Experts from across the legal profession to advise Scottish Government on fees for legal aid

Written by Jenni Davidson on 8 March 2019 in News

The advisory panel includes academics and members of the Faculty of Advocates, the Society of Solicitor Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid Board

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A panel of experts from across the legal profession will advise the Scottish Government on changes to fees for legal aid.

The panel, which meets for the first time next week, will include academics and members of the Faculty of Advocates, the Society of Solicitor Advocates, the Law Society of Scotland and the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

The advisory group has been set up in response to recommendations made by the independent review of legal aid, led by Martyn Evans of the Carnegie Trust.

Christine McLintock, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s public policy committee, said: “Ongoing periodic review is vital to ensure the sustainability of fees to maintain availability of legal advice for those who need it and encourage new entrants to the sector.

“There are models for periodic review across the justice system already, from judicial expenses to sheriff officers’ fees, and there are examples of best practice in legal aid systems internationally that we can learn from.

“The legal aid system in Scotland is complex and in need of simplification and we hope that the panel can move swiftly to develop an effective, straightforward, accountable and fair process.”

Colin Lancaster of the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “The panel is an important opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current model for payment of solicitors and advocates from public funds.

“Many aspects of the current legal aid payment system still reflect that constructed 70 years ago to mirror traditional feeing models in the private sector.

“We look forward to working with others to develop fresh thinking about different models for publicly funded payments that properly support delivery of important services by solicitors and advocates.

“It is essential that a revamped legal aid payment system is transparent, fair to both provider and taxpayer and works in the interests of people being assisted.

“But it must also be flexible enough to stay up to date and adapt to changes in the justice system and technology.”

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “A legal aid service that is effective and user-focused is key to assisting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“We have already taken steps to demonstrate our commitment to those delivering this vital service, including a three per cent uplift in fees across the board for legal aid lawyers, which will take effect next month.

“The creation of our expert panel is an important step towards modernising the system to ensure that it is fair to both the taxpayer and the provider, and is sustainable for the future.

She added: “Despite significant financial pressures, Scotland’s legal aid system is one of the leading jurisdictions in Europe in terms of scope, eligibility and cost, with three-quarters of people eligible for some form of civil legal aid assistance.

“This contrasts with the position in England and Wales, where only around 25 per cent are eligible, and where legal aid scope for many areas of civil law such as family, housing and immigration have been cut.”

 

 

The Scottish Government Expert Payment Advisory Panel

 

Chair:

Neil Rennick (Scottish Government Director of Justice)

 

Members:

Professor Graeme Roy (Director of the Fraser Allander Institute, University of Strathclyde)

Professor Emeritus Frank Stephen (Economist)

Ruth Innes QC (Faculty of Advocates)

Ronaldo Renucci QC (Faculty of Advocates)

Ross Yuill (Society of Solicitor Advocates)

Ian Moir (Law Society of Scotland)

Mark Thornley (Law Society of Scotland)

Paul Brown (Scottish Association of Law Centres)

Raymond McMenamin (Scottish Legal Aid Board)

Colin Lancaster (Scottish Legal Aid Board)

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