Gordon Jackson QC MSP, against whom an important professional negligence claim has been laid (see No 368), has himself lost a negligence action against Edinburgh City Council in respect of a slip on untreated ice in the city’s Johnston Terrace in December 1999 and a resultant shoulder injury. In an opinion issued on 4 November 2004, Temporary Judge Gordon Reid QC ruled that Jackson’s claim should be dismissed as irrelevant, saying that Johnston Terrace was not gritted sooner than it was because of the council’s policy of giving certain areas priority over other areas, a matter for the exercise of the Council’s discretion, which had not been challenged. The opinion is available on the Scottish Courts website: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/A2269.html.
HALLOWEEN NEWS: BARON COURT OF PRESTOUNGRANGE PARDONS WITCHES: TRICK OR TREAT?
Scots Law News No 366 drew attention to the activities of the baron court of Prestoungrange and Delphinton which are occurring despite – or perhaps because of – the impending destruction of barony tenure and any vestigial barony jurisdiction by the coming into force on 28 November 2004 of the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc (Scotland) Act 2000. The court has got into the news again – or at least into the Edinburgh Evening News for 28 October 2004 – by announcing its intention to pardon 81 East Lothian persons convicted of witchcraft in the 16th and 17th centuries. The pardoning ceremony will take place at the Gothenburg pub in Prestonpans on Halloween (31 October). It does not seem to be clear, however, whether or not the court originally convicted the unfortunate witches, or whether a baron had or has powers to grant pardons for any crime. The Evening News illustrated the story with a picture of the Wicked Witch of the East from The Wizard of Oz – possibly a cunning pun of some kind on the fact that the baron, Dr Gordon Prestoungrange, is currently at his winter HQ in Queensland. Or is Scots Law News being too smart for its seven-league boots here?
A reminder of the Prestoungrange court’s cyberfeudalsim” website: www.prestoungrange.org/prestoungrange/index.html.
The story of Steve Gough, the Naked Rambler (for which see Nos 306 and 307) has been dramatised by Dave Smith and Euan Martin in a play entitled Who Bares, Wins. The play, currently in rehearsal, will be touring the Highlands and Islands during the winter. It approaches the story from the perspective of the postmistress of Dunnet, north of John o’Groats, outraged not only by the Rambler’s stunt but also by his failure to reach her village. (31 October 2004)
October 2004 saw issues of religion – or at any rate, connected to religion – heading into the Court of Session. On 12 October an action began before Lady Paton, between the Free Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing). The case concerns the ownership of about 100 churches and manses. The FCS (Continuing) split from the Free Church in 2000 when the latter refused to reopen investigations into claims of conspiracy and sexual misconduct against a leading liberal Free Church minister, professor Donald MacLeod. The FCS (Continuing) claims to be the true Free Church, having faithfully adhered to the principles on which the church was founded at the Disruption of 1843, and therefore to be entitled to retain the property of the Church. The FCS (Continuing) enjoys the support of about one-fifth of Free Church ministers and about one-tenth of the total congregation of 11,500. At the other end of the Christian spectrum, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland announced on 13 October that it would be seeking judicial review of a decision by the Scottish Executive that its consent was not needed before North Lanarkshire Council could implement a scheme to make St Aloysius School, Chapelhall, a mixed-faith campus school on a new site. The transfer of six other Catholic primary schools in the diocese of Motherwell to mixed-faith campuses has been agreed, but the Church believes that the Executive decision contravenes the provisions of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 on denominational schools. At the heart of the dispute lie concerns about whether the new schools do enough to respect the need for a Catholic ‘ethos’ in the schools, the plans for which already include separate pupil entrances, reception areas and staff rooms, as well as the retention of religious iconography. One wonders whether a modern Tertullian would have cause to repeat the observation of the pagans about the early Christians, See how they love one another”.