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The Right Honourable
 The Baroness Scotland of Asthal 
PC QC

Scotland speaking at the Royal Courts of Justice before LGBT History Month. (2007)

Incumbent
Assumed office 
28 June 2007
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by The Lord Goldsmith

Born 19 August 1955 (1955-08-19) (age 54)
Dominica
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Alma mater Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology
University of London
Website Official website

Patricia Janet Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal (born 19 August 1955) is a British barrister, and the current Attorney General for England and Wales and Northern Ireland, a ministerial position in the UK Government.

Contents

Early life

Scotland was born in Dominica to Antiguan and Dominican parents, but her family moved to Walthamstow when she was three, where she went to Walthamstow School for Girls. She is the tenth of twelve children. She was educated at Mid Essex Technical College in Chelmsford where she pursued an external London University (LLB) law degree in 1976. She was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1977, specialising in family and children's law. In 1991, she was the first black woman to be made a Queen's Counsel.

Career advancement

She was a speaker at the 'Women of the Year' Luncheon in October 1993; her speech claiming that there was a male way and a female way to work in a profession was criticised as superficial by the journalist Anne McElvoy. Early in 1997 she was elected as a Bencher of the Middle Temple. Scotland was named as a Millennium Commissioner on 17 February 1994, and was a member of the Commission for Racial Equality. She received a life peerage as Baroness Scotland of Asthal, of Asthal in the County of Oxfordshire, on a Labour Party list of working peers in 1997. However, her continued legal work led to a low attendance record in the House of Lords. Among other things she headed an inquiry into a murder committed by a psychiatric patient.

Government

Although she has never held elected office, Lady Scotland has served in a number of government posts while serving in the House of Lords. In a government reshuffle in 1999, she was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She was responsible for the British overseas territories, and also relations with Southern Asian countries. She was responsible for introducing the Bill to ratify the International Criminal Court in the United Kingdom. She also established a panel of British-based lawyers who gave their time on a pro bono basis to United Kingdom nationals imprisoned in foreign countries. In 2001, she became Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, and was made a member of the Privy Council. Scotland was a contender for a cabinet position in 2003, when Tony Blair reportedly considered appointing her Leader of the House of Lords.[1]

In 2003, Lady Scotland was made Minister of State for the Criminal Justice system and Law Reform at the Home Office. A new extradition treaty with the United States of America had been signed on 31 March 2003. Lady Scotland had the responsibility for promoting the necessary legislation in the House of Lords.[2] In 2004, Lady Scotland was suggested as a possible appointee as a Commissioner of the European Union.

The "NatWest Three" extradition case, which made use of this treaty, was unusual[citation needed] in that the offences the three were accused of were not typical extradition offences. The three men are all British citizens, living in the UK and working for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, a British bank. On 12 July 2006, in a highly unusual move, the Speaker of the House, Michael Martin, allowed an emergency debate on both the treaty and the NatWest Three after a request by Liberal Democrat frontbencher Nick Clegg.

During the debate, Lady Scotland's view in 2005 that a higher threshold to establish "probable cause" was required by the UK to extradite from the US than vice versa was contrasted by Clegg to comments the Prime Minister had made in July 2006 in which he stated that the evidential burdens on the two countries were the same.[3] The 'NatWest Three' were subsequently extradicted, and accepted a plea bargain arrangement under which they pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud in the United States.

On 28 June 2007, Lady Scotland was appointed Attorney General by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. She is the first woman to hold the office since its foundation in 1315.

Illegal immigrant employment controversy

On 17 September 2009, the UK Border Agency stated that it was conducting an investigation into allegations that Lady Scotland was employing an illegal immigrant as her housekeeper, contrary to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, which she herself as a Home Office Minister had been responsible for steering through the House of Lords.[4] Labour MP Graham Stringer called for Scotland to be sacked over the matter, feeling she had tarnished the government and that the matter caused people to believe the Government was "passing laws it is not applying to itself".[5] As an employer of someone subject to immigration control who was not entitled to work in the UK, she was required to pay a penalty[6] set by the Border Agency at £5,000; she would have been excused had she inspected, and kept copies of, suitable documents which established that the housekeeper was entitled to work in the UK.[7][8] When Scotland likened the penalty to the fine imposed for failing to pay the London congestion charge, her remarks drew additional criticism.[9] Opposition politicians called for her resignation or dismissal and "a senior cabinet colleague" was quoted as saying "Her position is untenable. She's toast."[10] On 23 September 2009, Stephen Hesford resigned from the Government in protest against her remaining.[11] Her former housekeeper later stated that she had not been asked for immigration documents and, in particular, had not been asked for and had not shown a passport, a claim denied by Baroness Scotland.[12] The housekeeper's passport, seized by the UK Borders Agency, contained a forged visa, but even the forged visa had expired at the date Baroness Scotland claimed to have inspected it. Baroness Scotland has since suggested that there must have been a second passport, so far undiscovered, and that this was the passport she inspected, but failed to copy.[13]

Personal life

Baroness Scotland resides in London[14] and in Asthal, the Oxfordshire village, where she and her barrister husband live with their two sons.[15]

Baroness Scotland was awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of East London in 2005.[16]

References

  1. ^ New Face of the Lords, The Guardian, 7 October 2003.
  2. ^ Extradition Debate Hansard, 12 July 2006.
  3. ^ Extradition Debate Hansard, 12 July 2006.
  4. ^ "Immigration officials to investigate Attorney General Baroness Scotland over housekeeper". Telegraph. 2009-09-17. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/6202306/Immigration-officials-to-investigate-Attorney-General-Baroness-Scotland-over-housekeeper.html. Retrieved 2009-09-17. 
  5. ^ Glen Owen, "Labour MP: It's extraordinary Brown hasn't sacked Baroness Scotland", Mail on Sunday, 20 September 2009.
  6. ^ Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 s15
  7. ^ John Bingham, Rosa Prince, "Attorney General Baroness Scotland fined £5,000 over illegal immigrant housekeeper", Daily Telegraph, 22 September 2009.
  8. ^ "Pressure on law chief after fine", BBC News online, 22 September 2009.
  9. ^ Watt, Nicholas (2009-09-22). "Gordon Brown spares Lady Scotland — but congestion charge remark fuels criticism". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/sep/22/lady-scotland-housekeeper. 
  10. ^ "Baroness Scotland Urged to Quit by Ministers", Daily Telegraph 22 September 2009.
  11. ^ Aide quits over Attorney General BBC News online, 23 September 2009.
  12. ^ "Baroness Scotland faces new inquiry". Telegraph. 2009-09-26. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6235850/Baroness-Scotland-faces-new-inquiry.html. Retrieved 2009-09-27. 
  13. ^ "I didn't show Baroness Scotland any passport, says housekeeper in sensational new allegations". Mail on Sunday. 2009-09-27. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1216404/I-didnt-Baroness-Scotland-passport-says-housekeeper-sensational-new-allegations.html. Retrieved 2009-09-28. 
  14. ^ "Baroness Scotland faces new inquiry call over £170,000 London allowance". Telegraph. 2009-09-20. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/immigration/6211368/Baroness-Scotland-faces-new-inquiry-call-over-170000-London-allowance.html. 
  15. ^ Tran, Mark (2007-06-28). "Profile: Lady Scotland". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/jun/28/labour.uk11. 
  16. ^ "UEL Alumni Newsletter". http://www.uel.ac.uk/alumni/newsletter/december2005.htm. 

External links

Offices held

Legal offices
Preceded by
The Lord Goldsmith
Attorney General for England and Wales
2007–present
Incumbent
Attorney General for Northern Ireland
2007–present
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