QC Patricia Baroness Scotland managed to retain her position as Secretary-General of Commonwealth Secretariat by defeating Jamaica’s Kamina Johnson Smith in the CHOGM meet at Rwanda. Baroness Scotland received 27 votes whereas Kamina Johnson Smith only managed 23 votes.
Hitting back at critics, Baroness Scotland successfully managed a challenge to her leadership. She proved that her historic selection as Secretary-General not only signifies her capabilities to represent the Commonwealth but also shows her dedication and compassion to bringing unity among member states.
The majority of Heads of Government from the 54 Commonwealth countries gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, on 24 June 2022, voted in favour of Patricia Scotland to lead the organisation. It is a significant loss for the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he was supporting Kamina Johnson impulsively by levelling allegations against Scotland.
About Patricia Scotland
Scotland was born in Dominica as the tenth of 12 children of Dominican and Antiguan Roman Catholic parents. When she was two years old, her family moved to Walthamstow in north-east London, where she attended Chapel End Secondary School and Walthamstow School for Girls. Later, she continued her education at Mid Essex Technical College in Chelmsford, where she earned an external Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of London. Family law was her area of specialisation when she was admitted to the Middle Temple Bar in 1977. In 1978, she was admitted to the Dominican Bar.
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Scotland was the first black woman to be named a Queen’s Counsel in 1991. Later, she established the 1 Gray’s Inn Square barristers chambers, which is now closed. At the beginning of 1997, she was chosen as a Bencher of the Middle Temple. Scotland was a member of the Commission for Racial Equality when it was named a Millennium Commissioner on February 17, 1994. On October 30, 1997, she was made Baroness Scotland of Asthal, of Asthal in the County of Oxfordshire, and given a life peerage on a Labour Party list of working peers.
Scotland served as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1999 to 2001. In this capacity, she was in charge of the administration, all House of Lords business, the Consular Division, the British Council, and the diplomatic relations of the UK Government with North America, the Caribbean, and Overseas Territories.
In order to incorporate the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction into UK law, Scotland introduced the International Criminal Court Bill. She formed the Pro Bono Lawyers Panel, a group of British-based attorneys that provide free legal counsel to British nationals detained abroad. To be prepared to respond to emergencies and tragedies abroad, such as the 11 September attacks, she developed an Overseas Territories Council for the Caribbean and overhauled and restructured the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Consular Division.
She joined the British Privy Council and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in the Lord Chancellor’s Department in 2001. She was the official minister in charge of civil justice, civil law reform, and the thorough overhaul of land registration that resulted in the Land Registration Act of 2002. In addition, she served as the Lord Chancellor’s Department’s official international affairs coordinator.
Tony Blair appointed her as the UK’s alternate representative to the European Convention, and she was given primary responsibility for the Charter of Rights negotiations that were successfully completed in 2003. She strengthened the close ties established with all of the applicant nations through the FAHR programme and the member states during this time. She was subsequently honoured with the Polish Medal for her commitment to the reform and advancement of Polish law.
When Prime Minister Blair apparently explored naming her as Leader of the House of Lords in 2003, Scotland was an unconvincing potential prospect for a cabinet seat.
Scotland was appointed deputy to the home secretary and minister of state for the criminal justice system and law reform at the Home Office in 2003. David Blunkett, Charles Clarke, and John Reid were the three Home Secretaries during her tenure there, which lasted until 2007. She oversaw significant changes to the criminal justice system while working for the Home Office. In order to help build and support the National Criminal Justice Board and the Local Criminal Justice Board, she established the Office of Criminal Justice Reform. After serving as Chair, she established the Corporate Alliance against Domestic Violence as well as the Corporate, Civic, and Faith-based Alliances to reduce re-offending. She established a victim’s advisory group and sections for witnesses, victims, and the criminal justice system.
The Justice Awards and Inside Justice Week were both developed in Scotland. She proposed the Crime and Victims Act, which established the new crime of familial homicide and allowed for the successful prosecution of Baby P’s murderers who would have otherwise escaped punishment.
At the Home Office, Scotland continued to be in charge of international relations and to represent the UK in a variety of international discussions, including those involving extradition.
Scotland, who was nominated by her native Dominica for the position of Commonwealth Secretary-General at the 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, defeated former deputy secretary-general for political affairs Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of Botswana and Antiguan diplomat Ronald Sanders to become the sixth Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and the first woman to hold the position. On April 1, 2016, she started the first of a maximum of two four-year mandates.