Tommy Sheridan to learn law at Strathclyde

Scottish Legal News for 14 July 2008 carries the story that Tommy Sheridan is to start a law degree at Strathclyde Law School.

Readers of Scots Law News will recall that in his famous defamation case against the News of the World in 2006 Mr Sheridan sacked his counsel and became a party litigant, a move regarded by media commentators at the time as the 'master-stroke' that won the case.  It is a pleasing thought that perhaps at some point in the future Mr Sheridan will be admitted to the Faculty of Advocates as a member.  Or perhaps he will join his friend Aamer Anwar (a Strathclyde alumnus) in the solicitor branch of the profession, although probably not as a conveyancer, one imagines.

There are however a few hurdles to clear before any of this speculation can be confirmed, as all will recognise.  But Mr Sheridan has certainly chosen the right law school, with Professor Kenneth Norrie as the author of the leading text on defamation, Professors John Blackie and Don Nicholson being about to produce a book on the law of evidence, and Professor Alan Paterson as an authority on professional ethics.

A PS to this story, obtained from The Firm's news site for 2 July 2008, is that Mr Sheridan has raised an action for breach of contract against the owners of Talk Radio, which declared him redundant in April.  The case is to be brought in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, but Mr Sheridan will be represented by Paul Holleran of the National Union of Journalists.  In essence the dispute is about whether the amount to be paid to Mr Sheridan by way of redundancy is calculated by reference to a commitment of one programme per week or three, over a three-month notice period, the difference amounting to £6,000.  Every little helps.

Gail Sheridan cleared

There was slightly better news for the Sheridan family on 10 July 2008 when Gail Sheridan was cleared by her employers of the accusation of theft made last February.

Mrs Sheridan, who is a cabin crew member in British Airways, was suspended from her position after being accused of theft of alcohol miniatures from the company.  The accusation was made after a police search of the house where Mrs Sheridan lives with her husband Tommy (the well-known politician and media personality) and their child.  The search was carried out in connection with investigations of allegations of perjury committed during Mr Sheridan's successful defamation case against the News of the World in 2006.

A brief disciplinary hearing held by British Airways found that the allegations against Mrs Sheridan were unfounded, and she was enabled to return to work.  She has been employed by British Airways for 23 years.

Pleural plaques in England & Wales

England & Wales Minister of Justice Bridget Prentice made the following statement in Parliament on 9 July 2008:

The government has today published a consultation paper: 'Pleural plaques'.

The consultation paper considers what the most appropriate way of supporting people diagnosed with pleural plaques would be, following the Law Lords' decision on 17 October 2007 that pleural plaques are not actionable or compensatable damage.

The paper proposes action to improve understanding of pleural plaques and to provide support and reassurance to those diagnosed with pleural plaques to help allay their concerns. It considers the issues that arise in relation to changing the law of negligence and invites views on whether this would or would not be appropriate. It also seeks views on the merits of offering no fault financial support to people diagnosed with pleural plaques, and on two possible ways of doing this.

We would welcome responses to the paper from Honourable Members and from all those with an interest in this important issue.

So it looks as though there may be action in this area south as well as north of the border.  However there is no commitment in the statement towards changing the law of negligence along the lines proposed in the Scottish Bill.  Instead the emphasis appears to be on some sort of welfare support for thos carrying pleural plaques.

It is rumoured that this apparent change of heart by the Government is one of the concessions the Prime Minister made to backbenchers to obtain their support for his Terrorism Bill and its extension of the detention period thereunder to 42 days.

Data protection wins out over FoI

The House of Lords has unanimously reversed the decision of the First Division in Common Services Agency v Scottish Information Commissioner [2008] UKHL 47.

More comment here later once Scots Law News has digested the lengthy opinions of Lords Hope and Rodger (which differ on the question of what constitutes 'personal data' under the Data Protection Act 1998).  The other concurring Law Lords seem to favour Lord Hope's interpretation.

