THE scandal of the Crown Office having to pay tens of millions of pounds in damages to Rangers FC administrators who were maliciously prosecuted has been cited in the latest attempt to establish a register of judges’ interests.

Now entering its ninth year before the Holyrood Parliament, the petition by journalist and law blogger Peter Cherbi calling for the register to be established will be discussed by the Justice Committee today.

The register has been opposed by the current and previous Lord President, Scotland’s most senior judge, but the Petitions Committee and the Justice Committee both agreed to support it. Previous committee convener Margaret Mitchell MSP wrote in November 2019: “The committee is minded to support the principle behind the petition of a judicial register of interests as it has yet to hear a convincing case against.”

Cherbi has made a fresh submission to the Justice Committee which states: “The case of the Rangers administrators’ prosecution does have a significant interest to the petition and the creation of a register of judges’ interests.”

The submission cites the occasion when judge Lady Sarah Wolffe was scheduled to preside over a hearing of the case of David Whitehouse against her husband, Lord Advocate James Wolffe, before she was hastily replaced on the bench.

Cherbi states: “Evidence has been previously submitted to the Public Petitions Committee with regard to a scheduling of the Lord Advocate’s judge wife in relation to one of the civil damages actions against the Lord Advocate and chief constable. This material appeared in the national newspapers and was widely reported at the time, and repeatedly since.

“The scheduling of the Lord Advocate’s own judge wife to hear one of the Rangers administrators’ claim against her own husband, the Lord Advocate, would not have occurred if a register of judges’ interests had existed and contained information in relation to what are clear links between the judiciary and the Crown Office and Prosecution Service.”

Cherbi added: “Of further interest in the Rangers administrators’ case to this petition is that of the role of former Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, who initiated the prosecutions during his term at the Crown Office. Lord Mulholland is now a member of Scotland’s judiciary, and was given a judicial post almost immediately after he stepped down as Scotland’s top law officer in 2016. As members are aware, this particular case strikes at the very heart of the independence, accountability and transparency of Scotland’s prosecution service and judiciary.

“Had a register of judges’ interests existed currently, Lord Mulholland’s role in the prosecution would now be a matter of record within an official document – namely a publicly available register of judges’ interests – which should contain such information.”