Wednesday, January 03, 2018

WOLFFE COURT: Lord Advocate James Wolffe and his judge wife at centre of £9million damages claim - Questions remain why Lady Wolffe avoided recusal during emergency judge swap on court case against her own husband

Lady Wolffe was set to hear court case against her own husband. SCOTLAND’S judiciary continue to face fresh allegations of concealing conflicts of interest after it emerged a multi million pound damages claim against the Lord Advocate and Scotland’s Chief Constable for wrongful arrest and financial damages – was set to be heard by the Lord Advocate’s wife – who is a judge in the Court of Session.

And, it has now emerged a series of judge swaps on this case, from Lady Sarah Wolffe, to Lady Morag Wise, then Lord Paul Arthurson - has led to a FOURTH judge – Lord Sidney Neil Brailsford - presiding over hearings in a case which could also decide the fate of the Lord Advocate’s immunity from legal action in cases of wrongful arrest.

The NINE million pound damages claim against Scotland’s top cop and top prosecutor was lodged in the final months of 2017 by David Whitehouse – a former administrator at Rangers FC – who is seeking financial damages from Police Scotland's Philip Gormley and Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC.

However, it emerged at a hearing in November the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) had quietly scheduled Lady Wolffe to preside over a crucial hearing in the case against her own husband – James Wolffe QC.

A copy of the Court Rolls handed to the media revealed Lady Sarah Wolffe QC – an outer house senator of the Court of Session – was scheduled to hear the case involving the claim involving the Lord Advocate - her own husband - A295/16 David Whitehouse (represented by Urquharts) v Liam Murphy &c (represented by Ledingham Chambers for SGLD - Scottish Government Legal Directorate) - on November 15 2017.

Prosecutor Liam Murphy  who is named in the action - is currently listed as a Crown Office Procurator Fiscal on “Specialist Casework”.

However, Lady Wolffe was removed from the hearing with no official comment from the Judicial Office.

Claims surfaced at the time Lady Wolffe was suddenly dropped from the case when it ‘emerged at the last minute’ her husband – Lord Advocate James Wolffe - was involved in the case.

A second Court of Session Judge - Lady Morag Wise QC - was then scheduled to hear the case.

For reasons which have not been fully explained, Lady Wise was also dropped from the hearing on Wednesday 15 November which saw the case handed to a third judge – Lord Paul Arthurson QC – who set dates for  a four day hearing of legal arguments.

However, when the £9m damages claim returned to court in mid December, yet another judge – Lord Sidney Neil Brailsford had been assigned to the case, replacing Lord Arthurson.

During a hearing at Edinburgh’s Court of Session on 14 December 2017, judge Lord Brailsford arranged for a debate on legal issues surrounding the case to take place over four days in May 2018.

Lord Brailsford said: “I acknowledge that this is a very serious litigation relating to matters of substance.”

The background to the civil damages claim stems from when David Whitehouse and Paul Clark were appointed to the former Rangers Football Club PLC in 2012 after owner Craig Whyte declared the business insolvent.

The Duff and Phelps administrators faced a failed prosecution bid by the Crown Office in relation to the collapse of the Ibrox oldco, while Mr Whyte was found not guilty of fraudulently acquiring the club during a trial in June.

The charges against David Whitehouse and his colleague Paul Clark were later dropped.

Both PoliceScotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley and Lord Advocate James Wolffe claim police and prosecutors acted in accordance with correct legal procedure.

Yet questions remain on how the Crown Office acted in this case, and many others where prosecutions which ultimately collapse, appear to be based on flimsy or even non-existent or unprovable evidence.

Police arrested and charged Mr Whitehouse and Mr Clark during the investigation into businessman Craig Whyte's takeover of the club in 2011. Charges were dropped following a court hearing before judge Lord Bannatyne in June 2016.

Lawyers acting for Mr Whitehouse claimed their client was "unlawfully detained" by detectives in November 2014. They also said that throughout the period of detention, there was no reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr Whitehouse had broken the law.

