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Book reviews

20 February 12

Reviews of Social Work Law in Scotland (Guthrie); Conveyancing (Gretton and Reid)

by Peter Robson, Robert Rennie (Book review editor: David J Dickson)

3rd edition

Tom Guthrie

PUBLISHER: BLOOMSBURY PROFESSIONAL
ISBN: 9781847661654
PRICE: £35

Social work emerged as a distinct practice in the 19th century with Victorian philanthropic landlords like Octavia Hill involving themselves in the supervision of the lives of their tenants to their mutual benefit. It is now a fully fledged profession which does the kind of work which our family focused society wishes did not exist.

Unfortunately the family, as well as being a warm and natural place, can also be a dangerous environment for women and children. Social work’s major appearance in the public consciousness is when the system and individuals fall down in balancing the interests of the community and individuals. Other than when children die of neglect or are the victims of cruelty, this is largely closed world. Tom Guthrie provides here a valuable outline to the legal framework within which these interventions operate.

This is a much expanded version of the familiar text from Tom Guthrie and Janet Fabb. Since the second edition there have been at least six new statutes covering community care, mental health and children. The book covers several discrete areas. The most high profile areas are children in need of supervision and protection. This is covered along with those occasions where the central and local state comes into contact with the citizen with mental health or incapacity problems. Many groups in our society are living longer and, while political choices reject sophisticated community solutions to the issue of coping with physical and mental incapacity, the fallout from these matters will loom larger for lawyers as well as social workers.

The text is clearly written and provides a useful introduction to Scots law. Since this provides a window on areas which are given short shrift in the profit-oriented syllabi which feature in Scottish law schools, this book is well worth the attention of legal practitioners. It provides a well pitched introduction to issues like housing, debt recovery, discrimination, education and information.

One particularly interesting and valuable chapter is the final one, which locates and covers the changes which are in the pipeline and due for implementation in the next couple of years. It is always a tricky feat to hand in a manuscript in the knowledge that the onward march of change renders some of the text irrelevant. Separating out the issues in this way works rather well. The text, being introductory, is light on references. This makes sense in a text which is not seeking to provide the last word on legal problems. What might, however, be expanded is the rather perfunctory section on further reading.

The book is aimed as students of social work and those qualified and working in the field. As indicated, this book will be a useful addition to the library not only of those working with private clients, but anyone who has an interest in this troubling Cinderella area.

Professor Peter Robson, University of Strathclyde

 

4th edition

George L Gretton and Kenneth G C Reid

PUBLISHER: W GREEN
ISBN: 9780414017610
PRICE: £81

Gretton and Reid’s Conveyancing has become a standard text. It is now in its fourth edition. The third edition was published just before that momentous date of 28 November (Martinmas) 2004, when the feudal system was abolished and the profession was presented with two new statutory codes in relation to title conditions and tenements. In the third edition the law was generally stated as at 10 May 2004 but on the assumption that the legislation would come into effect. What the authors could not do in the third edition, of course, was anticipate how courts might interpret the legislation. All important cases are explained in this fourth edition.

Writing about conveyancing has always been difficult because the subject itself is a unique blend of law and practice. What we have seen, however, since the coming into effect of the legislation is a distinct shift towards law and away from practice. The fact that every county in Scotland is now an operational area for land registration also means that the policies adopted by the Keeper in relation to sufficiency of title are more important than current practice within the profession. All of this makes writing a book on conveyancing a difficult challenge. It is however a challenge to which the authors rise.

As with previous editions, the approach to the subject is chronological. There are however three additional chapters in the fourth edition. These deal with tenements and other communities (chapter 14), community burdens and the development management scheme (chapter 15), and the powers of the Lands Tribunal (chapter 16). The former chapter 21 on general conveyances has gone, but there are now separate chapters on warrandice and post-settlement claims, and new houses and the right to buy.

In these new chapters the authors are quick to focus on the problems which actually arise in practice. Thus there is a separate paragraph in chapter 14 on the roof void in tenements, and a very full treatment of drafting a deed of conditions in chapter 15. In relation to the powers of the Lands Tribunal, the authors do not shy away from providing guidance on the prospects of success in any application. As someone who, like the authors, provides opinions to the legal profession, I can confirm that where an opinion is sought on a Lands Tribunal application the most important question I am asked is whether or not the application has good prospects of success.

Certain topics are given quite a full treatment. I refer in particular to chapter 20, which deals with judicial rectification of documents. Where there is a dispute between purchaser and seller in a conveyancing transaction and it turns on the interpretation of particular words, quite often the disadvantaged party will raise the cry, “Well even if you are right we will rectify!” Given the amount of litigation that there is about missives nowadays, the chapter on judicial rectification is vitally important. It is to this chapter that I turn most often when giving opinions on missives. Like the rest of the book it provides a concise treatment of a difficult area of the law, setting out, most importantly, the limits of rectification, especially where the document to be rectified is the missives.

In two lines the authors point to the future, where they state (para 3-07) that while not competent under current law, e-missives are expected to be facilitated under the proposed new legislation on land registration. Even more change is to come for conveyancers with the new Land Registration Bill. There will be plenty for the authors to write about in the editions still to come.

The first edition of this book was designed for teaching in the Diploma in Legal Practice. Given the rapid changes in the law, we are all students and no office should be without a copy.

Professor Robert Rennie

 

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