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Review allows easier communications for criminal defence lawyers

31 May 2013 | tagged News release

More channels of communication aimed at making it easier for solicitors to both discuss and have their say on changes to criminal legal aid have been approved by the Council of the Law Society.

The changes follow a five-month review into how the Society deals with issues involving criminal legal aid, which was led by the president and vice president, and involved extensive consultation with legal aid solicitors, faculties and bar associations. Its aim was to find out what criminal defence solicitors thought was the best way for the Society to represent and support them.

At today's meeting, the Council approved:

  • establishing a network of criminal legal aid contacts or 'champions' across Scotland which the Society's legal aid committee would regularly engage and consult with;
  • the creation of an online forum for members to discuss and share views on criminal legal aid;
  • the piloting of electronic surveying of practitioner views on critical issues. A paper with details of how such a system could work in practice will be brought to the June Council meeting.

Past President of the Law Society, Austin Lafferty, said: "I am stepping down as president at a time when representation of our criminal legal aid members is at a vital point, which is why we have invested so much time and placed such importance on getting this right.

"There are big challenges ahead for solicitors who do criminal and civil legal aid work with shrinking budgets and the introduction of some form of contracting as early as 2015.

"I want to say a huge thank you to the many criminal legal aid solicitors who engaged so constructively during this review, feeding in their thoughts, ideas and suggestions. After speaking to them and the local organisations representing solicitors across Scotland, we made three key recommendations to the Society's Council. We are confident these will ensure that members find it easier to discuss and have their say on key issues affecting them in their everyday working lives.

"The network of local champions in each sherrifdom is designed to complement the work of local faculties, whilst e-surveying will help inform the Society's thinking on issues. We hope that the profession engages with us using these platforms and that we can keep developing ideas which best serve their interests."

ENDS

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Suzy Powell on 0131 476 8115.

Email: suzypowell@lawscot.org.uk

31 May 2013

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