Legal aid news and updates

Legal aid news and updates November 2014

Legal assistance in Scotland discussion paper

We would like to share with you a discussion paper on reform of the legal assistance system in Scotland. 

We do not believe that the current system is fit for purpose and at a time when there are ongoing reforms to modernise the wider court and justice system, we need to rethink the system as a whole and look at where efficiencies can be made and how savings can be reinvested into legal aid.

The suggestions in this paper are unlikely to draw universal support. Indeed there are divergent views within our committees on some of the ideas. The intention of the paper is to start a conversation and encourage new ways of thinking about legal aid reform.

We are relying on members to help inform our views on these important issues. We will also be consulting with a wide range of justice system stakeholders as well as the Scottish Government and SLAB. Input from as many practitioners as possible will be essential in reaching a final set of recommendations.

We would be very grateful for your views. Specifically, do you have any comments on the suggestions that:

• Legal assistance is overly complex, inefficient, outdated and under-funded?

• There could be a single system for criminal legal assistance and a single system for civil legal assistance (rather than ABWOR, A&A and legal aid)?

• There is a need for a block fee for police station advice work?

• Fees could be front-loaded to encourage early resolution of criminal cases?

• The upper eligibility limit for civil cases could be reduced so that expenditure can be targeted in areas that need it most?

• The areas currently within the scope of civil legal assistance could be reviewed so that expenditure can be targeted on areas that need it most?

• There should be promotion of alternative funding options and Government loans for legal services?

Please email your thoughts to legalaid@lawscot.org.uk. We welcome responses up to 5pm on 30 January 2015.