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Law reform roundup

12 December 16

Recent public policy work of the Society's committees, including legislative process; offensive behaviour at football; Brexit; hate crime and prejudice; forestry

The Society’s committees have been working on a number of Scottish and UK Parliament bills and consultations. Key areas are highlighted below. For more information see www.lawscot.org.uk/law-reform

Legislative process

The Constitutional Law Subcommittee responded to the House of Lords Constitutional Committee inquiry into the legislative process in October. The committee is conducting a large-scale inquiry to follow its 2004 report, Parliament and the Legislative Process. On 23 November Michael Clancy, director of law reform, also gave oral evidence alongside representatives from the Law Society of England & Wales and the Bar Council. The full session can be viewed on the website.

Football Act (repeal)

The Criminal Law Committee has responded to a consultation by James Kelly MSP on his proposal for a bill to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act 2012. The question whether the Act should be repealed is a matter for the Scottish Parliament. The Society believes that the intent of the Act is entirely commendable, but remains concerned about a number of aspects, which it expressed during its original passage. As stated then, a substantial proportion of football-related offensive behaviour was likely to be caught by the substantive criminal law which already existed, and continues to exist. It has also reiterated previous concerns about enforceability of the legislation, and practicalities of prosecuting alleged incidents occurring outwith Scotland.

Brexit

The Society has continued to respond to various consultations and engage with both the Scottish and UK Parliaments on the future relationship between the UK and the European Union.

In particular, the Criminal Law Committee responded to the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Subcommittee inquiry into police and security co-operation between the UK and EU. It suggested that the UK Government should consider giving priority to deciding whether or not to opt in to the new European policing co-operation framework in order to continue to access Europol. Failure to do so would have implications for the ability of the police to share information, and it welcomed the recent announcement from the UK Government signalling the intention to opt in to Europol.

The committee also responded to a UK Parliament Justice Committee inquiry, and provided written briefings to all MSPs ahead of a debate on impacts on justice and security in Scotland.

Hate crime and prejudice

The Criminal Law Committee issued a briefing to all MSPs ahead of a debate on preventing and eradicating hate crime and prejudice.

Tackling hate crimes is essential and it is important to ensure that there is clarity in our law to be able to identify these types of crimes. There is a significant amount of Scottish and UK legislation aimed at eradicating hate crime and prejudice, and there would be considerable benefit in enacting a single piece of legislation which would provide clarity, assist with identification of the relevant offences and protections, and improve access to justice.

The committee also believes that evaluation of the impact of existing hate crime legislation would be welcome. Despite the various enactments, there is no statutory aggravation for offences influenced by prejudice on the grounds of age or gender. In addition to consolidating offences, any review could consider the option of having one piece of legislation on aggravated offences, including aspects not currently covered.

Future of forestry

The Rural Affairs Committee responded to the Scottish Government consultation on the future of forestry in Scotland, to inform the approach to new arrangements for the governance, development, support and regulation of forestry.

It agreed with the overall approach in the consultation, but noted that the paper itself contains little actual detail. It does not consider who will be responsible for administering grants, the current responsibility of the Forestry Commission Scotland, and does not address how the new organisational arrangements will work alongside the private sector.

The Policy Team can be contacted on any of these matters at policy@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @lawscot 

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