(147)  First claim after SQA exams problem

Claire Bowen of Dalkeith has raised the first claim against the Scottish Qualifications Authority in respect of the authority’s widespread failings in the administration of the Higher and Standard Grade examination results in 2000.  Over 17,000 students in Scotland received inaccurate or missing results in August that year.  Ms Bowen was advised that she had failed Higher Music; an appeal to the SQA was unsuccessful; and in consequence dropped her intended course of sixth year study in favour of retaking the Music course.  In May 2001 she was advised that she had in fact passed the previous year with a Grade B, the authority having mislaid and failed to take into account parts of the material originally submitted for assessment.  The claim is for injuries to Ms Bowen’s psychological health and damage to her career prospects.

(146)  Spanking children, Scots law and the development of tourism

A story overlooked last year concerned a French tourist from near Beauvais, who was arrested in Edinburgh on 22 September 2001 and then spent two days in police cells, after complaints that he had smacked his 8-year old son on the bottom outside an Indian restaurant.  The father indicated that he was punishing his child for throwing a tantrum inside the restaurant.  The child was examined at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and found to have suffered no damage.  The father appeared in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on 24 September when he was charged with assault; the trial will take place in 2002.  The mother said: I will never visit Scotland again.  I just cannot understand how it can happen.  Phil Gallie, Conservative justice spokesman in Scotland said: It is criminal that the police considered taking this action … Its up to the parents if they want to smack their child.  This does no good for our image abroad.  (The Times, 13 Oct 2001).  The Scottish Executive has plans for legislation under which it will be illegal for parent to smack children under the age of 3, or to hit any of their children on the head, shake them, or strike them with any implement.

(145)  Rape, consent, and the use of force

A Court of Seven Judges is considering the law on rape in a Lord Advocate’s reference following the dismissal of a case by Lord Abernethy on the grounds that having sex without the woman’s consent is not necessarily rape if not accompanied by the use of force against the victim (see No 103).  The case was heard on 18 December 2001 and a judgment is expected early in 2002.

(144)  Lockerbie: appeal to be televised

The Lord Justice General, Lord Cullen, has ruled that the appeal of Abdelbaset Almegrahi against his conviction in the Lockerbie trial (see No 96) can be televised by the BBC and streamed on the Internet (with a simultaneous translation into Arabic).  The appeal begins on 23 January 2002 and will, like the trial, take place in Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands.  It is the first time that any Scottish appeal court proceedings will have been televised.  It is thought that the service will be of particular benefit to US relatives of victims of the bombing of PanAm 108 in 1988, who are reluctant to travel by air following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001.

(143)  Human rights, the civil jury and the lottery culture

The civil jury, long one of the betes noirs of Scottish neo-Civilians as a result of its origins in an early nineteenth-century Anglicisation of Scots law through the Jury Trials Acts of 1815, 1819, 1825 and 1830, has been challenged as contrary to Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (fair trial).  The case, which involves a £400,000 damages claim in respect of a personal injury suffered in a motorcycle accident, began before Lords Johnston, Coulsfield and Hamilton of the Court of Session on 8 January 2002.  The defenders argue that the absence of a requirement to give reasons on the part of the jury makes its operation contrary to Article 6.  Louise Milligan, counsel for the defenders, observed that juries are exposed to the lottery culture and awards in America.  We do not know what happens in the jury room. (The Times, 9 Jan 2002).

(142)  Lighting up Christmas (continued)

Mr David Rowlands of Irvine, who was interdicted by his neighbours in 2000 from switching on 8,500 Christmas lights, several singing Santas, figurines including Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, a giant plastic candy cane, a talking tree, reindeer and elves in and around his house and garden before Epiphany/Twelfth Night 2001 (see No 92), is again in trouble.  A claim of breach of interdict has been made against him because his front garden is again filled by a seasonal display featuring Santa, angels and a Nativity scene, while his garage doors are now made of Perspex, revealing within a fully lit Chistmas grotto (all featured on BBC TV’s Breakfast Time programme on 18 December 2001).