Is there a need for a new body to draw attention to weaknesses in Scots law and the legal system, comparable to the JUSTICE organisation in England?
Some might be surprised at the suggestion. JUSTICE was after all formed in 1957, and while it its reputation is such that it is given leave to intervene in important appeal cases such as the recent Binyam Mohamed "torture" intelligence case, it is hardly alone in the field nowadays.
In Scotland, apart from the Scottish Law Commission, we have a mix of public and privately funded bodies including the Scottish Human Rights Commission, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Scottish Legal Action Group, the campaigning work of the Govan Law Centre and others, as well as special interest groups such as Shelter or Sacro which are not slow to highlight issues of concern to them.
Yet gaps remain, and injustices go uncorrected. So a meeting in Parliament House was told last night, at which the principal speaker was Roger Smith, director of JUSTICE. And a steering committee is to be formed to try and launch a Scottish version.
One of JUSTICE's strengths, Roger told the meeting, is that it draws its membership from both lawyers and non-lawyers, including politicians of all main parties. (Indeed lawyers should not assume that they have a monopoly of insight into issues of law reform, though campaign groups such as those already mentioned also draw membership from various interests.)
He also said it was "at its best" when producing its researched reports such as the recent one on issues that have to be considered if a British Bill of Rights is to be drawn up, currently a topic of political debate.
Compared with England, there are still gaps in Scotland. Of course that much larger jurisdiction can support more, and more specialist, organisations than Scotland, and JUSTICE itself has a sort of tacit understanding with other groups such as Liberty as to where each will focus. But concerns were raised at last night's meeting that, for example, there is no means of scrutiny of the SCCRC, that the criminal appeal court has erected barriers to arguing cases of miscarriage of justice or human rights, and that there is still a need for a voice to replace the Scottish Human Rights Centre, which folded in 2005.
Practical issues remain. There is said to be a smaller number of interested lawyers, relatively speaking, in the Scottish profession, and all were aware last night of the issue of how any new body is to be funded. (JUSTICE is fortunate, apparently, in having endowed funds, although Roger Smith faces a constant challenge to make income meet expenditure.) Any new group will also face the basic question of where to direct its energies given the no doubt limited resources at its disposal.
But there are apparently 70 or 80 people already interested in seeing it get started, and those most closely involved are determined to give it a go. They deserve to succeed.