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The Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has stated that legislation to modernise and reform the fatal accident inquiry (FAI) process in Scotland will be introduced "within the lifetime of this parliament".

The reforms to be implemented will include the remaining recommendations of 2009 review of FAI under Lord Cullen, and will also build on reforms already introduced by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. The newest consultation, pubished by the Scottish Government, makes the proposal of extending the categories of death in which it is mandatory to hold an FAIto include those arrested or detained by the police at the time of death; and the deaths of children in secure care, holding FAI’s outside of court buildings and permitting discretionary FAI’s where the death of a Scottish national occurs abroad and the body is repatriated.

MacAskill said;
"This consultation is designed to ultimately develop a policy that streamlines the FAI process to ensure it is more efficient and robust.In 2008, the Scottish government commissioned an independent review into the legislation around FAIs in Scotland led by Lord Cullen. The process was designed to ensure that the FAI system was fit for purpose in the light of changes to other parts of the justice system. Lord Cullen made 36 recommendations; some of these were the responsibility of COPFS. These have been implemented through the formation of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit. However, this consultation will build on these changes and give further consideration to other vital areas,".

The Scottish Justice Secretary confirmed that the legislation will not include a time limit within which an FAI must be brought or hasten the decision making process where criminal charges or regulatory investigations need be carried out. A Fatal Accident Inquiry cannot begin in Scotland until a decision has been made over whether to proceed with a criminal case or regulatory investigation.

Contact our solicitors based in Glasgow & Rutherglen for legal advice on today  

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Sharp rise in equity release lending

Posted by on in Family Law

Equity release lending in the first quarter of 2014 has been the highest ever seen over the first quarter of a year since records began, according to recent figures from the Equity Release Council.

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Self-directed Support Act

Posted by on in Family Law

A new Act of Parliament that is expected to make a huge difference to the way in which social care is provided in Scotland, has come into force.

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Carr Berman Crichton are delighted to announce that Robert Westwood has joined their team.

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Scotland's Registrar General, George MacKenzie, has published his annual report for 2011, giving data on key demographic trends across Scotland.

The data shows that the estimated population of Scotland on 30th June 2011 was 5,254,800 (based on the 2001 census), the highest ever.

The age of the population of Scotland was as follows:

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Civil partnerships in the UK

Posted by on in Family Law

The Office for National Statistics has published data on the number of civil partnerships in the UK.

The figures show that:

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The Scottish Government has announced that same sex marriage is to be legalised in Scotland.

No religious body will be compelled to conduct same sex marriages - protection for religious bodies who do not wish to conduct same sex marriages already exists under UK equality law.

Where a body does decide to conduct same sex marriages, the Scottish Government also intends to protect individual celebrants who consider such ceremonies to be contrary to their faith.

Analysis of the consultation on the issue has also been published. The analysis shows that a total of 77,508 responses to the consultation were received. The analysis concludes:

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Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that £34.5 million has been invested to help tackle the issue of violence against women. As a result, 138 projects across Scotland will benefit from £11.5m of funding each year from 2012-2015.

These include projects which provide support for women and children who are suffering from domestic abuse, or for women who have been violently or sexually abused.

This funding has enabled the roll out of the Advocacy, Support, Services, Information Together (ASSIST) across Strathclyde Police force area.

The project is benefiting from over £1 million per year, which is being matched with a similar contribution from Strathclyde Police.

The ground breaking service provides support, advocacy, risk assessment and safety planning for victims going through the Glasgow domestic abuse court.

They deal with several thousands of cases each year, and support both female and male victims, as well as children and young people who have been affected by the abuse.

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Next stop civil marriage

Posted by on in Family Law

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) in Ireland has held events to celebrate the two year anniversary of civil partnership legislation coming into force.

“We warmly congratulate the hundreds of lesbian and gay couples who have had civil partnerships. Their happy celebrations, in every county in Ireland, have allowed family, friends and community to recognise these committed relationships. Civil Partnership has transformed the lives of these couples and given them enormously greater security, recognition and status” said Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair.

Two years ago, the President signed the Civil Partnership Act 2010, which had just been passed by the Dáil and Seanad. This landmark achievement for Ireland recognised lesbian and gay relationships for the first time and was supported by every Political Party.

“Over the last 18 months, the current Dáil and Seanad have played a vital role in critically enhancing the provisions of civil partnerships, including the passing of the Finance Acts and the Citizenship Act, providing for equal treatment for civil partners” continued Rose.