Pleural plaque bill criticised by insurers

The Scotsman for 7 July 2008 contained an article by Nick Starling of the Association of British Insurers criticising the Scottish Government's Damages (Asbestosis Related Conditions) Bill, launched last month.

The Bill provides for compensation to be payable to persons with certain asbestos-related conditions including pleural plaques.  It is accepted that in themselves these conditions are not harms, although they may indicate that the carrier could later develop more serious conditions such as mesothelioma.

Mr Starling argues that if the Bill's principles are accepted it may open up a range of claims for "exposure only" conditions, "with severe cost implications for employers, former employers, government, and insurers".  He also suggests that the legislation gives carriers mixed messages, implying that pleural plaques inevitably connote future ill-health (which is not the case).

Fit like? Aberdeen police claim historical priority

Responding to our item about elderly police forces, Graeme Brown has stated the case for the seniority of Aberdeen's boys in blue. 

In Graeme's own words –

Dear Professor MacQueen,
It was with interest that I read the most recent post to the excellent Scots Law News ('Gonnae nae dae that?  Glesca polis see off Metropolitan untruths').  As a native of Aberdeen, I have to take issue with the
claim that the Glasgow police are the oldest service in Britain, if not the world.  I respectfully refer you to Professor Neil Walker's chapter 'Situating Scottish Policing' in the 1999 volume Criminal Justice in Scotland (Duff, P and Hutton, N, eds., Ashgate) where it is stated at page 96:
"The establishment in the towns of 'new police' forces of professional officers with a clear public mandate took place through a series of private Acts of Parliament at the turn of the 19th century.  Aberdeen led the way in 1795, followed by Glasgow in 1800, Edinburgh in 1805, and, in rapid progression, a cluster of smaller urban centres, until in 1833 the first public Act enabling the establishment of police forces in all royal burghs or burghs of barony was passed."
(Professor Walker was himself Professor of Legal and Constitutional Theory at the University of Aberdeen at the time he wrote this).
As such, Aberdeen's force pre-dates that of Glasgow by five years and is also three years older than the Thames River Police also referred to in the posting.  It seems that Grampian Police didn't take issue with
Glasgow's claim to be the older force.  Perhaps they were too busy dealing with Sergeant Eros/Stuart Kennedy?
Kind regards
Graeme Brown – Ph.D. student, University of Edinburgh
Graeme Brown, Solicitor
Judicial Assistant
Supreme Courts
Parliament House
11 Parliament Square
Edinburgh EH1 1RQ
Many thanks from Scots Law News, Graeme.  Now – any other bids?

Editor's PS – Professor Walker is at Edinburgh now, but possibly his intervening sojourn at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy may have enabled him to expand the scope of his research on these matters?

Gonnae nae dae that? Glesca polis see off Metropolitan untruths

The Advertising Standards Authority has rebuked the Metropolitan Police for untruthful advertising and upheld the claim of the Glasgow force to be the oldest police service in Britain (if not the world).

The Met had advertised for royal protection officers, saying in the ad that "We're not just the oldest police service in the world,  We're also the most modern."  This led to a complaint to the ASA, apparently from a Glasgow police source.  Investigations showed that the Glasgow police were set up in 1800, 29 years before Sir Robert Peel (from whom "bobbies" and "peelers") did the same in London.  The dispute was then settled without a formal adjudication when the Met assured the ASA that the wording of the ad would be amended appropriately.

According to The Times for 4 July 2008, the Met spokesperson said: "We are always pleased that our adverts receive attention and we welcome feedback."  An unidentified "Glasgow police source" was also quoted as saying: "It's a bloody cheek.  You think they would check these things out first."

Times reader comment suggested, however, that the oldest police force in Britain was in fact the Thames River Police, set up, as its website also claims, in 1798.  For its part, Scots Law News notes that Glasgow police are now part of Strathclyde Police, wonders if anyone has complained about the claim to the most modernity, and also whether there are any post-modern police out there.

Passed off in the Royal Mile?

