Recent work of the Society's Law Reform Department, including on the Land Registration, Social Care (Self Directed Support), Criminal Cases, and Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bills

Queen’s Speech

Of the 15 bills detailed in the speech delivered on 9 May, 14 will have some application to Scotland. These include: Banking Reform, to establish an independent commission to look at the separation of retail and investment banking; Crime and Courts, to establish a National Crime Agency to address organised crime and cyber crime; Pensions, to reform the state pension system; House of Lords Reform; and a Small Donations Bill, to boost the income of charities, especially smaller ones, by streamlining the Gift Aid scheme. The relevant committees will examine these measures as they arise.

Land Registration (Scotland) Bill

The bill was passed by the Parliament on 31 May. The Property Law Committee had continued to push for the removal of the criminal sanction in s 108, but an amendment tabled was not successful and the provision remains in largely unamended form. Amendments at stage 3 to provide clarification of the position regarding inhibitions registered against a seller after missives are concluded were withdrawn.

Self-directed support

The convener of the Mental Health and Disability Law Subcommittee gave evidence to the Health and Sport Committee on the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Bill on 15 May. The bill provides for adults and children to be given choices and control over how they are provided with community care services and support. The Society welcomed the basic principle of empowerment, as well as the removal of certain provisions in the previous draft bill about which it had expressed concern. Some concerns remain, including a lack of clarity on the bill’s application to adults with incapacity. The Society suggested that there should be an initial assessment of capacity before considering options for self-directed support. The committee intends to publish its report on the bill by the end of June.

Criminal cases

Stage 2 of the Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) (Scotland) Bill was completed on 15 May. The Criminal Law Committee has proposed amendments for stage 3 to simplify the sentencing framework when a non-mandatory life sentence is passed: the Society maintains the bill will not provide a clear legislative solution to the anomaly identified in the Petch and Foye case, whereby a life prisoner will be eligible for parole earlier than a non-life prisoner.

Alcohol (minimum pricing)

MSPs passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill on 24 May. It is predicted that implementation of the Act, which sets a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence, as well as the formula for calculating that price, will begin no earlier than April 2013. The Society has reiterated its stance that the introduction of a minimum price may or may not be compatible with EU law.

Further information on the current work of the Law Reform Department can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations. The team can be contacted on any of the matters above at lawreform@lawscot.org.uk, or follow us on twitter @lawscot

 

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