Date lodged: 30 August 2018
To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure access to justice in light of comments by the Law Society of Scotland that the “level of new entrants to the sector is below that required to sustain the network of criminal firms providing access to justice across Scotland”.
Answered by: Ash Denham 27 September 2018
Scottish Government's analysis of the current position is that while crime is reducing and the number of criminal court actions is reducing, the number of practitioners on the criminal legal assistance register is still high in comparison to the work available. Since 2013 the number of criminal case reports to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) has reduced from 293,671 in that year to 177,801 this year, a reduction of nearly 39%. In that same period the number of criminal legal aid practitioners has reduced by less than 16% to 1173.
Of the 177,801 cases reported to COPFS, 53,288 cases were marked for non-court disposal. Leaving 124,513 cases processed for some form of court action and therefore possibly eligible for some form of legal aid payment. That is 106 cases on average per practitioner or fewer than 9 a month. The current figures would suggest that there are sufficient numbers to undertake the available caseload.
As identified in “Rethinking Legal Aid” there is an oversupply of providers in some areas and undersupply in others. The Scottish Government has been analysing the recommendations made in that report and will provide a response in the Autumn.