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Edinburgh solicitors step up criminal legal aid protest action

7 November 2018

Edinburgh Bar Association solicitors have voted to cut back further on the legal aid work they are willing to take on, by deciding not to accept court appointments in summary cases where the accused is prohibited from carrying out their own defence.

The EBA has already been boycotting the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s police station duty scheme, since new legislation came into force in January, and since September has withdrawn from the justice of the peace court duty rota.

EBA members claim the legal aid rates paid are uneconomic and is trying to bring pressure to bear on the Scottish Government for a general increase on rates.

People charged with domestic abuse or sexual offences are not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, and the court can appoint someone to act for them if they have no other legal representative.

EBA President Leanne McQuillan said the association had "chosen to make a point" about this form of work because it was paid at rates that had been fixed in 1992 – £42.20 an hour.

A review of the legal aid system under Martyn Evans, published in February, reported that it had failed to find evidence to justify a general increase in legal aid rates, but in recommending other reforms called on the Government to undertake a further study of rates. Ms McQuillan commented: "We don't think there's anything wrong with the system; it's just completely underfunded."

The Scottish Government has promised to give its full response to the review this autumn.

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Douglas Arthur

Thursday November 8, 2018, 00:38

Scotland's human rights record since devolution has been appalling.

Here is an example:-

Concise - "Legally Unqualified Justices of the Peace".

Imagine a Sheriff Clerk, Solicitor, Nurse, Dentist, Teacher, Motor Mechanic, Plumber, Electrician etc, qualifying after only 24 hours of training and 6 hours every three years.

Anyone aspiring to make "judgments" in a court of criminal law, must begin the journey by reading law at university, not by means of a JP handbook: res ipsa loquitur.

Most students take seven years to complete the education required to become a lawyer and it may take additional time to pass the state bar exam. The type of judgeship one is pursuing will affect the length of time it takes to become a judge.

Failure under the Labour Party

Inter alia, the main reason Justice of the Peace Courts are still in existence notwithstanding devolution and in particular the Human Rights Act, is a direct result of the incompetence administered by Cathy Jamieson, Labour Branch Office MSP, during her tenure as "Scotland's Justice Minister" (sic).

Progress under the SNP

The Courts Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, passed by the Scottish Parliament, created a new post of Summary Sheriff. The intention is that there will be a larger number of Summary Sheriffs, with around 60 of them being able to sit in the Justice of the Peace Courts as well as the Sheriff Courts throughout Scotland.

Summary Sheriffs in the Justice of the Peace Courts exercise the same powers as a Justice of the Peace. However, when they sit in a Sheriff Court they will exercise the same powers as a Sheriff.

I suspect it is now on the horizon that Justice of the Peace Courts will be disestablished and replaced by Summary Sheriff Courts and not before time.

Furthermore, the establishment of Summary Sheriff Courts will facilitate the first step on the ladder for those who are legally qualified and aspiring judgeship, to the benefit of all concerned.