Legal Matters Scotland
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10th July 2024

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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Scottish Government proposes early release for long-term prisoners
The Scottish Government is proposing a new legislation that would allow long-term prisoners to be released on licence two-thirds of the way through their sentence. The proposal, launched by Justice Secretary Angela Constance, aims to extend the period that long-term prisoners spend in the community before the end of their sentence. The only exceptions to automatic release would be those on extended sentences or convicted of terrorism offences. If implemented, the policy would result in the immediate release of some prisoners and a sustained reduction in the prison population. However, critics argue that the proposal would only increase trauma for victims and further divide them from the justice system. The proposal has also faced criticism from North East MSP Liam Kerr, who argues that it presents an obvious risk to the public and undermines victim-centred justice. 
Law Society pays tribute to Alison Britton
The Law Society of Scotland has paid tribute to former Committee member, Professor Alison Britton, who passed away last week. John Mulholland, the Law Society’s Public Policy Committee Convener, said: “I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Law Society Committee member Alison Britton. Professor Britton was one of the first members of our Public Policy Committee and as Convener of our Health and Medical Law Committee for seven years, her contribution will long be remembered.” Professor Britton's expertise and determination were instrumental in the Law Society’s work on significant legislation, including the Human Tissues Bill and the Transvaginal Mesh Removal Bill. 

Legal Tech Adoption: A Football Strategy

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MSPs look into child poverty law
A Holyrood committee is seeking views on the "landmark" legislation which put child poverty targets into law in Scotland. The social justice committee is considering the impact of the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, which also created the Poverty and Inequality Commission. The legally set target is to reduce to close the gap between the richest and poorest children to 10% by 2030.

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Temporary accommodation spend hits £720m in five years
As part of a series on housing and homelessness, the Herald reports that local authorities across Scotland have spent a total of £720m of public funds placing homeless families and children in temporary accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs over the last five years - with the paper contrasting the figure to the real-terms figure of £570m cut from the Scottish Government's affordable housing budget over the last three years. The charity Shelter Scotland has said growing numbers of children are being "badly let down by a broken system", with the charity now supporting families who have been living in hotel rooms for months, and warns that politicians "know the solutions; countless panels, committees and working groups have made them clear over the years. What is missing now is the political will to deliver them". Crisis chief executive Matt Downie, meanwhile, says the numbers of children in temporary accommodation "is a national scandal", while "records within the homelessness system are being broken across the board", with reforms needed both in social housing and beyond, including in the welfare system.
Asylum seekers' legal action resolved at High Court
Three asylum seekers who brought legal action over their potential removals to Rwanda have had their cases resolved at the High Court. Lawyers for the individuals appeared at the London court for what was due to be full challenges against decisions paving the way for their removals. However, following the General Election, the new Labour Government has said the deportation policy will be scrapped. In relation to the three named claimants, these claimants' cases will be fully disposed of and withdrawn subject to the Secretary of State paying their costs. That asylum policy does not involve removals to Rwanda. The Tories had pledged a “regular rhythm of flights every month” to Rwanda in their election offering, but the first flight had been planned for July 24.
Blackadders hires experienced family law expert as partner
Scottish law firm Blackadders has hired Shona Smith, one of Scotland's most experienced family law experts, as a partner. Smith, who has worked for law firm Balfour+Manson LLP for over 27 years, including 12 years as head of family law, will join Blackadders' team in Edinburgh. She brings extensive experience and has been accredited as a specialist in family law by the Law Society of Scotland since 1999. Smith is also a family law mediator and arbitrator. Craig Samson, head of the family law team at Blackadders, said Smith's experience will benefit the firm and its clients.
Council domestic abuse services under growing pressure
A report prepared for East Ayrshire Council's governance and scrutiny committee has highlighted the growing pressure placed on council services by rising rates of violence against women. Police statistics, the report notes, "indicate that sexual crime is continuing to increase", while statistics show "a continuing upward trajectory of children and young people who experience domestic abuse within family life", and domestic abuse is increasingly being identified as a risk factor in police child concern reports. Some organisations working in the field, the report notes, have described "being at 'breaking point' and requiring to magic resources out of nothing to support people", and with growing numbers of specialist staff "experiencing stress and burnout" as a result.

Scottish judge grants legal parenthood to 72-year-old man and late wife
A Scottish judge has granted permission for a 72-year-old man and his late wife to become the legal parents of a three-year-old boy born through surrogacy in the US. The judge acknowledged concerns about the man's age but emphasised that the welfare of the child would be compromised if the court refused to make an order. The child, known as "A," has no UK birth certificate and could potentially face difficulties remaining in the UK without the order. The judge ruled that making a parental order is in the child's best interests and would provide emotional, social, practical, and financial benefits. The ruling also stated that there are no alternative legal remedies that would offer the same transformative effect as the parental order.

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