McArthur: “Blistering” judicial complaints criticisms demand review

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today written to the Justice Secretary calling for a review of the office of Judicial Complaints Reviewer following “blistering” accounts from the previous two incumbents. 

Michael Matheson today appointed a new Judicial Complaints Reviewer. However, Mr McArthur highlighted the fact both Moi Ali and Gillian Thompson criticised the support they received and questioned the future of the role upon leaving office. 

In the letter, Mr McArthur wrote: 

“I write to urge you to commission a review of the post of Judicial Complaints Reviewer (JCR) following the announcement today of a new reviewer.

“I, of course, wish Ian Gordon well in his new role. However, there is no avoiding the fact that the previous two holders of the post have both condemned the support they received and claimed that this has had serious implications for the quality of the service they have been able to provide. 

“On leaving the post in 2014, Moi Ali said the post amounted to “window dressing”. She said that the watchdog has “no power to make things different and better”. A restricted remit, unable to make recommendations, a budget of just £2,000 and no staff or administrative support together contributed to her finding the job “enormously frustrating and difficult”. Liberal Democrats raised this in Parliament with the then Justice Secretary but our concerns were blithely dismissed. 

“Now Gillian Thompson has vacated the post and it is clear that she was left similarly exasperated. She was reported this weekend as saying the JCR provides a “poor service” due to the lack of support and limitations of the role. She concluded that the post may meet the legislative requirements but it does not meet the expectations of the public or service users. Delays and backlogs should not be inevitable. 

“The only two holders of the post have both provided blistering accounts of their experiences. In appointing the third JCR the Scottish Government cannot ignore the criticisms of his predecessors and the serious questions that surround the credibility of this office. It is clear that the current system is not working. 

“I therefore urge you to act on Ms Thompson’s calls for a review of the “relevance” of the post. Almost a decade on from the Act that created it, I believe there is a strong case for this review examining whether the legislation is fit for purpose and whether the JCR has the resources they need to do the job with diligence and timeliness. 

“It would be irresponsible for the Scottish Government to once again ignore these concerns and risk leaving the new holder of the post similarly hamstrung.” 

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