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Letter of the Law
Wednesday, 22nd April 2020
A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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Victims support groups repeat calls for jury-free murder and rape trials

Four support groups, including Victim Support Scotland, have repeated calls to introduce jury-free trials during the coronavirus lockdown for cases including rape and murder, warning that delays will lead to added trauma for victims. Data shows the backlog of cases awaiting trial could reach 1,600, which legal experts say could take years to address. Kate Wallace, chief executive of Victim Support Scotland, said: "Judge-only trials are already being used in domestic abuse cases, and far from eroding a 600-year-old ‘cornerstone’ of the Scottish legal system, this has allowed thousands of serious cases to be heard in Scotland without a jury present”.

Glasgow Evening Times The Press and Journal, Page: 5


Obituary: Peter Millar OBE, solicitor and Deputy Keeper of the Signet

The Scotsman remembers Peter Millar OBE, solicitor and Deputy Keeper of the Signet, who passed away on March 16th aged 93. During his career he also held a number of other important positions in public life and he organised one of the largest international conferences of lawyers ever to be held in Scotland.

The Scotsman, Page: 43



Denovo - Isolation doesn’t have to mean separation – Use Tech to create a community with clients

Imagine you or a person you care about was sentenced to 3 months solitary confinement. It’s a horrendous thought, isn’t it? Whilst most of us in ‘lockdown’ are not in extreme isolation many innocent people are exactly that. How have the public responded to this self- imposed confinement? Magnificently, I would argue. But the question I want to ask is how is your firm responding to this challenge?


In our new insights guide, we outline 5 simple ways to support disconnected and isolated clients in your community at this time – READ MORE


Also, as our team are continuing to provide our #inthistogether insights on how law firms can respond effectively in these challenging times, we wondered if there was anything you’d like us to discuss next? For instance, anything your firm has been finding difficult to achieve from a technological perspective?


If you would like to make a suggestion please email





Holiday firms illegally denying refunds

Travel firms and airlines have been accused of breaking the law by delaying cash refunds for cancellations. Consumer law states that refunds must be issued within 14 days for cancelled packaged holidays and seven days for cancelled flights from the UK. But an investigation by consumer group Which? found that none of the 10 biggest holiday companies are offering full refunds within the legal time frame, and some are refusing to provide refunds altogether. Which? also contacted the UK's 10 largest airlines and claimed that none are refunding passengers according to the law.

The Scotsman, Page: 16, 17 The Herald, Page: 7 The Guardian The Times The I The Daily Telegraph





Virtual court hears Kezia Dugdale defamation appeal

Legal history was made yesterday when a defamation appeal involving former Labour leader Kezia Dugdale was heard by three Scots judges sitting in a 'virtual court'. Lord President Lord Carloway, along with Lords Brodie and Menzies heard the appeal case of "Wings over Scotland" blogger Stuart Campbell, who claims Ms Dugdale defamed him in a newspaper column three years ago. In a legal first, the three Court of Session judges heard Mr Campbell's appeal via a remote video link as the courts are closed as a result of the coronavirus lockdown. Journalists were able to watch proceedings on a secure closed link. Lord Carloway said a written judgment would be published in due course. Afterwards Lord Carloway commented: "The technology worked well from the court’s perspective and the hearing captured the ambience of a physical courtroom. The judiciary fully support the promotion of virtual cases where it is technologically possible and appropriate in the current situation."

BBC News BBC News The Scotsman, Page: 21 The Times The Press and Journal, Page: 21 The Herald, Page: 10 The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland








Appeal court rules ‘right to rent’ scheme ‘justified’

The UK government has won an appeal over its right to rent scheme, which requires private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and prospective tenants, and those who fail to complete checks can face fines and up to five years in prison. Last year, the High Court ruled it to be racially discriminatory because it caused landlords to discriminate against British citizens from minority ethnic backgrounds and against foreign nationals who had a legal right to rent. However, the Home Office appealed, and the appeal court found that while some landlords did discriminate due to "fear of the consequences of letting to an irregular immigrant", the scheme was "justified" and "proportionate".

