RELIGION IN PARLIAMENT HOUSE (NOT)
The Roman Catholic Church withdrew its petition for judicial review (see No 393) on 19 November 2004, having reached agreement with North Lanarkshire Council on the designs for joint campus primary schools in the diocese of Motherwell. The schools will have separate entrances for Catholic and non-Catholic pupils, and the staff rooms for Catholic teachers will be placed within the school teaching areas. Discussions continue, however, about two further schools in the area, at Bargeddie and Chapelhall.
The Civil Partnership Bill (for which see No 341) reached the Westminster statute book when it received Royal Assent on 18 November 2004 (on the same day as the Hunting Act, abolishing fox-hunting in England & Wales, and the Civil Contingencies Act, readying Britain against terrorist assault).
CONFIDENCE IN RELIANCE
Kevin Dunion, the Scottish Information Commissioner, issued his first decision on 24 November 2004, following an appeal under the Code of Practice on Access to Scottish Executive Information, a non-statutory precursor to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act covering the Scottish Executive and some of its agencies. The Commissioner received a complaint from Nicola Sturgeon MSP over the decision by the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS) not to publish its contract with Reliance Secure Task Management in full. Following his investigation into the case, the Commissioner determined that the presence of a confidentiality clause in the contract meant that the SPS did not breach the Code when it withheld details of the contract. However the Commissioner expressed his dissatisfaction with the type of confidentiality clause entered into by SPS, and noted that the clause would not comply with good practice guidelines under FOISA. For background on Reliance, see Nos 350-1. Full text of the Commissioner’s decision at http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/decision.htm. Note that the Freedom of Information legislation comes into effect on 1 January 2005.
The Baron Court of Prestoungrange has published on the Internet an opinion of the court on the question of what jurisdiction it will have after the abolition of feudalism on 28 November 2004. Interested readers are referred to http://www.dynastic-law.com/scot.html. The opinion argues, with much reference to learned authorities such as Craig’s Jus Feudale and Sir Thomas Innes of Learney (former Lord Lyon) that the essence of baronial jurisdiction lies in its patriarchal origins and that this is unaffected by the abolition legislation; that the Baron Court was far more linked to social, economic, cooperative, and ceremonial family-related functions than it was to exercise of actual criminal and civil judicial functions because such Baron Courts were the ‘peaceful self-governing social unit’ of local baronies; and that the primary non-judicial function as the operational mechanism of the territorial or ‘horizontal’ baronial clan formed about that barony therefore will continue.
Roy Martin QC has been elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in succession to Colin Campbell QC, who resigned in October. (15 November 2004)