What are the Time Limits on Accident Claims?

InjuryIf you have suffered from an accident due to somebody else’s negligence, you may be interested in making a claim. Many accident victims find this an invaluable help, especially if their finances have been affected through being unable to work or paying for private medical treatment. However, if the accident happened some time ago, you might be wondering whether you are still eligible. It is true that most types of accident claims have time limits, but these vary according to the circumstances of each case. However, the extent of these limits and the ways in which they may be affected are often poorly understood.

General Time Limits

The general, default rule is that if you have been injured and somebody else is to blame, you will have a three year period in which you are eligible to make a claim. After these three years have elapsed, you may no longer be able to put in a claim for compensation. However, this is only the default position, and there are many circumstances that can alter the timeframe open to you.

For example, it may be that you were not aware of the injury at the time of the accident, and that symptoms only started to show later on. This is especially true considering that some illnesses, such as those resulting from exposure to dangerous substances, can also qualify as injuries for the purpose of making compensation claims. In these cases, the three year period still applies, but it starts from the date you first became aware of the injury and not from the date of the accident itself.

A similar rule applies if you suffer from an injury or illness for some time before discovering it was connected to your accident. In this case, you will have three years from the date you become aware of the connection.

Exceptions

There are some cases when the three year period might not apply to you at all, and you will have longer to put in a claim for compensation.

If you were a child at the time of the accident, the three year time limit is unlikely to apply to you. As a child, of course, you would not have been in a position to properly make the claim you were entitled to. Neither could a child be expected to be aware of the options open to them. As such, adults who suffered injuries in accidents as children may still be eligible to put in a compensation claim even if more than three years have passed.

If you have suffered from an industrial illness as a result of insufficient safety in the workplace, you may also have longer to make a claim.

What Next?

If you believe you may be eligible to make an accident compensation claim, the next step is to contact a specialist. They will be able to advise you on whether you are likely to be successful, and can help you see the process through.

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Legal Challenge to Offshore Wind Farms Successful

A legal challenge launched by RSPB Scotland against four proposed offshore wind farms has been upheld by the highest court in Scotland. Court of Session judge Lord Stewart ruled that Scottish ministers must reconsider the effect that the developments would have on rare wildlife. The legal challenge had already lost the projects a government subsidy contract, and has now further set back development as the grounds for the challenge have been upheld.

Ministers originally approved plans for the four major offshore wind farms in 2014. The Neart ne Gaoithe, Inch Cape, Bravo, and Seagreen Alpha wind farm projects could collectively generate enough electricity to power 1.4 million Scottish homes.

However, conservationists from RSPB Scotland opposed the plans because of the impact the wind farms were set to have on rare birds and other wildlife in the area. The conservation society’s legal team contended that Scottish ministers had failed to properly consider the projects’ impact on wildlife in originally granting approval approval, and had therefore failed in the legal requirements they are subject to when making such decisions.

In a statement, RSPB described the launch of a legal challenge against the renewable energy projects as “a last resort.” However, the decision had been made to go ahead because “thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally-protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May were predicted to be killed every year.”

Lord Stewart agreed with RSPB’s contention that ministers had not properly considered the impact on wildlife, and ruled that ministers would have to reconsider their original decision to grant planning permission.

Following the judgement, Paul Wheelhouse, Scotland’s minister for business, innovation and energy, said that ministers “note Lord Stewart’s judgement and will now carefully consider it and its implications.”

Wheelhouse went on to say that: “The Scottish government remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy,” both as an “economic opportunity” for Scotland and a tool in the Scottish government’s “fight against the threat posed by climate change.” Nonetheless, Wheelhouse said, the Scottish government also recognises that “protecting Scotland’s marine environment is of paramount importance… and we are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland.”

Head of conservation policy for RSPB Scotland, Lloyd Austin, expressed similar views in response to the success of his organisation’s legal challenge. Austin said that the society “is now keen to work with all parties to ensure we focus efforts on delivering much-needed renewable energy in a way that does not threaten Scotland’s internationally-important wildlife.”

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New Powers for Scottish Parliament Take Effect

ScottishParliamentFrontThe Scotland Act 2016 has now come into effect, and this has given new devolved powers to the Scottish Parliament. Powers that previously lay with Westminster have now been granted to Holyrood in a number of key areas, including transport, consumer rights, and equality law.

Additional powers will also be devolved to the Scottish Parliament at a later date. These will give Scotland more control over matters of social security and a degree of freedom in setting its own tax policies.

Derek Mackay, Constitution Secretary, said that the Scotland Act delivers “the most substantial change to the powers of the parliament since devolution.”