The Guardian


March home sales data still positive

Residential property sales edged down only slightly in March compared with February, despite the lockdown imposed towards the end of last month, new figures suggest. Across the UK, 99,440 home sales took place last month, 0.2% down on February, according to provisional estimates from HMRC. The March total was also 0.3% higher than the same month a year earlier, despite stricter measures introduced from March 23 to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Daily Express, Page: 45 Aberdeen Evening Express




Building contractors could fall foul of law

Contractors whose work is delayed by the coronavirus shutdown could risk breach of contract, a lawyer has warned. DLA Piper partner Alistair Drummond said Scottish Government guidance appearing to ban non-essential construction work carries no legal weight. “There is a difference between the law and Government advice”, he said. “Whilst at first glance it may appear that the guidance issued by the Scottish Government prohibits all non-essential construction works with immediate effect, when the terms are considered in more detail the legal force and effect of the guidance is thrown into considerable doubt”.





Early release for 'limited number' of prisoners

Scotland's prison authorities have been asked to release "a limited number" of prisoners early due to the coronavirus pandemic, MSPs have been told. Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said jails were under pressure due to a "significant" number of staff being off and concerns about health and safety. Mr Yousaf said prisoners on sentences of 18 months or less, who are in the last three months of their time in custody, would be considered for release. About 450 prisoners fall into this category, and Mr Yousaf said the release process would begin at the end of the month.

BBC News The Scotsman, Page: 6, 7 Daily Record The Press and Journal, Page: 4, 5 The Daily Telegraph The Times The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland








Police Scotland gain lockdown powers in the workplace

Police Scotland have been given new powers to enforce lockdown measures within workplaces. Officers were originally given the power to disperse people who were found to be flouting coronavirus lockdown rules, and issue a fine, on Friday, March 27. Nicola Sturgeon announced the new regulations would now allow for officers to enforce lockdown measures within workplaces. Businesses that do not take all reasonable measures to enforce those rules could be fined or prosecuted. However Ms Sturgeon added that she did not expect police to be "routinely patrolling office blocks".

The Herald, Page: 1, 3 Daily Record


NHS visa extensions exclude porters and cleaners

Hundreds of foreign health workers have had their immigration status thrown into doubt as it emerged the Home Office has failed to guarantee visa extensions. Home Office announced last month that 2,800 doctors, nurses and paramedics with visas due to expire before October 1 would have them automatically extended for one year free of charge to enable them to focus on the coronavirus. But Adrian Berry, chairman of the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, said the plans do not apply to porters, healthcare assistants or cleaners, as the scheme has been limited to those on tier 2 visas.

The Times Daily Express Financial Times





NCSC takes down 2,000 online scams

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said it took down more than 2,000 online coronavirus scams last month. NCSC said this included 471 fake online shops that were selling fraudulent virus-related items. Numerous other malware and phishing sites have been removed, as well as almost 900 advance-fee fraud schemes. It coincides with new online safety advice from the agency as part of a national awareness campaign. NCSC also launched an email reporting service, which the public can use to flag any suspicious activity.

BBC News The Daily Telegraph City AM





Scotland faces ‘economic crisis’ from COVID-19

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned that COVID-19 has caused an “economic crisis” in Scotland, following a new Scottish Government report predicting that GDP could fall by around 33% during the current period of social distancing. The report’s author, chief economist Gary Gillespie, said that businesses were dealing with “no ordinary economic downturn,” and urged them to seek the financial support on offer. Mr Gillespie predicted that there was unlikely to be any rebound in GDP until July. The State of the Economy report also indicates that in worst case, unemployment would peak at more than 14% early next year and that it may take until 2025 for economic output to recover the ground it has lost.

The Scotsman, Page: 1, 4, 5 The Times





Scotland set to get its first legal cannabis farm

Scotland is set to get its first legal cannabis farm, in Langholm. Local agricultural entrepreneurs William and Neil Ewart were given permission by Dumfries and Galloway Council; in its decision report, the authority said that it offered an opportunity to diversify and support the existing business at the family business, Craig Farm. Despite the project being granted planning permission, they will now need to apply for a licence to produce cannabis which can be used by pharmaceutical companies for drugs to treat cancer and its treatment side effects, epilepsy and pain disorders.

Daily Record The Times




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Promoting virtual content in Legal Matters Scotland


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