Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Conduct of Lord Dervaird and related matters - Letter to Sir Stephen House, Chief Constable, Police Scotland

Today I am sending a letter to Sir Stephen House about issues related to the so-called "Magic Circle" in the legal profession in Scotland.

The text of my letter to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland is below.

10th June 2015

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House
Police Scotland
[By email]

Dear Chief Constable,

Matters occurring in the context of the so-called “Magic Circle”
Possible perversion of the course of justice and/or misconduct in public office
And/or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice
  1. The deficiencies of the Report produced by William Nimmo-Smith and James Friel
  2. Conduct of Lord Dervaird
  3. Lord Dervaird and the London connection
  4. The conduct of Judges A, B, C and D
  5. The conduct of Lord Weir
  6. The conduct of Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
  7. The conduct of Lord Hope
  8. The conduct of Malcolm Rifkind
  9. The conduct of Lord Rodger

I write to report to you, as a constable, possible crimes relating to activities of members of the Legal Profession, in the context of the so-called “Magic Circle”.

The backgound is complex.

I have tried to make my concerns clear. Should I have failed to do so in any respect I am willing to make a formal statement to Police Scotland to clarify matters or otherwise assist in identifying matters which ought formally to be investigated.

Please read this letter together with the enclosed submission to the Child Abuse Inquiry.

The matters which I draw to your attention may be indicative of serious crime within the Crown Office and the Scottish judiciary  or may be an unfortunate but arguably innocent relic of a lack of transparency by Scotland’s legal establishmentin the late 1980s and early 1990s.

It seems to me that it is essential that the truth of these matters be established, not least since the alleged activities of the so-called “Magic Circle” are again receiving media attention.

In particular it has been suggested in the media today that the “Magic Circle” may have intervened improperly after a man made a report to Lothian and Borders Police in Edinburgh with respect to allegations that he had been assaulted by the then MP Greville Janner when a teenager.

I ask you to give careful consideration as to whether you, as a constable, have a duty rigorously to investigate these matters.
Was homosexuality a cover story for paedophilia?

The Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report deals with the question of the so-called “Magic Circle” in terms of homosexuality.

Today’s media raises a question as whether “homosexuality” in the context of the “Magic Circle” was a cover story for paedophilia.

That is a question which has been in my mind for some time and lies behind the accompanying submission to the Child Abuse Inquiry and this letter to you.

Misconduct in public office etc

I have not attempted in this document to apply detailed analysis as to whether what I think of as misconduct in public office has been committed.

It is premature to reach a definitive view given, for example, the concealment of information to which I refer later in this letter.
The following quote from Gordon is sufficient broadly to scope the issue, at least in a preliminary way:

“It is a crime at common law for a public official, a person entrusted with an official situation of trust, wilfully to neglect his duty, even where no question of danger to the public or to any person is involved."

Historical Background

In or around 1989 rumours began circulating of what came to be called a “magic circle” in the Scottish Legal Establishment.

The essence of the rumours, as I understand them, was that homosexual judges and others in the legal profession were improperly and unlawfully assisting (for want of a better term)  homosexuals accused of committing criminal offences.

The allegation, broadly expressed, was that members of the judiciary and the legal profession had perverted the course of justice with a view to protecting fellow homosexuals.

On or around 22nd December 1989 a Court of Session judge, Lord Dervaird, resigned abruptly with effect from 1st January 1990.

The then Secretary of State for Scotland, Malcolm Rifkind, the then Lord Advocate (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie) and the then Lord President (Lord Hope) and the then Solicitor General (Lord Rodger) were party to a meeting to consider Lord Dervaird’s resignation. See Paragraph 5.3 of the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report.

Paragraph 5.3 then goes on to say that the four named individuals discussed the misconduct to which Lord Dervaird had admitted.

In 1992 with, so I understand, the “Magic Circle” allegations causing significant disquiet, the then Prime Minister, John Major, asked the then Lord Advocate, Lord Rodger, to conduct an inquiry into the alleged “Magic Circle”.

