(74)  Beef warrior case dropped

The food safety regulations banning the sale or provision of beef on the bone were repealed in December 1999, and the Lord Advocate thereupon instructed the dropping of the prosecution of Jim Sutherland (aka The Beef Warrior), a Lauder hotelier who had served beef on the bone at a Christmas feast in his hotel in December 1997.

(73)  Damages for the birth of a child

The House of Lords held on 25 November 1999 that the parents of a healthy normal child born after her father had received a vasectomy were not entitled to damages from the health board under whose aegis the operation had been carried out for the cost of bringing her up, although the mother could be given damages for the pain and discomfort of an unwanted pregnancy (McFarlane v Tayside Health Board, 1999 GWD 39-1888; Times, 26 November 1999).

(72)  Abolition of poindings and warrant sales?

On 24 September 1999 the Abolition of Poindings and Warrant Sales Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament by Mr Tommy Sheridan, a back bench MSP. The text presently under consideration can be viewed on the Internet at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parl_bus/legis.html.  Meanwhile in September the Scottish Law Commission was requested by the Minister of Justice to consider alternative measures for the recovery of debt. It responded in November with its Discussion Paper on Poinding and Sale: Effective Enforcement and Debtor Protection (Scot Law Com Disc Paper No 110, 1999).  The Discussion Paper suggests that finding a more socially acceptable and no less effective alternative method of debt enforcement presents “intractable problems” (para 11), and it details analogous methods of enforcement against moveables in forty-two legal systems outside Scotland. However, the Bill is thought to command considerable parliamentary support.

(71)  Lockerbie trial

The three judges who will sit in the at Camp Zeest in the Netherlands will be Lords Sutherland, Coulsfield and MacLean, with Lord Abernethy as a reserve in case of death or illness, it was announced on 18 November 1999.  Lord Abernethy will sit in the trial but will have no vote in any decision taken by the court.

(70)  Temporary sheriffs, the Lord Advocate and human rights

Under s 57 of the Scotland Act 1998, members of the Scottish Executive may not do any act incompatible with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Lord Advocate became a member of the Scottish Executive on 20 May 1999 and so subject to Convention rights, although he is exempted as the head of public prosecution in Scotland insofar as he could not have acted differently as the result of one or more provisions of primary legislation. On 11 November 1999 the High Court of Justiciary upheld a challenge under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights which brought to an end the system of temporary sheriffs in Scotland. A prosecution before Temporary Sheriff David Crowe in Linlithgow Sheriff Court was challenged on the basis that, the Lord Advocate having a key role in the appointment, dismissal and non-reappointment of temporary sheriffs as well as being head of the public prosecution system in Scotland, such sheriffs could not be regarded as sufficiently independent of the Executive to meet the requirements of Article 6 that an accused have a fair hearing before an “independent and impartial tribunal” (Starr and Chalmers v Ruxton, 1999 GWD 37-1793; Times, 17 November 1999).

The comments of the High Court in Starrs and Chalmers about the purpose of the statutory provisions under which temporary sheriffs had been appointed (Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971, s 11) led to a further challenge, this time to the validity of all appointments of temporary sheriffs since at least 1977, but this was rejected by the High Court on 25 November 1999.

(69)  House of Lords reform and the Treaty of Union

On 20 October 1999 the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords ruled that the House of Lords Bill (now the House of Lords Act 1999) did not breach Article XXII of the Treaty of Union of Scotland and England 1707 by removing the right of all the peers of Scotland to sit in the House (Lord Gray’s Motion, Times, 12 November 1999). Article XXII contained no words of entrenchment making it fundamental or unalterable in all time coming, and it had been assumed since 1707 that the Parliament of Great Britain and subsequently the United Kingdom could change the Article. Nor did the Bill discriminate against Scottish peers in its abolition of the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords; it applied to all hereditary peers equally.