45 High Street
Dumbarton, G82 1LS, 01389 742 777

112 Main Street,
Alexandria, G82 1LS, 01389 756 979

Opening Times
Mon - Fri 9.00 - 17.00

Scottish Criminal Justice System

The Scottish Criminal Justice System has developed separately and distinctly over many centuries from the English System. Scotland has now its own devolved Parliament but long before that came into existence there were significant differences in the Scottish approach. Accordingly a significant amount of law applicable in England is of no relevance at all in Scotland and the approach to the rules of evidence, corroboration, police powers of search, arrest and detention are in the main unique.

Police Powers Of Search

The police have no automatic power of search in Scotland and any search generally must be carried out either in exercise of a statutory power (such as Misuse of Drugs Act, Carrying of Knives (Scotland) Act. Any search carried out in terms of these statutory powers can only properly happen where there is "reasonable suspicion" that the person is carrying a prohibited article. Other than that, a search warrant should be obtained from a Justice of the Peace or Sheriff to authorise search of premises. A search without a warrant or carried out arbitrarily and without consent can be objected to which, if successful, will exclude any evidence recovered from that search.

Police Powers of Detention

The police have a power to detain an individual for up to 6 hours if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has committed a crime punishable by imprisonment. The reasonable grounds for suspicion do not require to be corroborated and during the course of detention the suspect, while having the right to have a solicitor informed of his detention, has no automatic right to have that solicitor present during any questioning. If being questioned, the detained person must be cautioned that he need not answer any questions. In the absence of such a caution evidence of any answers given in response to such questioning is likely to be inadmissible in a subsequent prosecution. The police have powers during the course of detention to take samples, fingerprints etc. from the individual. At the end of the 6 hour period the individual must be released or charged.

Accident Claims

For accident claims to succeed you need to show 2 main things – firstly that the accident was caused by fault or negligence on the part of the person against whom you wish to make the claim; and secondly, that as a result of that fault or negligence you suffered some form of loss, such as an injury, loss of income, damage to property, etc. However, the other person’s act of negligence must be of a type that would have been avoided if he or she had taken reasonable precautions. In addition the person responsible will only have to compensate you for losses which are reasonably foreseeable.

In appropriate cases we will be prepared to proceed with accident claims on a “no win – no fee” basis. Please ask us about this.

Grounds for Divorce

While there is currently only one ground for divorce in Scotland – that the marriage has broken down irretrievably – it can only be proved in any one of 4 ways:-
1. Unreasonable behaviour
2. Adultery
3. 1 year separation with the other party’s consent, or
4. 2 years separation, without consent

Divorce - Financial Claims

These can either be for aliment – based on the income and expenditure of both parties and continuing for up to 3 years after divorce – or for capital - usually based on the value of the “matrimonial property” at the separation date. That property nowadays sometimes includes pension rights which may have a very large value.

The law normally looks for a "clean break" on divorce, so that continuing aliment after divorce is relatively unusual nowadays, particularly if there has been an award of a capital sum of money. However, there can still be awards of aliment (termed “periodical allowance”) if either spouse can show that such an award will be necessary for a period to allow for adjustment to the changed financial circumstances.

Divorce - Court Proceedings

Even if the other party does not defend an action based on the first three of those types of cases, the person raising the action must produce corroborating evidence to the court.

Actions can be raised in the Court of Session in Edinburgh or, more commonly, in the local Sheriff Court for the area in which the person raising the action (the "Pursuer") resides.

If there are any children of the marriage, then the Court will require evidence as to their welfare arrangements before being able to grant and order (a "decree") for divorce.

In situations where the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is being proved by evidence of a 1 year separation with consent of the other party or by evidence of 2 year separation, and there are no children under 16 and there are no financial claims to be made by either party, the case can proceed under a simplified procedure. Parties can obtain the appropriate forms from their local Sheriff Courts. However, it would always be wise to take legal advice first of all to be absolutely sure that there is no basis for financial claims, as the right to pursue a financial claim will ordinarily be lost for ever if it is not put forward at the time of divorce.

Legal Team

Bill Cairns

Bill Cairns

Bill Cairns: LLB MBA, member of the Family Law Association
Having qualified in 1971 Mr Cairns has extensive experience representing client’s in a variety of civil matters ranging from matrimonial and family disputes to, employment matters, damages claims and anything in between. He is one of the founding partners of Cairns Brown and manages the business aspects of the firm.

Tom Brown - Lawyer

Tom Brown

After qualifying in 1978 Mr Brown worked as a procurator fiscal for a number of years before moving to practice in criminal defence. Since then he has successfully represented clients in every manner of criminal trials, including Courts Martial. Mr Brown is located in our Alexandria office and can be contacted there for further advice.

Roddy Boag

Roddy Boag

Mr Boag qualified in 1981 and has now worked in criminal defence for over thirty years. During his 20 years as partner at Cairns Brown he has appeared in Sheriff courts throughout Scotland and defended clients in numerous High Court cases. To benefit from this level of experience, you can make an appointment with Mr Boag at our Dumbarton office.

Lauren Kerr

Lauren Kerr

LLB (Hons) Dip LP, member of the Family Law Association
Miss Kerr qualified in 2009 and has worked in the jurisdiction of Dumbarton for the entirety of her career. She is experienced in criminal and family law as well as children's referrals. If you need help with any of these matters you can arrange an appointment with her by contacting our Alexandria office.

Gillian Bowman

Gillian Bowman

BA LLB Dip LP, member of the Family Law Association
Having completed a traineeship exclusively in family law Mrs Bowman has a particular interest in this area and has experience representing clients in financial contact , interdict and children’s referral matters. Since qualifying in 2014 and joining Cairns Brown she has practised in many other general civil matters and can be contacted at our Dumbarton office.


I sought support initially from Cairns Brown on recommendation to gain a financial separation and settlement of assets. They offered objective and excellent legal advice informing me fully on what options were available. They supported and advised me, allowing me to progress a very acrimonious situation with integrity and fairness. Circumstance led to further representation in a family court but their expertise meant the best interests of my child were prioritised which was the most important thing. CC April 2017

From initial enquiry to my divorce and financial negotiations being concluded, Cairns Brown were efficient, helpful and reasonable.  The advice I was given was excellent, and all the complicated procedures and paperwork were explained to me.  In fact, it couldn’t have been easier.  They were the third legal firm I spoke to, and were the best by far.   VL April 2017

Cairns Brown has  advised  and represented myself,  family and business over the past years (18 years) on many various matters successfully,  with the latest issue being with a major utility company and being successful with costs, £6,000 00 being repaid to myself. I would not hesitate to recommend these Solicitors for personal advice or  any possible litigations minor or major  they may have. DM April 2017

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