Justice – Advancing access to justice, human rights and the rule of law
Since 2009, JUSTICE has increasingly been involved in access to justice issues in Scotland. Devolution makes the prospect of a British bill of rights much more difficult to achieve than first appears (notwithstanding our Treaty obligations in both the Council of Europe and the EU) see our report Devolution and Human Rights. At the same time a number of practitioners have seen the need for an NGO operating in Scotland that looks at access to justice issues. We have informally created the Justice Advisory Group Scotland to serve both aims. The group consists of legal practitioners and concerned persons who have been involved in litigation. They are providing us with valuable guidance and input.
Cadder v HMA – fair trial rights in Scotland
JUSTICE intervened in the case of Cadder v HMA in May 2010 to argue that Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires suspects in police stations to have legal advice and representation in interviews where interviews are relied on to support a prosecution. The UK Supreme Court agreed and the law changed in October 2010 to allow such representation which had not been available in Scotland until then. We have continued to provide guidance to solicitors and the police about how this right can be made effective. Lord Carloway is conducting a review of practice as a result of the emergency legislation which will look at many issues including the right to silence (which remains intact without the possibility of inferences being drawn) and corroboration. We are responding to this review.
UK Supreme Court and Scottish criminal appeals
The Advocate General has also been reviewing the right to appeal to the UK Supreme Court in criminal cases. We responded to a consultation advising that this right was necessary to ensure uniformity in the UK’s adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights and European Union law. The possibility of appeal is in fact limited to cases raising those issues. There is a proposal for amendment to the Scotland Act to make the exercise of the appeal less burdensome upon the Scottish state. The Scottish Government has been pressing for the removal of the right for an area of law which it says should be in the preserve of Scotland. We remain involved in advocating for the preservation of this appeal right.