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Law reform update

12 December 11

Recent work of the Society's Law Reform Department, including Carloway review; UK Bill of Rights; parliamentary procedures

The Carloway review

On 17 November, Lord Carloway published his review into criminal law and practice. The Society responded to the consultation in June this year and gave oral evidence on the emergency legislation to the Justice Committee in March. The Society welcomed the review, but raised concerns over the proposed removal of the requirement for corroboration in Scots law. It is the Society’s view that before such a radical step is taken there would have to be an overwhelming case for change, which the review does not in itself achieve, and that there is now a case for a wider and broader based review of the law of evidence and criminal procedure.

The Society however was pleased to see that the report recommends the introduction of police bail and the reduction of the maximum detention period without charge to 12 hours, with review by a police officer after six hours. The introduction of greater support for vulnerable suspects, as well as a “letter of rights”, is also welcomed.

A UK Bill of Rights?

The Society’s Council submitted comments on the proposed UK Bill of Rights. The Council raised concerns around the definition of “British” and the scope of any such Bill of Rights. Are political, economic and unilateral rights included? Is the Bill of Rights to be limited to legal rights only? The Council was also of the view that any such Bill should build on and enhance the European Convention on Human Rights.

Standards Committee evidence

Michael Clancy gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee on 22 November on its inquiry into the reform of parliamentary business and the remodelling of the parliamentary week. During the session he reiterated that the process undertaken when a bill is introduced in the Parliament is generally a good one, but restated the Society’s recommendations for changes at stage 3 to allow for an appropriate amending stage after stage 3. The Society also suggested that a new committee of the Parliament be created to deal exclusively with Scottish Law Commission bills.

Full responses to both items above can be found on the Society’s website through this link: bit.ly/rYZq7H

Other consultations

The Law Reform Department now publicises all current consultations and bills that are being considered by its committees – details can be found at www.lawscot.org.uk/forthepublic/law-reform-consultations. Society members are encouraged to respond to consultations, and the department would be keen to see any responses which are submitted – these can be emailed to lawreform@lawscot.org.uk

Law Matters

On 24 November, the Law Reform Department sent the second edition of Law Matters, its new parliamentary update newsletter, to all MSPs. The newsletter was a legal aid and access to justice special, and focused on the issues that both the criminal and civil legal aid negotiating teams and the Access to Justice Committee are currently working on. This and the previous edition of the newsletter can be found on the Society’s website at www.lawscot.org.uk/news/newsletters/law-matters

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