Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs to address legal aid conference
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs Paul Wheelhouse MSP is set to address solicitors at the Law Society of Scotland’s legal aid conference on Friday, 15 May.
Lord Bonomy will lead a session on the Post-corroboration Safeguards Review and its outcomes.
Law Society of Scotland President, Alistair Morris will open the conference on Friday. He said: “Ensuring access to justice for all is a fundamental part of our society. Legal aid allows people to seek advice at what are often the most challenging times in their lives whether they have been unfairly dismissed, unlawfully evicted, need to resolve custody of their children or are facing criminal charges. Solicitors who provide legal aid services are often helping very vulnerable people and it is essential that we work to protect this.
“We know that the Scottish Government is aiming to reduce legal aid expenditure from £150.5 million to £136 million over the next 12 months and this year’s conference aims to inform our members who carry out civil and criminal legal aid work of some of the challenges they are likely to face and provide an opportunity to hear from expert speakers and ask questions, as well as share experiences and network with fellow solicitors.
“The conference will provide solicitors and other delegates involved in the justice sector with an opportunity to discuss some of the major issues around the current legal aid system and the kind of improvements that we think can and should be made as well as wider changes within the justice system.
"I’m delighted that both Paul Wheelhouse MSP and Lord Bonomy have agreed to speak at the event and very much look forward to their contributions.”
The legal aid conference on Friday 15 – Saturday 16 May, follows the publication of the Law Society’s recommendations paper Legal Assistance In Scotland - Fit for the 21st Century which set out a series of proposals aimed at improving the legal aid system as a whole, including the introduction of a block fees system for solemn cases; fixed fees for police station advice; developing a single grant system for civil legal aid and increasing joint working between solicitors and the advice sector.
Morris said: “We don’t believe that the current system is fit for purpose and, with the ongoing reforms to modernise the wider court and justice system, the time is right for root and branch change.
“The core aim of our package of recommendations is to improve the legal aid system, to create a more streamlined system and reduce the complexity and administrative burden. This will help generate savings which can then be reinvested and halt to the real-term decline we have seen in legal aid expenditure over the years.”
Richard Miller, Head of Legal Aid at the Law Society of England & Wales, will also speak at the conference and will discuss the changes south of the border and the lessons that can be learned in Scotland. Other key topics include court reforms, digitalisation and business development for legal aid firms.
The conference will be held at The Macdonald Crutherland House Hotel, East Kilbride. For more information see the Legal Aid Conference programme.
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