A consultation has recently been launched by the UK Government on tightening the law on the criminal liability of partnerships. The consultation is also seeking views on reforming the law on unincorporated associations.
The need for reform to the Scots law on criminal liability of partnerships was highlighted after 14 elderly residents lost their lives in the Rosepark nursing home fire in Lanarkshire in 2004. The case against the care home operators failed in the courts because of a loophole which prevented the prosecution of a partnership once it had been dissolved.
The proposed change, which is based on the work of the Scottish Law Commission, would prevent all Scottish partnerships from escaping prosecution for potentially serious offences by dissolving, and ensure they could be held to account if they commit crimes.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said:
"There is an urgent need to ensure that we end the loophole that led to the failure of prosecutions following the Rosepark tragedy. This must not be allowed to happen again. It is not right that partnerships are able to avoid criminal proceedings by dissolving.”
The consultation will also look at a separate issue of attributing legal personality to non-profit making unincorporated associations where they meet certain statutory criteria.
Michael Moore went on to say: "The second measure would restrict the liability of individuals in unincorporated associations. It is not fair that someone who gives their time to the management of a club or association should be held personally - and financially - responsible for an accident or injury which happens at one of its events. We believe that should be the responsibility of the organisation as a whole and are consulting on the best way to remove this risk and ensure individuals who help manage clubs or voluntary associations are protected.
"We believe these two proposals are sensible and sound steps forward for Scots law."