“Public and political support continues to grow for further progress for lesbian and gay couples. Civil Partnership has laid the ground for the introduction of civil marriage.

“With the success of civil partnership, the ‘next stop’ for the wedding bus is civil marriage for lesbian and gay couples.”

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The Government has unveiled its plans for a revised child maintenance system in Great Britain. Ministers believe the current system is ineffective, and want to refocus it on supporting families to make their own arrangements which are in the best interests of the children involved.

To do this, £20m is being invested to provide a network of support services, capable of reaching out to help separated families, wherever they are, whatever their background, online, on the phone, and in person.

The policy document; 'Supporting Separated Families; Securing Children’s Futures' sets out key improvements including:

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The Scottish Government is consulting on a new draft Bill, designed to make it easier for parents to access work, education or training. The Children and Young People Bill will help parents structure their childcare to best suit their family’s needs.

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Bellshill Hearings centre reopens

Posted by on in Family Law

Bellshill Hearings centre has officially reopened after undergoing refurbishment to provide better facilities for the children and their families attending Hearings there.

The building has been used by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) for many years to hold children's Hearings for the Bellshill and Airdrie area.

The Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, MSP, who officially opened the centre, said: “The Bellshill refurbishment is an important part of SCRA’s property modernisation programme. Better facilities mean that we can offer a better service to children, families, Panel Members and professionals.

“These improvements must surely help to make the Hearing a less intimidating experience for families. Getting the right environment reflects the value we place on partners and demonstrates respect for our service users.”

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The Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee is to conduct an inquiry into the decisions made about when or if a child should be removed from the family home.

The investigation follows on from the recent inquiry into the educational attainment of looked after children, which found that many of these children, particularly those looked after at home, are being left behind in the education system.

Launching the inquiry during a visit to the Barnardo’s Scotland Fostering Service, Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said:

"This inquiry is not about rushing to make judgements about the systems currently in place. It is about asking the difficult questions to make sure that these systems really are working for children and their families.

"Our committee will examine the processes involved in deciding whether to remove a child from the family home and consider whether these are consistent across the country. Only by doing this can we really be sure that we are making the best decisions for children who may be abused or neglected."

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The Solicitor General has called for the removal of the requirement for corroboration in Scots law, to help protect the rights of victims of domestic abuse.

According to Lesley Thomson QC, prosecutors have a robust prosecution policy – but corroboration often proves a real obstacle in bringing domestic abuse cases to court. Corroboration is one of the areas of Scots law highlighted for potential reform by Lord Carloway’s recent review of criminal law and practice.

The Solicitor General said:

“A woman may have been assaulted approximately 30 times before she contacts the police – we recognise that there are huge barriers to women seeking assistance in such cases.

“It is of course right that those accused of committing crimes are entitled to a fair and just trial. But victims and witnesses have rights too – rights which are just as important.

“It is necessary that such rights are protected by an effective system for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime. In such a system, prosecutions with evidence of a perfectly good quality to convince a sheriff or jury of an accused’s guilt should not founder on the basis of an antiquated technical requirement, heralding from centuries before a woman could vote, own property or give evidence in criminal proceedings.”

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) defines domestic abuse as ‘any form of physical, sexual or mental and emotional abuse which might amount to criminal conduct and which takes place within the context of a relationship. The relationship will be between partners (married, cohabiting, civil partnership or otherwise) or ex-partners. The abuse can be committed in the home or elsewhere’. This definition is also used by ACPOS.

COPFS has a specialist Domestic Abuse Unit in Glasgow and works with police and the Scottish Court Service in dedicated Domestic Abuse Courts in Glasgow and Dunfermline. Dedicated courts are currently being piloted in Edinburgh and Livingston.

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A recent poll carried out on behalf of the Scottish Youth Parliament and LGBT Youth Scotland has found that over 75% of young people in Scotland support the idea of equal marriage.

The poll, which was conducted by Ipsos-Mori, found that 78% of young people aged between 18-24 are in favour of the statement: “Same-sex couples should have the right to get married”; with 77% of those aged 25-34 also being in favour.  

Mhairi McMillan, Head of Policy and Mainstreaming, LGBT Youth Scotland, said;

“LGBT young people want marriage equality because they want the same rights as any other person in Scotland, the right to have either a civil or religious marriage if they so choose. LGBT young people experience high levels of homophobia and homophobic bullying and all a segregated, separate legal system of partnership rights does is compound that experience by telling people it is ok to treat LGBT young people differently and not afford them the equality they deserve. The majority of young people do believe in equality and LGBT Youth Scotland calls on the Scottish Government to listen to them and make equal marriage a reality for Scotland now.”

