Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill - GLC's written evidence at Stage 1

Govan Law Centre has submitted its written evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Stage 1 inquiry of the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Bill, which is available as a PDF document here.  GLC will be presenting oral evidence to the Parliament's Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee next Wednesday, 18 November 2015.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Powerless: no expectations, choice or security - Govan Law Centre's research report on the experience of tenants in Scotland's private rented sector

Govan Law Centre's research report, funded by the Big Lottery in Scotland, on the experience of tenants in Scotland's private rented sector has been published online (full link below).

We searched out and listened to the personal experience of a wide range of tenants in Glasgow’s private rented sector.  Our report is their story. Their voice represents a common experience which we have no reason to believe is not replicated across Scotland and the UK.

Our study, funded by the Big Lottery in Scotland, reveals that most tenants feel powerless and worry that they have little more than a month’s security of tenure.  Learning from their experience, GLC's report makes a number of major law reform, practice and policy recommendations.

We do not believe the Scottish Government's Private Rented Housing (Tenancies) Bill, published last week, as currently drafted is capable of tackling the many problems our report evidences and identifies. We hope the Bill can be amended in order to give Scotland private rented sector tenants a little power, choice and security in their relationships with private landlords.

Coverage of GLC's report in the media:
Evening Times Special Report 
The Herald
The Herald Opinion 

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Update on GLC's Public Interest Litigation Unit (PILU)

Since launching just over three months ago, and with no dedicated resources, Govan Law Centre's Public Interest Litigation Unit (PILU) has been inundated with requests for assistance from across Scotland; what follows is a brief update of work streams.

We have sought to prioritise and utilise our limited resources to try and achieve the best possible strategic litigation outcomes for those in need of help in Scotland.

At present PILU is staffed by GLC's Principal Solicitor and Solicitor Advocate, Mike Dailly, and Deirdre Flanigan, a Trainee Solicitor with a specialist interest in International Human Rights. We are developing the offers of support we have had from advocates, solicitors, experts and other volunteers to increase our capacity and reach.

The PILU is currently progressing a number of cases across Scotland with respect the legality of charges for non-residential care for severely disabled people. This is a live strategy, working with a national disability rights charity, and we hope to be in a position to provide further updates when appropriate to do so.

Other examples of work include working with a national charity in relation to the rights of asylum seekers, and we are currently ingathering evidence and preparing test cases to challenge the unacceptable treatment of asylum seekers in Scotland in relation to accommodation and services.

With respect to the environmental concerns of fracking and UCG in Scotland and the UK, the PILU is undertaking research and investigation into potential legal strategies, working with local communities in Fife, and developing links to other potential stakeholders.

In Glasgow, we have agreed in principle to represent the interests of local communities in relation to a potential forthcoming public inquiry; while in Edinburgh we are looking at the possibility of helping to prevent multiple evictions.

If you have a issue of wider strategic public interest in Scotland that requires legal assistance you can set out the details and send same to PILU@ We have limited resources and need to target these as best as possible, but we will consider each case on its merits, having regard to our criteria for trying to help where there is a national or wider public interest.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Bullying & the Law in Scotland - A new guide for parents in Scotland from Govan Law Centre

Govan Law Centre’s Education Law Unit has today published a guide for parents on bullying and the law. RespectMe’s report on Bullying in Scotland (2014) revealed that 30% of pupils were bullied in the last school year, and for many families it is an ongoing and debilitating problem.

Bullying at school is one of the main reasons the Education Law Unit is contacted for advice, and the guide will be distributed free of charge in PDF format so that it is accessible to all.

Iain Nisbet, partner at Govan Law Centre and Head of the Education Law Unit said: “Our aim in producing this guide is to set out as clearly and simply as possible, what the law says about bullying in all its guises.  Bullying at school, whether it is a physical assault or abuse via social media platforms, needs to be dealt with". 

"By informing parents and others about the rights and responsibilities in this area, we hope to empower parents and families to make the right decisions and to work with the right agencies to help address the bullying and to protect the child in question from further harm.”

GLC's Bullying & the Law Guide is available as a free PDF download here.


Friday, 11 September 2015

Don't be money scammed by telephone fraudsters: what to know and do about 'vishing' from Govan Law Centre

All this week BBC's Money Box has been highlighting the prevalence of telephone money scams across the UK. This is known as 'vishing'. There are literally thousands of vishing calls each day to people by fraudsters all looking for just one thing: to dupe you to transfer money from your bank account to them. Last year they got £23m by conning consumers this way. It can happen to anyone, so what do you need to know to protect yourself from fraud?

What you need to know
Criminals will telephone you pretending to be from your bank or the police. They will lie and pretend that you are the victim of a fraud. For example, someone has accessed your account or card details or there is someone within your bank who is a thief. They will try and convince you to transfer your money into a safe account, or give your personal details. First thing to know is your bank or the police would never ever do this. 
  • Under no circumstances would your bank or the police ever ask you to transfer money into another account, give your PIN number or password, or take out money to give to them to keep safe.
  • Anyone who telephones you to transfer money or release your PIN or password is a criminal and you should simply hang up.  
  • After hanging up wait ten or fifteen minutes. Make sure you hear a proper dialling tone and call your bank's official telephone number straight away and report this.
  • Remember fraudsters use the 'no hang-up' trick. You get a call and they say to prove they are from the bank hang-up and dial your bank. You put the phone down but they are still on the line - you think your are dialling your bank but you aren't - the fraudster speaks and cons you into thinking you've just called your bank.
  • Never ever transfer any funds or give away a PIN or password.
What happens if I'm scammed?
If you have transferred money or given someone your personal details you should contact you bank immediately. Your bank can put a freeze on your account to prevent money from being taken from it.  If you have already transferred money to someone else's account give your bank that sort code and account number. Your bank should contact the bank where your money has been transferred to - they have a legal duty to treat your fairly and protect your money - and try and recover the money before it leaves the fraudster's bank account.

I've lost money what can I do?
If you have contacted your bank without delay and they have done everything possible to help get your money back but unfortunately the criminals have been too quick, it may be extremely difficult to get a refund.  However, every case depends on its own circumstances and if you are suffering very serious hardship it may be worth complaining to your bank explaining the impact this is having on you.

If your bank hasn't done everything possible and failed to take reasonable steps then you will have much better grounds for a refund complaint - for example:
  • Your bank says you need to contact the bank where the money was transferred to;
  • You were unable to contact your bank immediately because it only accept reports of fraud within limited hours;
  • Your bank says it will take several days to look into this;
  • Your banks says there is nothing they can do as you chose to make the transfer; or
  • The fraudster had personal information about you that only your bank had (raising the possibility your banking data had been hacked or sold on to fraudsters).
Even if your bank rejects your complaint you can still complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). You have six months to do so from when your bank rejects your complaint, and are always best to do so as soon as possible.

The FOS has published a study on vishing scams (Calling Time on Telephone Fraud, July 2015 - opens as a PDF). This study shows that on average 37% of consumer complaints for vishing scams were upheld (successful) in favour of the bank customer. The study indicates the FOS will look at what steps your bank has taken, how reasonable they were in all of the circumstances, and how reasonably you have acted in all of the circumstances.

Remember the three T's -
  • don't Transfer your money for any caller
  • don't Tell a caller your PIN number of password, and
  • never Trust any caller who asks you transfer your money or reveal your PIN/password
You can listen to BBC Money Box's discussion of this issue here: