Recent work of the Law Reform department, including fatal accidents and sudden deaths; court and tribunal fees; British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill; immigration and asylum

Fatal accidents and sudden deaths

A stage 1 briefing to MSPs on the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Etc (Scotland) Bill stated the Society’s concerns that the bill does not reflect Lord Cullen’s recommendation that relatives being represented at a fatal accident inquiry should receive legal aid without showing the need for it to be reasonable. Relatives are likely to find appearing at a FAI daunting and traumatic, and the expense of legal representation would be minimal in terms of the legal aid budget. The Society also proposes that some consideration be given to creating a statutory right to a FAI; this would only mean a small increase in the numbers held each year, would provide closure to families as well as having minimal economic impact, and would reinforce public confidence in Scotland’s system for investigating apparently self-inflicted deaths.

Court and tribunal fees

The Administrative Justice Committee submitted evidence to the UK Parliament’s Justice Committee inquiry, relating to the effect of the introduction of employment tribunal fees in the Scottish court system, with a reduction of 80% in employment tribunal claims since the fees came in. The fees make employment tribunals one of the most expensive routes to resolving disputes, as can be seen by comparing sheriff court fees to employment tribunal fees in Scotland. The committee also highlighted the complex, inflexible and inefficient system of fee remission.

British Sign Language (S) Bill

The Equalities Law Committee submitted a briefing to MSPs ahead of the stage 3 debate. It was pleased to see that the bill was amended at stage 2 to reflect that any engagement for consultation must include persons who use BSL and who are deaf or deafblind. It also welcomed the requirement that all relevant documents are to be published in BSL. It supports ministers laying progress reports before the Parliament, which it hopes will ensure that the bill’s policy objectives are met through close scrutiny and monitoring. The bill passed stage 3 on 17 September.

Immigration & Asylum Committee

In a busy month the committee has responded to three consultations.

Home Affairs Committee inquiry into skills shortages

The committee highlighted its thoughts on the annual cap on restricted certificates, Scotland’s different economic needs and the need to increase the size of the working population. The annual cap does not distinguish between Scotland and the rest of the UK. It is the committee’s view that smaller businesses are likely to be disadvantaged as they require to pay higher salaries in order to secure skilled candidates.

Migration Advisory Committee: review of tier 2

The committee highlighted that the tier 2 route is important for Scotland and the rest of the UK as it allows businesses to fill shortages with skilled candidates who can contribute to growth. In Scotland, reducing tier 2 migration will have a negative effect, by reducing the number of skilled workers available, creating a particular impact on small businesses seeking to expand.

Reforming support for illegal migrants

The committee was unclear as to how the proposals for limiting support for failed asylum seekers and others would change the current arrangements in any meaningful way. It also highlighted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that the proposals fail to take account of the UK’s obligations. There is no indication of how the Secretary of State will have regard to the best interests of children affected by support decisions, despite there being potentially negative consequences for their wellbeing.

Full written evidence, and further information on the current work of the Law Reform department, can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations-and-bills

The team can be contacted on any of the matters above through louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk, or follow us on Twitter: @lawscot
 

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