One of Scotland’s leading criminal advocates is Donald Findlay QC, former vice chairman of Rangers FC. Mr Findlay’s Rangers connection and association with some of the sectarian aspects surrounding Rangers FC has led him into trouble previously following his joke about the Pope (click the link for the joke and its implications); and his singing of traditional folk songs/sectarian ditties (*) (delete inapplicable) (including The Sash – see the picture)
The Sash was famously sung by a sheriff in a Scottish court case (Hawthorn v Macleod 1986 SCCR 150). Let the case report take up the story, “evidence had been given to the effect that the victim of the assault had been singing a version of the song ‘The Sash’, and that during the complainer’s evidence the sheriff asked the complainer to identify which version of the song was sung. The complainer replied that he did not know and the sheriff then asked the complainer to sing or hum the song. The complainer refused, but the sheriff insisted that the complainer sing or hum the song, as it was vital for evidence. The complainer again refused and the sheriff was annoyed at the complainer for so refusing. It is averred that the sheriff then loudly sang the lines from the two versions of the song in open court. It is admitted in the answers for the respondent that the sheriff sang lines from the song.” The Lord Justice-Clerk noted (in dismissing the appeal) that ”The conduct of the sheriff in asking the complainer to sing, in insisting that he should do so, in showing annoyance at his refusal to sing, and in singing loudly himself, was, in my opinion, quite deplorable. So to act is not part of a sheriff’s proper function. What the sheriff did, in my opinion, was ill-considered and wholly out of place. I would hope that no other judge would behave like that again. Any judge must exercise great care to be fair at all times to an accused; a judge must not seek, during a trial, to hold an accused up to ridicule or to expose an accused to unnecessary embarrassment. A judge must also preserve the dignity of his court and of his calling. The sheriff here did not act fairly to the complainer, he sought during the trial to hold him up to derision, and he must have caused him acute embarrassment. He failed to maintain the dignity of his court or of his office. These were serious failures of the sheriff for which there was no excuse.”
Anyway, Mr Findlay is back in the news today. After an after-dinner speech in Northern Ireland compaints were made about anti-catholic remarks allegedly made by Mr Findlay. Mr Findlay has refused to accept censure from the Faculty of Advocates and the case will now go before a disciplinary tribunal. Mr Findlay is representing Luke Mitchell (convicted of the murder of Jodi Jones last year) and the appeal in that case will focus on the impact of pre-trial publicity – a topic discussed in the context of the Ipswich case in comments on
LJ late last year.