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Letter of the Law
Wednesday, 7th October 2020
A free early morning round up of news for legal professionals across Scotland.
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MSPs urged to reject UK Brexit Bill

Michael Russell has called upon MSPs to reject the UK Government's controversial Internal Market Bill. As MSPs prepare to debate a Scottish Government motion, the Brexit secretary argued that the Bill "reduces and constrains the competence" of Holyrood and breaches international law. He said: "Quite simply, the Internal Market Bill is an unprecedented threat to the Scottish Parliament's powers. "If lower food and environmental standards are allowed elsewhere in the UK it will force Scotland to accept these standards, regardless of any laws passed at Holyrood. The Bill will also mean the UK Government taking control of key devolved spending powers and the devolved policy area of state aid." But Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said the UK Government was "rightly taking action to protect jobs, businesses and consumers" after Brexit

The Herald, Page: 6





Boris Johnson: justice system hamstrung by ‘lefty lawyers’

Boris Johnson has apparently continued the Conservative party’s attack on “lefty human rights lawyers” by publicly accusing them of hampering the criminal justice process. In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference, Boris Johnson repeated his manifesto commitment to put 20,000 police officers on the street. However, in a scripted remark likely to enrage the legal profession he added: “But fan though I am of the police, we need to see results, not just spending; and so we are also backing those police, and protecting the public, by changing the law to stop the early release of serious sexual and violent offenders, and stopping the whole criminal justice system from being hamstrung by what the home secretary would doubtless and rightly call the lefty human rights lawyers and other do-gooders.”

The Law Society Gazette Evening Standard


Redress scheme should allow litigation advice

The Faculty of Advocates has said that the proposed redress scheme for child abuse survivors contains an “inherently unfair” restriction which should be removed. Under the Scottish Government's Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill, applicants to the scheme must sign a waiver, abandoning civil proceedings, and while they can recover legal fees involved in their claim, these fees do not include advice on whether the scheme or litigation would be better for them. The bill would make fixed payments of £10,000, £20,000, £40,000 or £80,000 depending on an applicant's history. It is being considered at stage 1 by the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Skills Committee. "To expect potential applicants to the redress scheme to evaluate, without legal advice, the merits or otherwise of accepting an award under the redress scheme rather than pursuing litigation, is inherently unfair to applicants", Faculty maintains in its submission to the committee. "Expert legal advice is necessary if applicants are to reach an informed decision as to whether applying to the redress scheme is preferable to pursuing civil litigation".

The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland






Police told wrong family about teenager's death

Police have apologised to the family of a teenager after they were incorrectly told he had died in an Aberdeenshire car crash. The 18-year-old was critically injured in an incident on the A90 near Crimond on Monday but his family were told he had been killed. In fact, it was 19-year-old Dylan Irvine who had died in the crash. Ch Insp Neil Lumsden said incorrect information had been given to police at the scene.

BBC News






UK construction picks up speed in September

The UK’s construction industry accelerated in September, bolstered by a bounce in the housing market following the coronavirus lockdown, a survey has revealed. The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers' Index accelerated to 56.8 from 54.6 in August, above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists which had pointed to a slight slowing. "Forward-looking indicators point to a sustained rise in activity, with new work increasing at the quickest pace since before the lockdown and sentiment towards the 12-month outlook at its strongest for seven months," said Eliot Kerr, an economist at IHS Markit.

Daily Mail The Daily Telegraph, Page: 4 The Times, Page: 38 Daily Express, Page: 45 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Sun, Page: 43 I, Page: 43 Yorkshire Post, Page: 18





Edinburgh Council suspends leading social worker after death of colleague awaiting trial

A senior official has been suspended by Edinburgh City Council in the wake of the death of a social work manager who was awaiting trial for sexual assault. Andy Jeffries, a senior manager with the children’s practice team, part of the Children and Families department, has been temporarily removed from duty on a “precautionary basis” as the council conducts an inquiry into how previous complaints made against a member of his team, Sean Bell, were handled. Mr Bell was found dead on August 27th, when he was facing a criminal trial for allegations of historic sexual assault, domestic abuse and rape. The police investigation into Mr Bell found historic complaints made against him by council staff going back decades. Pinsent Masons has been appointed to carry out the current council investigation and all political group leaders on the council were being “fully kept up to date”.

