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The Lord Justice Clerk announces her intention to retire in 2025


Jun 19, 2024

The first woman to be appointed Lord Justice Clerk has announced her intention to retire. Lady Dorrian has written to King Charles III to inform him that she intends to retire in 2025 at the same time as the Lord President. She has also informed the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the First Minister of Scotland John Swinney.

Lady Dorrian was installed as Lord Justice Clerk and President of the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session in April 2016. She was appointed a judge of the Supreme Courts in 2005, having served as a temporary judge since 2002. She was appointed to the Inner House in November 2012.

She is a graduate of the University of Aberdeen (LLB). She was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1981 and was Standing Junior Counsel to the Health and Safety Executive and Commission between 1987 and 1994.

Lady Dorrian served as an advocate depute between 1988 and 1991, and as Standing Junior to the Department of Energy between 1991 and 1994. She was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1994. Between 1997 and 2001, she was a member of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.    

Lady Dorrian hearing the Lord Advocates References No. 2 and 3

During her time as Scotland’s second most senior judge Lady Dorrian has sought to improve the experience of complainers in sexual offence cases and how they are cross examined in court. In particular she has been as strong advocate for more use of pre-recorded evidence for vulnerable and child witnesses. This included overseeing the Evidence and Procedure Review project working group on pre-recorded evidence.

She also chaired a cross-justice review group on improving the management of sexual offence cases. This recommended significant changes, including a new trauma informed specialist court to deal with serious sexual offence cases. The review also recommended presumed use of pre-recorded evidence, improving the current experience of complainers, challenging jury myths as well as improving aspects of the Children’s Hearings System.

As Lord Justice Clerk, she chaired the Scottish Sentencing Council which, following its creation in 2015, established many legal firsts for Scotland – including introducing the country’s first sentencing guidelines, defining the principles and purposes of sentencing in Scotland, and completing ground-breaking public perceptions and education work.

Lady Dorrian has also been at the forefront of making courts more open and transparent. In 2015 she chaired a working group to review the recording and broadcasting of proceedings in court cases. This led to the broadcast protocol which amongst others has allowed production companies to film criminal trials, leading to ground breaking documentaries such as the BBC’s Murder Trial series and C4’s The Push. This also set the criteria for filming sentencing statements, filming civil cases and allowed the media to use live text-based communications in court.

The announcement of her intention to retire will allow the appointment process for a new Lord Justice Clerk to begin.