Law Society welcomes new Sheriff Appeal Court regulations from Scottish Government
The Law Society of Scotland has welcomed new Scottish Government regulations on legal aid funding of summary appeals in Scotland.
Previous regulations for legal aid funding for appeal cases heard in the new Sheriff Appeal Court were rejected by the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee on Tuesday, 15 September. New regulations have been laid under negative procedure, and will come into force on Tuesday 22 September unless an MSP lodges a motion to annul.
Christine McLintock, president of the Law Society of Scotland, said: “We are very pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns we raised and has brought forward a new set of regulations before the opening of the new Sheriff Appeal Court next week.
The new regulations are an interim measure but will ensure that the same arrangements that are currently in place in the High Court will be available in the Sheriff Appeal Court and allow the court to get up and running while providing time for a longer term solution as part of the six month review. This will provide assurance that people across Scotland can continue to access legal support for summary appeal cases during the transitional period of the new court being introduced.
“We are also pleased that the role of solicitor advocates has been recognised and under the new regulations brought forward, solicitor advocates will be able to provide the benefit of their experience and expertise in the new Sheriff Appeal Court as they do currently in the High Court.
“Summary appeal work is a specialist and complex area of criminal law and it is essential that there is proper funding available for appeal clients to ensure that they can access the legal advice and representation that they need. Our fear had been that the previous set of regulations would have had a severe impact on access to justice as it would have been simply uneconomical for solicitors and solicitor advocates to carry out this type of appeal work. This in turn would have disadvantaged people appealing either a conviction against them or an unfair sentence, with the danger being that increasing numbers of unrepresented appellants would attempt to reverse a judicial decision on their own.
“We are very supportive of the current court reforms overall. We will continue to work with the Scottish Government and participate fully in the review process to ensure that in the longer term the Sheriff Appeal Court can operate effectively and efficiently and that full consideration can be given to the rates for solicitors to enable them to undertake appeal work directly - without the need to appoint an advocate or solicitor advocate - when this is appropriate and as was intended by the reforms.”
ENDS 18 SEPTEMBER 2015