Legal Matters Scotland
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19th September 2023

A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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Glasgow Sheriff Court takes steps to tackle delays
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service has implemented an action plan to reduce backlogs in Glasgow Sheriff Court. Due to staff shortages at contractor GEOAmey, the service has set time limits on certain custody courts and is considering virtual hearings. The backlog of cases is threatening to cripple the justice system. The judiciary, SCTS, COPFS, SPS, Police Scotland, SLAB, and Scottish Government are exploring various solutions, including virtual custody courts and the processing of warrant cases. Sheriff principals have also set time limits on custody courts to support the wellbeing of all involved. GEOAmey believes the new measures will help improve the judicial system and is actively recruiting to address labor market impacts caused by COVID-19. The Scottish Government is working with partners to reduce pressure on justice services, including cutting down on travel between prison, court, and police custody.

MSPs propose stronger trust and succession law reforms
The Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee has welcomed proposed reforms to Scots trusts and succession laws, but added they should be strengthened to ensure they can stand the test of time. In its stage 1 report on the Trusts and Succession (Scotland) Bill, the committee says it wants the Government to address issues around the power of trustees to make environmental, social or ethical investments, and the duty of trusts to communicate with beneficiaries. The bill would substantially reform the outdated Scots law on trusts in line with recommendations of the Scottish Law Commission. It also takes forward certain limited reforms to the law of succession.  "The committee, like those we took evidence from, is enthusiastic about the prospect of a new, modernised trusts and succession law. It’s a long time coming and will be warmly welcomed. But we must make sure that this new bill stands the test of time. Witnesses raised a number of areas where the bill could be clearer or lacks detail", said Committee convenor Stuart McMillan MSP. "Users of trusts and those affected by succession law come from all walks of life. They need a bill that is easy to use, protects them and their loved ones, and simplifies the processes involved".
Yousaf: Gender court case 'not actually about the legislation'
The Scottish Government is challenging a Westminster block on controversial gender reforms in a legal bid that is expected to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. The challenge is about "principle" rather than the content of the Bill, according to First Minister Humza Yousaf. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack vetoed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in January, arguing that it would adversely affect reserved UK laws. The case is expected to be appealed to the UK Supreme Court. If the Scottish Government's case prevails, the Bill will become law; if the UK Government wins, the Bill will be sent back to Holyrood for reconsideration.

STEP UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference 2023

The popular STEP UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference is back for 2023. Taking place this autumn in three venues across the UK, six leading industry experts will cover six crucial topics to keep you up-to-date with current and future developments of the essential tax, trusts and estates, all in one day. Topics of discussion include general tax updates, lifetime trust, IHT updates, and much more…

This conference is always incredibly popular, and places are limited. Register early to avoid disappointment. View the full agenda to see why this conference is a must-attend event.

FAI into deaths of M9 crash victim gets underway
A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) into the deaths of two people who lay undiscovered by the side of the M9 for three days is under way in Falkirk. John Yuill, 28, and girlfriend Lamara Bell, 25, died after their car came off the road, near Stirling, in July 2015. It took officers three days to visit the scene of the crash after the accident was reported by a farmer. Mr Yuill had died and Ms Bell was seriously hurt. She later died in hospital. Police Scotland has already admitted that failures in its call-handling system "materially contributed" to Ms Bell's death. The FAI will determine the cause of the deaths and the circumstances in which the deaths occurred. It will also try to establish what reasonable precautions could have been taken to avoid deaths in similar circumstances. FAIs do not apportion blame.

Disgruntled son-in-law jailed for £110k theft from father-in-law's business
Alexander Ferguson, a disgruntled son-in-law, has been sentenced to 21 months in jail for stealing machinery worth £110,000 from his father-in-law's business premises. Ferguson targeted the premises belonging to his then-wife's dad, businessman Brian MacGregor, more than five years ago. The stolen equipment included tractors, forklifts, and dumper trucks. Ferguson sent voice notes to his own father on the day of the theft, admitting his actions. The stolen property was valued at £110,000, and all of it was recovered except for one vehicle. Ferguson's defense counsel stated that he took matters into his own hands after his former father-in-law ended their business relationship.
Four men charged with unsolved murder of Tony Ferns
Four men have appeared in court charged with Police Scotland's only unsolved murder. A murder inquiry was launched and hundreds of people were spoken to as officers examined thousands of hours of CCTV footage into the death of Tony Ferns. On Friday, police announced that four men had been arrested and charged in connection with his death. Craig Colquhoun, 37, Joseph McCulloch, 45, Raymond Platt, 54, and Robert Park, 67, appeared at Glasgow Sheriff Court charged with murder. They entered no plea, were committed for further examination and remanded in custody.

Former care home worker jailed for abusing two girls
A former care worker who abused two girls at a children's home in Glasgow has been jailed for three years. Alan Smyth's victims were aged between 10 and 12 when he attacked them from 1979 to 1981. Both women, who are now in their 50s, attended Glasgow Sheriff Court to give evidence. "These offences took place when the children were at their most vulnerable", said Sheriff Daniel Kelly. "Given the nature of the offences and vulnerable victims, as well as the position of trust you were given, a custodial sentence is the only appropriate disposal".
Teenager in court over alleged murder bid
An 18-year-old man, Daniel Donnelly, has appeared in court charged with assault to severe injury, permanent disfigurement, danger of life, and attempted murder. Donnelly, from Johnstone, made no plea or declaration. The case has been continued for further investigation and Donnelly has been released on bail. The alleged incident involved the assault and stabbing of a 16-year-old male in Johnstone.
Sheriff Neil Wilson takes the helm at Wick court
Sheriff Neil Wilson has been appointed as the permanent sheriff for Wick court. Sheriff Wilson, who was described as "a local lad" by Sheriff Derek Pyle, has exceptional qualifications including a First Class Honours degree in Philosophy from Glasgow University. He previously worked for leading Glasgow firm Ross Harper and Murphy before becoming a partner in Ferguson and Wilson Solicitors in Inverness. Sheriff Wilson is also a Solicitor Advocate. The appointment has been welcomed by Fiscal Depute Sharon Ralph and Solicitor Sylvia Maclennan.

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