Access To Justice – The Law Society of Scotland’s priorities for the next government
The Law Society of Scotland has published its priorities document earlier this month which sets out five key policy areas it believes MSPs should act on following the Scottish elections. One of the Five key elements it recommends in the report is “Access to justice”.
The main theme of maintaining this access to justice is a simplification of the legal aid system. Whilst the publicly funded legal aid system in Scotland provides “help in around 270,000 cases each year”, the Law Society believes that there needs to be stability in the system. This comes after the Scottish Legal Aid Board announced that the legal aid budget for 2016-17 is to be reduced by over 7% from the year before – further compounding a 31% drop in funding in recent years. This report subsequently produced by the Law Society points out a number of ways to keep the legal aid system accessible to all.
To keep in line with these budget cuts, the Law Society has suggested that the legal aid system should be simplified. Increasing efficiency of the work done under the legal aid scheme will allow the generation of savings so that the funds from the Legal Aid Board can be used more fruitfully.
The Law Society suggests that access to justice can be achieved through the use of new technologies. This includes the suggestions made by The Digital Strategy for Justice in Scotland and the introduction of online dispute resolution for less intricate cases. Embracing new technology can allow the costs incurred when developing a case to drop, allowing the legal aid fund to be used more consistently.
The report suggests that the justice system needs to help children and young people realise their fundamental rights in many different areas. The complexity of the current legal system and the difficulty in access is a barrier for many young people in accessing justice. The Law Society believes that, through legal aid, more can be done to help children and young people exercise their legal rights. They believe this to be achievable by implementing a full review into the current practice of access to justice for young people.
The report published by the Law Society goes into further fields such as modernization of legislation and access to education. The report’s suggestions for the next Parliament to consider a wide scale review into the Legal Aid provisions this country provides it’s citizens is an important pillar of the report.
Author: Paul Ramsay, LLB Hons, currently studying for the Diploma in Legal Practice
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily the views of the firmView all →