Newsnetcotland.com this morning takes the unprecedented step for any news organisation in Scotland of challenging the highest court in Britain of its version of recent events.
By stating that the Supreme Court had only “agreed to hear” one criminal case per year, the Court’s spokesman appeared to ignore the fact that since February last year, the Court has actually issued five judgements.
Newsnetscotland considers it questionable that the Supreme Court should issue a statement which ‘spins’ the story against the Scottish Government, which, according to reporters who have the quotes, it insists on calling the Scottish Executive.
It is a fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that Fraser has suffered a miscarriage of justice in that he did not get a fair trial in 2003 because the Crown withheld vital evidence from the defence. It is also a fact that the Scottish Appeal courts, in the view of the Surpeme Court, failed to give Fraser justice.
It is much more of an overriding fact that the Scottish criminal justice system has no ‘rights of audience’ at the European Court of Human Rights, and that failure of the European Court and the UK Parliament to give Scotland its due is what lies behind the First Minister and the Justice Secretary’s complaints about the Supreme Court.
Had Scotland direct access to the European Court, in all probability Nat Fraser’s case could have been considered earlier.
And no amount of spinning by unionist politicians and lawyers can alter the fact that the Supreme Court does make judgements which directly affect the Scottish criminal justice system which the Act of Union of 1707 clearly stated would remain separate and sovereign.
A test case before the House of Lords as long ago as 1781 (Bywater v. The Crown) resolved that the Scottish criminal courts had total responsibility for the administration of criminal justice in Scotland.
Regardless of whether its decision in the Fraser case is right or wrong, this new situation with the Supreme Court needs resolved, and now, for it is clearly wrong that a United Kingdom court interferes in Scottish justice on human rights issues.
The ultimate arbiter in human rights cases has been, and always should be, the European Court of Human Rights, and Scotland must have access directly to that court.
Until it does, many more Fraser and Cadder-type cases will occur.
Indeed, they will do so regularly and much more than “once a year.”