Senators of the College of Justice

Judicial and administrative duties

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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.

Appointment

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.

Message from the Lord President

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Welcome to the judicial website. We hope that you find this website both helpful and informative. It is our intention to publish as much information as we can, as quickly as we can. We believe it is vital in a democracy that justice is not only seen to be done, but that it operates in an open and transparent way and contributes to public understanding and awareness of what takes place in courts each day across Scotland.

Lord President

HMA v Dylan Walker

Tuesday, 18 September, 2018
Sentencing Statement

At the High Court in Livingston today, 18 September 2018, Lord Arthurson imposed an extended sentence of six years on Dylan Walker after the accused was found guilty of rape and sexual assault. The custodial part will be four years' detention, which will be followed by an extension period of two years on licence.

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Ineos Upstream Ltd and another v Lord Advocate

Tuesday, 19 June, 2018
Court Opinion

A petition seeking judicial review of certain acts and decisions of the Scottish Government in implementation of what was purportedly an indefinite ban on “fracking” has been refused. The Court of Session held that the legal effect of certain statements and planning directions made by the Scottish Ministers to the effect that the Scottish Government will not support the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and a subsequent decision that the directions should continue in force indefinitely, is that there is in fact no prohibition against fracking in force. The following is a summary of the detailed opinion issued by Lord Pentland.

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