|Lifting lid on judges' secret
Wednesday February 19, 2003
An unprecedented legal hearing into a secret society which boasts some of Scotland's top judges among its members opened in Edinburgh yesterday amid claims the judges' membership breaches human rights law.
Lord Gill, Scotland's second most senior judge, ordered yesterday's appeal court hearing into the Speculative Society after campaigners raised questions about its influence. It was heard before three judges who were not members of the "brotherhood".
Robbie the Pict, a veteran campaigner against tolls on the Skye bridge, told the court of session in Edinburgh that the Speculative Society had an invited and closed membership. He said judges who were members should not be allowed to sit on Skye bridge cases because they might be biased, or at least give the appearance of being biased.
The society was founded in 1764 by a group of Edinburgh luminaries. Its stated aim was "the improvement of literary composition and public speaking" and, in its own literature, it describes itself as "a sodality and a brotherhood bound by intangible ties of shared loyalty and common tradition".
Its members have included Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Today many of Scotland's most eminent judges - including its most senior, Lord Cullen - are members. It meets twice a week in Edinburgh.
Robert Black, an Edinburgh university law professor and member of the Spec, described it as a piece of "harmless fun".
"It is extraordinary that the hearing is taking place, but it is probably a good thing," he said. "The Spec is just a debating society men get involved in for three years in their mid-20s."
The hearing continues.
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