Labour MP who quit Commons last year among four new judges

A FORMER Labour MP who lost her seat in last year's boundary changes was named yesterday as one of four new judges in Scotland.

Lynda Clark, who has since become a member of the House of Lords, became a controversial figure through her role as Advocate General for Scotland.

The post, as chief adviser to the UK government on Scots law, was created after devolution, but she came in for criticism from opposition MPs who questioned what she actually did and whether her role was necessary.

Baroness Clark, now 56, opted to quit her Edinburgh Pentlands seat in 2005 rather than contest the reduced number of seats in the capital with her fellow Labour MPs. The result was that Alistair Darling, the Scottish Secretary, moved over to take the new Edinburgh South West seat, which contained large parts of her former constituency.

She was elevated to the House of Lords soon afterwards as Baroness Clark of Calton and yesterday she was named as a Senator of the Court of Justice.

Three other QCs were also made judges - Alan Turnbull, 47, Neil Brailsford, 51, and Roderick Macdonald, 53.

The appointments were made by an independent board, but the SNP said it was still unclear what Baroness Clark had done as Advocate General. Kenny MacAskill, the party's justice spokesman, said: "Ms Clark has a formidable track record as an advocate and we do require more women on the bench. To some extent, the question arises to not only why she was appointed to the bench, but what is the point of the advocate general's position? It could be argued she has come out of retirement to take a position on the bench."

Baroness Clark will bring the female contingent on the High Court and Court of Session bench to five - at least for the time being. One of the others, Lady Cosgrove, the first woman to become a judge, is expected to retire in the spring.

Mr Turnbull will be the youngest of the current batch of judges. He was a prosecutor for nearly ten years and secured convictions in high-profile trials, such as the Lockerbie bombing and the Jodi Jones murder case.

The Judicial Appointments Board recommended the four names to Jack McConnell, the First Minister, to restore the complement of judges to 34, its highest level. He consulted Scotland's senior judge, Lord Hamilton, the Lord President, before submitting his nominations to the Queen, who ultimately makes the appointments."

This is a time of great reform and modernisation in our superior courts, and the judiciary have played an important part in making those reforms a success," Mr McConnell said. "The individuals appointed today are all well placed to make a significant contribution to this important and ongoing programme."

Vacancies had been created by the retirement of Lords Cullen, Marnoch and Penrose, and the upcoming retirement of a fourth judge, as yet unnamed but understood to be Lady Cosgrove.

Baroness Clark appeared in the Piper Alpha and Orkney child abuse inquiries and, appropriately given her special interest in medical law, in Scotland's first right-to-die case. She acted for Law Hospital NHS Trust, in Lanarkshire, which was allowed to withdraw artificial feeding from a patient in a persistent vegetative state in 1996.

Mr Turnbull's elevation had been expected after his decision to leave Crown Office, where he was latterly principal advocate-depute, third in the hierarchy.

Mr Brailsford, an advocate since 1981, has worked almost exclusively in the civil field. He represented Scottish ministers in a number of human rights cases, notably in the landmark prisons "slopping out" case.

Mr Macdonald was the country's senior prosecutor for three years in the 1990s. Since 2001, he has been a temporary judge and was often tipped for appointment on a full-time basis to the 155,404-a-year post.