The not always straightforward business of flogging Scottish merchandise in Edinburgh's High Street was further complicated when Gold Brothers, leading traders in the field, were interdicted ad interim from commercial dealing in woollen scarves made to "Skye Isles" tartan designs on 2 July 2008.

It appears that a Mrs Rosemary Samios, who lives in Australia, claims to own the copyright in "Isle of Skye" tartan, having acquired it in 1992 from a Skye crofter called Angus MacLeod.  She has raised the action against Gold Brothers in the Court of Session and is seeking £150,000 in damages as well as the interim interdict now successfully obtained.  She runs a licensing business with her intellectual property, charging £12,000 per licence plus a 10% royalty on sales.  A raid on a Gold Brothers warehouse in Kirkcaldy had apparently revealed enough material to make 9,000 kilts with the tartan applied.  Gold Brothers were also accused of applying the tartan to material of inferior quality, and to a variety of objects such as rugs and hats as well as scarves and kilts, which they sold through subsidiary outlets trading as Heritage of Scotland, John Morrisons, Clans of Scotland and the Scottish Shop as well as online.

All this information is based on media reports, as the opinion of Lady Dorrian granting the interim interdict has not appeared on the Scottish Courts website at the time of writing.

The case illustrates the potential commercial significance of the Register of Tartans to be created under a Bill that completed Stage 1 of its legislative progress back on 19 June, which looks set to commence operations in the not too distant future.  The Register will be based, incidentally, in the National Archives rather than the Registers of Scotland.

It is interesting that Mrs Samios' claim is based on copyright (i.e. the premise is that the tartan is some identifiable person's artistic creation) rather than on, say, a registered design or trade mark, or on the common law of passing off.  Unless, as is often true with media reports of this kind of case, the reporters are simply getting into a muddle with the different forms of intellectual property protection.  Those who would like further illumination on the subject are recommended to consult MacQueen, Waelde and Laurie, Contemporary Intellectual Property: Law and Policy (Oxford University Press, 2007).  See also comment from the IP Kat under the heading "The 'bazaar' tale of 'tartan tat'".

Annan Athletic replace Gretna in Scottish football league

To the delight of at least one of the Scots Law News team, Annan Athletic FC won the competition to be the team to replace the late lamented Gretna FC in the Scottish Football League on 3 July 2008.

Annan succeeded despite finishing seventh in the East of Scotland League in season 2007-2008, behind other contenders Spartans (3rd), Edinburgh City (4th) and Preston (5th).  One wonders if geographical proximity to Gretna was any factor in the voting.  If so, the fifth contender for the SFL place, Cove Rangers of the Highland League who are based near Aberdeen, never had any chance.

Annan natives point out that the team's lowly league finish last season is by no means the whole story.  According to the SFL committee examining the matter, Annan's was the best technical bid, while the team has won the premier non-league cup competition – the Scottish Qualifying Cup South and the new replacement trophy – for the past two years.

Scots Law News wishes the new boys an absence of both eccentric, unhealthy millionaires and bandwagon-joining, football-metaphor-spinning politicians.

Sergeant Eros update

Stuart Kennedy, who earned what seemed likely to be temporary notoriety when cleared in April 2008 of carrying an offensive weapon in public by wielding a police truncheon in the course of his "police stripogram" act, has since been charged with three more offences.

Scots Law News has already noted how early on 18 May Mr Kennedy, who calls himself "Sergeant Eros" in his stripogram act, was arrested in Belmont Street Aberdeen while wearing camouflage gear, a flak jacket and a beret, and charged with breach of the peace.  On 28 June he was arrested in Fraserburgh, this time for obstructing a police officer.  And on 30 June he appeared in Peterhead Sheriff Court and pleaded not guilty to charges which allege that, dressed in police uniform, he attached flashing lights to the roof of his car and pulled motorists over, purporting to act in a police capacity.


Here is Mr Kennedy, in "Sergeant Eros" mode.  Court verdicts will no doubt tell us in due course who is persecuting whom in this developing saga.

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