Law Society hosts Scottish legal aid conference

Law Society hosts Scottish legal aid conference

Solicitors will hear from Scottish government minister for community safety and legal affairs, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, at the Law Society of Scotland’s legal aid conference today.

Law Society of Scotland president Alistair Morris will today open the two-day legal aid conference, which takes place after the publication of the Law Society’s recommendations paper, Legal Assistance in Scotland - Fit for the 21st Century.

Other speakers at the event include Lord Bonomy, leading a session on the Post-corroboration Safeguards Review and its outcomes, and Richard Miller, head of legal aid at the Law Society of England & Wales.

Morris 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 Law Society’s recommendations for improving the legal aid system include the introduction of a block fees system for solemn cases, fixed fees for police station advice, development of a single grant system for civil legal aid, and increased joint working between solicitors and the advice sector.

Morris said the “core aim of our package of recommendations” was to reduce the complexity and administrative burden of the current system in order to save money.

He said the savings “can then be reinvested and halt to the real-time decline we have seen in legal aid expenditure over the years”.

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