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Marriage and divorce statistics

Posted by on in Family Law

The Registrar General for Scotland has released the latest provisional figures for births, deaths, marriages and civil partnerships registered during the first quarter of 2012.

The figures show 14,218 deaths were registered in Scotland between January and the end of March 2012 – the lowest number of deaths recorded during the first quarter of the year for at least 100 years. This was 317 (2.2%) fewer than in the same period of 2011, which had previously shown the lowest total.

The provisional figures show a 1.1% increase in the number of births in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same period of 2011. There were 124 more marriages than in the first quarter of 2011, an increase of 4%, and a drop of 15 in the number of civil partnerships, taking the total to 83.

The latest Annual Review of Demographic Trends, also produced by the Registrar General, gives additional information on family trends in Scotland. The figures show that in 2010, the latest year available, the number of divorces was 10,034, 3% (337) fewer than the 10,371 in 2009.

From 1971 there was a marked increase in the number of divorces up to a peak of 13,365 in 1985. The early 2000s saw a slight fall from the levels recorded in the late 1980s and 1990s - perhaps because more couples are cohabiting without getting married, since divorce proceedings are not necessary to sever such relationships.

In 2010 the median duration of marriage ending in divorce was 15 years, compared with 12 years in 1999 and eleven years in 1985. Again, this change is probably due to more couples cohabiting rather than getting married.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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A recent survey has found that many grandparents who take on the caring responsibility for their grandchildren are having to give up work and often end up living in poverty.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in Boston has held a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, in an historic ruling by the court.

Section 3 of DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for federal law purposes. The court ruled that this part of the law discriminates against legally married same-sex couples, depriving them of federal rights and benefits offered to married heterosexual couples.

Currently, six states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex couples to marry. Maryland and Washington State passed laws earlier this year to open marriage to same-sex couples, and voters in those states may see referenda on those laws in November. Numerous other states recognise the legal marriages of same-sex couples under civil union or domestic partnership laws, or based on state Attorney General opinions.

Jennifer Pizer, Williams Institute Legal Director, stated, “Today’s decision concludes that the federal government must not discriminate among legally married couples based on their sexual orientation, and also must not discriminate against states that open marriage to same-sex couples. States always have had prime responsibility for setting the rules about family rights and obligations, and Congress overstepped its role when it passed DOMA sixteen years ago.”

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New rules approved by the European Parliament's Legal Affairs and Women's Rights committees will grant greater protection to victims of gender violence, stalking, harassment or abduction.

Under the new rules, victims who are granted protection in one EU Member State could get fully equivalent protection if they move to another. The draft legislation would add civil law protection to the criminal law rules already enforced under the European Protection Order (EPO) Directive.

Under the new rules, any victim of gender violence, abduction or aggression, who has been granted protection in one EU Member State, would just need to fill in a standard and multilingual certificate to have his or her right to protection fully enforced throughout the EU.

MEPs amended the proposal to ensure that EPO rules cover all cases of danger to people's physical and moral integrity, including threats to dignity, security and personal freedom.

They also proposed that it should be possible to request the multilingual certificate online and that the cost of the recognition procedure should be waived for victims.

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Think-tank, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), has called for the current yardsticks for measuring child poverty to be scrapped and replaced with a range of new indicators reflecting the true causes of deprivation.

In a new report, the CSJ calls for a complete overhaul of the system, in which the accent would be on measuring the underlying causes of blighted young lives, such as family breakdown, welfare dependency and educational failure, rather than the symptoms of low relative income.

The CSJ suggests a new approach to computing poverty levels, taking into account a far wider range of variables, reflecting quality of life as well as quantity of income.

These include sources of income because income earned through work promotes the self-reliance and self-respect of families. Equally, family consumption rather than income might be a better indicator of poverty levels.

Other factors that should be taken into account include the ability to save, the quality of a child’s parenting and family stability, because children from broken homes are twice as likely to suffer behavioural problems than those from intact families.

Christian Guy, Managing Director of the CSJ, said: “Poverty is not just about income, it is about family breakdown, educational failure, intergenerational worklessness, addiction, serious personal debt and poor mental health.

“It is absolutely vital that any serious measure of poverty reflects this. It is wholly unacceptable for such high and deep-seated levels of poverty to exist in the UK today. Such poverty devastates our communities and destroys the life chances of our children.”

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