On 18th September 1992 the then Lord Advocate, Lord Rodger, asked William Nimmo-Smith QC and James Friel to conduct an investigation.

The report, entitled “Report on an Inquiry into an Allegation of a Conspiracy to Pervert the Course of Justice in Scotland” was published on 26th January 1993. Throughout this letter I refer to that Report as the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report.

The conduct of Lord Dervaird

On or around 22nd December 1989 Lord Dervaird abruptly resigned as a judge in the Court of Session.

The reason was never publicly disclosed, so far as I can establish.

Media and other reports suggested that one or more indiscretions, perhaps with a “rent boy” were involved.

The Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report coyly refers to the matter but does not specify the nature of the actions to which Lord Dervaird admitted to before he resigned.

In other words, it is unknown what acts Lord Dervaird did or did not admit to before his resignation. Nor is it known what acts Lord Dervaird did or did not commit.

Specifically, the age of the person(s) with whom Lord Dervaird admitted to having had “homosexual relations” is concealed.

It is not wholly clear whether the Lord President did or did not put that question of age of sexual partner to Lord Dervaird.

My analysis of the possible interpretations as they may apply to the Law and the possible relevance to the Child Abuse Inquiry are contained in the accompanying submission to the Child Abuse Inquiry, which see.

A key question is whether or not Lord Dervaird had or had not admitted to a criminal offence in his meeting with the Lord President, Lord Hope.

Current context

The current context is that senior members of the legal profession in England, Thomas Hetherington and Michael Havers, are alleged to have been active in the cover-up of widespread child abuse, including that in Northern Ireland.

Indeed, some months ago I wrote to both the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Sir Anthony Hart of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in relation to long-standing allegations that the retired Law Lord, Lord (Brian) Hutton was a paedophile.

The days when the judiciary could expect their conduct to be beyond public scrutiny are, I hope, passing.

The Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report is a fraud

I have read the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report and imagine that I am one of few to do so.

In my estimation the Nimmo-Smith/Friel report is a fraud perpetrated on the Scottish public in order falsely to prop up confidence in the Scottish judiciary.

The “Magic Circle” allegations related to serious impropriety and/or criminality in the Scottish judiciary and legal establishment.

It was wholly inappropriate of Lord Rodger, in 1992, to ask members of the Scottish Legal profession to investigate their coleagues. The lack of independence is grotesquely visible. I find it inconceiable that Lord Rodger was unfamiliar with the concept of independence or the need for it.

I find it disturbing that Lord Rodger chose to ignore the need for independent investigation.

Nimmo-Smith and Friel should have refused the assignment since their lack of independence was immediately obvious.

For example, William Nimmo Smith QC, would following the completion of the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report have to appear in Court before the very judges he was investigating. He was in a position of subservience to the judges being interviewed. That is a farcical context for a supposedly definitive and credible inquiry to take place in.

In addition, the bulk of the supposed investigation by Nimmo-Smith and Friel involved what were, in effect, cosy chats with colleagues. The bulk of the investigation consisted of “relatively informal discussions” to use the words of Nimmo-Smith and Friel. See Paragraph 1.13 of their Report.

It is farcical for Nimmo-Smith and Friel to have employed “relatively informal conversations” to carry out what they were aware was “in substance a criminal investigation”. See Paragraph 1.4 of their Report.

There are also several specific points of concern, which include the following.

The Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report does not disclose the nature of the indiscretion(s) which precipitated the resignation of Lord Dervaird.

It therefore provides no public reassurance that a cover-up has not taken place.

Further, the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report conceals information about some of the allegations.

The effect of that concealment is to prevent any objective assessment of parts of their work.

I have seem a similar technique of concealment in a report by an eminent QC which concealed serious deficiiencies in his work. Those deficiencies only became evident after, through Freedom of Information Requests and other means, the fraudulent nature of the QC’s report was revealed.

The Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report is in my view seriously misleading in at least one material respect. In Paragraph 18.1 they claim to have interviewed all relevant witnesses. This seems to me to be a false claim at least with respect to the rent-boy  referred to using the pseudonym “Jason”.

