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Research into legal aid contracting published

30 July 2013 | tagged News release

The Law Society of Scotland has today (30 July) published new and detailed research on the possible introduction of contracting in criminal legal aid, described as potentially the biggest change to Scotland's criminal legal aid system in decades.

The Scottish Legal Aid Board is currently developing proposals around the introduction of contracting for criminal legal aid in Scotland and is expected to submit options to the Scottish Government in September.

The Society's new research examines the history, development and operation of contracting models in the legal aid systems of the United States, Canada, and England and Wales.

Ian Moir, Convener of the Law Society's Criminal Legal Aid Negotiating Team, said: "This research aims to give an overview of some of the different types of contracting models for legal aid around the world.

"The introduction of contracting will bring about a significant change to legal aid and any contracting model could have a far-reaching impact on people accused of crimes and on defence solicitors representing them.

"However, until we see proposals from the Scottish Government, we cannot say whether a move to any contracting delivery model is better for clients, access to justice and delivery of legal aid, than the system we currently have."

The research outlines different types of contract which exist elsewhere to provide legal aid funded advice, including franchising and block contracts.

Moir added: "We will be consulting with the profession before forming a view on this hugely significant matter.

"The aim of publishing the research paper is to give the profession information about the different types of contacting, so that they have background information and can respond to any consultation with a level of knowledge about what it might mean for their business and their clients. We have also shared our findings with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board, and other organisations in justice so that they can understand the implications of contracting on those who need representation.

"The development of contracting in other countries can help us see the benefits and risks of different options but it is ultimately vital that any reform in Scotland works for the Scottish system."

The Society has not formed a policy on contracting in the absence of government proposals and input from the profession.

The research is in two parts - part one focuses on the risks and benefits emerging from contracting in other jurisdictions - the United States, Canada and England and Wales - and how these may be relevant to Scotland.

Part two, to be published later this year, will examine the legal and economic context for contracting, looking at the legal requirements around equality, competition and procurement and the economic factors to consider in developing tendering processes.

The Scottish Government published a timetable for considering contracting in May and the Scottish Legal Aid Board currently meeting the profession, at the invitation of the Society, at four dialogue events across the country.

A copy of the research can be read on the Law Society's website.

ENDS                                                                                30 JULY 2013

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Kevin Lang on 0131 476 8167

30 July 2013

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