Criminal quality assurance

During 2010, a series of roadshows informed criminal practitioners throughout Scotland about the forthcoming implementation of the Criminal Peer Review Scheme.

The scheme is similar in process to the Civil Peer Review Scheme but differs in that it comes under the auspices of the Scottish Legal Aid Board's Criminal Quality Assurance Committee and is administered and operated by SLAB. The convener of the committee is a member of SLAB and the committee itself is made up of nine members; three representatives from SLAB, three representatives from the Law Society and three lay members. The committee meets at the end of each month to discuss reviews carried out and to make decisions on those reviews.

The committee also plans to provide regular feedback to solicitors about the general findings from the peer reviews. The committee plans to issue regular updates highlighting, in general terms, the issues and areas of good practice identified in the reviews.

Live reviews began in December 2010 and will continue over an agreed cycle to ensure that every registered criminal practitioner in Scotland is reviewed.

Peer reviewers were selected on their current expertise within criminal legal aid and must be regularly practising, experienced criminal practitioners. These reviewers use agreed criteria for all summary, solemn, and appeal cases selected as part of a review and, using a recently developed computer system, submit their findings online.

The whole process of criminal peer review is assisted by this new computer system, ensuring that the committee is supplied with full details of each review, thereby enabling the members to make decisions on whether the solicitor being reviewed has demonstrated the delivery of professional services which were at least of the quality expected of a reasonably competent practising legal aid solicitor.

The Coordinator for the Criminal Quality Assurance Scheme is Edie Cook, who can be contacted on 0131 240 2000 or on Cooked@slab.org.uk.