The Scotsman





Reoffending rate at 21-year low

The reconviction rate for offenders in Scotland has dropped to a 21-year low, the latest official figures show. Statistics for the 2017-18 offender cohort show the percentage of offenders who were reconvicted within a year was 26.3%, a one percentage point decrease from 27.3% in 2016-17. The average number of reconvictions – a measure of how often offenders are reconvicted – was down by 4% over the same period, from 0.48 to 0.46. Over the decade between 2008-09 and 2017-18, the reconviction rate decreased by 5.2 percentage points from 31.5% to 26.3%, while the average number of reconvictions per offender decreased by 23% from 0.60 to 0.46. Offenders who committed a crime of dishonesty had the highest reconviction rate, at 42.6%, while those who committed a sexual crime had the lowest, at 11.5%. Males were again reconvicted more often, 12% on average, than females, though both showed a reduction on the previous year. The figures also show that offenders given a short custodial sentence of one year or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those given a community payback order.

The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland The Herald, Page: 2 The Scotsman, Page: 17





US digital lawyers expand into Scotland

Rocket Lawyer is expanding its services into Scotland. The online legal services platform said providing its legal products and services to Scottish business owners, landlords, and families means they can make and sign hundreds of digital legal documents online. Scottish businesses and consumers can also use the "Ask a lawyer" service to receive quick answers and consultations on legal matters from Scottish lawyers. The firm said demand for its legal products and services in Scotland has accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Herald, Page: 23







Edinburgh council narrows gender pay gap

Edinburgh City Council has released an annual update on its pay performance, showing the difference between the average pay of all male employees and the average pay of all female employees in 2019 was 4.1% - down from 4.8% in 2018. The average pay rates overall worked out at £15.65 an hour for women and £16.32 for men. The median average gender pay gap - calculated using the mid-point between the highest and lowest paid men and women - was higher at 6.7%, meaning the middle-paid woman was paid 93p for every £1 paid to the middle-paid man and hourly rates of £13.64 for women and £14.62 for men.

Edinburgh Evening News





First Minister to announce ‘targeted’ restrictions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out the introduction of a national “circuit breaker” lockdown, but is today expected to announce measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the Central Belt. Ms Sturgeon confirmed at her daily briefing yesterday that she will make a statement at the Scottish Parliament regarding the extent of “targeted” restrictions that will be put in place, which could include local travel restrictions or the closure of pubs and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots.

The Scotsman, Page: 1 The Press and Journal, Page: 2, 3


SHRC highlights human rights breaches in social care cuts

Many people who use social care support at home have experienced either a reduction or complete withdrawal of support during the coronavirus pandemic, to the detriment of their rights, according to research published today by the Scottish Human Rights Commission. Cases brought to the Commission's notice include people being left without essential care, such as assistance to get up and go to bed, leaving people forced to sleep in their wheelchairs, and assistance to wash and use the toilet, to eat and drink, and to take medication. The Commission says it is "deeply concerned" about the current social care support available to people whose packages have been reduced or withdrawn, and calls for the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) to commit jointly to the return of care and support at pre-pandemic levels, as a minimum. It also calls for the Government to establish better data collection mechanisms, and for public authorities to use human rights as a tool to inform future decisions about people's care and support.

The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland The National





LawCare launches ambitious wellbeing survey

Legal mental health charity LawCare has launched a "groundbreaking" research study titled "Life in the Law" ahead of World Mental Health Day. The research seeks to understand the day-to-day realities of life in the law, using three academic research scales for burnout, psychological safety and autonomy to look at the impact of work culture and working practices on the wellbeing of legal professionals. Anyone working in the legal industry, including support staff, can complete the online questionnaire across the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The results will form the basis of an academic paper and will be announced next year.

The Journal of the Law Society of Scotland






Promoting virtual content in Legal Matters Scotland


As 2020 plans are changed and meeting and event schedules are cancelled, more and more organisations are planning new ways to share their content with Scottish Law firms and their clients. At Legal Matters Scotland, we wanted to bring our partners and readers alternative options to promote their white papers, webinars and e-books with reduced fees and no long term contract. As remote working becomes the norm for the foreseeable future, Legal Matters Scotland wants to support the efforts being made to deliver valuable on-line tools to help us continue to communicate and work more effectively through these unprecedented times. If you would like to speak to us about promoting your webinars and sponsored content get in touch with us here.


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