LORD Gill, the longest-serving judge in Scotland, has been appointed by the Queen as the new head of judiciary.
The Right Honourable Lord Gill becomes Lord President, replacing Lord Hamilton, who retires next week.
Known for his down-to-earth approach, Lord Gill is reported to take leave of his colleagues in Parliament House, Edinburgh – home of the courts – when a case is called by explaining he is off “to put on the overalls”.
“I am very honoured to have been nominated by the First Minister for this historic office. I will do my very best to discharge my duties successfully with the help of my colleagues,” Lord Gill told The Scotsman.
First Minister Alex Salmond, who made the nomination based on an independent recommendation, said: “His commitment to reform and modernisation is clear and, under his leadership, I am confident there will be substantial improvements to the justice system.
“He is an individual of great stature and integrity, and in leading Scotland’s judiciary will enjoy the respect and confidence of those around him.”
In other appointments announced yesterday, three QCs have been made judges. Lord Boyd is a former lord advocate who headed the prosecution team at the trial of the Lockerbie bomber; Michael Jones has been one of the country’s most successful and sought-after lawyers for many years; and David Burns, who was part of the defence team in the Lockerbie trial, has already sat as a temporary High Court judge.
Mr Salmond paid tribute yesterday to the outgoing Lord President, saying: “I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Lord Hamilton for his leadership over the last few years in establishing the new role of the Lord President and the new governance arrangements for the Scottish Court Service.
“The changes introduced by the Judiciary and Courts Scotland Act were of considerable constitutional significance and their successful introduction will stand as a testament to his period in office.”
Lord Gill graduated from the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and lectured in the capital before being admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1967.
He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1981 and a judge in 1994, and has held the post of Lord Justice-Clerk, which is second in the judicial hierarchy, since 2001.
His successor in that office will be appointed later, although Lord Carloway’s name has been widely mentioned. Lord Gill also chaired the public inquiry into the fatal explosion in 2004 at the ICL factory in Glasgow.
A ceremony was held in Parliament House to mark Lord Hamilton’s retirement. The tributes were led by Lord Gill, who said he was honoured to give an address on behalf of the judges and the staff of the courts, where Lord Hamilton spent 44 years.
“Throughout his years, Arthur Hamilton was a diligent servant of the law. He represents all that is good in our profession. In his years as Lord President, he devoted his efforts selflessly to the ever-increasing demands of the office,” said Lord Gill.
“He has shown unstinting courtesy to all who appear before him, a constant openness to argument and expressed himself in carefully crafted judgments.”