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July 12, 2010

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Scottish Government consults on redress for wrongful death

The Scottish Government is seeking views on how to reform the law on damages for wrongful death.

The consultation follows the introduction of the Damages (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament in June. The Bill, introduced by Bill Butler MSP, would implement the Scottish Law Commission’s Report on Damages for Wrongful Death, which was published in September 2008.

According to Mr Butler, the main effect of the Bill would be “to clarify, simplify and modernise the law in regard to loss of future earnings and loss of financial dependency in wrongful-death cases”.

The Scottish Government accepts that most of the proposals by the SLC “represent enhancements, such as simplicity and clarity, rather than radical reform”; however, it believes some of the recommendations require further examination.

The key issues on which the consultation will focus relate to the rights of relatives to damages for loss of a family member. They include the Bill’s provision that a fixed percentage of 25 per cent be deducted from victim’s net income for what would have been the pursuer’s living expenses during the lost period had the injuries not been suffered, and that the income of the victim’s spouse be disregarded.

The consultation will also examine the proposal to restrict those entitled to raise an action for damages to the list of those currently eligible to claim patrimonial loss under the Damages (Scotland) Act 1976.

Community Safety minister Fergus Ewing said: “Our aim is to ensure that victims and their relatives have appropriate rights and the ability, without unnecessary difficulty, to secure proper redress in respect of personal injury and wrongful death.

“Our objective is to work with interested parties to develop a way forward which takes account of all relevant perspectives and to modernise appropriately the law of damages for wrongful death, in order to reflect the structures, values and expectations of 21st-century Scotland.”

Meanwhile, another Member’s Bill, aimed at protecting workers in Scotland from assault, is to come under scrutiny by the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee.

Introduced in June by Hugh Henry MSP, the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill seeks to create a new offence of assault against a worker whose employment involves dealing with members of the public to any extent. The offence covers assaults while such workers are acting in the course of their work, and assaults that take place at other times but which relate to their work.

The penalties for a conviction under the new offence would mirror those of the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act 2005, which provides protection for some emergency-services and health-care workers. They include a maximum jail term of 12 months and/or a fine of £10,000.

The consultation on wrongful deaths reform closes on 27 August, and can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/07/06142911/0 The deadline for written evidence on the Protection of Workers (Scotland) Bill is 3 September – e-mail: [email protected]

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