Committee Updates May 2015

Mental Health (Scotland) Bill

The mental health committee prepared amendments to submit to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport committee. The committee is seeking to delete section 1 of the bill which proposes to extend the short term detention period from 5 to 10 working days.  It is the committee’s view that this extension would afford less protections to a patient under articles 5 and 6 ECHR.  Presently, a patient who is subject to a Compulsory Treatment Order can have measures authorising detention under those orders suspended.  The committee is looking to delete part of section 9 which gives mental health tribunals the authority to extend this period of suspension by a further 100 days in any 12 month period.  This was not consulted on and the committee does not believe there is any need to change the current law.  It is the committee’s view that the Bill would result in further tribunals for the patient and the overall volume of hearings for the Tribunal. 

All the amendments will be available shortly on our website. 

British Sign Language (Scotland) Bill

The Equalities committee prepared a stage 1 brief to submit to all MSPs.  The committee is supportive of the policy intention of the Bill which is to promote the use and understanding of BSL.  In order to meet that obligation, under the terms of the Bill, a Scottish Minister will be responsible for publishing a National Plan for Scotland and local authorities will be required to publish their own ‘Authority Plans’, which must be consistent with the National Plan. 

The Society’s Equalities committee has some concern that the both the national and local authority plans may be interpreted as equalities issues, which is not the intent of the Bill, and to that end would suggest for greater clarity on what is expected from both local and national plans that would be distinct from existing obligations under the General Equality Duty. 

The full briefing is available  on our website

Scottish Elections (Reduction in Voting Age) Bill

The Constitutional law committee submitted its comments to the Scottish Parliament on the Bill.  In its comments the committee highlighted that there could potentially be human rights implications, in particular with regard to prisoners who are 16 or 17 years old.   Section 1 of the Bill gives 16 and 17 year olds the power to vote by amending the Representation of the People Act 1983.  Section 3 of that same Act disenfranchises prisoners from voting.  Currently, the UK blanket ban on prisoner voting is deemed in contravention of ECHR, however the Scottish Parliament cannot pass any laws that are incompatible with ECHR.  This means that adherence to the disenfranchisement for offenders of 16 years old may result in challenges on the basis that the Bill in this respect applies an incapacity which is incompatible with convention rights.

The full response is available on our website

Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill

We submitted a stage 1 brief to MSPs in April.  On the alcohol licensing provisions, the licensing law committee reiterated its concerns as to the lack of clarity around who can apply for a transfer of a premises licence and when that transfer can take effect, particularly in the common situation where a tenant disappears and leaves the business premises closed for some time.   The committee also raised serious concerns around a licence ceasing to have effect once surrendered by a tenant with the consequence landlords insisting that they now hold the premises licence in their name, without of course being able to exercise appropriate supervision on a day to day basis. This situation could be easily remedied to allow reinstatement of a licence following a surrender.  The committee is also concerned that nothing has been done to reinstate the old site-only provisional grant.  Applicants at present can incur significant cost in submitting detailed plans to licensing boards with no guarantee of a licence being granted.  In relation to air weapons, the committee re-raised the issue that the Bill licenses the applicant but makes no correlation to the air weapons, and there is no requirement to present the certificate when buying ammunition. 

The full briefing is on our website

The Commonwealth Association of Law Reform Agencies Conference 2015

On 11 and 12 April, the Scottish Law Commission hosted the CALRAS conference, bringing together law commissioners and associated organisations from across the Commonwealth.  The conference heard from Lord Carloway, who gave his perspective on lawyers as law reformers, how law reform agencies can maintain their independence from Government, how law reform agencies can engage with their stakeholders and on the implementation of law reform programmes.  Over 100 delegates attended, in what was the Scottish Law Commission’s 50th anniversary year.