Law reform roundup
Recent work of the Law Reform department, including "no-blame" redress scheme; stop and search; Investigatory Powers Bill; tax evasion; disability employment gap
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
“No-blame” redress scheme
The Health & Medical Law Committee has responded to a Scottish Government consultation on proposals to introduce a no-blame redress scheme for the healthcare sector.
The committee supports the broad principle of a scheme to allow greater access to justice for patients and the ability to seek financial recompense when something goes wrong. It generally agrees that relatively minor injuries or low-value claims can result in a positive resolution, but by their very nature, medical injury claims can be complicated. It does not support a proposed cap of £100,000, and suggests that the limit should be set at £25,000.
The Government will need to ensure that any scheme will be effective and improve access to information and explanation for patients. It is also important that it is fair, impartial and accountable and should not add to a blame culture within the NHS.
Stop and search
The Criminal Law Committee has responded to two separate Scottish Government consultations on stop and search, one on police powers to search children and young people for alcohol and one on a draft code of practice.
Overall, the committee believes that current police powers are sufficient and new powers could result in negative effects. A new power to search a child or young person for alcohol could generate a disproportionate negative perception of children, as only a small number of searches actually result in the finding of alcohol. Taking all matters into account, the committee’s view is that there would be little benefit in introducing new statutory powers for the police to search children, young people or adults for alcohol.
Investigatory Powers Bill
The Society has urged the House of Lords to support proposals to protect confidentiality between lawyers and clients under the Investigatory Powers Bill, which began its committee stage on 11 July. It is concerned that the bill fails to provide proper protections for confidential communications between lawyers and their clients. Legal professional privilege should be enhanced in the bill and the power to target such communications removed.
There are risks that confidentiality could be breached as the bill stands and the Society hopes the committee will consider these concerns and take forward appropriate amendments.
Recently, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that bulk data collection is only lawful if used to tackle serious crime; this could cause further problems for the bill in its passage through the Lords.
Tackling tax evasion
The Criminal Law Committee has responded to an HM Revenue & Customs consultation on draft legislation and guidance for the new corporate offence of failure to prevent the criminal facilitation of tax evasion. It draws parallels between the draft offence and s 7 of the Bribery Act 2010, which was designed to change the compliance culture within companies.
In relation to the proposed wording, it recommends greater specification on what is meant by a “person associated with the company”, to reduce uncertainty and the risks of inappropriate investigation and prosecution.
More generally, it believes the proposals could create implications for companies and charities working in disadvantaged and undeveloped areas of the world.
Disability employment gap
The Equalities Law Committee has provided written evidence to an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability to inform its inquiry into how the UK Government can fulfil its pledge to halve the disability employment gap. The gap is a pressing concern in Scotland, as well as across the UK. In addition to the inequalities experienced in employment, wider issues need to be considered, such as the growing number of people seeking work through online platforms and the role that internships, work experience and benefits now play in the job market.
The committee is also encouraging the Scottish Parliament to re-establish its Cross-Party Group