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Scotland's Supreme Court panel to report before summer break

7 June 2011

A “stellar cast” of four Scottish lawyers have been given less than one month to provide an interim review of Scotland’s subscription to the Supreme Court.

The panel, which includes former solicitor general Lord McCluskey, has been tasked with considering withdrawal from the UK Human Rights Act to enable cases to ascend directly to Strasbourg.

First minister Alex Salmond (pictured) has ordered the panel return with an interim review before the summer recess and a full review by the end of the year. Announcing the appointments, which also include two sheriff court judges and a professor, Salmond said: “This expert group is a stellar cast of some of the leading names in the Scottish legal firmament. They are blessed with some of the most impressive legal minds in the country.”

The SNP leader did not save the same warm words for the Supreme Court in his announcement, despite last week’s spat which prompted McCluskey to warn justice minister Kenny MacAskill that he “ought to be ashamed” of his “egregious” comments about the Supreme Court justices.

In his statement yesterday, Salmond again accused the court of ignoring the jurisdiction it presided over. “Unlike the UK Supreme Court in London, the Strasbourg court can’t strike down convictions, it doesn’t open cell doors and potentially enable people to walk free, and it certainly doesn’t do so without a proper examination of the degree of protections, checks and balances within the Scottish judicial system,” said Salmond.

The review of Scotland’s human rights procedure has been triggered by two recent Supreme Court decisions in Cadder and Fraser.

The Law Society of Scotland has criticised reforms in legal advice at police stations following the Cadder decision as “unnecessary, unjustified and unacceptable”. But it has also urged the government to do a “full audit” of Scotland’s criminal law to ensure similar breaches are not repeated.

MacAskill was accused of “petulence” by Sir Menzies Campbell last week after describing the Supreme Court justices as “ambulance chasers” who derived their knowledge of Scots Law from trips to Edinburgh Festival. Salmond also provoked anger after criticising the power wielded by Supreme Court justice Lord Hope, one of its two Scottish justices, to overturn the verdict of up to seven judges in Edinburgh’s High Court.

Lord McCluskey, Sir Gerald Gordon, Charles Stoddart and Professor Neil Walker will consider the “emerging implications” of the 1998 Scotland Act, the 1998 Human Rights Act and the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, and have been specifically ordered to advise on the options for reform of the relationship between the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh and the Supreme Court in London.

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