A Bill to reform the criminal liability of Scottish partnerships took a step closer to becoming law earlier this month, when it began its Second Reading in the House of Lords.
The Partnerships (Prosecution) (Scotland) Bill is designed to close a legal loophole that allows partnerships to evade prosecution by the simple process of dissolving the partnership.
The loophole came to light following the death of 14 elderly residents in a fire at the Rosepark nursing home in Lanarkshire in 2004. The Crown Office made three separate attempts to prosecute those alleged to be responsible but the case failed each time because the partnership had been dissolved after the alleged crimes had been committed.
It was the first time that a dissolved partnership had ever been prosecuted in Scotland.
The Scottish Law Commission had already been working with the Law Commission on a comprehensive reform of the law of partnership, but was asked to come up with additional proposals to close this specific loophole.
It published a report and draft Bill in December last year, recommending that it should remain competent to prosecute a partnership – and its culpable members – for a period of five years following its dissolution.
Those proposals have now been taken forward to Westminster.
The Bill received its First Reading in the House of Lords on 5th November and detailed scrutiny began on 4th December.
It is the first wholly Scottish Bill to be introduced at Westminster since 2004, making it the third since devolution to have Scotland-only extent.
“I am very pleased the Bill has arrived at this important stage. It is the product of much collaborative effort between the UK Government and the Scottish Law Commission. We have also worked closely with the Crown Office who support the Bill,” said the Advocate General the Lord Wallace of Tankerness QC.
“The Rosepark fire was a terrible tragedy, compounded by the fact prosecutors were unable to find a legal basis to bring those responsible for the deaths of 14 vulnerable people to justice,” he added. “Closing this loophole is important and it will ensure no one will have to endure the same frustrations as the bereaved families in this case in future. Simply dissolving a partnership will no longer put you beyond prosecution.”
Contact Lawford Kidd‘s for specialist legal advice.
Further information on the criminal liability of Scottish partnerships:-