Patricia Janet Scotland, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, secretary-general of the Commonwealth of Nations. She was elected at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and took office on 1 April 2016. She is the first woman to hold the post. She was elevated to the House of Lords in 1997 and, as a British Labour Party politician, served in ministerial positions within the UK Government, most notably as the Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland. She is a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and Dominica, where she was born.(born 19 August 1955), is a British diplomat, barrister and politician, serving as the sixth
Early life and career
Scotland was born on 19 August 1955 in Dominica, in the Caribbean, the 10th child of 12 born to Roman Catholic parents, a Dominican mother and Antiguan father. When she was two years old, her family emigrated to Walthamstow in north-east London, where she attended Chapel End Primary School and Walthamstow School for Girls. She then went on to Mid Essex Technical College in Chelmsford, where she obtained a Bachelor of Laws degree from University College London which at that time was part of the University of London. She was called to the bar at the Middle Temple in 1977, specialising in family law, and was called to the Dominican bar in 1978.
In 1991, Scotland became the first black woman to be appointed a Queen's Counsel. She later founded the (now closed) 1 Gray's Inn Square barristers chambers. 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 on a Labour Party list of working peers and was made Baroness Scotland of Asthal, of Asthal in the County of Oxfordshire on 30 October 1997.
From 1999 to 2001, Scotland was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where she was responsible, among others, for the UK Government's diplomatic relations with North America, the Caribbean, Overseas Territories, Consular Division, British Council, administration and all Parliamentary business in the House of Lords. Scotland introduced the International Criminal Court Bill which sought to ratify the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court into UK law. She established the Pro Bono Lawyers Panel, a panel of British-based lawyers who provided legal advice on a pro bono basis to United Kingdom nationals imprisoned in foreign countries. She created an Overseas Territories Council for the Caribbean and reformed and restructured the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Consular Division to be able to respond more effectively to emergencies and disasters abroad such as the 11 September attacks.
In 2001 she became Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, and was made a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. She was the minister formally responsible for civil justice and the reform of civil law including the comprehensive reform of land registration leading to the Land Registration Act 2002. She was also formally responsible for international affairs at the Lord Chancellor's Department and was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair as the UK Alternate Representative to the European Convention and was given primary responsibility for the negotiations in relation to the Charter of Rights which were successfully concluded in 2003. During this period, she consolidated the strong relations created with all the applicant countries through the FAHR programme and the member states and was subsequently awarded the Polish Medal for her contribution to the reform and development of Law in Poland.
In 2003, Scotland was made Minister of State for the Criminal Justice System and Law Reform at the Home Office and deputy to the Home Secretary. She served in that post until 2007 under three Home Secretaries: David Blunkett, Charles Clarke and John Reid. While at the Home Office she was responsible for major reform of the criminal justice system. She created the Office of Criminal Justice Reform which helped to create and support the National Criminal Justice Board and the Local Criminal Justice Board. Having acted as chair, she then created three Alliances to reduce re-offending (Corporate, Civic and Faith based Alliance) and the Corporate Alliance against Domestic Violence. She created an advisory group on victims and the Criminal Justice Centre, Victims and Witness units.
Scotland created Inside Justice Week and the Justice Awards. She introduced the Crime and Victims Act, which created the new offence of familial homicide that was successfully used to prosecute the killers of Baby P who would otherwise have escaped responsibility for his death.
Scotland continued her responsibility for international affairs at the Home Office and continued to represent the UK in a number of international negotiations such as those relating to extradition.
During her time as Attorney General, Scotland continued to promote pro bono work by lawyers and created an international and Schools Pro Bono Committee which was responsible for co-ordinating pro bono work. She created the Pro Bono Awards and Pro Bono Heroes. She also created the Attorney General's Youth Network.
She was the last Attorney General for England and Wales also to be the Attorney General for Northern Ireland before the devolution of justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly, and appointment of a separate Attorney General for Northern Ireland. She became instead Advocate General for Northern Ireland, the UK government's chief advisor on Northern Ireland law, for a brief period until Labour left office.
