Looking forward to 2010
Scots Law News being of the view that the first decade of the twenty-first century does not end until 31 December 2010, a retrospective on the so-called 'Noughties' has been ruled out and with it a retrospective, or even an end-of-year quiz, on 2009 (especially this long after Hogmanay). Instead, let's look forward into Twenty-Ten.
One event that appears certain to interest us in the next twelve months is the well-being or otherwise of Mr Megrahi of Tripoli, along with the question of whether there will be any further public inquiry into the events of December 1988 over Lockerbie. It seems that at least some of the material that caused the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to refer the Megrahi case back to the courts will be put in the public domain, but whether this will make governments or other possible holders of inquiries feel the need to hold expensive further public investigations must be doubtful.
The fate of the Calman Commission proposals and the Scottish Parliament Bill for a referendum on independence are not necessarily inter-twined but neither looks likely to be on the statute book by the end of 2010. The Queen's Speech at Westminster on 18 November 2009 carefully avoided commitment to legislation: "In Scotland, my Government will take forward proposals in the Final Report of the Commission on Scottish Devolution." One does not imagine that a Tory Government after May 2010 (which still seems to this non-expert the likeliest outcome of the inevitable UK General Election) will be any more enthusiastic – and quite possibly it will be even less so. We are more confident in predicting that this time next year we will be taking a keener interest in the outcome of the Scottish Parliament election due in May 2011. But who knows for sure? Perhaps the SNP Government will fall during this coming year, if the opposition parties feel brave enough to force a vote of no confidence, and then we will be in uncharted waters for the Scottish Parliament anyway.
A legal question of some importance which seems sure to be ventilated further in 2010 is the decision of a seven-judge High Court that the human rights of a person detained and interviewed by the police in connection with an offence were not infringed by the absence of his solicitor at the interview (MacLean v HM Advocate 2009 HCJAC 97). Since the European Court of Human Rights has held in Salduz v Turkey (Application No. 36391/02, 27 November 2008) that the presence of a lawyer at such interviews is essential to avoid infringement of Article 6 ECHR (fair trial), the decision of the Scottish court may surprise some; and the Supreme Court could well be asked for its views on the matter. Since, as in the MacLean case itself, confessions elicited at such interviews are often a key component in prosecution cases, the matter is of considerable practical as well as theoretical importance. It should be said that safeguards are in place for the detained person under the current law, since the interviews must be videoed and taped, and the record thus created made available in court. So in the end it may be a nicer question than at first appears.
On a lighter note, we were pleased to note from the Aberdeen Evening Express in December 2009 that Sergeant Eros proposes to appeal against his June 2009 conviction for impersonating a policeman, noted here in Scots Law News. No doubt he and other regulars such as the Naked Rambler and Captain Calamity will continue their excellent work in international promotion of the Scottish legal system and, in the Captain's case, increasing recognition that its mixed character is not confined to the hybridisation of the Civil Law and Common Law traditions. The latest information Scots Law News has on the Forvik situation is the Shetlopedia article on the subject, here; it appears from this that the ownership of the island is now hotly disputed, never mind its status as a 'micronation'. The Shetlopedia article also claims that the Forvik.net website is a spoof produced by opponents of Captain Calamity, opposed to his own Forvik.com; but it is quite entertaining and includes an alleged aerial view of the islet, so we commend it to our readers.
Finally, Scots Law News looks forward confidently to an ever-increasing readership in 2010, no matter how late we are with the latest news. Others may be more regular and certainly more current, and we enjoyed the "Latest Scots Law News" feature on the Scotland against Crooked Lawyers website, the last item on which when we looked at it on 4 January 2010 was dated 11 August 2009; but what we think we have is always the last word on the subject. A Guid New Year to ane and a'.