News In Focus
Angus solicitors at odds over police duty scheme boycott
Legal firms in Angus are applying to rejoin the police station duty scheme after two practices decided to go against a boycott of the scheme, the Courier newspaper has reported.
Solicitors in many areas of Scotland, Angus included, pulled out of the scheme last month ahead of new legislation coming into force which it was predicted would increase the demands on solicitors being asked to attend police stations out of hours to advise people being held there. They claimed the legal aid rates on offer were not enough for them to engage the extra cover they would need.
Early indications are that fewer people than expected are being held by police, but it is less clear whether this is because they are releasing people whom they would previously have detained until they would be brought to court.
It is reported that other Angus practices have followed the two who broke ranks by returning to the duty scheme, feeling that they have no option despite being unhappy at having to make the move.
Mike Ferrie, dean of the Society of Procurators of Angus, described the situation as "a huge disappointment and something of an embarassment". It remained his view that all practitioners should withdraw from the scheme, but it required "total support and trust" between firms for the boycott to work.
- The Law Society of Scotland has released a letter from Annabelle Ewing, Mnister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, in reply to Ian Moir, who leads for the Society on criminal legal aid and had written raising issues relating to the scheme. Ms Ewing notes that despite the resignations from the scheme, "early indications are that the volume of requests for legal advice have been managed effectively", and concerns about anticipated increases have not been realised. She has asked the Scottish Legal Aid Board to conduct further engagement with local solicitors to discuss ways in which the scheme can operate in each area. She adds: "While I appreciate your proposal on a further financial adjustment, aside from any other consideration, it is not by any means clear that your proposal might satisfy your colleagues and encourage them to continue to support the police station duty scheme."
- The independent review of legal aid is due to report at the end of this month.