A Petition (PE 619) signed by 62 Scottish law academics was submitted to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament by Professor Eric Clive of the Edinburgh Law School, calling for the Scottish Parliament to express its grave concern that the United Kingdom is engaged in military action against Iraq without the support of the Security Council of the United Nations, and on the basis of legal advice from the Attorney General, as to the legality of the use of the force, which appears to be unsound.  The petition was considered on 25 March 2003, and the Committee agreed to seek comments from the Attorney General on the arguments presented by the petitioners and to consider the petition again in the light of his response in the new session of the Parliament following the elections to be held on 1 May.  See the Official Record for that date, cols 3042-5; also at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/official_report/cttee/petit-03/pu03-0702.htm#Col3042.


The Lord President, Lord Cullen, has announced new rules of court which will allow ‘fast-track’ court hearings in personal injury cases for terminally ill people, including asbestos sufferers. The new procedures, which will be introduced from 1 April 2003, follow the Justice 2 Committee’s report calling for speedier hearings in mesothelioma cases and other cases where the person is terminally ill and might otherwise die before the conclusion of the case. Reforms to the Court of Session rules mean that all personal injury cases will be set a hearing date in 12 months. The changes to the Court’s guidance on the new procedures make clear that where someone has a life expectancy of less than 12 months, the Court will look with considerable sympathy on any application to resolve the case in a shorter timescale.

The Justice 2 Committee’s report – 2nd Report 2003 – was a response to Petition PE336 submitted to the Parliament on 22 January 2001 by Frank Maguire of Thompsons solicitors on behalf of Clydeside Action on Asbestos.

(217)  Corporate culpable homicide: the Transco case

Arising from a gas explosion in Larkhall in 1999, in which a number of people were killed, the Crown issued an indictment against the gas company Transco.  The indictment contains the first charge of culpable homicide ever libelled against a limited company in Scotland.  On 21 March 2003, Lord Carloway held the charge of culpable homicide to be both competent and relevant. The request to dismiss the indictment was refused. The Court granted Transco PLC leave to appeal.

The trial is now expected to commence on 16 September 2003.  On corporate criminal liability see Richard Mays, The criminal liability of corporations and Scots law: the lessons of Anglo-American jurisprudence, (2000) 4(1) Edinburgh Law Review 46-73.

(215)  Dunblane: freedom of information, privacy and truth

After public controversy about a 100-year closure of certain internal police reports into youth camps run by Thomas Hamilton, who in 1996 killed 16 young children and their teacher at Dunblane primary school, the Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, ordered the release of the documents on 18 March 2003.  The reports contained details of complaints of child abuse by Hamilton at the camps, but the names of children involved had been blacked out in the material to protect their privacy.  The controversy had centred on the reasons why Hamilton’s gun licence had been allowed to continue, and on the possible involvement of prominent Scottish politicians with Hamilton before 1996.

Earlier, on 10 March 2003, The Scotsman reported that Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the Secretary General of NATO, was contemplating an action of defamation against The Sunday Herald in respect of a statement made on the newspaper’s website by a member of the public, alleging a connection between Lord Robertson and Thomas Hamilton.   Lord Robertson’s own son had attended a camp run by Hamilton in the 1980s, and Lord Robertson had drawn concerns about Hamilton’s behaviour to the attention of his then MP, Michael (now Lord) Forsyth.