(165)  Fox-hunting bill given Royal Assent

The Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Bill, which seeks to ban fox-hunting with dogs, received Royal Assent on 15 March 2002.  It can therefore be taken that neither the Law Officers nor the Secretary of State for Scotland thought the Bill to be beyond the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.  Any challenge to the Bill on this ground will therefore have to be made in the courts by persons or organisations with an interest in the matter.  Meantime, discussion of legislative regulation of fox-hunting in England and Wales has resumed, with the most likely outcome now thought to be a complete ban except in certain areas of the country.

(164)  Lockerbie appeal dismissed

The appeal of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi against his conviction for the bombing of a Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie in December 1988, killing 274 people on the plane and on the ground, has been unanimously dismissed by the Court of Criminal Appeal sitting at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands on 14 March 2002.  On the same evening Megrahi began his life sentence in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

(161)  Sperm donation and parental rights

On 7 March 2002 Sheriff Laura Duncan held in Glasgow Sheriff Court that a homosexual sperm donor had parental rights in relation to a child produced with his sperm and being brought up by a lesbian couple including the mother.  The donor had fallen out with the couple about how much access he should have to the child.  The sheriff held that the donor was the child’s natural father and that there was no evidence that he had entered into a contract with the couple merely to provide sperm.  The sheriff also held that the couple did not constitute a family unit and that the mother’s partner in the relationship should not be awarded parental rights.

(160)  Crown Office reform

The Lord Advocate announced a wide-ranging modernisation of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service on 4 March 2002.  This follows the Chhokar inquiries in 2000-2001 (see Nos 88, 89, 94, 135).  A new chief executive post will be created, more prosecutors will be recruited, better management and support structures established, and the service reorganised into 12 areas, with Strathclyde police area divided into five of these.  Norman McFadyen, regional procurator fiscal for Lothian and Borders, becomes Crown Agent Designate, while the present Crown Agent, Andrew Normand, will undertake a project on the integration of objectives of the various elements of the criminal justice system.

At the same time the Lord Advocate issued guidelines on racist crime for all chief constables.  These will be implemented from 1 April 2002 and are available at http://www.crownoffice.gov.uk.

On 6 March 2002 the Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament questioned the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor General for Scotland and Sir Anthony Campbell on the Chhokhar case, the subsequent reports, and the reforms outlined above.  The discussion can be read at the Scottish Parliament website, http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/official_report/cttee/just2-02/j202-0902.htm#Col1080.  The debate concludes at col 1125.