Under the powers that have now taken practical effect, Scotland will be responsible for setting its own laws in a number of important areas under the headings of equality, consumer, and transport. The parliament’s new powers cover such matters as equal opportunities, abortion, and provision of advice and advocacy channels for consumers. Scotland has also gained some control over gambling legislation, relating specifically to “fixed odds betting terminals” or games machines found in the premises of bookmakers.

Perhaps the most wide-ranging set of powers to have now taken effect for Scotland, however, is that relating to transport. Scotland will now have considerable devolved powers when it comes to deciding how its railways are to be policed, and on deciding how the matter of parking is handled and how inconsiderate parking is dealt with. Speed limits and traffic signs are also areas in which Scotland is now going to have more independence.

Furthermore, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and the Northern Lighthouse Board will now have to supply copies of their annual support to Scottish ministers for presentation before Holyrood. These same organisations will also be obliged to answer calls to appear before the Scottish parliament.

Derek Mackay outlined some of Scotland’s plans for these new powers. Regarding transport, he said that the British Transport Police would be integrated into Police Scotland, though would remain a specialist division, and would reform air passenger duty in order to attract more international flights. Scotland would also, he said, allow public sector bodies to bid for rail franchises.

Regarding consumer rights, Mackay said that Scotland would “develop a robust system which protects and empowers consumers and supports businesses which are innovative, efficient and fair. And we will also remove employment tribunals fees that act as a barrier to justice.”

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“Revenge Porn” Law Gets Support of MSPs

Revenge PornThe Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee has given its backing to the idea of criminalising “revenge porn.” This practice – uploading nude or sexually explicit images of a former partner to the internet without their consent – already comes within the scope of existing offences, but it has been proposed that such cases could be better dealt with if it were made a specific offence.

Revenge porn has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, with some websites specifically dedicated to non-consensual uploads. As the name suggests, some people consider placing explicit images of a former partner online a kind of revenge for the breakup.

It has been proposed in the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm Bill, the general principles behind which have now been backed by the Holyrood committee, that specific laws should be introduced to deal with those who publish intimate images without the consent of the person depicted. Breaking these laws, the Bill suggests, could carry a jail sentence of up to five years.

Revenge porn is just one of the issues dealt with by the bill. A number of other proposals are also contained within it. For example, the Bill suggests provisions that would mean, when a Scottish person has committed child sex offences in England and Wales, they could potentially be returned to Scotland for trial. The bill also provides directions for juries, proposes the creation of new sexual harm prevention orders, and proposes new powers that would enable the courts to more effectively and directly protect abuse victims even in cases where there is no conviction. The MSPs that make up the Justice Committee gave their backing to all the principles of the bill, but most particularly the section dealing with revenge porn.

According to the Scottish Government, it was becoming necessary to create a specific offence because of the rising prevalence of such cases and the significant harm they do. Improvements in technology were, Holyrood said, making it easier for “a small number” of individuals to “threaten, harass and abuse” other people.

The practice of publishing explicit images of a former partner without their permission as a form of revenge predates the internet, with cases recorded where people sent such photographs to adult magazines. However, the ease with which images can be published on the internet has turned this from a rare occurrence to an increasingly common one, and in some ways has worsened the offence by making the audience to which the pictures are made available even larger. For this reason, England and Wales have already made it a specific offence rather than continuing to apply more general legislation in such cases, and if the new bill is accepted Scotland would follow suit.

In a report following its review of the proposals, the Justice Committee said: “The behaviour the offence would address can be enormously hurtful and humiliating, and treating it as criminal is not disproportionate.

“The drafting of a new law provides an opportunity to set out the parameters of the offending behaviour with greater clarity and consistency.”

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Medical History Protection for Sex Attack Survivors Rejected

A proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill has been rejected by Holyrood. The amendment, had it been passed, would have given additional protections to the private and personal information of survivors of sexual assault.

Margaret Mitchell, MSP and justice spokesperson for the Scottish Conservative Party, proposed the amendment which would have seen independent legal advice given to survivors of rape and sexual abuse to help them understand how they could protect their personal information. She said that her proposals would have helped prevent the medical history of rape and abuse survivors from improper use by rival legal teams who may otherwise seek to access them.

Rival legal teams, Mitchell suggested, may seek to access the medical records, sexual histories and other sensitive information of sexual assault survivors. They could then attempt to use this information alongside myths, misconceptions and prejudices that surround offences of a sexual nature in order to try to discredit victims and witnesses during legal proceedings. The amendment, she said, was designed to close off this opportunity and provide added protection to those who had fallen victim to sexual crimes.

