WAVERLEY LINE BILL PASSED
The Waverley Railway (Scotland) Bill (for the background to which see Nos 257, 418, 445, 502) was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 14 June 2006, by 114 votes to one, with one abstention. A last-minute attempt to have the Act authorize the building of the line in stages only was defeated. The project is costed at £155 million (watch this space). Work is expected to commence shortly, with completion scheduled for 2011 (again, watch this space). It will run from Newcraighall (by Edinburgh) to Tweedbank, south of Galashiels.
The Crown Office published a review of the law on sexual offences, in particular relating to rape, on 14 June 2006. The fifty recommendations in the report include the following:
The development of comprehensive training and guidance for prosecutors, and the introduction of a process of certification for legal staff working in this difficult area. Changes to prosecution practice and policy, including a presumption in favour of prosecution where there is sufficient credible and reliable evidence to prosecute. Only where there are insurmountable weaknesses in the case, which mean that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction, should a decision be made to take no proceedings.Strengthening communication with victims Communication between the police and prosecutors at the earliest stage is to be strengthened to allow the Procurator Fiscal to provide advice and direction and to influence evidence-gathering. Until the law is reconsidered by this Parliament, the charge of sodomy involving male or transgender victims and children should always be prosecuted in the High Court.For full details, see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2006/06/14161525.
SENIOR JUDICIARY (VACANCIES AND INCAPACITY) (SCOTLAND) BILL
Our Parliamentary correspondent Scott Wortley reports that the short (5-section) Senior Judiciary (Vacancies and Incapacity) (Scotland) Bill (see Nos 566, 570, for the background) is now available athttp://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/65-senjudic/b65s2-introd.pdf
with explanatory notes athttp://www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/bills/65-senjudic/b65s2-introd-en.pdf
Incapacity is defined in s 4 (1)(a) of the Bill as follows:
incapacitated, in relation to the Lord President or the Lord Justice Clerk, means unable by reason of ill health to exercise the functions of the office concerned;
However, in order to determine whether the powers of the Lord President should be transferred due to incapacity s 1 (3) provides
(3) For the purposes of this section—(a) the Lord President is to be regarded as incapacitated only if the First Minister has received a declaration in writing signed by at least 5 judges of the Inner House declaring that they are satisfied that the Lord President is incapacitated;(b) in such a case, the Lord President is to be regarded as incapacitated until the First Minister has received a declaration in writing signed by at least 5 judges of the Inner House declaring that they are satisfied that the Lord President is no longer incapacitated.
Subsection (4) then provides that (unless the Lord Justice Clerk has already had powers transferred to him under the Act) those signing the letter must include the Lord Justice Clerk.
The Bill was passed on 15 June 2006.
LORD PRESIDENT ABSENT: NEW LAW NEEDED (2)
The Senior Judiciary (Vacancies and Incapacity) (Scotland) Bill will be presented in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 15 June 2006 (for the background see No 566). It is to be considered by a committee of the whole Parliament and is due to conclude by close of business on Thursday.
On 9 June 2006 Lady Smith ordered the disclosure to the News of the World legal team of the minute of the meeting of the executive committee of the Scottish Socialist Party held on 9 November 2004, following which the party leader Tommy Sheridan resigned. The News of the World had sought the disclosure to help in defending the defamation action brought against it by Mr Sheridan (see Nos 562-563). The party’s argument was that disclosure would against rights of freedom of association and political expression, but the equally rights-based argument, that the newspaper had a right to a fair trial, prevailed. The document will however be redacted before disclosure so as not to disclose the identities of those present at the meeting.