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Book reviews

20 June 05

Reviews of Summary Cause Procedure in the Sheriff Court (Auchie); Once Bitten, Twice Fined (Pagan)

by Graham Wilson, Rosalind McInnes

Summary Cause Procedure in the Sheriff Court: Second edition




ISBN: 0 406 95704 5

PRICE: £78

In the absence of an update of the second edition of Macphail on Sheriff Court Practice, Vol 2, this publication admirably fills the gap. The author has produced a comprehensive and practical guide on summary cause procedure.

The book will be an invaluable aid to the busy practitioner. It is not only a procedural guide; it also provides valuable guidance, with reference to the appropriate authority, on the framing of pleadings, and the preparation and conduct of the proof including a comprehensive passage dealing with the recovery of evidence.

Dear to the busy practitioner’s heart, there is an extensive passage discussing the exercise of the sheriff’s dispensing power in which the author reviews all leading authorities. Similarly the author, in discussing appeals, deals not only with procedure for appeal but also extensively with the rights of appeal, again examining the relevant authorities in some detail. The thorny subject of expenses is also tackled in depth by the author.

All in all, the author has produced a comprehensive, well researched and authoritative guide to the conduct of summary cause. It will be a valuable addition to the practitioner’s library, more so when the long-overdue increase in summary cause limit is introduced.

Graham Wilson, Russells Gibson McCaffrey

Once bitten, twice fined




ISBN: 1 84158 307 3

PRICE: £8.99

Mr Pagan’s autobiography would be an ideal gift for anyone who believes lawyers are dull, conventional and obsessive-compulsive. Lawyers who fit this stereotype may find it maddening. It meanders in a delightfully eccentric and occasionally surreal way among decades, themes and people. For the reader who is willing to go with the flow, this is a delightful, amusing and passionate book.

Unless you have no interest in law, politics, human relationships, jazz, death, housing, nature, coincidence or absurdity, you will not be bored, although the writer’s interests are so wide that each chapter is something of a bran tub. What gives it coherence, and makes this a unique autobiography, is his disarming lack of ego.

Ian Hamilton’s foreword – “The author is something of an oddity… Graeme Pagan is a miserly bastard” – sets the tone. The book proper opens with his turning the wrong way at his degree ceremony and clambering backwards over his professors and fellow graduands. It develops, with a complete disregard of chronology, through his career as a fiscal (“It was not of course the only time I made a blunder in court”); scholastic career (“it was decided that I was too thick to go into the right stream for university”); his unscheduled appearance on a catwalk of a ladies’ fashion parade; and some candid client feedback: “Damn and blast you to hell – you have grossly mishandled my business”, and “How dreadful a mistake I made in lowering my dignity to stoop and take you into my business affairs, Mr Pagan, let alone confide anything to you for your manners are uncouth to say the least!” being memorable testimonials from non-delighted clients.

Nor does all this modesty ever strike a false note. The author’s breadth of compassion is unusual and moving in our rather judgmental profession. Clients who barracked him, recidivists he prosecuted, past presidents he trained pass through the pages. He regards humanity with tremendous tolerance, local government officials apart.

The book will reinforce some “Sutherland’s Law” fantasies: wily Highlanders scorning bureaucracy, long-term colleagues, beautiful scenery. But it subverts others. He had been in Oban for almost 10 years before seeing an oystercatcher, because of pressure of work. He defended “a nice but rather inadequate client” who had drunkenly taken a gun to the supermarket where his estranged wife was working; after an eight-year prison sentence, the client “died of exposure one winter’s night while he was sleeping rough in Oban”. Mr Pagan’s wider political involvement means that, despite the book’s warmth, it never slips into the merely couthy. In its best moments it is charmingly bizarre. The temptation is to quote and quote, but one final vignette will suffice:

“The last I heard of him that day was that he disappeared down the court steps held upright by two policemen and singing the only words of his cross-examination [‘Tell the truth’] to the tune of the William Tell Overture.”

Rosalind M M McInnes, BBC Scotland