Legal Matters Scotland

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Bill of Rights to ‘restore the balance of power’
A Bill of Rights, which will “restore the balance of power between the legislature and the courts”, and a Brexit Freedoms Bill, which will allow retained EU law to be “more easily amended”, were both announced in the Queen’s speech yesterday. An expected shake-up of the Human Rights Act, which the Government says will rein in “the incremental expansion of a rights culture without proper democratic oversight”, was one of 38 pieces of legislation announced in the Queen’s speech. Lord Chancellor Dominic Raab said the bill “will strengthen our traditions of liberty, particularly the right to free speech, while adding a healthy dose of common sense and curtailing abuses of the system”. However, Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: "The Human Rights Act confirms and protects the rights and freedoms of people in the UK and provides robust protection in British courts.” She added that “the proposed changes make the state less accountable. This undermines a crucial element of the rule of law, preventing people from challenging illegitimate uses of power.”
Suspected foreign agents threatened with Asbo-style law
Foreign nationals suspected of spying will face restrictions on where they can work, study and travel, under sweeping new powers. Asbo-style measures will bar hostile agents from institutions including universities and parliament if they are thought to be recruiting spies or spreading malign influence on behalf of hostile states. The National Security Bill, announced in the Queen's Speech, includes the power to prosecute and deport foreign spies operating in Britain on behalf of states including China and Russia. Civil measures will be used as a "tool of last resort" to manage those who pose a threat but do not reach the threshold for prosecution. The biggest overhaul of espionage legislation in decades will require individuals working for foreign states to declare it in a US-style register or face deportation. Those waging cyberwar including ransomware attacks will be pursued under a new offence of sabotage. It is designed to tackle "state-backed attacks on sites, data and infrastructure critical to the UK's safety or interest". The bill will make it easier to prosecute people for passing information to hostile states, although campaigners have warned it does not contain enough protection for whistleblowers.

LawCare extends online chat support
LawCare is extending its online chat service from one to four days a week. The lawyer support charity introduced online chat in July 2019 and has been running the service every Wednesday. It will now be available every week, Tuesday-Friday from 9am-5pm and will be staffed by 10 new specially trained volunteers all of whom work in, or have worked in, the law as well as the LawCare staff team. Free, confidential, emotional support is offered to anyone working in the law, including support staff. LawCare has been operating a helpline and peer support programme since 1997 and has supported over 10,000 people in the profession to date. 
Shoosmiths announces two partner hires and one promotion
Shoosmiths has appointed three new partners across its Real Estate teams in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Ian McCann, previously with CMS, has joined the Edinburgh office as a construction partner while Lyndsey O’Connor has joined the Glasgow office from Dentons as a real estate partner. Lauren Miller, who joined the Glasgow office as a legal director from Shepherd & Wedderburn last year, has been promoted to real estate partner with effect from May 1st. "I am delighted to welcome Lyndsey and Ian to Shoosmiths and congratulate Lauren for her well deserved appointment to partnership", said Janette Speed, head of Shoosmiths Scotland. "This trio of latest senior appointments is further evidence of our investment in top class legal talent as Shoosmiths continues to focus on delivering premium legal services in Scotland".

