Scottish Justices of the Peace under threat

The Scottish civil rights lawyer who put the country's temporary sheriffs out of a job is now examining a possible challenge to the validity of Scotland's Justices of the Peace.

Jim Keegan last week threw the Scottish criminal justice system into chaos when he won a landmark ruling that the Government was breaching the European Convention of Human Rights by its use of temporary sheriffs.

The Appeal Court decided temporary sheriffs could not guarantee defendants a fair trial as required by Article 6 of the Convention because they can be hired and fired at will by the Lord Advocate.

Now Keegan is reportedly examining the position of JPs in Scotland who hear cases in district courts, to see what their tenure of office is and whether they are impartial and independent.

JPs, however, have defended their position and independence. They are appointed by Justice of the Peace Advisory Committees, normally chaired by a Lord Lieutenant in each area, and not appointed by the Lord Advocate.