Judicial Watchdog fails to publish reportsJudicial watchdog has failed to publish an annual report in over two years
A JUDICIAL watchdog has failed to publish an annual report of her time in the high-profile post – more than two years after getting the job.
Gillian Thompson, the Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR), had been expected to produce an official account of how she had scrutinised complaints against sheriffs and judges.
Her predecessor, Moi Ali, said yesterday she believed publishing an annual report was a “requirement” of the job.
The JCR post was created by the Parliament to give members of the public a way of querying decisions by the judiciary.
Complaints are investigated internally by the judiciary, but the JCR can examine whether a probe was handled correctly.
Ali was a trailblazer in the role and clashed with the former Lord President of the Court of Session about the powers of the JCR.
In the end, although she claimed that the role amounted to “window dressing”, she secured a Ministerial direction that allowed her to submit an annual report about her investigations. In these reports, she shone a light on the judiciary and revealed she had upheld a number of complaints.
Ali stood down in 2014 and was replaced later that year by Gillian Thompson OBE, a former civil servant.
Despite being in post since then, the JCR website contains no publications explaining the work she has carried out.
Earlier this year, she wrote that an annual report was at final draft stage and ready to send to Scottish Ministers and the Lord President, Lord Carloway, for observations. She estimated that publication would be before the end of February.
It is also emerged that Ali’s three annual reports – covering 2011 to 2014 – can no longer be downloaded on the JCR website.
Ali told this newspaper: “I felt publishing an annual report was a requirement of the role. It’s about letting the public know what you have been doing and holding the judiciary to account.
“It is important the Judicial Complaints Reviewer is transparent about what they find when a review is completed.”
A Government source said there was "no time requirement" for JCR reports and Ministers are expecting an update report soon.
Labour MSP Claire Baker MSP said: “The public must have confidence that all complaints are being taken seriously, including in our justice system. Openness and transparency is key to that but such a lengthy delay in producing an annual report fails this test.”
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “With no annual report for two years, there seems to be a major discrepancy in what was agreed and what is being delivered.
“The Scottish Government must take action to ensure that the JCR has both the resource and the resolve to ensure transparency, otherwise the public will very quickly lose faith in this.”
Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said: "Moi Ali quit as the Judicial Complaints Reviewer after warning that that the role was little more than window dressing. The Justice Secretary of the time asked her to do a job and then failed to give her the powers and resources that she needed.
"We need a judicial watchdog with teeth who can ensure that problems are dealt with quickly and transparently. Moi Ali spoke out when she felt that she was not getting the support she required. Gillian Thompson should not be afraid to do the same."
Thompson could not be reached.