News In Focus
Legal aid bill projected to jump
The total cost of legal aid in Scotland is set to rise to £156.7m in 2010-11, compared with £150.4m in 2009-10, according to the Scottish Legal Aid Board's corporate plan for the year, just published.
The figures do not take account of the potential costs of solicitors attending police stations to advise detained suspects, as could be required if the decision in the Peter Cadder appeal to the Supreme Court rules that that is necessary to comply with human rights requirements. The Lord Advocate has already issued guidelines to chief constables that suspects should be given such a right.
Total projected costs show criminal legal aid rising to £103.7m from £98.4m, civil legal aid from £58.1m to £61.1m, but a fall in children's legal assistance from £4.9m to £4.5m, all offset by income of £12.6m (up from £11m).
Civil legal aid figures are said to be affected by increased eligibility levels, an increase in solicitors' fees (partly backdated because of the time it took to implement), higher VAT, and litigation brought on by the recession.
New fee tables for solemn criminal work come into force this month; the Board will monitor the operation of the changes "to ensure they are effective".
Also this summer a quality assurance scheme for criminal practitioners is to be itroduced, similar to that already in place for civil legal aid lawyers.
Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker MSP yesterday called on the Scottish Government to issue its estimate of the additional funding required in the wake of the Cadder case.
Click here to access the corporate plan.