23rd May 2017

Ex-Anderson High pupil is St Helena chief magistrate

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A former pupil of the Anderson High School in Lerwick has been appointed as chief magistrate of the remote UK island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

John Angus MacRitchie was born in Stornoway and went to school at Alness Academy in Ross-shire and then the AHS. His late father Allan was a police inspector in Shetland from 1979 to 1985 and his older brother Ewan still lives in Lerwick.

Mr MacRitchie did his highers at the AHS, graduated with a law degree from Aberdeen University and qualified as a solicitor in 1986.

He was the senior court partner with a Peterhead firm and became a solicitor in the Supreme Courts in 1990 before in 1997 forming John MacRitchie & Co after becoming an advocate in Aberdeen.

Mr MacRitchie will take up his new appointment, which also includes the roles of chief coroner and registrar of lands, on 24th June. His wife Heather and two daughters will continue to stay at West Ferry in Dundee but will join him in St Helena as much as time permits during the school holidays.

He 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.

“My upbringing in Shetland will hopefully stand me in good stead although the weather should be significantly better!”

For the past 25 years Mr MacRitchie acted extensively in the English court martial system for the Scottish forces. He 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.

In his spare time he has been chairman of Banff & Buchan Citizens Advice Bureau and since 2008 a governor of the High School of Dundee (where his two daughters Iona and Kara are pupils), having moved to the city in 1998.

St Helena is of volcanic origin and covers 47 square miles. It has a population of around 4,000, about 25 per cent of whom live in the capital Jamestown. It is 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) <i>St Helena</i>, which calls roughly 25 times a year, shuttling between St Helena, Ascension and Cape Town. The UK government decided around two years ago to build the airfield.

The Magistrates’ Court in St Helena has criminal jurisdiction in all cases where the maximum sentence does not exceed 14 years. The purpose of Mr MacRitchie’s 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 1st January this year. It provides that the chief magistrate will have jurisdiction to sit alone but may also sit with at least one justice of the peace.

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