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Legal Matters Scotland
Wednesday, 21st July 2021

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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New laws could help tackle street harassment
The UK Government has said it is "looking carefully at where there may be gaps in existing law" to crack down on public street harassment as part of its strategy to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG). Home Secretary Priti Patel has said she is "determined to give the police the powers they need to crack down on perpetrators and carry out their duties to protect the public". A senior police officer will be put in charge of tackling violence against women and girls in England and Wales, as part of a broader strategy to deliver "lasting change", Ms Patel said. The strategy is expected to include a ban on the use of non-disclosure agreements in cases of sexual harassment and abuse in higher education settings, the launch of a new app to allow women and girls to record where they feel unsafe, and a public health campaign focusing on perpetrator behaviour. Local authorities are also expected to receive £5m to help improve public lighting and CCTV coverage.
BBC News   The Guardian   The Sun  

New law to target online trolls
Online trolls and cyber flashers could face up to two years in prison under new laws proposed by the Law Commission. The commission has put forward a raft of new legislation to combat the rise in online abuse, which is not covered by current laws. There would be an overarching offence for online abuse to outlaw actions such as pile-on harassment coordinated against an individual. Cyber flashing, where a perpetrator sends an unsolicited sexual image to another device nearby, and glorifying self-harm online, will become specific offences as will sending false or threatening communications. The recommendations, published today, are expected to be backed by the UK Government amid concern at growing online abuse as seen in recent racial attacks on sports stars and experienced by millions of social media users.
I   The Daily Telegraph   The Sun  

New consumer protections to cover online trading
Online reviews and subscription services are among a wide range of areas where the UK Government is planning new regulation to increase competition and protect the public from unfair practices. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced today that in an effort to counteract the effect of bogus online ratings, rules will make it automatically illegal to pay someone to write, or host, a fake review. Other tactics to be targeted include "dark patterns" that manipulate consumers who shop online into spending more than they wanted to, and "sludges", or negative nudges, such as when businesses pay to have their product feature highly on a trader’s website while hiding the fact that they paid for it.
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland  


Buckland hopes to stop would-be criminals with 'highly visible' unpaid work
Robert Buckland plans to deter potential criminals by making offenders do publicly-visible unpaid work. Speaking at the Centre for Social Justice thinktank's headquarters on the criminal justice system, the lord chancellor described probation as “one of the most important ships in the justice fleet”. He continued: “Unpaid work will be the highly visible shopfront of our new Probation Service - because we want to make sure that justice in our country is done and seen to be done. There are literally millions of hours of unpaid work handed down to offenders as part of their sentence every year and we will make sure they are served more visibly - to help improve the environment in our towns, our cities, and our countryside. My hope is that this will not only clean up neighbourhoods but also act as a deterrent to would-be criminals, making them fully aware that punishments will be served in the full gaze of their local communities.”
Law Gazette  


Buy now pay later shopping could affect mortgage acceptance
Mortgage applicants are reportedly being turned down if they have used buy now pay later deals in shops. Experts now urge borrowers to think twice before using the convenient checkout option from brands such as Klarna. Mortgage adviser Sabrina Hall, of Kind Financial Services, says a client was rejected after using this type of credit, although the decision was overturned. She says: “All lenders view buy now pay later schemes differently. My client was showing many transactions on bank statements and the lender was worried they were living beyond their means.”

Daily Mail  


No date for decision on vaccine passports
The First Minister said yesterday that no decision has yet been taken on the introduction of vaccine passports in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon commented: "I've said many times before, that while there are arguments for requiring vaccination to allow entry to certain places, it raises sensitive ethical and equity considerations, not least because there are some people who can't get vaccinated because of health conditions." Further, she added, "we are not yet in a position of having a recommendation to vaccinate all younger teenagers". "I think it's a reasonable assumption that we will say more about the state of our decision making around vaccine passports before we signal the reopening of places like nightclubs", she said, "but don't read into that anything about what that decision might be."
Herald Scotland   The Scotsman  


Privacy group warns against algorithmic 'mass profiling'
A report from privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch has claimed that dozens of local authorities are using privately developed software to "mass profile" benefit claimants - with the group arguing that algorithms intended to predict fraud and rent arrears "treat the poor with suspicion and prejudice". The group requested data on the use of the tools from more than 400 local authorities across Great Britain, with just over 300 replying, 86 saying they have used such algorithms within the last three years, and 55 saying they are still in use. The group says "automation and algorithms are not all they claim to be", with minor data points sometimes having an outsize impact, and with flaws in algorithms and poor transparency leading to bias and discrimination, and potentially breaching data-protection laws. COSLA says councils "need to use the data we have to make sure benefits have the greatest impact in tackling poverty and need, while reducing the small proportion of fraud and error that exists within the system", and that councils "are aware of and comply with data confidentiality law".
BBC News  


Buckland pledges new direction of prison reform
Announcing plans to “set a new direction of reform” for prisons, Robert Buckland has said the UK Government is “determined” to restore faith in the criminal justice system. In a speech to the Centre for Social Justice on Tuesday, the Justice Secretary said he intends to bring forward a white paper setting out a 10-year plan on the number of prison places and considering other measures on accommodation after release. Mr Buckland said: “I can announce today our ambition to publish a prisons white paper – to set a new direction of reform as the prison estate adapts to recent legislative changes, transitions from COVID-19 and begins to look to the future of criminal justice in England & Wales.” He later added: “Prisons and the work done in them will need to lead the way and the Government will soon bring forward proposals on how the prison estate can better cut crime both today and tomorrow, keeping dangerous criminals out of our communities, and giving those who want that chance to rejoin society as law-abiding members of it. That’s how we will rebuild the criminal justice system in our country and that’s how I believe we will cut levels of crime for good.”
John O'Groat Journal   Largs & Millport Weekly News  

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