An Outer House Judge writes

“Outer House judges sit at ‘first instance’, which means they hear cases that have not previously been to court – pre-trial hearings, civil proofs in the Court of Session and criminal trials in the High Court. The work involves presiding over a wide variety of cases and also sitting in different courts around Scotland.

Most of the time, I am based in Edinburgh, hearing two or three weeks of criminal cases for every one week of civil work in the Court of Session. On those days, each morning begins with the short cycle to Parliament House. Civil proofs are heard in the same building as my chambers and usually last up to four days. Criminal trials take place in the Lawnmarket courtroom, a short walk up the High Street. A brief trial can finish within a week but cases are more likely to last around 10 days. The most complex cases, for instance some of those involving fraud, can take several months.

Sitting on the Bench for criminal trials is rewarding, though it also brings challenges. Hearing a case with a jury is a discipline in itself – maintaining courtesy and formality in the court while ensuring that jurors are not given any inappropriate information. It can be very tiring for the jury – and the judge – to concentrate for long periods on evidence that is sometimes disturbing. But, in my experience, jurors show considerable attention to detail and produce common sense verdicts.

The atmosphere is often tense and emotional, particularly when supporters and family members of the accused and victims are in court. However, witnesses – along with those watching proceedings – deserve credit for remaining remarkably dignified during most trials.

As well as hearing cases in Edinburgh, High Court judges also go ‘on circuit’ around the country. Packing up your belongings and working elsewhere in the country for a week provides some variety, though it is also a solitary existence. To remain entirely detached from the cases they are hearing, judges are expected to stay in different accommodation even from the court officials who also travel on circuit.

Whether dealing with criminal or civil cases, in Edinburgh or elsewhere, sitting on the Bench is no nine-to-five job. Other responsibilities – usually carried out in the evenings or at weekends – include writing opinions, attending meetings and functions, giving presentations and completing training requirements. But that is not a complaint about the demands of the job – it is a huge privilege to be judge in the supreme courts of Scotland.”

HMA v Niall Dinsmore

Wednesday, 26 October, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 26 October 2016, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Niall Dinsmore to five years imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to being in possession of firearms and being in possession of offensive weapons.

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HMA v Scott Hamilton

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Stilring, Lord Ericht sentenced Scott Hamilton to one year imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to causing death by careless driving.

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HMA v James McCarten

Tuesday, 25 October, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court, Judge Kenneth Maciver, QC, sentenced James McCarten to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 15 years after the accused was convicted of brutally murdering his partner.

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HMA v Steven Bennie

Friday, 21 October, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 21 October 2016, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Steven Bennie to seven years six months imprisonment after the accused pleaded guilty to causing the death of Mary Laurie by dangerous driving.

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HMA v Mathew Watt, Mathew Todd and Shuaib Ashraf Dar

Wednesday, 19 October, 2016
Sentencing Statements

At the High Court in Glasgow today, 19 October 2017, Lord Boyd of Duncansby sentenced Mathew Watt, Mathew Todd and Shuaib Ashraf Dar to imprisonment after the three accused pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.

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