SCOTLAND’S defence lawyers are set to take a third day of action today in protest at Government legal aid changes that they claim will hit the poor and reduce access to justice.
• Scottish lawyers have voted to withdraw their labour from custody courts around the country
• The Justice Minister has publicly criticised the protest action
Scots lawyers have voted withdraw their labour from custody courts around the country.
This third day of action will see the bar associations in Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Alloa, Falkirk, Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Forfar and Arbroath refusing to represent new clients appearing from custody.
The profession has continued to attempt to negotiate with Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill through the Law Society of Scotland and its Legal Aid Negotiation Team.
The Justice Minister has publicly criticised the protest action, and specifically the fact that a number of accused persons have had to represent themselves.
Gordon Martin, solicitor-advocate with the Dunfermline Faculty, said: ‘Criminal defence lawyers in Dunfermline have unanimously decided to join in nationwide protest action against the Government’s attack on Access to Justice.
The Justice Secretary appears unwilling to listen to those who do not agree with him. This does not augur well for a future independent Scotland.’
Last week a think-tank warned lawyers could lose £3.1 million a year if proposed changes to legal aid are driven through.
Front Line Policy, based in Edinburgh, says Ministry of Justice research of English cases suggests just 20 per cent of contributions are recovered.
The Scottish Government proposals have infuriated lawyers – who want the Scottish Legal Aid Board to be responsible for collecting fees.
But a Scottish Government spokesman said it did not recognise the figures and the comparison with England is misleading.