SNP Attack on Legal Aid Threatens Access and Equality

News from Scottish Labour

Immediate Release – 29 January 2013

SNP Attack on Legal Aid Threatens Access and Equality

Responding to the passing of the SNP’s Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill, Scottish Labour’s DR Richard Simpson, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said:

“Everyone agrees that we need to look at the total cost of legal aid, but that can’t be at the expense of the basic principle of justice: equality of access. Just because someone is on a low income, it doesn’t mean that they should be denied access to justice.

“What happens to the victim of crime, the witnesses who come to testify, when cases are postponed and delayed because a defendant has not been able to find the money to contribute to their defence? This bill had no answer.

“Kenny MacAskill has overseen a disastrous legislative process. He has brought our courts to a standstill, ‘negotiated’ but said that he wouldn’t move on key aspects and is now lining up to isolate and attack those lawyers who have disagreed with him by now proposing to exclude them from being able to undertake legal aid work.

“This is the beginning of the SNP’s attack on the distinctive Scottish legal tradition and Scots access to justice. On top of this erosion of access to legal aid, within weeks, there will be concrete proposals to close local courts, forcing victims and witnesses to travel substantial distances to see justice being done.

The structures providing legal aid will no doubt become increasingly valued in areas such as Alloa, where we see court closures greatly increasing the cost for victims and their families to reach their nearest court.”