However, the Justice Committee at Holyrood dismissed the proposed amendment in a recent meeting. Michael Matheson, Justice Secretary, said that such an amendment “would represent a major innovation in our criminal law by introducing the complainer into the process as a third party separate from the Crown.” Matheson also said that it would be “inconsistent” to provide these rights with regard to one particular group of offences, but not introduce similar rights in cases involving other types of crime.

While Matheson said that he was “sympathetic… to the intentions behind the reform” and was sure that the same could be said of many other members of the Justice Committee, he said that the amendments contained in the proposals were “neither necessary nor appropriate at this time.” This conclusion, he said, had been reached after close scrutiny of the proposals and an in-depth consideration of possible unintended implications and consequences.

The proposals were rejected by the majority of the committee, but did win the support of Alison McInnes, justice spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. According to McInnes, “There is currently a significant imbalance in the system in relation to rape victims. The release of medical evidence, in particular, can have huge ramifications for the future health of the witness. It should not fall only on the voluntary sector to deal with the problem.”

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Scottish National Party will Vote to Uphold English Fox Hunting Ban

Fox HuntingThe Scottish National Party (SNP) has announced its intentions for the upcoming vote on the government’s proposed relaxation of the ban on hunting foxes with dogs in England and Wales. The SNP group at Westminster will vote to keep the current ban in place, and oppose the potential to weaken the laws that are in place.

According to Angus Robertson, the Westminster group’s leader, the party’s intention is to send a clear message to the Conservative government about just how narrow its majority is. Furthermore, he said, the Scottish Parliament is considering strengthening the laws against fox hunting in Scotland, and the current ban in England and Wales should, he believes, remain as it is.

In the future, it is the intention of the UK government to introduce new measures which deny Scottish MPs from voting on matters that are purely English and Welsh and have no bearing on Scotland. At present, however, the Scottish parliament does have a vote on the matter and it is the SNP’s intention to use this power to oppose the weakening of the ban. The matter is to come under consideration in the House of Commons this week.

The traditional fox hunt, using packs of dogs to catch and kill the animals, was outlawed by the last Labour government and is now illegal throughout Britain. However, in England and Wales hunts are able to proceed for the purposes of pest control within strict limitations. Only two dogs may be used, for the purpose of flushing the foxes out, and the foxes must be shot as quickly as possible rather than left to the mercy of the dogs.

The laws in Scotland are currently less strict. Hunts may proceed in a similar way to those in England and Wales, but there is no limit to the number of dogs that can be used. The proposed reforms, on which Conservative MPs have been given a free vote, would see the law loosened to match that in Scotland. However, Holyrood is reportedly considering making the Scottish ban more strict, and in the eyes of many this weakens the validity of matching the law in England and Wales to the current Scottish legislation.

According to Robertson: “We totally oppose fox hunting, and when there are moves in the Scottish Parliament to review whether the existing Scottish ban is strong enough, it is in the Scottish interest to maintain the existing ban in England and Wales for Holyrood to consider.”

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Assisted Suicide Bill Rejected by MSPs

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) voted recently to reject the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. After some debate, MSPs voted against the bill by 82 votes to 36.

If it had been successful, the bill would have legalised assisted suicide for the terminally ill in Scotland in certain circumstances. Those suffering from terminal illnesses and hoping for help voluntarily ending their lives would have been able to seek the assistance of a qualified doctor.  Assuming the circumstances were decided to be appropriate, this doctor would have served as a “licensed facilitator” and aided the patient in shortening the remaining time they spent living with the illness.

The bill had previously been described by a Holyrood committee as a flawed one. However, MSPs were nonetheless left to vote on whether it should be passed. Reservations about the bill were also expressed by the Law Society of Scotland. The Law Society’s Alison Britton, convener of the Health and Medical Law Committee, said that she and her colleagues “remain concerned over the lack of definition of the key terms such as ‘assistance’ and ‘life-shortening’ and the functions of the licensed facilitator are still uncertain.” Britton went on to say that this lack of clarity on key points “leads to ambiguity and leaves the legislation open to interpretation.”

Margo MacdonaldThe bill was previously championed by Margo MacDonald MSP (pictured right), who passed away in April of last year. The bill was then taken up by Patrick Harvie MSP, who said that it was “clearly a disappointment that the bill will make no further progress.”

“The significant support in the chamber,” he said, “reflects the clear public desire for people to have choice.”

