Lord Nimmo Smith’s Commission has been subject to some rather inconsistent baying and comments which clearly misunderstand what its purpose is after it released its Opinion on the preliminary hearing into the Rangers EBT inquiry.
Whilst it is not unexpected that supporters of the club in question would rail against the possibility of a guilty verdict and an “unfair” punishment, it was surprising (well actually it was not) to see newspapers mis-report the matter. However, I have scooped the press with what is believed to be the only photograph showing Lord Nimmo Smith meeting Mr Green, which can be found at the foot of this piece.
Newspaper headlines referred, for example, to Lord Nimmo Smith “blasting” Charles Green.
There were also complaints voiced about the Commission addressing suggestions of bias, or lack of impartiality, or even the suggestion, unfounded though it would be, that there was impartiality.
I read complaints about the temerity of the Commission making anything public about the case, and even a reference in the Opinion to a hypothetical case of match fixing was put forward as evidence that the Commission had made its mind up already, and was pre-disposed against Rangers.
What the Commission did was entirely consistent with legal practice, and indeed the Commission’s Opinion looked for all the world like a court decision – it read like one too!
One of the great innovations as the court system made t into the 20th century a few years ago (and I know we are in the 21st, but progress can be slow) is the publication of judicial decisions often on the day they are issued. Various websites, official and unofficial, contain judgements issued by judges from the Sheriff Court to the UK Supreme Court. Justice is being seen to be done and the reasoning of the judges is open to scrutiny in many cases. Some of these cases are only important to the parties whilst others have national importance. A common theme is for court cases, where judges make procedural decisions, to be reported as the case proceeds, especially in the Civil law field where it is uncommon, though not unknown, for there to be any risk of prejudicing a jury.
Here we had a procedural hearing in a case of public interest, raising some legal points of note. With the Commission having prepared an Opinion, which is necessary in the event of an Appeal, it made sense to publish it. Transparency and clarity prevailed, and the actions of Rangers and its owner prior to the hearing were laid out for all to see.
For example, the narrative by the Commission suggests Mr Green was mistaken when he said that Rangers’ lawyers had repeatedly sought information from the SPL without reply.
It also made it clear that Rangers oldco, and Rangers newco were both intending to appear at the procedural hearing until the last minute when they both, based on their legal advice, decided not to turn up.
As I said before, it would not avail them much in an appeal on jurisdiction that they had failed to attend a hearing on jurisdiction!
There have also been suggestions that the fact that the Commission addressed the question of bias proves they are biased, as why otherwise would they have thought of the issue? This founders upon the points (a) that it is nonsense and (b) Rangers’ lawyer raised the issue, but then did not repeat it in telling the Commission the preliminary issues.
It seems odd that the lawyers for Rangers is not pursuing the impartiality argument at the same time as Mr Green is making carefully worded attacks on the Commission.
And as for the newspapers…
The headlines suggest that Lord Nimmo Smith stormed into a news conference and took on Charles Green like David Haye and Dereck Chisora. Instead, it was a carefully reasoned judgement dealing with all the points relevant to the process so far, and leaving the point brought up prematurely until after there has been a verdict.
It will be interesting to see the PR barrage against the process continuing as we move towards the hearing in November. A cynic might suggest that Rangers, if indeed they are, would be better paying their money to their lawyers and not to their PR men.
Thankfully, we have no cynics here…
Posted by Paul McConville