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JUDGES FOR SALE: Special investigation into top lawmen being lured with big money jobs in Qatar and the UAE ... Lord McGhie has been with Abu Dhabi court for past two years while ALSO sitting in the Court of Session in Edinburgh ... Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, cross-party MSPs and Dubai torture victim accuse them of legitimising despotic regimes ...

TOP judges are accused of selling the reputation of Scottish justice by working for Middle East countries with toxic human rights records.

Two judges are on the payroll of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where domestic violence against women is legal and where regime critics are tortured and jailed without trial.

The most senior is Lord Hope of Craighead — Scotland’s former top judge, a member of the House of Lords and ex-deputy president of the UK Supreme Court.

Our investigation found that Lord McGhie has been registered to sit in the UAE for the past two years while he was also dispensing justice at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Veteran human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: "It seems highly inappropriate for Scotland's previous top judge and former deputy president of the UK Supreme Court to work for the UAE given its poor human rights record.

“He is giving legitimacy to the UAE's legal system which does not conform to international standards and is accused of suppressing civil liberties and freedom of expression.

In recent years, retired UK judges have been increasingly lured with big paycheques to new civil courts in Qatar and the UAE states of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Lord Hope is chief justice of Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts which also employs Lord McGhie and six other male judges from the UK and Commonwealth.

Another former Lord President, Lord Hamilton, sits in a court in Qatar which is accused of backing international terrorism and using migrant slave labour.

Qatar — which can inflict flogging and stoning for ‘crimes’ such as homosexuality and blasphemy — used to employ yet another former Lord President, Lord Cullen.

Also previously on the Qatari International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre payroll was Sir David Edward who used to sit in the Court of Session and the European Court of Justice.

Qatar, which will host the World Cup in 2020, is accused by some countries of supporting ISIS and other terror groups.

Critics say judges harm the reputation of Scotland’s judiciary and justice system by selling themselves to wealthy despots.

Despite not working within either country’s Sharia system of criminal law, campaigners say the judges effectively legitimise widespread human rights abuses.

Senior MSP Alex Neil, a former SNP minister who backs a judicial register of interests, said: “This is not a good advert for Scottish judges or the justice system.

“They should really question the morality of working for some of the most regressive and dictatorial regimes in the world.

“Retired judges are entitled to do what they want but one would have hoped that their consciences would be pricked.

“Any serving judge seeking such employment should certainly be required to get the explicit permission of the Lord President.

“It is not acceptable for serving judges to moonlight in this way. It appears to be driven by greed as they are already very well paid in Scotland.”

Above: Judges in Qatar's commercial court

Lawyer David Haigh of campaign groups Detained in Dubai said: “This is British judges for sale — and they appear happy to be sold. 

“When people realise that fat cat judges are flogging our law for their golden retirements they’ll be appalled. They get paid a fortune. It’s sheer greed.

“They’re selling the reputation of English and Scottish law which is not theirs to sell.”

Haigh was arrested in Dubai in May 2014 after a dispute with his former employers and was held in prison without trial for 14 months.

The former Leeds United chairman claims he was raped and tortured behind bars after being accused of fraud which he denies and has been fighting for justice ever since.

During his five-year ordeal he was unable to personally appear in Dubai International Finance Centre Court and has complained about an English judges who sits there.

Last year Haigh helped to block the UAE’s bid to extradite Edinburgh bus driver Garrett Black.

Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that breach of trust charges against Black were fabricated after his daughter split from her abusive husband in Dubai and returned to Scotland.

Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC described Haigh as “an honest, intelligent witness who gave his evidence with calm dignity” and who had been “significantly physically and psychologically damaged by his ordeal in the UAE”.

The sheriff accepted Haigh’s detailed testimony of torture and abuse.

In his written findings, he said: “I fully accept he was repeatedly seriously assaulted by Dubai police officers and Tasered while detained at Bur Dubai police station. I accept he was interrogated and forced to sign a document in Arabic the content of which he could not understand.