Aside from the contentious matter of allowing assisted suicide, this bill has been sparked discussions about the lack of clarity in Scottish law as it currently stands. According to Glasgow University’s Professor James Chalmers, the matter of causation is especially unclear and in cases of assisted suicide it can be difficult to establish who is legally held to have caused the death.

For example, supposing the person assisting the suicide supplies the person who wishes to end their life with a lethal dose of medication. However, the terminally ill party then self-administers that medicine with no assistance from the other party. It is hard to establish under Scottish law whether that person solely caused their own death by taking the medicine, or whether supplying the medicine also counts as causing the death.

Mr Harvie expressed hopes that the government of Scotland will “recognise the strong demand for clarity in law.” However, health secretary Shona Robison maintains that “the government believes that the current law is clear.”

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2015 Commonwealth Law Conference Concludes in Glasgow

This year’s Commonwealth Law Conference, one of the most prestigious legal conferences in existence, recently took place in Scotland. The event, which is organised by the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association (CLA) was held at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) in Glasgow from the 12th to the 16th.

The conference is held biennially, and last took place in 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa. Glasgow was selected as this year’s venue thanks to the combined efforts of the Law Society of Scotland, the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, and the SECC. The last time the conference was held in Scotland was in 1977. In the years between, it has taken place in a number of countries throughout the Commonwealth including Kenya, Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica.

This year’s was the 19th Commonwealth Law Conference, and welcomed over 700 delegates to the SECC including lawyers, judges, and academics. The economic boost it brought to the Glasgow area is estimated at £1.4 million.

Gordon Matheson Glasgow City Marketing Bureau chair and leader of Glasgow City Council, said ahead of the event: “I’m delighted to welcome the delegates and organisers of the Commonwealth Law Conference to Glasgow… it marks the return of this prestigious meeting to Europe and the UK for the first time in a decade. ”

Matheson went on to say that hosting the conference and other high-profile events “reinforces the city’s reputation as a world-class business tourism destination.”

The conference played host to a large number speeches, lectures and discussions involving prominent legal professionals from across the globe. Matters dealt with were as diverse as business law, gender equality within the legal industry, issues surrounding religious freedom and sports law. There was also a gala dinner for delegates, and the event concluded with a closing ceremony chaired by Mark Stephens, which included a key note address from the Hon. Michael Kirby.

The presence of the conference in the city formed part of the city’s follow-up to its success hosting the Commonwealth Games last year, with Matheson predicting beforehand that the event would “greatly contribute to the legacy derived from the city’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games last year. ” The Commonwealth Law Conference is hoped to become one of many major international events taking place in the city after Glasgow demonstrated its ability to successfully play host to large-scale international gatherings through the Games.

Law Society of Scotland president Alistair Morris expressed views very much in line with Matheson’s, saying: “It seems very fitting that we are hosting this prestigious event in Glasgow following the huge success of the 2014 Commonwealth Games – and I have no doubt that our Commonwealth colleagues will be as warmly welcomed by the city.”

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Prominent Scottish Solicitor Dies

Joseph BeltramiJoseph Beltrami, one of Scotland’s most prominent and well-known solicitors, has passed away. His death at the age of 83 was announced today by the law firm he founded, Beltrami & Co.

“It is with great sadness,” the firm said in a statement, “that we announce the passing of our founder, the legendary Mr Joseph Beltrami. Sincere condolences to his family.”

Joseph Beltrami, better known as Joe, was born in Lanarkshire to a Scottish mother and a Swiss-Italian father. After being educated at the University of Glasgow, he qualified as a solicitor in 1956. Following this, he enjoyed a prominent legal career spanning more than five decades before retiring in 2008.

Over the course of his career, he was involved in a number of high-profile cases which earned him a great deal of publicity, including the successful defence of 12 capital murder cases before the abolition of the death penalty.

While defending Maurice Swanson, who had been convicted of robbing a bank, he helped to obtain the first royal pardon ever to be issued in Scotland. He also became very well-known throughout the 1980s defending Arthur Thompson, a notorious figure in the Glasgow criminal world.

Such was his success in this high-profile, high-publicity time that his name entered the canon of Glaswegian slang. “Get me Beltrami” became a phrase you might hear in Glasgow as a call for help if somebody finds themselves in a desperate situation, referencing Beltrami’s ability to perform well in seemingly difficult cases. One one occasion when this phrase was uttered as an actual request for Beltrami’s assistance, the sheriff reportedly asked the accused if this was an admission of guilt, making Beltrami his only hope.

The Law Society of Scotland, which granted Beltrami honorary life membership the year after his retirement, described Beltrami as “a towering figure in Scotland’s legal landscape” who “will be much missed by all those who knew him.”

