Lawyers in revolt over former lord advocate joining faculty 17:4023:09Thursday 14 July 2011 SCOTLAND’S advocates have rounded on former lord advocate Elish Angiolini with more than four in five opposing her place in the Faculty. It follows an angry letter to the faculty dean by a leading QC warning admission should not be treated as a “meaningless ritual”. In a survey by legal magazine The Firm, 83 per cent voted against her entry into practice as an advocate with Terra Firma Chambers. Dame Elish was admitted into the faculty in 2008, alongside her successor as Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, the then Solicitor General. Despite the fact she had not completed devilling, a combination of exams and shadowing an advocate without pay for nine months, there was little opposition at the time. However, it is understood that most advocates did not expect her to go into practice once leaving her role as Scotland’s chief prosecutor. She then joined Terra Firma Chambers on 1 July, announced as the “latest of a number of high profile members affiliated to the stable”. The anger was articulated in a letter by Ian Hamilton QC to the dean of the Faculty, Richard Keen QC. “Was any pressure put on the Faculty by any outside body such as the Government to admit this person to the Faculty?” Mr Hamilton wrote. “Admission to the Faculty is not a meaningless ritual. It is there to protect the public.” Mr Keen has yet to respond. And no-one else is understood to have raised concerns in writing. The Faculty of Advocates confirmed it has no plans to reconsider her membership. But legal sources say Mr Hamilton is not alone and there is disquiet that Dame Elish has not been required to do the same hard yards as other members. “Ian Hamilton articulated other people’s thoughts,” one said. “He is not a lone voice. A lot of other people support him. “There’s not a sense of personal resentment. “But it was thought that, with her and Mulholland, that it was an honourated role, to bring them into the fold of the Faculty. That was the general impression and everyone was happy with that. “But then it was announced that she was going into Terra Firma Chambers. The general sense was, how can she be coming in to do that work when she has not got the grounding that everyone else has?” He said that part of the reason for admitting her in the first place is that the Lord Advocate role had traditionally been filled by Faculty members. In fact Dame Elish was the first Lord Advocate to have never served as an advocate in the courts. The Lord Advocate role has become more high profile as a result of devolution and Dame Elish – the first woman, first solicitor and first career prosecutor to hold the position – was a more public figure than her predecessors.While her actions did not generally lead to resentment across the profession, it has certainly provided grist to her critics’ wheel. She had a public spat with Scotland’s most senior judge, the Lord Justice General, Lord Hamilton, about the collapsed World’s End murder trial, and unsuccessfully argued on behalf of Scots law in the Peter Cadder case at the Supreme Court. Her defeat on that occasion triggered the collapse of almost 900 criminal cases. In his letter, Mr Hamilton wrote: “This lady has been publicly censured by the Lord Justice General. No one who has been so censured has ever passed advocate in the last 300 years.” He also made reference to the dropped prosecution of Gail Sheridan in her husband Tommy’s perjury trial. “Further as Lord Advocate she recently prosecuted a woman in the High Court and then did not seek a conviction raising a public suspicion that she was acting on the directions of a foreign newspaper owner rather than in the interests of justice,” he wrote. Terra Firma Chambers declined to comment.
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