THE BARON COURTS OF PRESTOUNGRANGE AND DELPHINSTOUN
2004 SLT (News) 131 contains the following laconic announcement:
‘On 13 and 27 July the Baron Courts of Prestoungrange and Delphinstoun will be holding final sessions in the Trinity Session’.
There is however no mention of the abolition of any vestigial baronial jurisdiction by s 63(1) of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (S) Act 2000. That provision comes into force on 28 November 2004: see the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000 (Commencement No 3) Order 2003, SSI 2003/620. The delightful website of the Baron Court of Prestoungrange can be found at www.prestoungrange.org/prestoungrange/index.html. Amongst other things it gives a great deal of information about Morrison’s Haven, the former East Lothian port which has troubled great legal minds from time to time (see W A Wilson, Introductory Essays on Scots Law, 2nd edn, 1984, p.78 – St John is said to have written the Apocalypse nearby.)
On a turn-out of 30.9% (up from 24.83% in 1999), Scotland voted in 2 MEPs from each of the Labour, Conservative and Scottish Nationalist Parties in the election held on 11 June 2004 and declared on 13 and 14 June. The LibDems got one: Elspeth Attwooll, formerly lecturer in Jurisprudence in the Glasgow Law School. With only seven MEPs, there is one less Scottish MEP by comparison with the 1999 election (see No 58). Labour received 26.4% of the vote (down from 28.7% last time), the SNP 19.7% (down from 27.2%), the Conservatives 17.8% (down from 19.8%), and the LibDems 13.1% (up from 10.1%). The anti-EU UK Independence Party received 6.7% of the vote, by comparison with its 16.8% and 12 MEPs south of the border. Nevertheless its Scottish performance represented a significant improvement on its 1.3% share in 1999, and only the Scottish Greens of the small parties did better.
The Court of Session (Lords Cullen, Hamilton and Menzies) granted the Scottish Executive an extension of time on 9 June 2004 to appeal the decision in Napier v Scottish Ministers 2004 GWD 14-316 that the practice of ‘slopping out’ in certain Scottish prisons was ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ contrary to Article 3 of the ECHR. The usual deadline of 21 days from the date of the decision had been missed (see No 361). Neil Brailsford QC for the Executive had explained, apparently at some length, that a senior clerk in the Lord Advocate’s Department had been tasked with lodging the papers on the day of the deadline, but had gone on a training course and asked her deputy to do it for her. Her deputy had tried, but she did not have all the necessary documents with her, so court officials would not accept the submission. The clerk did not phone to arrange for the paperwork to be delivered, but also did not tell anyone else in the Executive what had happened. The Court accepted that the failure was inadvertent, and that the appeal should be allowed to go ahead.
Following the decision of Lord Bonomy in Napier v Scottish Ministers 2004 GWD 14-316 that the continued practice of ‘slopping out’ in some Scottish prisons was contrary to prisoners’ human rights (see No 353), the Scottish Ministers failed to submit their intended appeal within the required deadline of 21 days from the decision (given on 26 April 2004). On 7 June 2004 an extension of time was sought from the Court of Session, and a decision is awaited. Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson, still under intense political pressure as a result of other events (see No 350), appeared to blame the Lord Advocate’s department for the slip-up. Politicians of other parties blamed Cathy; she can comfort herself with the thought that at least she wasn’t involved in the Scottish Parliament building project, and that Lord Fraser won’t be after her as well (see No 358).