This week (beginning 24 November 2003) sees an appeal to the House of Lords in the case of Burnett’s Trustees v Grainger (see No 173; also No 129), in which the scope of the (in)famous decision in Sharp v Thomson 1997 SC (HL) 66 will be reviewed. The panel consists of Lords Bingham, Hoffmann, Hobhouse, Hope and Rodger. Conveyancers, insolvency and property lawyers are all holding their breath. So are environmentalists and the inhabitants of Harris, as the appeal of Lafarge Redland Aggregates against refusal of permission to create a superquarry” at Lingerbay on the island reaches the Court of Session once more (see Nos 89 and 193). It appears that the mountain of Roineabhal will have to be set against the creation of jobs for the people of Harris.”
The response of the Justice Minister on behalf of the Scottish Executive to the Supreme Court consultation (see Nos 236, 276 and 279) was made public on 14 November 2003. She welcomed the proposals in the consultation paper, although warning that it was essential to include amongst the members of the court at least two members qualified in Scots law, and that this should be provided for by statute. The right of appeal to the House of Lords on civil matters has served the Scottish justice system well. A tradition of high quality and durable decisions has built up in a way which has ensured valued and valuable consistency throughout the UK. The Executive see no reason to upset the current balance. Equally, the Executive do not believe that there is any need to modify current rights of appeal in relation to criminal matters to give the new UK Supreme Court jurisdiction in those respects simply for the sake of consistency. There are considerable differences between the systems of criminal law in Scotland and England and the current system has served the Scottish justice system well. The full text of the response is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/about/JD/JD-BSU/00018515/SEresponse.pdf.
The response of the Faculty of Advocates to the Supreme Court consultation (see Nos 236 and 276) was made public on 10 November 2003. The Faculty highlighted the need for any new Court to be administered and funded on a UK basis, and argued that this could not be done through the Department of Constitutional Affairs, which has responsibility only for the legal system of England and Wales. The Faculty therefore suggests an independent Supreme Court Service. It also proposes that the Court should sit in premises not used by the courts of England and Wales, and that it might sit in non-metropolitan centres in the north of England or Cardiff or Belfast (or Glasgow? Ed) to emphasise its UK and independent character. The Faculty also argues that it should be possible for there to be a majority of Scottish judges on Scottish appeals to the new court.
On 7 November 2003 Steven Gough, the Naked Rambler, was found guilty at Dingwall Sheriff Court of walking naked in the presence of the public in circumstances likely to produce a road safety hazard and a breach of the peace on Cromarty Bridge, Ardullie, in Ross-shire, on 3 October this year (see No 266). The trial took place in Gough’s absence. Initially brought into court in a red quilted cover with his hands handcuffed behind his back, he refused to co-operate with proceedings unless he could do so in the nude. Gough was then removed from the court, and the trial continued in his absence, with a solicitor appointed by the court to represent his interests. Sentence was deferred at the conclusion of the trial, and Gough was remanded in custody, to appear for sentence at Inverness Sheriff Court later in November.
The Law Lords have published on the Internet their response to the Government’s Consultation Paper on a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom, proposing the replacement of the House of Lords and the devolution jurisdiction of the Privy Council (see http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/JudicialSCR271003.pdf ). Notable amongst the majority of the Law Lords who are opposed to the replacement of the present arrangements with a Supreme Court are the Scottish Lords, Lord Hope of Craighead and Lord Rodger of Earlsferry.