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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Judge quits over 'stand-in' use
Lord Morison, pic from Newsline Scotland Press Agency
Lord Morison said he wanted to see improvements
A judge has resigned in protest at the growing use of temporary judges in Scotland's courts.

Lord Morison quit as a judge in the High Court and the Court of Session, saying temporary judges undermined the independence of the judiciary.

He had retired formally in 1997 but the 73-year-old continued to sit periodically in the supreme courts.

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive pointed out there had been a 20% rise in the number of permanent judges.

Scotland currently has 32 permanent judges, 19 temporary judges and - until Lord Morison's resignation - six retired judges, the executive said.

In an interview, Lord Morison insisted the use of temporary judges detracted from the standing of Scottish courts and he called for more permanent ones to be appointed.

Lord Morison also complained about the payment of expenses to him for High Court circuits.

Advocate critics

Speaking from his home in Banffshire on Wednesday morning, he confirmed that he would no longer sit as a retired judge.

He said: "Obviously it can be inferred that I feel strongly about these matters since I am resigning.

"The views I hold regarding the appointment of temporary judges are the same as those recently expressed on behalf of the Faculty of Advocates in evidence before the select committee on the Constitutional Reform Bill."

Parliament square
The Supreme Courts, the seat of Scotland's judicial system
In January, Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson defended the charge from the Faculty of Advocates saying she took the decision to introduce temporary judges in order to process a backlog of appeals.

In November 2002 it was revealed that the number of High Court trials being delayed had risen sharply in the previous four years.

Lord Morison is thought to have sent his written resignation to Scotland's most senior judge, Lord Cullen, and to the Scottish Executive justice department.

The wrangle over expenses is over the limit of 161 a day which judges are entitled to claim for food and accommodation when they are conducting trials on circuit.

An executive spokesman said: "Over the last five years the Scottish Executive has invested heavily in giving our courts and our prosecution service the resources needed to step up the efficiency and effectiveness of justice.

'Judiciary partnership'

"Hand in hand with that has been the development of a strong partnership with Scotland's judiciary - reflecting the vital role they play in delivering justice.

"With executive investment and support, there has been a 20% increase in the number of permanent judges - the highest number of permanent High Court judges in Scotland ever."

The executive spokesman said it was for the Lord President, Lord Cullen, to advise ministers on the number of permanent judges and that was kept under review.

Lord Morison's resignation and the reasons given for it are a damning indictment of the Scottish Executive's stewardship of the justice system
Nicola Sturgeon
SNP justice spokeswoman
He added that in relation to Lord Morison's expenses claims, all judges on the circuit were fully aware that they were entitled to claim up to 161 per day for expenses.

The spokesman said: "If judges exceed this amount, clearly their claims will be reduced to the specified amount."

He added that Lord Morison had only done one day's work on the bench during this financial year.

However, the judge pointed out that during 2004 he had presided over a four-week circuit which started on 12 January and a two-week circuit which began the following month.

He also sat at the High Court in Aberdeen once in March and in Stonehaven once in April.

Scottish National Party justice spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said: "Lord Morison's resignation and the reasons given for it are a damning indictment of the Scottish Executive's stewardship of the justice system.

"Concerns have been expressed about the role of temporary judges for some time and the justice minister has steadfastly refused to do anything about it."

She said it was time for Cathy Jamieson to "sit up, take notice and do something about these problems before they get any worse".


SEE ALSO:
Temporary judge policy attacked
15 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Judge calls for courts overhaul
11 Dec 02  |  Scotland
Court delays 'have risen by 300%'
03 Nov 02  |  Scotland
Judge slams courts 'farce'
29 Jan 02  |  Scotland


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