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I will give review into my role ‘appropriate assistance’, says new Lord Advocate

·4-min read

Scotland’s new Lord Advocate has vowed to give a review into the role her “appropriate assistance” after being sworn in on Tuesday.

Dorothy Bain QC, who secured the first murder conviction against serial killer Peter Tobin, was appointed to the role with Ruth Charteris QC taking the second most senior role in Scotland’s prosecution service as Solicitor General.

It means Scotland’s two top legal posts are simultaneously held by women for the first time.

Both women were sworn in during a ceremony at the Court of Session in Edinburgh before a bench of three judges chaired by the Lord President, Lord Carloway.

Ms Bain said it was “a great honour to be Scotland’s Lord Advocate”, adding she was “fortunate to have such a talented lawyer serving as Solicitor General for Scotland”.

She said: “Interest in the roles and work of the Law Officers has never been higher and the First Minister has committed to a review of the functions of Lord Advocate. I will give that review all appropriate assistance.

“The trust placed in public prosecutors is the most significant that a society can bestow. I do not carry that responsibility lightly and promise to pursue this vital public service to the utmost of my abilities.

“The serious cases I have been involved in have given me an unshakeable belief in the importance of the public service prosecutors perform in delivering justice for communities, in giving victims a voice in court and in protecting the rights of people accused of crime.

“The pandemic has had a major impact on the criminal justice system, and the efforts to recover, renew and transform the way it operates are already underway.

“I will lead Scotland’s prosecutors as they work with the legal profession, courts service, Judiciary and others as together we move forward to create a modern, responsive system fit to serve the people of Scotland for generations to come.”

Ruth Charteris QC
Solicitor General Ruth Charteris QC during a swearing in ceremony at the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Government announced last month that James Wolffe and Alison Di Rollo were to leave the positions.

Former first minister Alex Salmond called for Mr Wolffe to resign from his role in February over the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints against him.

Mr Wolffe was also forced to apologise to Charles Green and Imran Ahmad earlier this month, admitting the pair “should never have been prosecuted” in connection with their takeover of Rangers Football Club.

Calls have intensified in recent months to split the powers of the Lord Advocate – who acts as both the chief legal adviser to the Scottish Government and Scotland’s top prosecutor – with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitting last week there is a “strong, prima facie case” for the separation of powers.

Lord Carloway congratulated Ms Bain and Ms Charteris on their appointments, highlighting how the pandemic has “required an intense coordination of efforts between the court, the Crown and the legal professions” to cope with the backlog in sheriff court cases.

Swearing in ceremony
Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC signs the parchment during a swearing in ceremony before Lord Carloway at the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Jane Barlow/PA)

He added: “The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service have developed a robust plan to tackle a problem which is of great importance not only to accused persons but also to vulnerable and other witnesses.

“This has, and will, involve the recruitment of additional judiciary and staff. I am grateful to the Scottish Government for their support in this endeavour.

“In order to succeed, the courts require to work together with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and with the professions. The plan cannot be realised without substantial efforts from all concerned.

“I therefore look forward to working with you as the broader post-Covid changes to the criminal and civil justice systems begin to take shape.

“In light of your significant achievements to date, the court has confidence in you both as you seek to maintain and uphold the rule of law in government.

“The roles which you have taken on are challenging, but they are two great, historic offices, which will give you significant personal and professional fulfilment in the coming years.”

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