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.

HMA v Sean Charles Roberts

Thursday, 10 October, 2019
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 10 October 2019, Lord Uist imposed an order for lifelong restriction on Sean Charles Roberts after the offender was found guilty of fire raising.

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HMA v Danielle Finlay and Others

Monday, 7 October, 2019
Sentencing Statements

Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced six people to imprisonment at the High Court in Glasgow today (7 October 2019) after the offenders plead guilty to charges relating to drug offences.

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HMA v Norman Watt

Friday, 4 October, 2019
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 4 October, 2019, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Norman Watt to 6 years’ imprisonment after the offender pled guilty to a series of violent assaults.

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HMA v Steven Shillan

Thursday, 3 October, 2019
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 3 October 2019, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Steven Shillan to an extended sentence of 8 years - of which the custodial part will be 6 years with 2 years extended - after the offender pled guilty to a violent sexual assault.

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HMA v Dylan Kyle Mason, Reece Ellis Christopher Gaughan, Lee Francis Murphy and Michael Peter O’Brien

Wednesday, 2 October, 2019
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh on 2 October 2019, Lord Pentland imposed sentences of imprisonment on Dylan Kyle Mason, Reece Ellis Christopher Gaughan, Lee Francis Murphy and Michael Peter O’Brien after they were convicted of a number of serious charges.

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