Mr Whitehouse also claimed that police obtained evidence without following proper legal procedure. An indictment against Mr Whitehouse was issued without any "evidential basis", his lawyers said.

It is also claimed the actions of police and prosecutors are said to have damaged Mr Whitehouse' reputation of being a first-class financial professional and led to a £1.75m loss in earnings.

The trail of judge swapping – leading to at least four judges who have now heard this case in the Court of Session, and the silent replacement of Lady Wolffe with Lady Wise, and then Lord Arthurson – continues to raise serious questions as to why there are no written references to any note of recusal made by Lady Wolffe in the Register of Recusals published by the Judicial Office.

Given the fact Lady Wolffe clearly holds a conflict of interest in the case – in which one of the core participants in the action is her own husband – the Lord Advocate – the public are entitled to see a note of recusal entered into the Register of Recusals referring to a case in which she was scheduled to hear and decide on legal action against her own husband.

Both the Judicial Office and Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service did not issue any comment prior to DOI’s report on developments in the case, which can be viewed here: CRY WOLFFE: Judicial Office hit with new conflict of interest claims as Court of Session papers reveal £9 million damages claim against Chief Constable & Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC was set to be heard by the Lord Advocate’s wife - Judge Lady Wolffe

Two days later, a spokesperson for the SCTS then said: “I can confirm that Lady Wolffe was assigned to hear procedural matters in a number of cases on Wednesday 15 November 2017. One of those cases was listed on the rolls as David Whitehouse v Liam Murphy and others. Subsequently, when the papers were checked for consideration, it became apparent that the Lord Advocate was the third defender and accordingly the case was reallocated to a different judge.”

When challenged for further comment and an explanation for the judge swapping which led to a third judge hearing the case, a second spokesperson for the SCTS claimed: “Hearings and callings of cases which are primarily procedural of nature are allocated to Judges depending on what other business they are dealing with. It is common for such allocations to be altered on the day by the Keeper’s Office on behalf of the Keeper of the Rolls to ensure the efficient handling of business.”

“As confirmed previously, Lady Wolffe was assigned to hear procedural matters in a number of cases on Wednesday 15 November 2017. One of those cases was listed on the rolls as David Whitehouse v Liam Murphy and others. Subsequently, when the papers were checked by the Keeper’s Office, it became apparent that the Lord Advocate was the third defender and accordingly steps were taken by the Keeper’s Office to reallocate the case to a different judge. The case was initially reallocated to Lady Wise but, having regard to the level of business and to ensure that all cases were dealt with on the day, was subsequently dealt with by Lord Arthurson.”

Pressed for an explanation on why no note of a recusal should be entered in the Register of Recusals, a THIRD spokesperson for the SCTS claimed: “In this instance no note in the register of recusals is required as the case was administratively reallocated prior the case calling in court, in order to avoid unnecessary delay to the parties. Notes in the register of recusals relate only to formal motions for recusals - where an issue arises on which the judge requires to consider whether to decline jurisdiction, and the decision being formally recorded.”

Since the last hearing in the case on 15 December 2017, legal insiders have poured scorn on explanations offered by the Scottish Courts over decisions taken which would have seen the Lord Advocate’s own wife hear and rule on the court case involving her own husband.

Sources have since claimed there was ‘no mistake’ involved in the selection of Lady Wolffe for the hearing in November.

A legal insider said: “Everyone knows who Lady Wolffe is and everyone knows James Wolffe is the Lord Advocate.”

“It is therefore ridiculous for anyone to claim the Keeper’s Office or anyone else within the Judicial Office or courts is unaware of Lady Wolffe’s status as the wife of Lord Advocate James Wolffe”.

The Sunday Mail reports:

Lord Advocate's judge wife was set to oversee case brought against him by former Rangers administrator

Lady Sarah Wolffe was originally scheduled to oversee a hearing in David Whitehouse's £9m lawsuit against Lord Advocate James Wolffe.

ByCraig McDonald 24 DEC 2017

A former Rangers administrator’s £9million lawsuit against Lord Advocate James Wolffe was given an emergency judge swap – after it emerged the case was originally handed to his wife.

