We were interested to read the following article, published on the Scottish Legal News website on 29 August. The article follows an article on the same website, published on 28 August, which examined a proposal “to allow first-year trainee criminal lawyers to appear in court because there are too few entrants to the criminal legal aid sector.”
The chronic underfunding of Legal Aid has long given the lie to the notion of equality of arms in the criminal justice process. The fiction of such equality is surely exposed, not simply by the exodus of qualified defence lawyers from the sector, but by the need to fill the gap with first-year trainees. As we at MOJO know only too well, inequality of resourcing inevitably results in miscarriages of justice. We agree with Thomas Ross QC – the situation is extremenly serious, and we can only see it getting worse.
Following the news that the Crown Office is to receive a cash injection to recruit more lawyers and staff, calls have been made for the Scottish government to do the same in the legal aid sector.
Ian Moir, of the Law Society of Scotland’s Legal Aid Committee, said that since the government has been able to give prosecutors a funding boost it should now do the same for the legal aid budget to maintain a balance.
“For many years we’ve argued that the Crown and defence need more funding in order to prosecute and defend crime – both sides are desperately in need of funding after years of chronic underfunding,” Mr Moir said.
“I welcome funding for the Crown but it certainly increases the need for urgent funding to be put into the legal aid system.”
The Times reported yesterday that 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.
These regulations will require to be approved by the Lord President, Lord Carloway.
Commenting on the Law Society’s plans, Thomas Ross QC said: “Let there be no doubt about it — this is an extremely serious situation. The trainees of today are the High Court practitioners of tomorrow and these figures suggest that there are unlikely to be enough of them to cope with the regular level of Supreme Court business.”
The 29 August article can be found HERE.
The 28 August article can be found HERE.