepping down from the party.

During First Minister’s Questions last Thursday, 1 October,  Nicola Sturgeon said in response to questions that "serious issues" had been raised around the conduct of Michelle Thomson. The First Minister said that a police investigation should be allowed to take its course.


The House of Commons Register of Members’ Interests lists 16 SNP MPs as holding property interests from which most receive rental income.

Under the rules, Members of Parliament are required to list a property if (i) its value is over £100,000 and (ii) if they receive rental income of at least £10,000 a year.

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh(Ochil and South Perthshire): Three flats in Glasgow and a house in Kingussie, Highlands and Islands (i/ii).

Richard Arkless(Dumfries and Galloway): A house in Broxburn, West Lothian, and a flat in Glasgow (i/ii).

Ian Blackford(Ross, Skye and Lochaber): Croft, including two holiday rental properties on the Isle of Skye (i/ii). A house in Lanark (i),

Deidre Brock(Edinburgh North and Leith): A half share in two Edinburgh flats (i).

Lisa Cameron(East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow): A house in South Lanarkshire (i/ii). Five residential and holiday let apartments in Edinburgh and South Lanarkshire (i/ii).

Martyn Day(Linlithgow and East Falkirk): A house in West Lothian (i).

Patricia Gibson(North Ayrshire and Arran): A flat in Edinburgh (i).

Calum Kerr(Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk): A house in Wester Ross (i/ii).

Chris Law(Dundee West): A flat in Dundee (i) and a flat in Aberdeen (i).

Angus Brendan MacNeil(Na h-Eileanan an Iar): Jointly owns a house in Fort William plus a flat in Glasgow and a flat in London (i/ii).

Stuart McDonald(Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East): A flat in East Dunbartonshire (i).

John McNally(Falkirk): Owns a hair salon, The Barber Shop, from which he receives £600 a month in rent.

John Nicolson(East Dunbartonshire): A terrace house in London’s Tower Hamlets (i/ii). He occasionally receives income for renting it out for photoshoots.

Steven Paterson(Stirling): A half share in a flat in Stirling (i).

Tommy Sheppard(Edinburgh East): Commercial premises and residential property in Edinburgh (i) owned by entertainment company Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions of which he is a shareholder.
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Michelle Thomson(Edinburgh West): Two residential properties in Edinburgh, one in Falkirk, one on the Isle of Bute, one in East Calder, one in Stirling, one in Dollar, a half share of a property in Edinburgh and a quarter share of a property in Edinburgh (i/ii). She is a shareholder in the property management firm Your Property Shop.