Law reform roundup
Recent work of the Law Reform Department, including assisted suicide; housing; air weapons and licensing; courts reform; disabled parking badges
Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill
In its written evidence to the Health & Sport Committee, the Society raised a number of concerns, including the lack of a definition of “assisted suicide”. It suggests that an unambiguous definition of what it is to “assist” suicide be set out, together with a definition of the role of a “licensed facilitator”. The Society also raised concerns around the age limit: without suggesting the age limit be raised, it made the point that as the bill stands, it would be possible for a 16-year-old to request assisted suicide and for another 16-year- old to act as licensed facilitator. Other issues raised include the 14-day time period for the act of suicide from the date of the second request; the storage and safekeeping of the drugs; and the ability of solicitors to act as proxies.
Housing (Scotland) Bill
The Society submitted stage 2 amendments relating to letting agents. The bill proposes to require Scottish ministers to establish a register of letting agents, and grants them powers to issue a code of practice and to remove a registered letting agent from the register if satisfied that they are no longer fit and proper to carry out letting agency work. The Society supports the proposal to regulate letting agents, but suggested it should not be compulsory for solicitors to be part of the regime, as they are already subject to stringent and detailed rules covering admission, professional ethics and conduct. The amendments were tabled but were defeated 4-3.
Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill
The Society’s Licensing Law Committee welcomed the introduction of the bill in May. The committee broadly agrees with the measures proposed, but questions whether it will have the desired effect of properly regulating the use of air weapons in Scotland. The proposed single air weapon certificate should list all the weapons held by the individual certified, otherwise the police will not know how many are in circulation. There should be an incentive scheme to register or pass on unwanted air weapons to the police to remove them from circulation and avoid the potential for a surge in sales before the licensing scheme comes into operation.
The committee also supports the tighter licensing of scrap metal dealers, and the introduction of timescales with regard to alcohol licensing applications. It will submit written evidence to the Local Government & Regeneration Committee in due course.
Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill
The Society submitted its stage 1 brief in May. Concerns centre around the proposed £150,000 threshold for cases to be heard in the Court of Session, which is likely to cause a surge in cases and delays in the sheriff courts. The Society would welcome a figure of £50,000, which will ensure that the majority of serious and complex cases continue to be heard in Scotland’s highest court. The Society also has concerns around the introduction of a three-month time period to bring a judicial review application which is, in the Society’s view, overly restrictive. It will prepare stage 2 amendments to the bill in June.
Disabled parking badges
In its stage 1 brief, the Society’s Equality Committee re-emphasised its support of the policy intent to tackle fraudulent misuse of the blue badge scheme. However, misuse of the scheme can already be prosecuted as common law fraud, and the new offence is one of strict liability, meaning that someone may find themselves prosecuted for a genuine error or mistake in using a cancelled blue badge. It also raised some concerns regarding the introduction of non-uniformed enforcement officers: this may give rise to confrontational situations, and the public will have no way of knowing whether any ID card shown is genuine.
Full details of the above, and 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 through firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow us on Twitter: @lawscot