The Scottish Government has drafted proposals to restrict the Supreme Court’s powers to rule on human rights issues in criminal cases north of the border.
Draft provisions in the Scotland Bill would introduce a certification procedure for the High Court of Justiciary, the highest criminal court, limiting the ability of the Supreme Court to rule on European Convention rights.
In June, First Minister Alex Salmond asked Lord McCluskey to chair a review into the relationship between the High Court and the UK Supreme Court, following concerns over the Supreme Court’s ruling on human rights in the trial of Nat Fraser – the Justices said Fraser’s conviction for murdering his wife should be quashed. Its final report, published in September, recommended that an appeal to the Supreme Court be competent only where the High Court has granted a certificate showing the case raises a point of law of “general public importance”.
The rights of the unmarried
Family lawyers have renewed calls for legislative reform following a unanimous ruling by the Justices on the property rights of unmarried couples.
Giving judgment in the highly anticipated case of Jones v Kernott, the Supreme Court held that, where it is not possible to ascertain a separated couple’s intention on the division of their property, the courts can impute an intention in order to achieve a fair result. Mr Kernott was found to be entitled to only a ten per cent share of the house he bought jointly with his girlfriend, Miss Jones, in 1985. He moved out in 1993 when the couple separated and paid nothing further towards the mortgage. Resolution, the family lawyers’ group, has waged a campaign for law reform on cohabitation for several years.