“Thereafter, I believed the account he gave of squalid, overcrowded and insanitary detention conditions in Bur Dubai police station. I further believe he was sexually assaulted and raped in the car park of that police station during his detention.”

Haigh said: “All these extradition attempts by Dubai are unsuccessful because the UK courts have concluded there is a real risk of torture, abuse, discrimination and unfair trials.

“The United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the US State Department are of the same view.

“So while UK courts refuse to extradite to the UAE, our judges are happy to sit in their courts.

“For the judges to say they are independent is nonsense. These countries are using judges to give their courts credibility. It’s terrible. I’ve obviously experienced it myself.

“They’re in this ridiculous position where they know full well what’s going on in Dubai but can’t publicly condone or criticise. I find it horrifying that former UK judges can turn a blind eye to what’s going on.

“It’s becoming an issue as our relationship with the Middle East develops, more and more judges are doing this.”

Tatchell believes the UK authorities should bring in rules about overseas appointments

He said: “These judges appear to be using their reputation in Britain and the Commonwealth to secure lucrative appointments in the legal system of a despotic regime.

“They should make a transparent declaration of the remuneration they are receiving. The British judicial authorities should establish a clear set of rules for former judges who take up private work after the end of their judicial career in this country.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay: “This remarkable – here we see what appears to be sitting and former Scottish judges cashing in on their status working for a regime [UAE] which according to Human Rights Watch is involved in the Saudi coalition attacks on Yemen, has an appalling record on workers’ rights, arbitrarily detains and forcibly disappears individuals who criticise authorities within its borders, legally permits domestic violence and uses the death penalty.

“How can people who make or have made their living upholding the law in the UK defend their involvement, albeit in the commercial courts, of a legal system such as the UAE?”

David Haigh ... former Leeds Utd chairman was tortured in UAE


Sir David Edward travelled to Qatar once to take the judicial oath but never sat on any cases and retired at the age of 75.

He said: “I went out there to be sworn in then came back. I suppose if there had been more work I might have been called upon. I had one visit to Qatar which I didn’t like at all. I just don’t like these places.”

Defending the right of Scottish judges to work there, he added: “The purpose of the court was to resolve commercial disputes outside the scope of Sharia law because the ordinary courts in theses countries are Sharia courts.

“There is much misunderstanding about what Sharia is. It’s not all about cutting off hands and so on.

“I don’t think you’re lending weight to the regime. I think it’s better that there should be some form of independent tribunal. It’s a positive force against bad.”

Sir David Edward ... sworn in as Qatari judge but never sat


QATAR and the UAE are guilty of horrific humans rights abuses.

UAE residents who criticism the regime face imprisonment and torture.

Campaigner Ahmed Mansoor was jailed earlier this year over critical tweets and the death penalty applies to those who “undermine national unity or social peace”.

With 88 per cent of the population foreign, many suffer slave conditions. Domestic workers can work 21 hours per day and risk sexual and physical assaults.

Husbands can assault wives, who must “obey” them, and marital rape is not a crime. Gay sex in Abu Dhabi is “unnatural” and can result in 14 years in prison.

The UAE is a member of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen which has killed nearly 1,000 civilians since 2015.

Nearby Qatar was last year cut off from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and and other Arab states over its alleged support of terrorism, which it denies.

Freedom of expression is severely limited with one government critic jailed for life in 2012.

Around 40 per cent of the country’s two million workers are involved in construction, often for the World Cup.

Hundreds have died in unexplained circumstances while many are enslaved including women forced into prostitution.

In some courts, a female's testimony is worth half a man's and in some female witness are not accepted. Women must obey their husbands.

Gay sex can result in the death penalty while sex outside marriage can result in flogging or the death penalty.

Alcohol consumption is also punishable by flogging and adultery between a Muslim women and non-Muslim men carries the death sentence.

The death sentence also applies to blasphemy and apostasy — the renouncing of Islamic beliefs.

Above: Opinion of David Haigh by Edinburgh Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC ...


