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Supreme Court jurisdiction - report published 15/09/2011 The UK Supreme Court should still act as a court of appeal within the Scottish criminal justice system, but in an even more limited way, according to a report published this week

Supreme Court jurisdiction - report published

The UK Supreme Court should still act as a court of appeal within the Scottish criminal justice system, but in an even more limited way, according to a report published this week.

The report is the final one to be issued by an independent Review Group examining the relationship between the High Court of Justiciary and the UK Supreme Court in criminal cases. The group - chaired by Lord McCluskey - has focused on the role of the UK Supreme Court under existing constitutional arrangements.

In general terms, the report recognises that the current system is constitutionally problematic, and affects the historical independence of Scots law. It recommends that, in order to preserve this independence, the role of the UK Supreme Court needs to be more narrowly defined in relation to Scottish criminal cases.

The current Scotland Bill proposals (around the removal of the Lord Advocate's acts from the UK Supreme Court's devolution jurisdiction and the substitution of that court as a court of appeal) are profoundly flawed, and require significant recasting in order to maintain the High Court of Justiciary at the apex of the Scots legal system, says the report.

In other parts of the UK, allegations of Convention rights incompatibilities occurring in criminal proceedings do not reach the Supreme Court unless a certificate is granted by the relevant apex court. The report argues that there no comprehensible reason for making the position of the Scottish High Court any different.

"It is good to see that this latest report also recommends that the Supreme Court maintain its jurisdiction in relation to ECHR issues, indeed even suggesting an expansion to include other public authorities," said John Scott, Vice President (Crime) of the Society of Solicitor Advocates.

"On the other hand we remain to be convinced about the creation of a veto for the High Court through the requirement to obtain its certification that a case raises an issue of general public importance," he added. "The Cadder case is just one example where the High Court refused even to grant leave to appeal. If the High Court adopts the same approach in the future Scotland could be worse off when it comes to human rights than elsewhere in the UK."

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