Inquiry to examine allegations on Scots judges

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The Independent Online
AN INQUIRY has been launched into allegations in a leaked police report that homosexuals in the upper echelons of the Scottish legal system may have interfered with the course of justice.

Five court cases from the 1980s, the 'apparently puzzling' outcomes of which caused disquiet among police officers, are to be reviewed by William Nimmo- Smith QC, a former Advocate Deputy at the Crown Office, and James Friel, regional Procurator Fiscal for north Strathclyde.

The Crown Office announcement of an investigation follows mounting pressure from opposition MPs for an inquiry headed by a High Court judge since the confidential report was leaked to the Edinburgh Evening News last week. Among those named in the police report are a High Court judge, two sheriffs, and leading members of the legal profession.

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, whose approach to Lothian and Borders Police led to the report, criticised the appointment of former and current senior figures in the Crown Office to head the investigation. He said many would see the inquiry as no more than internal and the persistent rumours of interference with justice might not be put to rest.

Alastair Darling QC, Labour MP for Edinburgh Central, said a High Court judge would have brought 'seniority and detachment' to the inquiry. But he added that Mr Nimmo-Smith had been out of the Crown Office for some years, and he and Mr Friel were 'well-respected'.

Mr Darling criticised the statement made by the Crown Office yesterday announcing the inquiry, which said that '. . . the (police) report appears to be based on nothing more than rumours, speculation and innuendo'.

The MP said: 'Normally one has the inquiry first and draws the conclusions later. It is unfortunate that the Lord Advocate's statement included these words.'

Lord Rodger, the Lord Advocate since April, has said the police document has never been formally brought to his attention. He has now asked for a copy to be sent to him.

The five cases mentioned in the 11-page report include the Crown Office decision to drop most of the 57 charges in a rentboy case. The report claims that people engaged in the inquiry feel that decision 'was a tactical one taken at the highest levels in Crown Office to prevent the possibility of evidence being presented which could potentially compromise senior figures in the judiciary'.

A spokesman for the Crown Office defended the inquiry, arguing that the two men chosen to lead it had no connection with the cases to be reviewed.

The police declined to comment yesterday on the announcement of an investigation. They have launched their own inquiry into how the confidential report was leaked.