- 11 Jul 2019
Attendees and apologies
- Neil Rennick, Chair
- Ian Moir, Law Society of Scotland
- Paul Brown, Scottish Association of Law Centres
- Professor Frank Stephen
- Colin Lancaster, Scottish Legal Aid Board
- Raymond McMenamin, Scottish Legal Aid Board
- Ross Yuill, Society of Solicitor Advocates
- Ruth Innes, Faculty of Advocates
- Gillian Fyfe, Citizen Advice Scotland
Scottish Government officials
Denise Swanson, Head of Access to Justice
Kieran Burke, Bill Team Leader, Access to Justice
- Professor Alan Paterson
- Fiona Rutherford, Ministry of Justice
- Professor Graeme Roy
Items and actions
Neil Rennick opened the meeting and welcomed the members to the panel.
Kieran Burke advised that a question had been raised about how individual local Bar Associations could feed into the work of the expert payment panel.
It was agreed by the panel that Ian Moir. Mark Thorley and Ross Yuill are the vehicle for correspondence to and from solicitor associations. The panel is intended to be open and transparent and it was agreed that unless a topic was specified as confidential it could be openly shared.
A website for sharing information across the panel will be publicly available.
Agenda item 1: presentation by Professor Alan Paterson on legal assistance in international jurisdictions
Professor Paterson delivered a presentation on legal aid in other jurisdictions. Background information is at Annex A. Additional information and reports are available on the ILAG website.
Prof Patterson pointed out that all reports have to be taken in context, things are never as simple as they look and comparisons are difficult due to the differences between jurisdictions and expenditure per capita is misleading. This was particularly true when comparing adversarial and inquisitorial systems.
Scotland cannot directly be compared against England and Wales as barristers and advocates do very different things. Scotland has a different model with solicitors conducting summary work.
The professor noted that Scotland, along with the Netherlands, were unusual in having an uncapped legal aid budget..
In most jurisdictions, there are three key levers for legal aid:
It was briefly discussed that legal aid contracts could pay more for rural and specialist areas. Additionally it was noted that if legal aid is part of a public service then that service will take on cases that the private sector can’t or won’t.
The peer review/quality system in Scotland is world leading and needs to be independent.
The needs of vulnerable groups were discussed and it was highlighted that in Japan (for the first time) research had been carried out specifically on the legal needs of the elderly. In Finland legal offices now also house specialist social areas and groups. Paul Brown queried what a legal aid system that ‘passports’ by problem/issue could look like.
Agenda item 2: presentation by Fiona Rutherford on legal assistance in other jurisdictions within the UK
Fiona Rutherford spoke about the Ministry of Justice legal support action plan and lessons learned from LASPO.
There are a range of initiatives in England and Wales to see what the user need really is. These initiatives will tie in with Social, Health and Education.
Fiona stated that stakeholder engagement has been vital and relationship engagement is paying off. She added that the MOJ are keen to understand where effort is wasted and where unused material is an issue.
The MOJ are investigating providing a market of sustainable providers. The MOJ’s key driver is establishing an evidence base for what needs to be funded.
There is some funding available such as the £5m recently allocated to the Innovation Fund, designed to help legal aid solicitors harness new technology to improve access to justice.
Annex A: background on legal aid in other jurisdictions