News In Focus
Society to reiterate anti-collection stance
10 September 2012
Opposition to solicitors having to collect client contributions in summary criminal legal aid will be taken to Holyrood's Justice Committee tomorrow by the Law Society of Scotland.
Oliver Adair, convener of the Society’s legal aid team and Ian Moir of the criminal legal aid team will give evidence at the committee's stage 1 hearings on the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill.
The Society’s principal concerns are the income level at which contributions would become payable when they are introduced in summary cases – it believes the proposed threshold of £68 disposable income per week is unrealistically low – and the expectation that solicitors will collect contributions from clients, and suffer the loss of income from those who do not pay up.
In its written evidence to the committee (click here to access) the Society states its belief that the proposed system, under which the Scottish Legal Aid Board will collect contributions in solemn but not in summary cases, will be "will be impractical, unworkable and unsustainable".
Challenging the view that the proposals would share the burden of collection, the Society adds: "There are clearly different consequences for SLAB and solicitors in being unable to collect contributions from clients. The consequences for solicitors will have a direct impact on the income of solicitor firms as well as potentially increasing their financial and regulatory business risks. The consequences for SLAB are clearly different and we do not agree that these risks are shared."
It also points out that the proposed scale of contributions could provide an inducement to clients to plead guilty to avoid having to pay a contribution that is more than double the current legal aid fixed fee in summary cases of £485.