John Angus MacRitchie appointed Chief Magistrate of St Helena

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BORN on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, John Angus MacRitchie has been appointed the first ever Chief Magistrate upon another island – the tropical St Helena.

He is also to be appointed Chief Coroner, Registrar of Lands, The Labour Regulating Authority (Employment Tribunal Judge), President of the Land Planning and Development Appeals Tribunal, President of the Media Standards Commission (Press Complaints Commission) and Trustee of the Legal Assistance Fund.

Mr MacRitchie said: “It is a challenging role and a great honour to the Scottish legal profession for me to be appointed the first ever Chief Magistrate and to hold such other important offices in St Helena.

An airport is in the process of being built and with the increase in resident workers and then tourists it is likely that St Helena has a great deal to look forward to in the next few years and I am excited to be part of that.”

The new Magistrate will take up his appointments on the 24th June, and his family, while staying in West Ferry, Dundee, are naturally excited at the prospect of having vacations to a tropical paradise, to top up their tans!

They will join him as much as time will permit during the school holidays.

Mr MacRitchie was born in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis and went to school at Alness Academy and then the Anderson High School in Shetland.

After he graduated from the University of Aberdeen he qualified as a solicitor in 1986. He did his traineeship and eventually became the senior court partner with of a Peterhead firm. He became a Solicitor in the Supreme Courts in 1990 before in 1997 forming John MacRitchie & Co., SSC after becoming an Advocate in Aberdeen.

For the past 25 years he has acted extensively in the English court martial system for the Scottish forces.

In 1997 he was elected as Clerk to the Community of Feuars who are the superiors of the town of Peterhead. He was Dean of Faculty in the North East from 2001 for ten years. In 2005 he was appointed as a Reporter to the Client Relations Committee of the Law Society and latterly has ad hoc convened the same committee which deals with complaints of professional misconduct and inadequate professional service.

In recent years he has sat on the Access to Justice Committee of the Law Society.

Mr MacRitchie is probably best known for his successful defence in the Worlds End Murders, (reputedly the biggest case in Scottish Legal history with 30,000 witness statements), which led the Scottish Parliament to change the law on double jeopardy.

The island of St Helena, an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom (UK), is of volcanic origin and covers 47 square miles in the South Atlantic Ocean.

St Helena is over 4,000 miles from the UK, 700 miles southeast of Ascension Island, and 1,700 miles from South Africa, with an island population of around 4,000 persons, about 25% of whom live in the capital, Jamestown.

The island is most famous for being the exiled home of Emperor Napoleon after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and until his controversial death in 1821.

St Helena currently has no airfield and therefore the only regular mode of access to the Island is via the Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena, which calls roughly 25 times a year, shuttling between St Helena, Ascension, and Cape Town.

The Magistrates’ Court in St Helena has criminal jurisdiction in all cases where the maximum sentence does not exceed 14 years.

The purpose of this appointment is to provide professionally-qualified input to the judicial process, but without diminishing the importance of the Lay Magistracy. Enabling legislation has been enacted and came into force on 1 January 2012.

It provides that the Chief Magistrate will have jurisdiction to sit alone but may also sit with at least one Justice of the Peace. Retaining and enhancing the role of Lay Justices is fundamental to the concept underlying this appointment.