Surjit Chhokar was stabbed to death outside his home in Overtown, Lanarkshire, on 4 November 1998. In March 1999 Ronnie Coulter was tried for his murder. He lodged a special defence naming his nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery as the killers; both had originally been arrested and charged with the crime along with Ronnie Coulter. Ronnie Coulter was found not guilty of murder but only of assault, and the trial judge, Lord McCluskey, criticised the then Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie of Blackford), saying: For reasons I cannot begin to understand
On 18 July 2001 a Court of Five Judges extended the doctrine of diminished responsibility in murder cases, taking it beyond the previously established position in which such a claim required a state of mind bordering on insanity or some form of mental disease. The Court held that this definition was too narrow, and that diminished responsibility might also arise from abnormality of mind” arising
The wedding of Pandora Clifford and Ivo Curwen was conducted in St Mary’s Church Haddington on 21 July 2001 by Richard Holloway, recently retired as the Episcopalian Bishop of Edinburgh, and was followed by a lavish reception at the home of the parents of the bride, Tyninghame House, East Lothian. But a marriage schedule had not been obtained from the district registrar, contrary to ss 3-6 of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977, which require the parties to give notice to the registrar and provide that the schedule may not be issued until 14 days after the notice unless the parties otherwise request in writing and the authority of the Registrar General for Scotland is obtained. The father of the bride, Timothy Clifford, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, was reported to have said that nonetheless the wedding was the real thing”
The reports of the two inquiries into the Chhokar murder case (see below Nos 88 and 94) were published on 24 October 2001. Sir Anthony Campbell looked at the way prosecution decisions were made in the case and at whether individual or institutional racism had affected how decisions were made in the case. His conclusions were (1) that the Crown was wrong to proceed against Ronnie Coulter alone initially; Ronnie Coulter and Andrew Coulter should have been indicted together with David Montgomery as a witness, although even if this procedure had been followed it would not necessarily have resulted in a conviction; and (2) that the internal systems of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service failed before the decision was made to indict Ronnie Coulter. His recommendations included (1) a review of the internal prosecution systems for High Court matters; (2) a wider review, going beyond the internal systems of the Crown Office; (3) the setting up of a satellite Crown Office High Court Unit near the High Court in Glasgow, to service cases there; (4) efforts to ensure the continuity of responsibility for prosecution from the earliest stages of a case through to the trial; and (5) a need for more advocate deputes and legal staff.
Dr Raj Jandoo reported on the liaison arrangements between the police, the Crown office and procurator fiscal service and the relatives and partner of Mr Chhokar. He was also asked to consider and comment on racism and the police investigation of any racist motive for the crime. He concluded that (1) the police investigation was effective and efficient” in tracing and arresting suspects and gathering evidence; but (2) did not consider adequately the question of racist motivation in the crime; (3) further
Henry McLeish intimated his resignation as First Minister in a speech to the Scottish Parliament on 8 November 2001. He had been caught up for some months in controversy over claims for office expenses made in respect of his Westminster MP’s constituency office in Glenrothes, Fife, between 1987 and 1997, when the office had in fact been the subject of a series of sub-lets to a number of different tenants (including two firms of solicitors with close links to the Labour Party, Digby Brown and Thompsons). Jim Wallace, the Deputy First Minister and Minister of Justice, took over for the second time as Acting First Minister. Thereafter Jack McConnell, the Minister for Education, emerged as the uncontested candidate for leadership of the Scottish Labour Party and hence as the sole contender for the office of First Minister, in which position he was confirmed by the Scottish Parliament on 22 November 2001. But this was not before Mr McConnell had confessed at a press conference, held on 13 November to clear the air”
The new First Minister, Jack McConnell, announced his Cabinet on 27 November 2001. Although several incumbent Ministers lost their jobs, Jim Wallace continues as Deputy First Minister and Minister of Justice, while Colin Boyd remains Lord Advocate. Solicitor General for Scotland Neil Davidson QC resigned, however, and was succeeded by Elish Angiolini (41), previously regional procurator fiscal for Grampian, Highlands and Islands. Mrs Angiolini is the first woman and the first solicitor to hold the post of Solicitor General for Scotland, and as such will have a right of audience in the High Court of Justiciary. Mr McConnell said that it is time to change the perception of this job and to focus on modernisation and reform of the prosecution service. I want tackling crime effectively and the public perception of an important
A Westminster Parliamentary challenge to the validity of the statutory instruments under which the Skye Bridge tolls are imposed and collected failed on 5 December 2001 when the Statutory Instruments Reference Committee (which had not met since 1977) ruled that the orders were properly classified and printed”. The basis of the challenge was that the order had not been fully laid before Parliament and was not subjected to proper scrutiny. Charles Kennedy
The results of the University Funding Councils’ latest Research Assessment Exercise were published on 14 December 2001. All the Scottish LLB schools (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde) were rated as 5″ (i.e. “quality that equates to attainable levels of international excellence in up to half of the research activity submitted and to attainable levels of national excellence in virtually all of the remainder”)
From the proceedings of the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 6 February 2002, dealing with the Land Reform (Scotland) Bill at col 1021-2:
Stewart Stevenson MSP: I am sorry but I am going to challenge Malcolm Strang Steel strongly on this.
In your initial remarks
On 31 July 2001 the High Court of Justiciary (Lords Coulsfield, Osborne and Caplan) ruled that the principal authorities on the matter defined the crime of breach of the peace with sufficient certainty as to comply with Article 7 (no punishment without law) of the European Convention on Human Rights (Smith v Donnelly 2001 SLT 1007, a case arising out of the accused’s behaviour during a demonstration outside the naval base at Faslane). For an earlier discussion of the issue, see P R Ferguson, Breach of the peace and the European Convention on Human Rights”