22 February, 2016

Euro Judge highlights low level of references from Scotland

The UK Judge at the General Court of the European Union would welcome more cases from Scotland being taken to Luxembourg, he has told a Faculty event to honour his appointment.

Judge Ian Forrester, QC, has followed fellow Scots, Lord Mackenzie Stuart and Sir David Edward, on to the Bench in Luxembourg where, he says, Scottish cases “have been fewer than one could expect.”

Addressing an audience in the Laigh Hall, Judge Forrester said that from its start in 1952 with a “tiny workload”, the Court of Justice of the European Union was now composed of three courts – the Court of Justice itself, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal –  and the pressure of cases was “immense.”

The largest part of the CJEU’s caseload, he added, was responding to questions referred by national courts.

“There have been thousands of responses requested – more than 2,000 from Germany alone – but one curious fact deserves to be recorded in this city; that is the number of references from Scottish courts. There have been 573 requests from the courts of the United Kingdom…How many from Scotland? The answer is ten.”   Judge Forrester quoted the figures for other small nations, such as Latvia (37), Portugal (124), Greece (170), Finland (91) and Ireland (77). He noted that Scotland had been part of the European Union for 43 years while Latvia had been a member for 12 years.

It was his impression that there was a higher awareness in Scotland of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg than the Luxembourg European courts, and that arguments about the human rights Convention were far more frequently invoked before the Scottish courts.

Judge Forrester described the reference procedure as “a valuable dialogue, not a confrontation”, and he continued: “I do suggest that the Faculty of Advocates and its members ought to be concerned at the very low level of references from this jurisdiction.

“I cannot believe there are fifty times more questions arise outside Scotland in the UK than arise in Scotland. It would be a really great pleasure if Scottish lawyers, Scottish judges, Scottish courts were more visible in Luxembourg in terms of references. I would think the clients of Scottish lawyers as well as Scottish lawyers would benefit.”

The event to mark Judge Forrester’s appointment was hosted by a new group within the Faculty, AGEUL (Advocates Group on European Union Law) which has brought together senior and junior counsel with a shared interests and expertise in EU law.

Judge Forrester said: “I welcome and salute AGEUL’s creation and I look forward to hearing Scottish lawyers prosper before the courts in Luxembourg.”

The AGEUL website is at http://ageul.scot and the aim is for it to provide a source for EU law updates which will be relevant for Scottish practice.

Judge Ian Forrester QC was a member of Ampersand when in private practice.

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