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Industrial action to hit Glasgow Sheriff Court

2 May 2008

Industrial action will hit Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 6 May as criminal lawyers protest agains the Scottish Government's proposals for legal aid payments in summary criminal cases.

The Glasgow Bar Association, which represents one third of Scotland's criminal lawyers, voted for industrial action two weeks ago. In a letter sent to members yesterday, the association's vice president David O'Hagan said the aim of Tuesday's action was to slow down the courts. This would demonstrate that it is only the goodwill of the lawyers that enables Europe's busiest court to function smoothly, he claimed.

Only four duty solicitors will be available to process cases on Tuesday. The action coincides with a bank holiday weekend and it is estimated that some 200 people will have been detained for court appearance on Tuesday. The slowed down service will make it difficult for the duty solicitors to deal with the estimated numbers in custody, which could mean that some of them will have to be released and cited to appear at a later date.

Ian Smart, Vice President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “It’s very disappointing that the Glasgow Bar Association has been encouraging 'solicitors of choice' not to appear in custody courts on Tuesday 6 May.

“We share the concerns of many of our members about the proposed reforms to legal aid, particularly the overall drop in the budget, but have been involved throughout the negotiation process with the Scottish Government and have won a number of concessions which have made significant improvements to the original proposals.

Mr Smart added that access to payment for "solicitors of choice" appearing in custody courts had been one of the concessions won by the Society in the final negotiation talks. Before the current proposals for reform those solicitors who were not officially on duty but chose to dispose of cases in the custody courts did this for little or no remuneration.

“I would hope that solicitors will recognise the benefits of remaining engaged in the talks process with the government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board, as we have been assured that there will be ongoing monitoring while the reforms are implemented and any anomalies identified will be rectified at the earliest opportunity,” he explained.