Sheriff suspended on full pay for FIVE years over allegations

Sheriff suspended on full pay for FIVE years over allegations he behaved inappropriately towards female lawyer costs taxpayers £800,000 in wages

A sherriff found to have behaved inappropriately towards a female lawyer has been suspended on full pay for five years – costing taxpayers nearly £800,000.

Jack Brown kept his job after a judge ruled that a botched tribunal failed to consider evidence from other alleged victims – so a second tribunal was ordered in February last year.

It has not yet reached a conclusion, and in the meantime Sheriff Brown remains suspended pending its outcome, on a salary of nearly £160,000 a year.

The row comes after a separate case involving former senior sheriff Alistair Duff, who was fined last week after he was heard talking about a pornographic film with another man when he thought his microphone was muted during an online training course.

Sheriff Jack Brown has been paid £800,000 while being suspended for five years as he awaits outcome of tribunal into allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards a female lawyer

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said the delays and costs in Sheriff Brown’s case were a ‘monumental waste of taxpayers’ cash’.

He said: ‘Ministers have a duty to ensure that the public have faith in the conduct of all public servants, including judges. 

It’s concerning that a tribunal composed of the judiciary could botch a basic disciplinary hearing.’

Sheriff Brown was subject to a fitness for office tribunal after the allegations came to light in 2018.

The hearing concluded that he had acted ‘entirely inappropriately’ and had ‘failed to respect proper professional boundaries’, but this did not meet the test to justify removing him from office.

But a woman allegedly targeted by the sheriff launched a legal challenge at the Court of Session, and last year Lord Woolman ruled the initial tribunal did not comply with legal procedures.

It paved the way for another tribunal which is still ongoing and was ordered in February last year by Nicola Sturgeon when she was First Minister, to determine Sheriff Brown’s fitness for office. 

Sheriff Brown was suspended in December 2018 and his salary is £157,705. Sources confirmed that he has been kept on full pay, meaning he has been paid a total of £788,525 for staying at home.

The original tribunal was set up after the female lawyer – who can only be named as Ms X – complained that Sheriff Brown did not act appropriately around her in 2018. It found that one of the alleged incidents reported by the complainer did happen.

But it concluded Aberdeen-based Sheriff Brown’s behaviour did not merit him being removed from office. Lawyers for Ms X argued that the tribunal did not consider statements from two other women who claimed he subjected them to similar actions.

Lord Woolman heard that the statements in question were taken during a police investigation into Sheriff Brown. The Crown Office concluded that the sheriff should not be prosecuted.

Lawyers for Ms X argued that the tribunal should have considered these statements – and because it did not, it did not follow correct legal procedures.

A spokesman for the Judicial Office for Scotland, representing the judiciary, said: A fitness for office tribunal is convened at the behest of the First Minister. It would not be appropriate for Judicial Office to comment.’

The Scottish Government declined to comment.

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