December 2014

Post Corroboration Safeguards Review

The Society submitted its response to Lord Bonomy’s consultation at the end of November.  In its response the Society maintains that a full review of the law of corroboration would have been a better route to examine how the requirement for corroboration interconnects with all other aspects of the criminal justice system.  While commending the Review Group on its work, the law of corroboration is a cornerstone of the Scottish criminal justice system and replacing it without full consideration of the knock on effects could have serious consequences.  The Society also warned against borrowing safeguards from other jurisdictions without proper regard for how the Scottish system has developed and currently operates.

The full response can be found on our website

Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill – Crofting Community and Right to Buy

On 26 November, Duncan Burd, member of our rural affairs sub-committee gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee on part four of the Community Empowerment (S) Bill – the community right to buy land.  The main thrust of the Society’s evidence centres around the process that crofting communities have to go through to buy and control the land where they live and work.  The Society argues that the existing process is complicated and time consuming, and that the proposals within the Bill still do not go far enough to alleviate these concerns.

The Society’s full evidence and a link to the oral evidence session can be found on our website


Mental Health (Scotland) Bill

Jan Todd, member of the Society’s mental health committee, gave oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee on 18 November.  The bill amends the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003.  The Society is concerned that the human rights of mental health patients could be at risk under the proposed new legislation, and that many of the proposals are based on the recommendations of the McManus Committee who conducted a limited review of the 2003 Act in 2009, and that they no longer reflect current needs or practice.  There are particular concerns around patients detained in low security hospitals not being able to appeal against conditions of excessive security; the bill only extends those rights already held by those in high level security hospitals to those in a medium security facility.  It is the Society’s view that this is restrictive and discriminatory and has implications under human rights law.  

Full details of the bill and the Society’s response, and a link to the oral evidence session is on our website.

Legal Writings (Execution in Counterpart) (Scotland) Bill – Stage 1 debate

We wrote to all MSPs ahead of the stage 1 debate of the bill on 25 November. The Society is very supportive of the policy intent of the bill and agrees that the current existing process for signing contracts under Scots law is in need of improvement and updating to bring Scots contract law in line with the practices of other legal jurisdictions.  As we have said in both written and oral evidence, parties to a contract often switch to English law or to that of other jurisdictions, as an alternative to Scots law, often at the eleventh hour.  The Society also welcomed the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee’s support for the use of electronic signatures and the Committee’s recognition that such signatures can provide a secure means of executing documents digitally.   During the debate Jenny Marra MSP referred favourably to the Society’s  Smartcard scheme, which will provide all practising solicitors in Scotland with an electronic digital signature. 

The documentation pertaining to the bill and a link to the stage debate can be found on our website


Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill

Jack Cummins, member of the Society’s Licensing Law Sub- Committee was part of a panel which provided oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee on Wednesday 19th November. 

Jack expressed the Society’s concern that the bill had failed to address a number of the practical measures adversely affecting the trade, Licensing Boards, clerks and practitioners alike such as the lack of a site only application which was previously available under the Licensing(Scotland) Act 1976 and the current difficulties in transferring or surrendering a licence. 

He also expressed some concern around the double licensing system envisaged for Sexual Entertainment Venues in that different criteria will be applied by different authorities Licensing Boards and Councils) in respect of the same premises.

He stated that, on the basis that a separate licence should have to be obtained ,it should also be the Licensing Board who regulate this process as opposed to the Council as the Board are better placed to consider the suitability of premises which are already licensed for the sale of alcohol. 

The Society’s written response can be found on our website.