“Jason” was not interviewed by Nimmo-Smith and Friel.

Nor was Lord Weir interviewed by Nimmo-Smith and Friel.

In my estimation the Nimmo-Smith Report is a fraud designed to provide false reassurance to the public for reasons including those enumerated above.

I don’t think it is unfair to characterise the Nimmo-Smith/Friel inquiry as being valueless in terms of clarifying whether or not the “Magic Circle” allegations were well founded or not.

The following sections

In the following sections I try briefly to summarise facts (or seeming facts as found in various reports) and identify some of the issues which I believe Police Scotland should consider with respect to matters to be investigated.

Conduct of Lord Dervaird

A key question with respect to the conduct of Lord Dervaird is whether the conduct to which he admitted in the meeting with the Lord President was or was not a criminal offence.

I suggest that appropriate questions need to be put to Lord Dervaird.

Lord Dervaird and the London connection

The “London connection” with respect to Lord Dervaird’s conduct has never been investigated, so far as I’m aware.

Lord Dervaird should, I suggest, at a minimum be asked the age of his sexual partner and if he (Lord Dervaird) ever visited Dolphin Square or the Elm Guest House.

The conduct of Judges A, B, C and D

Reports differ in terms of how many judges the Lord President, Lord Hope, interviewed with respect what I call the “Magic Circle” rumours.

Some suggest it was four – judges A, B, C and D.
It seems to me that where criminal allegations existed (albeit in the form of rumour) that it was, at a minimum, very unwise of Lord Hope to conduct an informal investigation himself.

The potential conflict of interests is evident. Lord Hope, as Lord President, almost inevitably has a bias towards preserving the reputation of the Scottish judiciary. He might argue that such a bias was an element of his duty as Lord President.

One detail seems worthy of further investigation. In 1990 reference is made to homosexual activity 25 years before i.e. in 1965 when all homosexual acts were, so I understand, criminal acts.

The value of such investigation lies, so it seems to me, not in idenfifying activities which might now be legal but in establishing the possible willingness of Scotland’s most senior judge of the time, Lord Hope, to turn a blind eye to criminal conduct by a fellow judge.

The conduct of Lord Weir

Allegations were made, so I understand with respect to Lord Weir.
The Lord President, so I understand, felt it necessary to ask Lord Weir about the rumours/allegations.

Reports are confusing as to whether Lord Weir was one of Judges A, B, C or D or was none of those enumerated.

Lord Weir threatened to sue anyone who repeated the allegations. See

Lord Weir is not listed as being among the witnesses who gave information to Nimmo-Smith and Friel.

The failure to interview Lord Weir should be investigated, I suggest.

Did Lord Weir refuse to be interviewed by Nimmo-Smith and Friel? If so, why didn’t Nimmo-Smith and Friel disclose that in the Report?

The conduct of Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

Lord Fraser was present at the meeting which discussed Lord Dervaird’s admitted misconduct.

Did he consent to or participate in a cover-up of criminal misconduct by Lord Dervaird?

If so, was he then open to blackmail?

Could such (hypothetical) blackmail have influenced his decisions e.g. with respect to the use of Tony Gauci as a “witness of truth” in the Lockerbie trial?

The conduct of Malcolm Rifkind

Mr. Rifkind, as Scottish Secretary, was present at the meeting at which Lord Dervaird’s admitted misconduct was discussed.

Mr. Rifkind had been a member of Scottish legal profession.

Did Mr. Rifkind consent to a cover-up of criminal misconduct?

Mr. Rifkind is the cousin of the (alleged) paedophile Leon Brittan.

The conduct of Lord Hope

The interviews by Lord Hope of Lord Dervaird and other judges are open to serious criticism.

Lord Hope ought to have asked the Police to investigate.

In my estimation it was visibly improper for him to investigate. His conflict of interests was immediately obvious and far reaching, in my view.

With respect to the admitted misconduct of Lord Dervaird, the question arises as to whether Lord Hope covered up criminal misconduct.