OUR revelations abut judges working for rogue regimes have strengthened calls for a judicial register of interests in Scotland.

Legal campaigner Peter Cherbi launched a Holyrood petition six years ago calling for judges and sheriffs to declare financial and family ties.

After winning cross-party backing, the petitions committee formally called on the government and judiciary to create a register.

Cherbi’s petition has already lead to the creation of an online register of cases where judges recused themselves due to conflicts of interest.

But supporters say that people appearing in criminal courts and litigants in civil courts are entitled to transparency to better identify any conflict.

One sheriff had shares in a company hit by a proceeds of crime action while a judge sat on a case where his own son was a lawyer.

Previous Lord President Lord Gill twice snubbed Holyrood request to discuss the petition and was accused of holding parliament in contempt.

He later found time to travel to Qatar in 2014 where he delivered a speech about judicial ethics.

The Judicial Office for Scotland’s active webpage for Lord McGhie makes no mention of his other job in the UAE.

SMP MSP Alex Neil plans said: “If no bill is brought forward by the government, I would intend to do so myself, as there is significant support from other MSPs.”

Former Judicial Complaints Reviewer Moi Ali said: “This is the 21st century, and yet the judiciary in so many respects continues to act like a Victorian institution.

Lord Gill in Qatar with judiciary chief Masoud bin Mohammed Al-Amri


WE asked Scotland’s top judge — Lord President Lord Carloway — if he had any concerns about his judges working in the Middle East.

We also asked if there are any rules in place about such appointments and, if not, whether that is something which should now be considered.

Separately, we asked the Judicial Office for Scotland press officers to ask Lord McGhie if he would be willing to comment on his dual role.

No answers were provided but a Judicial Office for Scotland spokesman said: “Judges are independent and when they reach the statutory retirement age they are entitled to return to private practice or take up posts in other jurisdictions if they wish. This falls entirely outwith the ambit of the Scottish judicial system.

“Retired Scottish judges have been appointed to the Abu Dhabi Global Market Courts, an international court which is recognised by financial centres across the world, where they sit alongside judges from England and Wales, Australia and New Zealand, and deal solely with international commercial disputes. 

“Retired Scottish judges may, up to the age of 75, be re-employed to sit in Scotland's Supreme Courts on an ad-hoc basis, to ensure the efficient disposal of business. There are currently no retired judges with an appointment to serve on the bench in Scotland.”

Secret: Scottish judicial website does not mention Lord McGhie's other job in the UAE

version of this report first appeared in the Sunday Mail newspaper on October 7, 2018


  1. Own Opinion:
    David Haigh by Edinburgh Sheriff Thomas Welsh QC. Lawyer David Haigh of campaign groups Detained in Dubai said: “This is British judges for sale — and they appear happy to be sold.

    “When people realise that fat cat judges are flogging our law for their golden retirements they’ll be appalled. They get paid a fortune. It’s sheer greed.

    “They’re selling the reputation of English and Scottish law which is not theirs to sell.”

    Welsh goes on to say 'lured to Dubai" and somebody welshed on the deal. Is being lured not the same as being in pursuit of sheer greed or other gain? Had Haigh not been a lawyer would the Welsh result have been the same?

    Show me a lawyer who is not interested in 'show me the money' and not up for sale, then maybe I could believe the quoted comments above.

    Who apart from the entrenched legal practice actually believe “They’re selling the reputation of English and Scottish law which is not theirs to sell.” there is a reputation worthy of sale. Is it not already sold by legal aid scrounging for clients and then past solicitor threats to deliberately thwart Human Rights for Cash in disputes over SLAB funding.

    Look in the mirror all and see what it reveals, if the mirror lasts.
    Greedy lawyers cosy up to fat cat judges when it suits them.

  2. While here in England it has been going on for years. In 2012 Justice Nicholas Phillips took a plum job in Qatar.

    What the article does not say is that before he left he presided in the Supreme Court finding that Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden, a judgement later found to be based on a false premise, but because it was the Supreme Court the judgement could not be overturned.


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