New home numbers down a third in 2020-21
The number of new homes in Scotland fell by a third in one year, to the lowest total for eight years. There were a total of 15,360 homes either built, refurbished or converted in 2020-21 - down by 33% from 23,047 in 2019-20. A Scottish Government report said the fall was down to the impact of Covid restrictions on construction. While the number of council and housing association homes increased, these rose by 0.5%, compared to the 8% rise in the number of people on waiting lists. As of 31 March 2021, there were 318,369 local authority homes across Scotland - an increase of 1,461 (0.5%) on the previous year and the third year in a row this total had grown. The number of housing association properties increased by 1,539 (0.5%) to stand at 292,951 by the end of March last year.
Leading lawyer in disciplinary hearing over explicit texts
Brian McConnachie QC has appeared before a disciplinary hearing over allegations he sent sexually explicit WhatsApp and text messages. The Faculty of Advocates made a finding of unsatisfactory professional conduct against the lawywer, who has been part of a number of high profile cases, include representing child killer Aaron Campbell, who murdered six-year-old Alesha MacPhail on Bute in 2018, and Rosdeep Adekoya, who killed her three-year-old son Mikaeel Kular in Edinburgh in 2014. The Faculty also partially upheld a complaint over sexual comments allegedly made about Rape Crisis Scotland chief executive Sandy Brindley.
Royal Marine Commandos jailed over £300k drugs operation
Two Royal Marine Commandos have been jailed over their involvement in a £300,000 drugs operation. Grant Broadfoot, 29, and Stuart Bryant, 31, were caught using a Ministry of Defence-owned van to transport cannabis from England to Scotland in June 2020. The pair were arrested in Glasgow's Mount Vernon with 30 vacuum-sealed bags of drugs following a tip-off. Mr Broadfoot also used his position as an ammunitions storeman at HM Naval Base Faslane to try and sell live rounds. He was sentenced to five years and three months at the High Court in Glasgow after he pled guilty to a charge of being involved in serious organised crime. Mr Bryant was jailed for for three years and nine months after he admitted being concerned in the supply of cannabis. Lady Stacey branded the crimes "disgraceful", adding that the pair should be "absolutely ashamed" of themselves.
Sheku Bayoh: Sister tells inquiry she does not feel safe in Scotland
The sister of Sheku Bayoh has said she no longer feels safe in Scotland, after her brother's death in police custody. Mr Bayoh, 31, died after being restrained by officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in 2015. Kadi Johnson was addressing the public inquiry into her brother's death. The family believes race played a part, and say they have yet to hear the truth. A minute's silence was observed in memory of Mr Bayoh at the start of the first day of the hearings on Tuesday. The inquiry chairman, Lord Bracadale, said the first statements would focus on the person Mr Bayoh was, and the impact his death had on his family. "This is not their evidence to the inquiry," he said. "The focus today is on Sheku Bayoh himself and what he meant to those he left behind." The hearing was briefly suspended after one of Mr Bayou's sisters broke down in tears while introducing a video tribute which featured members of his family. The public inquiry hearings are due to continue on Wednesday with opening statements from the main participants, including Police Scotland and the Lord Advocate, Scotland's top law officer.
Judges overturn boy's £290,000 diving death payout
Judges have overturned a decision to award £290,000 compensation to the son of a diver who died off Cape Wrath. Lex Warner, 50, from Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, was injured in a fall on the boat before he made the dive on the Highlands' north coast in 2012. Orkney-based Scapa Flow Charters was sued by his son Vincent, nine, in a legal action through his mother Debbie. Judges at the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh agreed with appeal submissions from the boat firm. Lord Carloway wrote that Scapa Flow Charters had put in place adequate safety measures, before Mr Warner fell on the boat while walking in fins.

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Bill increases to wipe out disposable income for 150k Scots
Analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) suggests that over 150,000 Scottish households will have their disposable incomes wiped out by food and fuel bills over the next year. The research also indicates that growth in Scotland will lag behind the rest of the UK. The NIESR said rising food and energy prices put a “disproportionate pressure” on Scottish households because of the colder, wetter climate, and because lower-than-average gross disposable income in Scotland means that “expenditures on essential items such as food and energy take up a greater proportion of household budgets”.
Scotland urged to continue at-home abortions
Scotland has been urged to follow the example of England and Wales by continuing to offer at-home abortions. The model, which enables woman to take medication in their own homes following a phone consultation, began as a temporary measure during the pandemic. The Scottish government said it would not take a final decision on making the scheme permanent until the autumn. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service said the treatment was safe and called on ministers to act now. However, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) condemned the policy and said it amounted to "state-sponsored backstreet abortion".
Ministers seek to align human rights and economy policy
A new Centre of Expertise in Equality & Human Rights, to put human rights and equality at the heart of economic policy development, is being established by the Scottish Government. Part of the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser within Scottish Government, the Centre will see the Government working with leading experts to build knowledge and skills among policy officials to address injustice and economic inequality. "By focusing on wellbeing and fair work, we can deliver higher rates of employment and wage growth, to reduce poverty – particularly child poverty – and improve health and quality of life for disadvantaged families and communities", said Economy Secretary Kate Forbes. "The Centre of Expertise in Equality & Human Rights will advance our understanding of how equality and human rights should influence the economic policy-making process. This includes work in areas to remove barriers to employment for disabled people, women, those with care experience and minority ethnic groups while also tackling poverty through fair pay and conditions".

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