Shortage of legal aid lawyers affecting access to justice
The Law Society of Scotland is drawing up plans to allow first-year trainee criminal lawyers to appear in court because there are too few entrants to the criminal legal aid sector.
In total there are currently about 1,300 practitioners who can provide criminal legal aid support but currently only second-year trainees may appear in court.
A spokeswoman for the Law Society said: “We estimate that this level of new entrants to the sector is below that required to sustain the network of criminal firms providing access to justice across Scotland.”
As such, the society is drafting new admission regulations permitting first-year trainees to appear in court on behalf of clients “subject to numerous safeguards”.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh Bar Association’s criminal law members have withdrawn from a legal aid duty scheme that covers the Justice of the Peace court, saying that due to dwindling numbers they no longer have the capacity to handle the work.
In total, 91 solicitors from 35 firms have decided to stop providing cover to the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s (SLAB) Justice of the Peace rota, leaving just four private practice solicitors from four firms on the plan. The association will continue to provide cover for the Sheriff Court, Domestic Abuse Custody Court and extradition rotas.
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