The Society went on to say that Joe had become “a household name as one of the country’s foremost criminal defence solicitors.”  Furthermore, the Society praised Beltrami for “campaigning for extended rights for solicitors to represent clients in Scotland’s higher courts,” as a result of which he “qualified as one of the first solicitor advocates.”

The decision to award him honorary life membership of the Society after his retirement, it said, was simply in recognition of “the enormous contribution he made to the solicitors’ profession.”

Beltrami leaves behind three sons, all of which have followed him into the legal profession. One of these sons, Edwin, is currently the Crown Prosecution Service’s Chief Crown Prosecutor for Wales.

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New Name and Brand for Criminal Bar Association

The Criminal Bar Association serving professionals in Scotland has had a change of name and been rebranded with a fresh image and identity. Formerly the Faculty of Advocates’ Criminal Bar Association, the organisation for criminal law specialist advocates will now be known as the Scottish Criminal Bar Association.

The organisation’s members voted in favour of adopting the new identity at their last annual meeting. It was decided that the new name, in particular, was neater and more streamlined than the old one.

Thomas Ross has been chosen to head the rebranded organisation in the role of president. Clare Mitchell has been elected to the role of vice president; a decision that was made at the same annual meeting where members voted in favour of adopting the new, simpler name. Ross and Mitchell have been chosen as respected figures in the Scottish court system with strong histories of achievement and a large amount of experience specific to the criminal law sector. Ross has also served for over two years as vice chair of the association under its old identity, assisting Brian McConnachie QC as chair.

Mr Ross said of his appointment to the role of President of the association: “Being selected to represent this elite group of criminal lawyers is the biggest honour of my professional life.”

He went on to express his pleasure at the appointment of Claire Mitchell as vice president, describing himself as “delighted” that he will have her assistance in heading up the rebranded Scottish Criminal Bar Association.

Of the decision to rebrand the association, Ross said: “The name change simply reflects the fact that the people of Scotland know that the Faculty of Advocates provides the most experienced criminal practitioners that the country has to offer.

“That will not change under the new name, but we hope that it will also help us to take a more active role in Scottish public life.”

Gillian Ross will serve as secretary of the rebranded organisation, and Craig Findlater has been elected to the role of treasurer. They will serve the new society alongside eight other members of the committee occupying various roles.

James Wolffe QC, dean of faculty, expressed his delight at the new direction the organisation is taking. He said that he expects it to “continue to thrive” under its new leadership, and described the criminal bar as “advocates who, whether they prosecute or defend, act fearlessly and with independence, and with great commitment to the fair administration of justice.”

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Law Society Calls for Simplified Right to Buy for Crofters

CroftingCrofting communities should benefit from a simpler right to buy process, according to the Law Society of Scotland. The Society has called for the processes allowing these communities to purchase and control the croft land they occupy to be simplified.

Current laws allow crofting communities the right to purchase and control the land on which they live and work. This right is absolute, whether or not the land is being offered for sale at the time. Crofting communities can exercise this right whenever they choose and are able to make the purchase.

However, the process they must go through to exercise this right is, according to the Society, overly complex at present. It has only been used for two right to buy applications since its introduction as part of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, though it is unknown whether this directly relates to the complexity of the system.

The call for a simpler right to buy process came from a member of the rural affairs sub-committee of the Law Society of Scotland, Duncan Burd. Burd made the comments after providing oral evidence relating to the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, which would include some reforms of the process.

Burd said: “The current process that crofting communities have to go through is complicated and time consuming. We agree that it needs to be simplified but don’t think the proposals go far enough.”

The Law Society of Scotland also included some criticisms of the system in written evidence that was previously submitted in relation to the bill. Last month, the Society provided written evidence criticising the overcomplicated mapping process which is required for right to buy applications by crofting communities. These require extensive effort in order to map every drain, ditch and sewer on the land. According to the Society, it would be better if mapping requirements for crofting communities were the same as those used in other contexts, which are far less complicated and extensive.

The Society has also criticised proposals in the bill that would require right to buy applications from crofting communities to include lists of all parties with an interest in the land. The Society largely agrees with this, but has concerns over potential practical difficulties. For example, this would include those with a sporting interest, which would be difficult to obtain because landlords would not be obliged to supply this information and it would normally not be available from the Land Register.

According to Burd: “We agree that the list of interested parties should be properly identified and listed on the form, however it would be unfair in our eyes if an application was rejected on the basis that the applicants could not get information they have no way of obtaining.”

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