Judicial Independence

What is it and why is it so important?

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The independence of the judiciary is the cornerstone of a democratic society and a safeguard for the freedom and rights of the citizen under the rule of law. It means that judges should be free to make impartial decisions based solely on fact and law, without interference, pressure or influence from the state. In Scotland, the principle was emphasised as long ago as 1599   when the Lord President of the Court of Session declared that the judges were independent of the king, “sworn to do justice according to our conscience”.

 Judicial independence is protected in several ways:

  • freedom from interference, influence or pressure from the  State through separation from government and parliament, which may be involved in disputes heard by the judge;
  • restrictions on removal from office – for instance, a full-time, salaried judge can only be removed before retiring at 70 if unfit for office because of inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour; and
  • immunity from being sued or prosecuted for work carried out as a judge.

 To uphold their independence, judges should act with impartiality and integrity. When they are sworn in, judges take the judicial oath: “I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

 The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 enshrined judicial independence in law. It introduced a duty on Scottish ministers, the Lord Advocate and MSPs to uphold the continued independence of the judiciary, barring them from trying to exert influence through any special access to judges.  Read more

HMA v Graham Campbell

Tuesday, 19 January, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 19 January 2016, Lady Wolffe imposed an extended sentence of six years imprisonment on Graham Campbell after the accused pled guilty to assault with a knife and theft.

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HMA v Darren Ferris

Friday, 15 January, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 15 January 2016, Lord Turnbull sentenced Darren Ferris to nine-and-a-half years imprisonment and banned the accused from driving for 12 years after he pled to guilty to causing death by dangerous driving when under influence of drink.

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HMA v Sandeep Singh

Friday, 15 January, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 15 January 2016, Lady Rae sentenced Sandeep Singh to four years imprisonment and banned the accused from driving for 10 years after he was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

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HMA v Barry Rankine

Monday, 21 December, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 21 December 2015, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Barry Rankine to five years imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to making and possessing indecent images of children stolen from police computer systems.

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HMA v Arthur Cummings

Thursday, 17 December, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 17 December 2015, Lord Uist sentenced Arthur Cummings to six years imprisonment with a further extension period of three years on licence after the accused pleaded guilty to assault to injury with intent to rob.

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