David Whitehouse, 51, is suing Wolffe, Police Scotland chief Phil Gormley and prosecutor Liam Murphy amid claims he was “unlawfully detained” during an investigation into Craig Whyte’s doomed 2011 club takeover.

Court officials had to draft in a replacement judge when they realised Wolffe’s wife Lady Sarah Wolffe was scheduled to sit on the bench for a procedural hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last month.

The late switch from Lady Wolffe was ordered after the conflict was discovered.

Lady Morag Wise was asked to take her place, although the hearing eventually went ahead in front of Lord Paul Arthurson.

Yet another judge, Lord Neil Brailsford, was on the bench when the case was called again earlier this month. It is scheduled to go ahead next year.

The removal of Lady Wolffe is not noted in the official list of judicial recusals – where a judge declines jurisdiction – as it was reallocated before it was called in court.

A Scottish courts spokesman said: “Lady Wolffe was assigned to hear procedural matters in a number of cases on November 15.

“One of those cases was listed on the court rolls as David Whitehouse v Liam Murphy and others.

“Subsequently, when the papers were checked by the Keeper’s office, it became apparent the Lord Advocate was the third defender and, accordingly, the case was reallocated to a different judge.

“The case was initially reallocated to Lady Wise but, having regard to the level of business and in order to avoid unnecessary delay to the parties, was ultimately dealt with by Lord Arthurson.”

Whitehouse and colleague Paul Clark were arrested during the Rangers probe but charges against the pair were later dropped.

They worked for Duff & Phelps, who were appointed as administrators of the club in February 2012. The business and assets of The Rangers Football Club plc, who entered liquidation later that year, were sold to a consortium led by Charles Green for £5.5million.

Police launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the takeover. Whyte was cleared of fraud by a jury at the High Court in Glasgow in June.

Lawyers acting for Whitehouse claimed their client was “unlawfully detained” by detectives in November 2014. They also said that, throughout the period of detention, there were no reasonable grounds to suspect he had broken the law.

Whitehouse claims police and prosecutors didn’t follow correct legal procedure and his arrest damaged his reputation and caused him significant loss of income.

The defenders in the action, including the chief constable and Lord Advocate, claim correct legal procedure was followed and want his case to be dismissed.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

So only just a tiny bit corrupt then
or rather what a bunch of GANGSTERS running the courts

Anonymous said...

All that rubbish from the courts trying to make out it was a mistake they knew exactly what they were doing!

Anonymous said...

Whoever gave you the three spokesperson statements from the SCTS are lying.COPFS regularly know identity of case judge before court rolls are published.I am personally aware of several examples as I worked in SCTS.I do not believe for one minute someone missed the well known fact Lady Wolffe is the wife of James Wolffe.
Mr Whitehouse was set up and I am sure you know the reason why - SCTS banking on little media support for Rangers saga and arrest of former financial administrator.Wrong!

Anonymous said...

"And, it has now emerged a series of judge swaps on this case, from Lady Sarah Wolffe, to Lady Morag Wise, then Lord Paul Arthurson - has led to a FOURTH judge – Lord Sidney Neil Brailsford - presiding over hearings in a case which could also decide the fate of the Lord Advocate’s immunity from legal action in cases of wrongful arrest."

Quite a list of judges there.Obviously by no accident.

Anyone may be entitled to think they are trying to rig the outcome

Diary of Injustice said...

@ 4 January 2018 at 08:19

That thought re Rangers coverage had occurred given additional material being looked at in relation to this case.

If you would like to discuss other examples please contact the blog or via preferred or other established routes, thanks.

Anonymous said...

a fit up no doubt about it

Anonymous said...

I wonder how all those smart arses who gloat about suing everyone in the court of session feel after reading how the judges neatly rigged this court case so no one would ever know?
Why is there no outrage from Urquharts the lawyers acting for Whitehouse?
Too scared they wont get a job as a judge later in their careers?
Why are that bunch of msps content to sit by and take their 70 grand a year while judges are stitching up the courts to this degree?
This fine article leaves me in no doubt the court of session is the court of corruption.

