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Legal Matters Scotland
Friday, 30th July 2021

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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PM accused of damaging rule of law after new attack on ‘left-wing lawyers'
The Faculty of Advocates has spoken out against a renewed attack by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on supposedly "left-wing criminal justice lawyers", joining widespread criticism from all sections of the legal profession. In an interview on Wednesday, Mr Johnson attacked the Labour Party as having "consistently taken the side of left-wing criminal justice lawyers against the interests of the public". In a statement, Faculty said the comments went hand in hand with recent pronouncements by the Home Secretary and appeared to be "part of a strategy to undermine the rule of law". And the Law Society of England and Wales said that “repeated government attacks on the integrity of the legal profession are deeply concerning. This divisive language serves nobody and puts lawyers and their clients at risk.”
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland   The Independent UK   The Scotsman  


SLC extends homicide reform response deadline
The Scottish Law Commission is allowing several more weeks for the public to respond to its Discussion Paper on the Mental Element in Homicide. Announcing the extension the Commission said that given the range and complex nature of the issues covered and the overlap of the consultation period with summer leave months, the Homicide team has extended the deadline for responses from August 27th to October 15th. The paper highlights how the Scots law of murder and culpable homicide, which remain common law crimes, has developed unique features that now raise questions over whether it remains fit for purpose in the 21st century, and asks whether it should be reformed and restated in statute. 
The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland  

MPs and peers launch ‘super committee’ to scrutinise online safety bill
A joint committee of MPs and lords has been launched to scrutinise controversial government plans to tackle online harms. The new "super committee", led by former culture select committee chair Damian Collins, will ask the public for views on the draft online safety bill, including comparisons with legislation in other countries and whether there is a threat to freedom of expression. It will report its findings to the government before 10 December.
City AM   Herald Scotland  


Surge in Scottish commercial property investment
A surge in commercial property investment volumes in the first half of 2021 has been described as “hugely encouraging”. Total investment into Scottish commercial property during the six-month period reached more than £770m, marking a 62% increase on the same period in 2020. The latest figures from Savills also predicted that with a further £490m of assets currently under offer, the year-end investment figure for Scotland was on track to meet or even surpass the pre-Covid levels of £2.62bn recorded in 2018.
The Scotsman  


Diplomat's appeal bid fails over Alex Salmond trial blogs
A former UK diplomat is to be jailed after Supreme Court judges refused him permission to appeal his conviction for breaching a court order. Craig Murray was jailed for eight months over blog posts he wrote about the trial of former First Minister Alex Salmond. The 62-year-old made use of a mechanism allowing him to appeal directly to the UK Supreme Court. However, the court has now confirmed they will not hear submissions from Murray's lawyers. Murray was given the eight-month sentence for breaching a strict court order which had been passed during the former first minister's trial on sexual assault charges in March 2020.
BBC News   The Times   The Scotsman  

Google hit by £920m legal action
Google is at the centre of legal action brought over claims it unfairly and excessively charges people for digital purchases in its Play Store. The action, which has been filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London by former Citizens Advice digital policy manager Liz Coll, is seeking damages of up to £920m on behalf of 19.5m Android phone users in the UK.
BBC News   Daily Mail   The Daily Telegraph   Border Telegraph   Evening Telegraph   Linlithgow Gazette  


Boyd Legal adds to Fife office
Kirkcaldy firm Boyd Legal has bolstered its Fife team with two new hires: Fiona Brown, who previously led the wills and estates department at another Fife company, and Angie Clay, a specialist in residential conveyancing. 
Press Release  


Nearly 35,000 workers in Scotland removed from furlough scheme
Nearly 35,000 people in Scotland were removed from the UK government's furlough programme in June, official HMRC figures show. A total of 141,500 remained on the job retention scheme - which was down from 175,300 at the end of May. The Treasury said 900,000 Scots were furloughed during the pandemic. It added that more than 90,000 businesses had received loans and just over £1.5bn had been paid in self-employment support. Across the UK, an estimated 1.3m people were on the scheme at the beginning of July, down from a peak of 5.1m at the height of lockdown in January.
BBC News  

TUC hits out over umbrella companies and agency workers
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has urged ministers to ban the use of umbrella companies to employ agency workers, with concern over some such entities being linked to abuse of workers and fraud. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Our inadequate regulations let dodgy umbrella companies off the hook.” She added that employers “shouldn’t be able to wash their hands of any responsibility by farming out their duties to a long line of intermediaries”. Research from the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group suggests that as many as half of all agency workers are employed through umbrella companies.
The Guardian  

Asos appoints lawyers to investigate harassment claims
The Telegraph reports that online fashion giant Asos has appointed external law firm Lewis Silkin to investigate allegations of sexual harassment, in response to anonymous posts published on Instagram accusing the company of being a "boys' club". The allegations claimed that inappropriate behaviour had occurred, while the Telegraph also understands that the company received a number of complaints in regards to inappropriate behaviour at both the head office and customer service centre.
The Daily Telegraph  


Drug deaths could hit new high
Experts expect Scotland's drug death total to hit record levels for the seventh year in a row, with lockdown and the Covid pandemic having an impact. Annual statistics for drug-related deaths in Scotland, to be released today, are expected to show a further rise in the number of overdose deaths. Some 1,264 people died in 2019 from drug misuse in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives are advocating a Right to Recovery Bill which would ensure people have a legal right to drugs rehab treatment amid fears many have been turned away. The Scottish Liberal Democrats,  meanwhile, are urging the Scottish Government to work with The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Lord Advocate to set up heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
BBC News   Herald Scotland   The Press and Journal   The Scotsman  


Prison time over tax evasion trebles
HMRC’s elite Offshore, Corporate and Wealthy (OCW) Unit secured convictions totalling 67 years of prison time for tax evaders last year, far exceeding the 23 years secured a year earlier. Analysis by Pinsent Masons suggests that HMRC’s strategy of using targeted criminal investigations, rather than just civil penalties, is paying off. Andrew Sackey, partner at Pinsent Masons, said: “HMRC is proving that wealthy tax evaders who engage in deliberate dishonesty at the expense of the tax man don’t just get fines – they go to prison … The perception that wealthy people who evade tax only get financial penalties is increasingly untrue.”
City A.M.  


Research suggests that alcohol may not affect witness recall
New research from Abertay University, Dundee, and London South Bank University, suggests that people with mild to moderate alcohol intoxication are no less accurate as witnesses when recalling details of what they have seen than sober people. The study found that people who had drunk alcohol were less confident and recalled fewer details than those who had not, but were in fact no less reliable. It also found that people who discussed what they witnessed with others provided less reliable testimony. Half of the participants were allowed to discuss what they had seen before being asked to recall what they saw, and of these, seven out of eight gave at least one piece of incorrect information that they had not actually seen themselves, but had heard from their co-witness – a rate almost seven times higher than those going solely on their own recollection.
STV   Glasgow Evening Times   The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland   The Times  

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