Gordon Brown, MP for Dunfermline East and son of the Kirkcaldy manse as well as an Edinburgh University alumnus, became Prime Minister at last on 27 June 2007. Extensive Scots Law News research revealed that Mr Brown is not, never has been, and has no intention of ever becoming a Scots lawyer, a fact of which he seems curiously unashamed. However his new Cabinet suggested at least latent awareness of a possible weakness in its appointment of no fewer than three Ministers who are indeed Scots lawyers, viz Alastair Darling (Chancellor of the Exchequer), Des Browne (Defence and, if he ever has a spare moment, Secretary of State for Scotland) and Douglas Alexander (Development). Mr Brown is also showing an enthusiasm for constitutional reform, including a call for debate on whether the UK should have a Bill of Rights or a written constitution. On that one, he might have to hurry up a bit if the SNP Government north of the border makes any sort of fist of its position over the next year or two. There is also talk about extending the powers of Parliament in various areas, including the appointment of judges. Given the relative imminence of a Supreme Court, that might be a particularly interesting one to try.
The Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough, continues to make intermittent but unclad appearances in public and in the press. As he completes successive prison sentences at Saughton prison in Edinburgh, he attempts to leave without clothes, is then rearrested by waiting police, charged with a further breach of the peace and haled back to court (from whence, in general, back to Saughton). The pattern was however broken on 10 April 2007 when Sheriff Isobel Poole found there was insufficient evidence that the public had been placed in a state of fear and alarm by the Rambler’s nudity in the prison car park, and discharged him. Gough celebrated freedom with a naked dash from the Edinburgh Sheriff Court building in Chambers Street to the nearby Grassmarket, where he was rearrested and charged once more. This episode led to a further conviction on 10 May for breach of the peace (more people in the Grassmarket by day than in an early morning Saughton prison car park, of course), with a concomitant prison sentence, despite a defence that no-one had provided him with any clothes after his unexpected release. A further attempt to depart Saughton in the buff on 25 May renewed the old pattern of events, and on 26 June the Rambler was sentenced to a further 60 days inside, plus 14 days outstanding from his previous sentence. Meanwhile, although Scots Law News understands that Gough’s appeal against previous convictions has been heard, there is no sign of any judgement from the Court of Criminal Appeal (which, according to the not very up-to-date Naked Rambler website, consisted of five judges).
EDINBURGH LAW SCHOOL TERCENTENARY: ALUMNI WEEKEND
The tercentenary celebrations of the Edinburgh Law School climaxed with an Alumni weekend 8-10 June 2007. A photographic record is available at http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/alumni/tercweekend.aspx. A further graduation took place on 23 June, with the honoraries being Professors Martha Nussbaum, Alexander McCall Smith and Reinhard Zimmermann, and the other graduates being the School’s LLBs and PhDs for 2006-2007. The World Society of Mixed Jurisdiction Jurists also marked the tercentenary by holding its second Congress in Edinburgh 27-30 June: details here – http://www.law.ed.ac.uk/conferences/wsmjj/.
The sensational trial of Peter Tobin (60) for the rape and murder of Polish student Angelica Kluk (23) in a Glasgow Catholic church attracted enormous media attention from its beginning on 23 March 2007 until its conclusion in a guilty verdict on 4 May. An extraordinary feature of the case was the evidence about the victim’s many friendships with a number of older men: including an affair with a married man, a complex relationship with the church priest, and golf lessons from Sheriff Kieran McLernan (65) from Aberdeen, who gave evidence at the trial on 25 April about his meeting with Angelika on the evening before (in all probability) she was fatally attacked. After the verdict Tobin was revealed to be a registered sex offender who had somehow managed to escape police supervision and ended up working under an assumed identity in the church where Kluk was also staying in the summer of 2006. The church priest, Father Gerry Nugent (63), was later found guilty of contempt of court for prevaricating while giving evidence during the Tobin trial, and appeared to be disowned by the Catholic Church in Scotland despite self-confessed alcoholism.