Dec 17 2009

Review of the year

Published by under International law,Scots law

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Not this Calvin…

Well, I’m knocking off until the New Year. For those among my loyal readers who can’t keep away from the law over the break, I offer a prize of a bottle of the Faculty of Advocates finest Reading Room Claret to the best set of answers to this quiz on outré legal events of the last 365 days. Competition closes at Hogmanay midnight; answers by way of the comment form below, which is moderated so nothing will be published until next term. As a tie-breaker, points will be given for wit, imagination, and good guesses, so don’t feel you have to pass because you haven’t the faintest idea what the answer is. Multiple attempts are permitted, but may not be counted at my discretion. If you feel you need to know what the other rules are, they’re here, with credit and thanks to those great philosophers Calvin and Hobbes. Or you can ask, though I don’t promise to answer. And the compliments of the season to you. Continue Reading »

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Dec 15 2009

Judicial review of the Upper Tribunal

Published by under Scots law

Statutory provisions seeking to oust the jurisdiction of the courts have a long and inglorious history. Their desired object, to exclude any form of review by an independent court, is practically impossible to achieve. Some years ago, someone thought up a new wheeze: simply describe the body which it is sought to protect as a ‘superior court of record‘ and then assert loudly that the nature of such a court was that it could not be judicially reviewed; all rather reminiscent of the old South African line that Parliament could be declared a court so as to allow a bare majority to change the constitution (Minister of the Interior v Harris 1952 (4) SA 769). This phrase has, since the Leggatt Report, become fashionable with recently-created tribunals. Examples include the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the Upper Tribunal, both of which are now declared to be such a court; the latter is becoming an increasingly important, if overlooked, part of the judicial firmament. Never mind that ‘the precise legal significance of this expression is not entirely clear, even in England, and possibly not at all in Scotland‘; indeed, as noted below, it has no recognised meaning in Scotland‘. The simple argument was that superior courts of record could not be subject to judicial review, because they couldn’t be.

In the recent English case of Cart & Ors, R (on the application of) v The Upper Tribunal & Ors [2009] EWHC 3052 (Admin), this argument was run by Government and rejected by the court. Continue Reading »

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Nov 10 2009

Rights to environmental information

Published by under Events,Scots law

At the talk I gave on this subject to the conference on environmental justice organised by the Environmental Law Centre last Monday, I promised to post a synopsis of the issues discussed, and the handouts on ambit and on appeal routes, here.

The background

There has since 2005 been a general right to freedom of information held by or on behalf of public authorities in the United Kingdom. The right to access to environmental information, however, long predates this, going back to Directive 90/313/EEC and its implementing regulations; although the scheme now in force, Directive 2003/4/EC and its implementing regulations, the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 is tighter, the basic scheme has been in place since 1992. Nevertheless, this scheme has attracted far less attention than the general scheme of the two Freedom of Information Acts, the UK Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which only came into force thirteen years later. Continue Reading »

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Sep 30 2009

The Report of the Civil Courts Review

Published by under Scots law

As anticipated, the report was published this morning at this address. It is in two volumes, available as pdf files; Volume 1 is 375 pages and Volume 2 is 323. There is a nine-page synopsis which is quoted below in its entirety. Comment will follow later. Continue Reading »

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Sep 29 2009

Forthcoming conference: Environmental Justice, Human Rights, and Environmental Law

Published by under Events,Scots law

On Monday 2nd November the Centre for the Study of Human Rights Law and the Environmental Law Centre Scotland are co-hosting this conference at the Royal Concert Hall, 2 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. I’m speaking on rights to environmental information. The Environmental Information Regulations (there are two sets, UK and Scottish) don’t receive a lot of attention in comparison to the general scheme of the two Freedom of Information Acts, but they have a wider ambit, covering some private-sector organisations and companies who aren’t covered by general FOI legislation, and in some ways give those seeking information a better process than the Acts. Here’s an algorithm of the relationship between the different schemes I did before; Continue Reading »

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Sep 24 2009

Civil Justice Review

Published by under Events,Scots law

Invitations to the publication of the Civil Justice Review have just been issued for Wednesday 30 September at 11am in the Signet Library. I’m told the Review will be published electronically at that time; address unknown but perhaps here.

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Sep 08 2009

Today’s problems in the Sheriff Court

Published by under Scots law

This morning I turned up at Edinburgh Sheriff Court for a five-day hearing in an unjust enrichment action, with senior counsel also on the other side. There had been lengthy discussions as to possible settlement which had gone nowhere and both sides were fully prepared to fight. Aware of the problems this note describes, the solicitors on both sides had independently phoned the court last week to confirm that the case was allocated to a sheriff, who was named, and that court time was available. When we arrived, however, we were told that the sheriff we had been told was to hear the case was not available; nor was any other sheriff; and there was no chance even of one the next day or later in the week. No sheriff, indeed, had ever been available to hear the case; the one the administration had named to both solicitors had never even been told this, and was in fact hearing a part-heard proof in another case. Continue Reading »

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Sep 02 2009

Compassionate release in Scotland: the actual policy and the law

Published by under International law,Scots law

The Scottish Government today released a fair amount of background documentation on the decision to grant compassionate release to Megrahi (better indexed, I think, here on BBC Scotland). There are still a number of documents which for one reason or another haven’t been published, such as the representations made by the US government, for which the US Embassy refused permission.

The full text of Scottish Government policy on compassionate release has not however, I think, been made public. Thanks to a correspondent who sent me a copy of this, it is now published on this site. Continue Reading »

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Aug 26 2009

That letter from the FBI to the Justice Secretary: is it real?

Published by under International law,Scots law

My last post covered two issues; the hypocrisy of the attack on the decision to release Megrahi, and the law relative to compassionate release of prisoners in Scotland. But in linking these I noted in passing that much of the attack on MacAskill was simply ignorant, and wrote “FBI Director Robert Mueller, in his much-quoted open letter to MacAskill, obviously intended primarily for US domestic consumption, thought the Justice Secretary was a ‘prosecutor‘.“. Continue Reading »

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Aug 24 2009

Megrahi’s release: Kenny MacAskill was right

Published by under International law,Scots law

If Megrahi was indeed rightly convicted of mass murder, which I doubt, it is not in doubt that he acted on the orders of the Libyan government. He was a senior member of its intelligence service. Yet both the UK and US governments have for some years been on friendly terms with the people who, they say, ordered the destruction of PanAm 103. They dine with them. They have cocktails with them when they meet at mutual friends. The week before Megrahi’s release, as reported in the Washington Post, a delegation of four American senators led by John McCain met with Colonel Gaddafi to discuss the sale by the US to Libya of military equipment. In April, Hilary Clinton welcomed another member of the Gaddafi family, the régime’s National Security Adviser, to Washington. She said “We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Libya. We have many opportunities to deepen and broaden our cooperation. And I’m very much looking forward to building on this relationship. So, Mr. Minister, welcome so much here.” Continue Reading »

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