HC Deb 14 July 1992 vol 211 cc611-2W
Mr. Maclennan

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has now considered the findings of the investigation undertaken by the Lord President and Lord Justice Clerk of the fitness for office of Sheriff Ewen Stewart; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Macdonald

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make a decision on the case of Sheriff Ewen Stewart before 16 July.

Mr. Lang

[holding answer 7 July 1992]: As I announced last year, following representations, including representations from Members of this House, and in the light of the observations of Sheriff Principal R. A. Bennet QC in a particular case, I concluded that it would be appropriate for an investigation to be undertaken of the fitness for office of Sheriff Ewen Stewart. I therefore asked the Lord President and Lord Justice Clerk to carry out such an investigation under the provisions of section 12 of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971. I received their report on 10 February 1992.

In the report, their lordships noted that this was the third occasion that an investigation had been undertaken into the fitness for office of Sheriff Stewart. Their lordships concluded that a general investigation would be appropriate into the sheriff's conduct since the date of the last report. Following preliminary inquiries, their lordships provided Sheriff Stewart with a list of the cases relevant to his conduct which they were to investigate and invited him to answer specific questions relating to these cases as well as to offer any general observations which he cared to make. On receipt of the sheriff's responses, further inquiries were made and their lordships interviewed Sheriff Stewart before completing their report.

The conclusion of their lordships' very detailed report was that Sheriff Stewart was unfit for office by reason of inability to perform the judicial functions which are expected of a sheriff by virtue of his office and in terms of his judicial oath. On receipt of their lordships' report I arranged for a copy to be sent to Sheriff Stewart and invited him to comment on its findings. I have given very careful consideration to Sheriff Stewart's detailed response which he submitted to me on 4 May 1992, but I have decided, in all the circumstances, to bring forward an order removing him from office.

I am arranging, to be placed in the Library of both Houses of Parliament, their lordships' letter of 10 February 1992, together with appendix A and appendix C thereto, under deletion from appendix A of two cases which their lordships decided, having considered Sheriff Stewart's response, did not merit further investigation. Appendix B, which contains Sheriff Stewart's responses to their lordships, has not been placed in the Library. As indicated by their lordships in appendix C to their letter, much of what is said by Sheriff Stewart is irrelevant to the cases which were under investigation. In addition, some parts of appendix B appear to be potentially defamatory.

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