The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Month: January, 2011

TV review: You can’t take it with you

There is a pretty interesting six part series on BBC2 that I’ve been watching the past few weeks. It sets out a deeply English focused (it’s not their fault) view of complicated succession issues. They’ve mainly focused on situations where you want to give unequal shares to people or things that your other beneficiaries, spouse etc shouldn’t benefit (eg. charities). I think that equal shares are a perfectly nice option but that is probably more to do with how utterly confused by succession law I got and with my shaky knowledge of distributions (intestacy is particularly awful stuff) I would do anything to keep it simple for myself than anything to do with me being a crazy egalitarian lefty.

People really do not think about wills on the whole because it inherently means that you are looking at your imminent (at least in your eyes) death. There’s no obvious benefit to you spending time and money thinking about how to divide things after you’re gone but there are benefits for the people who are left behind if you have an easy and straightforward succession — it might even be something that your heirs should pay for more than you.

It’s quite interesting to see how the process of exploring the issues and thinking out how to handle these things works and it’s always interesting to see that there is a creative solution to these problems which transforms what looks a lot like a really intractable problem into something the parties are really happy about. That’s one of the things that really points me towards practice as a job (not being certain that I like the rest of it and that anyone will let me are the reasons pointing against).

I’m a big fan of contracts. I think that they’re such a simpler way of doing things, with all the caveats that “simpler” includes when dealing with contentious issues, and I was particularly impressed this week. There was a Muslim couple who wanted a Sharia compliant will to stick to a Qua’ranic injunction that requires them to divide inheritances 2:1 between sons and daughters without being unfair about it. 2:1 shares of property would have been unbelievably progressive when the historical position was that the daughters were property but not so good today when women have equal agency. The solution they settled on was creating conditions in the will determining that the extra share to the son would be contingent on him accepting the responsibility of caring for his sisters after the parents died and if he didn’t want that responsibility he wouldn’t get the extra money. This was all written into the will. From what I can see of the reactions to how it was decided I think that one is likely to be reasonably successful.

The less successful arrangement seems to be the division of a family farm between three farming sons and a non-farming daughter. The sons clearly don’t want the daughter around the farm (I wonder if this is why the daughter doesn’t like farming) and were pretty clearly circling wagons to get as much of the estate as they possibly could. They wanted all of the farming assets because the daughter wasn’t a farmer and they wanted equal shares of the non-farming assets because they were part of their parents’ estate. They compromised by creating a partnership through the will, where all the children had to agree to stop farming to liquidate it, but the sons seemed to be a bit cold to it. The only solution I can see for that one is fratricide.

A good will is not going to settle every dispute after you’re dead but at least you’ve tried. The mantra of the show is you should talk to your relatives before you die and try to flush out any latent issues that are going to flare up after you die. I think that goes for most things in life but it’s a big deal for things you’re never going to be in a position to try to fix after the fact. The series is ongoing – BBC2 Fridays at 9pm and on iPlayer and I recommend it.



“It is a recognised PIRA, IRA whatever — form of terrorism technique”

What’s a terrorism technique?

The right to remain silent when questioned.

The suspect here is acting on the instructions of her lawyer and she tells the officer this. Apparently this is now a sign of terrorist training. “Who trained you”. Maybe he’s just trying to shake the suspect — so he drops in that terror suspects can be detained for a week.

You don’t generally get to see police interrogations taking place and it’s only because these tapes have got into the press, though a pretty dodgy looking leak by the sounds of it, that we can see it at all. This isn’t the first time that I’ve seen this video of Gail Sheridan but it remains deeply chilling to someone who loves their free country. This is why you don’t want to talk to the police. They’re not your friends.


Twitter refuses to secretly hand over user data

Twitter has gone to court over demands by the US Department of justice to hand over the data of individuals linked to Wikileaks, without telling the users they were doing it.

Good on twitter.

The ability of authorities to get the data of users they are investigating without their knowledge is supposed to allow investigations to take place without alerting the people under investigation that they are. It’s the 21st century equivalent of the stakeout.

It’s wholly inappropriate just now because anyone on a list of people who is linked to Wikileaks who doesn’t realise they are under investigation shouldn’t be on the list because they clearly don’t work for Wikileaks. The PCPro Podcast recently pointed out that they had followed Wikileaks on Twitter and wondered if they are under investigation now, for that matter am I?

The problem with serving secret orders on internet intermediaries is that it lets you show the warrant to the wrong person. Instead of showing it to the person who is involved and potentially interested in challenging the order you show it to a business which is far more concerned about not annoying the authorities too much and not going bankrupt. What reason does a company have to spend their finite resources defending faceless users, perhaps even overseas, who don’t even know they’re being defended?

The more I think about what Twitter, a popular but still fledgling business, has done the more impressed I am about it. That is a rare Web 2.0 company that cares more about customers than their float.


The problem with deathlists

Mrs Palin has been criticised by some US commentators for continually using gun imagery in a way that – as they have made perfectly clear – would not have directly influenced the Arizona murders, but were certainly not designed to make people like each other.

But in a video posted on her Facebook page, the unofficial leader of America’s Teapot movement hit back saying she had been ‘sprayed with dishonesty bullets fired from the liberal media’s .357 Magnum of unfairness and America-hating’.

Daily Mash, Palin ‘hit with dishonesty bullets from .357 Magnum of unfairness’

Today’s post is about common sense and thinking about the potential consequences of your actions. I’m not even thinking of the big ones (other people might get hurt); I’m thinking about you: you might get hurt.

There comes a time in life when you need to realise that the problem with publishing a list of 20 people and then taking the time to put cross hairs over where they live is that, when someone on that list comes to be shot, you may have some awkward questions to answer. You should of course feel free to get in the habit of drawing up deathlists but I’m just saying that kind of list can stay in a drawer at home.

What thoughtful politics looks like

It’s not that you’re responsible for the killings when the people on that list you wrote start to get picked off one by one but other people might think it’s a reasonable question to ask just, you know, given your actions with the list of names and the cross hairs and such.

It’s the old “Did you get on with the victim?” “No, I ran a national advertising campaign that published a list of names with a rifle target over hers shortly before she was shot in the head along along with 19 other people and 6 people died” liberal bias.


Hands off our ice

s. 14 Scotland Bill 2010-11

You may not know that there is a new Scotland Bill going through the Westminister Parliament just now. This is to partly to tidy up operating issues which the whole having a new Parliament in Scotland have exposed over the past decade and so.

Partly it’s also got elements of the completely crazy too.

Clause 14 is a bizarre provision which the explanatory notes says is supposed to “re-reserve” Antarctica from Alex Salmond’s legislative grasp. By Antarctica I do indeed mean that one that isn’t even in Scotland.

The proposed amendment is headed L7 and Heading L is the Miscellaneous heading of the Legislative Competencies section — weird little things that the Parliament expressly cannot do things about.

H/T: I thought that we were surely done with Heading L at this point (where do you go after outer space?) and I found out about this through Iain Nisbet’s Absolvitor post where he gets a brilliantly belt and braces answer from the Scotland Office (it’s not already in there, so, well…)