Having watched the justice system in England and Wales going through a protracted programme of reforms – many would argue it to be more a process of death by a thousand cuts – the Scots are now witnessing the beginning of their own potential trauma. On 6 February the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill and the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill were laid before the Scottish Parliament. The former does what it says on the tin: introduce changes to the Scottish system of criminal justice; the latter deals with the process of the civil courts in that country. It attempts to put into effect the recommendations of the Scottish Civil Courts Review, led by Lord Gill and published in 2010.
The review concluded that the civil justice in Scotland was “slow, inefficient and expensive” and recommended reforms which are both structural and functional.
The entire process is being scrutinised by the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which has already recommended one change (that concerning the removal of the need for corroboration) and expressed concerns over other areas. On the subject of civil court reforms, it has issued a call for evidence.
The committee’s Convenor, Christine Graham MSP, said: ““We would like to hear the views of people and groups who actually use the service, along with those of legal practitioners whose day-to-day work may be significantly affected by the provisions in the Bill.”
It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing barristers manning the metaphorical barricades, as happened in London last month, although the more picky among us may automatically balk at fundamental changes to a justice system that takes as its starting point the fact that it’s expensive. Watch this space.
• Many moons ago, before my ageing frame succumbed to the ravages of time, I was a cyclist. It was before I bothered to learn to drive, partly because of financial constraints but also because I was an early eco-warrior and saw cars as an environmental pest – but that was then.
As a cyclist I became acquainted by the feeling of outrage experienced when you return to the place you know you chained your bike, only to find it has gone. It is just the same as having a car stolen: I know; that has happened to me as well.
Now, Michael Cross, the news editor of the Law Society Gazette, has highlighted the issue in his excellent Opinion column in the journal. His main gripe, and one alluded to above, is that the world at large does not realise that the crime is as galling as car theft.
Having recently moved home, I was required to send for a replacement registration certificate for the family car. On it is emblazoned a notice urging me to visit the government website to learn how to avoid buying a stolen car.
There is, however, a national register of bikes which can be used to flag up a bike as stolen – the address is www.bikeregister.com. It also provides registered owners with a ‘log book’ to prove ownership. That, however, requires people to put their bike on the register BEFORE it is stolen. It isn’t a database of stolen bikes. Of course it makes sense to register a bike anyway. The frame number, by the way, is on the bottom bracket between the pedal cranks.