Anonymous said...

They can change as many judges as they like, as they are a law unto themselves cases will always be settled in favour of the legal profession. Look at the way lawyers stick together Judges are just promoted lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Too bad for Brailsford
His name also appears on the Cherbi blog several times and in shocking detail.
Hands up who else thinks this is a stitch up!

Anonymous said...

When does Lord Woolman enter the fray?
You can usually tell a case has gone to hell when they put him onto it

Anonymous said...

Corruption.No other word for it.Your judiciary is corrupt.Not incompetent.Corrupt.End of.

Anonymous said...

Question - Why are there no written references to any note of recusal made by Lady Wolffe in the Register of Recusals published by the Judicial Office?

Answer - Because the register was always intended to be, and is nothing more than window dressing !

Anonymous said...

Excellent, what a website it is! This webpage gives valuable facts to us, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

They have a Judge wife defending her husband so what chance does anyone have when complaining to the Law Society or SLCC if this is all over the papers. One law for the legal establishment another for Scotlands people.

Anonymous said...

As above have said "Why is there no outrage from Urquharts the lawyers acting for Whitehouse?"
As Peter may know Urquharts will not enter the the arena or lion's den like a gladiator liberating prople from the injustices of other legal 'professionals' in Scotland, even though they have a 'Law Society approved' 'Panel Solicitor' or solicitor-advocate on their books and is the main litigator in Urquharts and is their only 1 legal agent entitled to address the COS in actions before the COS.
Urquharts in a court raised action at the last minute (time bar) by Urquharts for their 'clients' against an incompetent and professionally negligent solicitor who breached the expected standard duty of care expected of them, such as incorrect postal correspondence, then decided to drop the case as Urquharts opined that a Sheriff in a civil action would prefer the evidence of the negligent solicitor (who could not even get the postal address correct for written correspondence or email) over and above that of two witnesses to the fact of professional negligence and incorrect addressing of written correspondence and the failure of that solicitor to use email as client agreed and instructed from the beginning. This solicitor also unlawfully retained the client files (embezzlement) for a period of 6 years and thus seemingly intended to pervert the course of justice.

The case centres around 10 years of known Asbestos Abuse, which was known by the then Scottish Office as far back as 1976 and justice thereof has been thwarted at every stage and by numerous 'solicitors' engaged to date and all of it stems back to that solicitor's initial negligent errors.The Law Society of Scotland dropped the complaint within 1 month citing no response or authority which was false and by the time the client retrieved their client files the SLCC determined they were too late.
Scottish solicitors will not even report known professional negligences to the SLCC or Law Society or even criminal matters, such as embezzlement or theft of client files, to the Police or other investigatory body. The legal 'profession' know that this is the case and simply are not afraid as they consider they are playing a game of monopoly with client and public money and they always have a 'Get out of Jail' card free up their sleeve or are given one by their cohorts and cronies. This unfortunately includes the COPFS and the Courts as Peter has highlighted previously as to the lack of prosecution for SLAB fraud and other matters.

Does anyone know a good journalist that is interested in reporting known Asbestos Abuse (AA) in the housing stock sold by the Scottish Office since 1980 and thereon by the Scottish Government since their inception? This could be a big expose as the present Scottish Ministers are not interested in giving answers. If so, kindly make suggestions on this site or provide contact details. Best regards to all.

Apologies as this has been sent anon as Scotland is not yet under a truly transparent, accountable and liable democracy that enables truth, accountability and ultimately that of natural justice. In Scotland it is still the messenger and journalist that is first shot and shut down by the state and the many departments and £billions at their disposal.

Anonymous said...

Prior to public scrutiny of the legal profession which has been caused by people having their lives wrecked I wonder how many thousands of cases have been killed off by Judges and lawyers. It must be hundreds of thousands of cases where they protect family members or companies buying them off. Proves the courts are about arrangements for their vested interests rather than the justice they are meant to provide.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to all at DOI and A BIG THANK YOU for all of your splendid work!