August 2016

The Society’s committees have been working on a number of Scottish Parliament and UK Parliament Bills and consultations including new proposals to introduce a no-blame redress scheme for the healthcare sector, new police powers for stop and search and the Investigatory Powers Bill.

Key areas are highlighted below. For more information see the law reform section of the website

‘No-Blame’ Redress Scheme

The Health and Medical Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Government consultation on proposals to introduce a no-blame redress scheme for the healthcare sector.

We support the broad principles of having a scheme which will allow greater access to justice for patients and the ability to seek financial recompense when something goes wrong. We generally agree that relatively minor injuries or low value claims can result in a positive resolution but by their very nature, medical injury claims can be complicated. We don’t support a proposed cap of £100,000 and have suggested that the limit should be set at £25,000.  

The government will need to ensure that such a scheme will be effective and will improve access to information and explanation for patients. It is also important that any scheme is fair, impartial and accountable and should not add to a blame-culture within the NHS.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Stop and Search

The Criminal Law Committee has responded to two separate consultations issued by the Scottish Government on stop and search, including a consultation on police powers to search children and young people for alcohol and a consultation on a draft code of practice.

Overall, we believe that current police powers are sufficient and new powers could result in negative effects. There is a risk that a new power to search a child or young person for alcohol would generate a disproportionate negative perception of children, as evidence shows only a small number of searches actually result in the finding of alcohol. We also considered whether there should be a specific legal power to search people aged 18 and over.

Taking all matters into account; our view is that there would be little benefit in introducing new statutory powers for the police to search children, adults and young people for alcohol.

Our responses to both consultations are available to read on the law reform section of the website

Investigatory Powers Bill

We have urged the House of Lords to support proposals to protect confidentiality between lawyers and clients under the Investigatory Powers Bill, which began the committee stage in the House of Lords on Monday 11 July.

We have expressed concerns that the Bill fails to provide proper protections for confidential communications between lawyers and their clients. We believe legal professional privilege should be enhanced in the Bill and that the power to target such confidential communications should be removed.

There are risks that confidentiality could be breached as the Bill stands and we hope the committee will consider the concerns we have raised and take forward appropriate amends to properly protect client confidentiality.

Recently, the European Court of Justice ruled that bulk data collection is only lawful if it is used to tackle serious crime and this could cause further problems for the Bill in its passage through the House of Lords.

Our written evidence is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Halving the Disability Employment Gap

The Equalities Law Committee has provided written evidence to an All Party Parliamentary Group for Disability to inform its inquiry into how the UK Government can fulfil its pledge to halve the disability employment gap.

The issue of the disability employment gap is a pressing concern in Scotland, as well as in the UK as a whole. In addition to the inequalities experienced in employment, there are wider issues that now need to be considered, such as the growing number of people seeking work through online platforms and the role that internships, work experience and benefits now play in the job market.

We have also taken the opportunity to encourage the Scottish Parliament to re-establish its Cross-Party Group on Disability.

Our written evidence is available to read on the law reform section of the website

Tackling Tax Evasion

The Criminal Law Committee has responded to an HM Revenue & Customs consultation paper on draft legislation and guidance for the new corporate criminal offence of failure to prevent the criminal facilitation of tax evasion.

We have drawn parallels between the draft offence and Section 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, which was designed to change the compliance culture within companies. In relation to the proposed wording of the draft offence, we recommend greater specification on what is meant by a “person associated with the company” to reduce both the uncertainty over interpretation and the risks of inappropriate investigation and prosecution.

More generally, we believe that the proposals could create implications for companies and charities who work in disadvantaged and undeveloped areas of the world.

The full consultation response is available to read on the law reform section of the website