Shadow Attorney General
At the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Scotland was nominated for the position of Commonwealth Secretary-General by her native country of Dominica and defeated Antiguan diplomat Ronald Sanders, who was thought to have been the frontrunner for the position, and former deputy secretary-general for political affairs Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswana to become the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General and the first woman to hold the post. She began her first of a maximum of two possible four-year terms on 1 April 2016.
Her candidacy was opposed by Hugh Segal, former Canadian special envoy to the Commonwealth and senator, who wrote in an editorial that she was not qualified for the position because she "accepted a well-paying brief from a junta in the Maldives to argue against the Commonwealth’s legitimacy when it and Canada sought the restoration of democracy in that country."
Her bid to have her four-year term automatically renewed was rejected in June 2020, in contrast to the usual convention where an incumbent seeking a second term in office is elected unopposed for his or her second term. This followed a "significant and diverse number of colleagues from across the Commonwealth" raising objection to the proposal, due to allegations of cronyism following an audit of the Commonwealth Secretariat's procurement practices. Her first term was extended, however, due to the postponement of the 2020 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Scotland was re-elected to a second term at the 2022 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, reportedly defeating Jamaican foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith by 27 votes to 24. As her first term had been extended by two years due to the pandemic and the postponement of the 2020 CHOGM, Scotland promised that she will only serve for two more years instead of a full four-year term.
Illegal immigrant employment penalty
In January 2009, Scotland employed Lolo Tapui, an illegal immigrant, as a cleaner. Tapui had been using a forged passport for the period up to and including December 2008. Tapui was later jailed for eight months for fraud, possessing a false identity stamp, and overstaying her UK visa. At her trial, Tapui admitted to having been paid £95,000 by the Daily Mail. She was later deported to her native Tonga.
Scotland, who was Attorney General at the time, had earlier been subjected to a penalty of £5,000 for employing Tapui. She had not kept copies of relevant documents to check Tapui's immigration status and could therefore not establish a statutory defence. The rules were established when Scotland was a Home Office minister. The investigation by the UK Border Agency found that Scotland did not "knowingly" employ an illegal worker.
In November 2016, political blogger Guido Fawkes published purported extracts from leaked documents exposing Scotland's extravagant spending on redecorating her grace and favour apartment in Mayfair, London. Scotland denied the claims in a statement posted on the Commonwealth's website, insisting there had been "no extravagance at all" and explained that the spending was agreed by Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth's secretary-general from 2008 to 2016.
In January 2020, Scotland faced further criticism of her role as secretary-general of the Commonwealth for awarding a consultancy contract to a company run by a friend. The Audit Committee of the international organisation noted that she offered a contract to a fellow Labour peer, Lord Patel of Bradford, despite his firm being "apparently insolvent" and "circumventing" the normal competitive tendering process. Auditors also found that procurement rules had not been observed by the secretariat on over 50 occasions.
Scotland is the Patron of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence and of Chineke! Foundation. She is the joint Patron of Missio, a charity which is the Catholic Church's official support organisation for overseas mission. She is also a patron of Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB), a charity dedicated to reuniting children who have been separated from their families.
Scotland has been voted Peer of the Year by Channel 4, The House magazine, Parliamentarian of the Year by the Spectator and the Political Studies Association, and received a number of other awards for her contribution to law reform in the UK and abroad.
Scotland was awarded an honorary degree from the University of East London in 2005. She has also been ranked the most influential Black Briton in the annual Powerlist, having been ranked first in 2010, and in 2007 and 2008 when the list had separate male/female rankings.
Scotland was decreed and invested by Prince Carlo, Duke of Castro, as a Dame of Merit with Star of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George in 2003. In 2014 she was appointed to the Council of the British and Irish Delegation of the Constantinian Order and promoted in rank to Dame Grand Cross of Merit.
Scotland's son Matthew Mawhinney has appeared on the reality series Too Hot to Handle. In 2021, he was arrested and fined for abusing cabin crew on a British Airways flight, including shouting "Look up who my mum is – Baroness Scotland [...] go and get me a drink" after being refused alcohol.
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