Senators of the College of Justice

Judicial and administrative duties

Supreme Court SignClick to enlarge image

Senators of the College of Justice are judges who sit in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary. The senators achieve the necessary competence in both civil and criminal law and procedure in order to deal with the most important cases in both fields. The college was established in the sixteenth century. There are currently 35 senators.

Click here for a list of Inner House and Outer House senators.

For biographical details of each senator  see below.  

Sitting in the Court of Session, they deal with a wide range of civil matters, particularly complex and high value cases based on contractual disputes, judicial review, delict (a civil wrong) and the law relating to property, revenue, commerce, companies and intellectual property. Cases of constitutional importance have become more frequent.

The judges are divided between the court’s Outer House, which usually hears new cases, and its Inner House, which deals mostly with appeals. The Inner House is further divided into the First and Second Divisions, which have equal authority and are chaired by the Lord President and Lord Justice Clerk respectively.  The Divisions normally sit in panels of three judges. A jury of 12 lay people is required in some Outer House cases but judges there normally sit alone. After hearing civil cases, they produce reasoned judgments called Opinions, usually by working outside court hours.

In the High Court of Justiciary, the judges deal with the most serious crimes, such as murder, rape, culpable homicide and armed robbery. Here, they are technically referred to as Lords Commissioner of Justiciary.

High Court judges hear both new trials, also referred to as cases at first instance, and appeals. When sitting at first instance, a single judge presides over a case, which is tried by a jury of 15 men and women. The judge controls the proceedings in court, rules on legal challenges, gives legal directios to the jury and, if there is a conviction, sentences the accused. The judges also supervise the preparation of criminal cases to ensure they are ready to proceed. High Court judges travel on a circuit of the cities and major towns of the country. Two or more judges sit together to hear appeals against sentence and conviction.

Judges’ primary functions are to hear and determine cases but increasingly they have responsibility for case management and administration. As a result, some judges have specialist duties, for instance, to ensure the efficient administration of the courts and tribunals, organise training, hear certain cases or represent Scotland on international bodies.

For more information about the office of senator click here.


Judges are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the First Minister, who receives recommendations from the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland. They must have exercised certain functions for at least five years – worked as an advocate, sheriff principal, sheriff or solicitor with rights of audience in the supreme courts. Traditionally, the Scottish Bench comprises the most able and experienced legal professionals. Judges must retire at 70.

HMA v John Ryan

Thursday, 20 August, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 20 August 2015, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced John Ryan to seven years imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to assaulting Callum Scott to his severe injury, permanent impairment and to the danger of his life.

Find out more

HMA v Jennifer Maguire and David Harper

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At Hamilton Sheriff Court on 11 August 2015, Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC imposed extended sentences on Jennifer Maguire and David Harper after they pleaded guilty to offences relating to the sharing of indecent images of children.

Find out more

HMA v Jamal Saeed aka Mohammed Ahmed

Monday, 10 August, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 10 August 2015, Judge John Morris QC sentenced Jamal Saeed to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 25 years after the accused was found guilty of the murder of Mohammed Abdi.

Find out more

HMA v James Smith

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh Lord Matthews sentenced James Smith to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 17 years after he was found guilty of murder.

Find out more

HMA v Joseph Cullen

Friday, 24 July, 2015
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow on 23 July 2015, Lord Turnbull sentenced Joseph Cullen to 12 months imprisonment for historical sex abuse offences.

Find out more