Legal Aid Cuts
The cuts in legal aid expenditure is a highly debated topic within the Scottish justice system, and has been for a number of years. Recent reports by the Scottish Legal Aid Board estimated there will be an additional £10 million cut for 2016/17. This follows from the £12 million cut in expenditure from the previous year.
Legal aid rates have not risen since 1992, what is even more astonishing, is the fact that the financial target is lower than it was 20 years ago! Despite the best efforts by the legal profession, legal aid has been cut year in, year out. This cost cutting rampage has resulted in operational and structural problems that are affecting both solicitors, and clients.
The public quite rightly expect a service which will work to resolve their legal issues effectively and efficiently. Solicitors are held to a very high professional and ethical standard, it is becoming increasingly unfair that solicitors are being held accountable for delays in work as a result of these cuts.
It is getting harder and harder for individuals to gain access to justice. Defending ones self against litigation has become ‘unaffordable’ according to some Judges. Over the years there has been a noticeable increase of individuals defending themselves in court because they simply cannot afford a lawyer. This has resulted in delays and further inefficiency within the justice system.
With fewer legal aid cases available, smaller high street firms will go out of business. This in turn will mean there will be a poorer service across the board, especially for those vulnerable people who will look to their local high street law firm for help.
The Law Society of Scotland has voiced their disapproval for further cuts, claiming it could be seriously damaging to the justice system and unrealistic in attempting to maintain an effective and sustainable legal aid system.
We can only hope the Scottish Government will listen and reconsider their draft budget for 2016/17.
Author: Daniel Kinloch, L.L.B, Currently studying the Diploma In Legal Practice
This blog is the work of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of this firm.View all →