Legal and religious and sports news – yes, it’s Donald Findlay QC

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.

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
This entry was posted in donald findlay, law, rangers, religion, sectarianism, sport, the sash, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Legal and religious and sports news – yes, it’s Donald Findlay QC

  1. Anonymous says:

    donald findlay – the smoky room and the smoking gun
    From what I read in the Sunday papers, I must say that my sympathies lie with Donald on this occasion. I suppose it can be said that he deserved what happened to him for singing the Sash in public (fined by the Faculty – required to resign from Rangers, apparently contemplating suicide) – but this latest business involves him making a joke “It’s awful smoky in here – has another f***ing Pope died?”. You might not think that’s very funny, but for the life of me I cannot see what is objectionable about it – it was a joke about a topical subject – I cannot see anything sectarian about it – unless you happen to be very thin-skinned indeed – but we surely cannot organise society for the benefit of the hyper-sensitive. I say this as a nominal Protestant – I can assure you that you can make jokes all day about the Queen, the Moderator of the General Assembly, John Knox, and any other Proddie you fancy – none of it will upset me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    donald and the smoky room
    I posted a ‘defence’ of Donald earlier tonight but, by mistake, I didn’t identify myself – so, in case you were wondering, it’s me who is responsible
    best wishes

    • Re: donald and the smoky room
      Thanks Alastair.
      When I was a student a fellow student was a roman catholic constituent of Ian Paisley. Apparently, his parents voted for Dr Paisley (although they would never tell any friends) because he was a fantastic constituency MP who had helped them in the past.
      I find Donald Findlay’s case difficult. In my home area in Dumfriesshire there is little if any sectarian strife. My father is a freemason (because the lodge had the best snooker table) although I’ve never been inclined to join (and wasn’t asked as my disinterest became clear). I am always slightly bemused by the sectarian attitudes in the central belt. When I studied law I had no idea why so many students were shocked by the singing of The Sash in court. I was shocked by the idea of a judge singing.
      I feel a little sorry for Mr Findlay in this case. I am not sure how this speech at a private function in Northern Ireland impacts on his ability to perform as an advocate, or give any indication as to bias on his part (where his career very clearly indicates that he will represent all accused, and do a bloody good job of it). If advocates (or other lawyers) are to be censured for unpalatable views where does this end? And who decides what views are acceptable? I am socially liberal, anti-capital punishment, economically left of centre, and would hate to think that the legal profession represented only folk such as myself. A good friend is a Tory whose views I disagree with, whose private comments on some issues I have argued about, but within the legal profession it has not affected his performance.
      It pssibly can be set aside the thread you’ve had on your blog about John Lennon. I love Philip Roth’s books and could happily spend days revelling in his fiction. However, after reading Clare Bloom’s autobiography and some of the biographical stuff on Roth I’m not sure that I’d like to spend much time with Roth as a person. My view of him as a person has not affected my reading of his novels.

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