The question further arises as to whether Lord Hope asked sufficient questions. Did he, for example, stop asking questions when he had elicited enough information to convince him that Lord Dervaird’s resignation was inevitable?

Did he carry out an incomplete investigation? If he did, did Lord Hope carry out an incomplete investigation because of a deal between himself and Lord Dervaird?

The conduct of Lord Rodger

Lord Rodger, as Solicitor General, was present at the meeting at which Lord Dervaird’s admitted misconduct was discussed

Was he party to a cover-up of criminal misconduct by Lord Dervaird?

Lord Rodger may also be severely criticised for his decision to commission a report visibly lacking in independence.

The result of that lack of independence is that I, and I suspect others, have no confidence that the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report is anything other than a loquacious smokescreen.

It is, in my view, clear that Lord Rodger did not wish the Nimmo-Smith/Friel Report to be examined in detail before his statement on 26th January 1993 to the House of Lords. The Report was made available only 20 minutes before a statement on it in the House of Lords.


I note that Lord Rodger sought to justify the 20 minute availability period. Could he not have delayed his statement to allow worthwhile examination of what, in my estimation, is a fraudulent report visibly lacking in independence?

Summary questions

Here I will pose some summary questions which seem relevant to me.

It may assist you, Chief Constable, in coming to a considered view as to whether Police Scotland should begin a formal investigation of the matters to which this letter relates.

  1. What was the nature of admitted conduct of Lord Dervaird?
  2. Did the admitted misconduct of Lord Dervaird constitute a criminal offence in 1989?
  3. Who were judges A, B, C and D? What were the allegations against them?
  4. What were the allegations with respect to Lord Weir?
  5. How did it come about that Lord Weir did not give evidence to the Nimmo-Smith/Friel inquiry?
  6. Was the investigation by Lord Hope proper? Did he have a duty to ask the Police to conduct an investigation? Was his failure to do so misconduct in public office?
  7. Did Mr. Rifkind, Lord Fraser, Lord Hope and Lord Rodger act together or separately so as to conceal criminal conduct by Lord Dervaird?
  8. Was Lord Rodger’s choice to commission a non-independent inquiry (by Nimmo-Smith and Friel) sufficiently in error arguably to constitute the offence of misconduct in public office?
  9. Does the evidence justify investigation of Nimmo-Smith and Friel for a deliberate deception of the Scottish public?
  10. Should the (alleged) perversion of the course of justice in the late 1980s by the so-called “Magic Circle” be formally investigated by Police Scotland?

Documents of relevance

Nimmo-Smith and Friel each made notes of all the conversations they had with legal colleagues and others.

It seems to me that such notes would be of significant value to any Police Scotland investigation and also, possibly, to the Child Abuse Inquiry.

Do Notes exist of the meeting between Lord Hope and Lord Dervaird?

Do Notes and/or Minutes exist of the meeting among Mr. Rifkind, Lord Hope, Lord Fraser and Lord Rodger?

Do copies of the Orr Report still exist?


This letter is a public document. I believe that the principle of “total transparency” applies to matters of such potential seriousness.

I am placing a copy on my UK Child Abuse Inquiry blog here:

I am also copying this letter to the Child Abuse Inquiry.

Actions requested of you

The matters I raise with you, Chief Constable, are potentially of great public importance.

I ask that you carefully consider the matters raised and that you give careful consideration to the possibility that Police Scotland should start a formal investigation of these matters.

I ask too that you give all relevant assistance to the Child Abuse Inquiry so that the Inquiry may arrive at a view as to whether the matters raised herein are or are not within the Terms of Reference of the Inquiry.

I ask too that you promptly acknowledge receipt of this letter. Hard copy is preferred.

I appreciate that you will require some time carefully to evaluate such complex issues before deciding how to proceed. At that time I ask that you inform me of your decision as to whether Police Scotland will investigate these issues (or a subset of them) or refuse to investigate.

Yours sincerely

(Dr) Andrew Watt

Enc. Letter of 10th June 2015 to the Child Abuse Inquiry

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