The Government has agreed to the House of Lords establishing a special committee under the chairmanship of Lord Richard to consider the Constitutional Reform Bill (under which a Supreme Court would be introduced to replace the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords and the devolution issues jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council). The committee will be asked to report back to the House by 24 June. The House is also to be asked on 22 March to agree to the Bill being carried over to the next parliamentary session if it has not completed all its stages by the end of the current session. The Government has also agreed not to legislate for the time being to remove the last remaining hereditary peers from the legislative chamber of the House of Lords. Lord Falconer the Lord Chancellor has promised that the Government will return to the matter in its manifesto for the next general election, expected to be held in May 2005.
Scots Law News has long taken an interest in communications between the mainland and the Isle of Skye, and therefore draws attention to the story in The Times for 18 March 2004 announcing that the Glenelg-Kyle Rhea ferry may close in the coming summer unless the owner, Mr Roddy Macleod, can find a buyer. Mr Macleod wants to concentrate on his fruit and veg business, and is hoping for a community buy-out of his ferry. He says that business on the ferry has dipped since the Skye Bridge tolls were frozen, although 14,039 cars were carried over the Sound of Sleat in the 2003 season. Passengers with cars pay £7 single, £12 return. Scots Law News hopes that those who wish to speed over to Skye without using the bridge will not be driven to swimming the Sound of Sleat as did the cattle who until 1906 headed south from Skye to the marts of the Lowlands with their drovers (see A R B Haldane, The Drove Roads of Scotland (1952), pp. 75-77).
The Justice 2 Committee of the Scottish Parliament took evidence about the implications of the Supreme Court proposals for Scotland from the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates and the editor of Scots Law News on 16 March 2004. Proceedings are recorded at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/justice2/index.htm. Common themes were the need to respect the integrity of the Scottish legal system, and to separate more clearly the judicial branch from the executive: these objectives to be achieved by increasing the number of Scots law judges in the court, having a greater Scottish say in the appointment of the judges, and separating such appointments and the funding of the court from the DCAff or any other department of government. With regard to this last point, attention was drawn to the clear separation of powers observed in this regard in the USA and Australia.
Part-time sheriff Raj Jandoo, best known as the author of one of the reports on the Crown Office following the Chhokhar affair in 2001 (see No 135), made an appearance from custody in the dock of Stornoway sheriff court on 16 March 2004. He was charged with various breaches of the peace on a Loganair flight from Edinburgh to Stornoway on the 15th, which had also had a stop at Inverness. The charges include failure to comply with instructions to switch off a mobile phone on the flight to Inverness, making references to a bomb while at Inverness airport and again on the Stornoway flight while repeatedly pressing buttons on his watch and looking around, and finally, on approach to Stornoway airport, not sitting but standing in the aisle and opening and searching overhead lockers. Jandoo pleaded not guilty to all charges, and trial will take place on 1 June. Meantime there was no sitting of the sheriff court at Lochmaddy on North Uist; Scots Law News sources close to Lochmaddy report that at least one accused, down to answer charges pertaining to the manner of his driving but sent away in the absence of the bench unavoidably detained in Lewis, spent the day instead carrying out lawful repairs to another vehicle in Berneray. It’s an ill wind …