News In Focus
Legal aid gaps begin to show
Women's groups have expressed concern about access to legal aid for domestic abuse victims in the Highlands.
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan has written to Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry about the issue. Solicitors are apparently unwilling to represent clients in remote areas because the Scottish Legal Aid Board will not cover their travelling costs.
Mrs Macmillan had been approached by women's groups concerned about the lack of access to legal aid for women in the Skye and Lochalsh, and Caithness and Sutherland areas. Women's Aid had spoken to firms in Fort William and Inverness, but solicitors said they found it impossible to take up cases as they would not be reimbursed for travelling to Portree Sheriff Court.
She said she found the situation "clearly intolerable" and that in her letter she had urged the minister to have the regulations amended to cover travelling costs in such cases as a matter of urgency.
Proposals to reform the legal aid system are included in the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill now before the Scottish Parliament.