The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, which provides for the abolition of fox-hunting with packs of dogs, was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 13 February 2002. The Bill will now receive consideration from the Advocate General, the Lord Advocate and the Attorney General as to whether it is within legislative competence (Scotland Act 1998, s 33). Each has four weeks from the date of passage to decide whether or not to refer the Bill to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The fox-hunting lobby has expressed the view that the Bill contravenes Convention rights under Article 8 (respect for private life) and Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR (right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions). Part of the argument is that jobs (and associated housing and other property) will be lost without compensation under the Bill.
The House of Lords has affirmed the decision of the First Division of the Court of Session (2000 SLT 1123) in the case, Caledonian North Sea Ltd v London Bridge Engineering Ltd, The Times 14 Feb 2002, 2002 GWD 6-177, 2002 SLT 278. The House held that contractual indemnities were primary obligations, and that other insurance arranged by a party without obligation to do so was res inter alios acta. One party’s voluntary decision to insure should not operate to the advantage of the other party against whom a contractual claim for indemnity was made. There is also discussion of the meaning of the exclusion of indirect and consequential loss from the scope of the indemnity; held that this did not cover matters of mere quantification of loss such as the excess above the Scots law value of the claims in reaching the mid-Atlantic settlement with injured parties.
McGrigor Donald, the second largest firm of solicitors in Scotland, is to follow in the footsteps of Dundas & Wilson (see No 18) and merge with the legal services arm of one of the Big Five international accountancy firms, KPMG. There will continue to be a Scottish practice, McGrigors Scotland, as well as a McGrigors Northern Ireland; but the London arm will be known as KLegal, and the McGrigors logo will be replaced by one in the KLegal housestyle. KLegal believes that there is an advantage in using Scottish solicitors for commercial work because they charge lower rates than other London firms. Meanwhile, Arthur Andersen, who merged with Dundas & Wilson in 1997 (see No 18), are in difficulties as the auditors of the failed US company Enron, and may face claims worth many millions of dollars. It is thought, however, that this is unlikely to affect Dundas & Wilson.
No child under the age of 12 should face prosecution in court, the Scottish Law Commission has recommended. In a report on the age of criminal responsibility the Commission says it has set the limit at an age when a child has sufficient maturity to understand court proceedings. A higher limit of 16 was rejected because, even though prosecutions in this age range are rare, they can be in the public interest. Children committing offences are in practice generally referred to the Children’s Hearing system.