Thursday 4 August 2016

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service Con

Ever heard of the phrase "The wheels of justice turn slowly"?

Not only is it true, but it's getting worse.

Everyone who frequents a court of law - lawyers, sheriffs, clerks, police officers, translators, yes even the criminals - will all attest that our justice system has two speeds - dead slow and stop.

Everybody, and I mean absolutely everybody, agrees that our courts are painfully slow. The only people who think that courts are run well and operated efficiently are the people who actually run and operate the courts.

Well they would wouldn't they.

So in a new report which can only be described as an insult to our intelligence, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) claim that almost all trials in Sheriff courts nowadays begin within 16 weeks. Up until now, only about half that number of trials managed to get before the beak within 16 weeks.

So there you have it - according to the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service the speed of our courts has just doubled in the last year.


So why is no one - and I mean absolutely no one - seen this miraculous improvement in our courts?

Surely a 100% improvement would have been very noticeable by everyone involved in the court system?

The answer is very simple.

It's not true. There have been no improvements of any such kind whatsoever.

There has been no cut in waiting times for trials, no quicker processes, no increased productivity. Nothing.

The report is one complete and utter lie peddled by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service. It's a PR stunt by the SCTS (paid for by the taxpayer by the way) to fiddle the figures and make it look like they're doing a good job.

And here's how they did it.

You see that waiting time average of '16 weeks' to get to trial does not include a number of extremely important figures. Figures so important that they completely change the average and therefore change the result.

For example, the figures don't include:

1. The rising number of cancelled or abandoned prosecutions.

Police arrest and charge hundreds of innocent members of the public every day (which they have to do to achieve targets). However Procurator Fiscals regularly abandon these cases because the police do not have sufficient evidence to prosecute (a lack of evidence is not surprising in cases involving innocent people who have done nothing wrong).

All of these dropped cases - which are often abandoned the day after arrest or during the intermediate diet stage of proceedings  - are counted towards this '16 weeks' figure.

2. The number of plea deals done.

You may remember I recently wrote about a lawyer from Wisconsin in the USA who was arrested while on holiday in Scotland. He had his arm twisted by the Crown office to plead guilty and take a £500 fine or else face a lengthy and costly trial which would also have required him to fly to and from the USA. It's not difficult to see why he was pretty much forced to take the 'Guilty+£500' deal with no option of putting his side of the story to a court. The point here is that this particular plea deal saw him arrested, charged, fined, and out the door in a matter of hours instead of there being a trial which would have dragged it out for months.

In other reported cases, the Procurator Fiscal has done dodgy deals with some of the biggest gangsters and drug dealers in Scotland because the length of trial and the cost of prosecuting far outweighs what the Crown expect to get back afterwards via the Proceeds Of Crime Act.

Cases such as these are counted in with the '16 week' figure so help bring the average down.

3. Number of secretive deals done with big business to pay quick civil fines to escape criminal justice.

I wrote recently about Scotland's new bribery act which permits companies to self-report cases of bribery to the Crown office and they will receive a fine for their wrongdoing instead of criminal charges. I also said at the time that the idea was a thinly disguised way for rich executives of large companies who discover they're about to get found out for bribery to side-step a criminal investigation by police (which would normally lead to a criminal prosecution and jail time for their crimes) to steer their criminal activities away from the criminal courts and over to the civil courts. In effect, it lets rich execs - who can easily afford to pay fines - escape jail.

It's not difficult to see that if you include a ton of abandoned, cancelled, plea bargained and quickie prosecutions in to your figures, the end average is obviously going to reduce and look far better than it really is.

Which is why absolutely no one in our courts is seeing this supposedly amazing increase in efficiency the SCTS are claiming in their report.

I like to look at it this way.  If 10 people say they like coffee and 10 people say they hate coffee, then 50% don't like coffee, right? But if you then exclude the 10 people who like coffee, you now have 100% of people who don't like coffee - oh, and you've just doubled the percentage of people who don't like coffee.

It's simple arithmetic. It's also smoke and mirrors, and it's a fraud.

So anyone who actually believes this ridiculous Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service report has their head so far in the sand their bum must be smiling at the sun.

And as for the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, well, their heads should be hanging in shame.