Plans to make accused pay towards Scottish court costs branded ‘unjust’
PLANS to make those accused of crimes pay contributions to legal fees, even if they are found innocent, are “unjust”, Kenny MacAskill has been warned.
Christine Grahame, told the justice secretary that his plans go against the principle of innocent until proven guilty.
The convener of the justice committee said: “This seems to be working on a basis that if you’re brought before the court, you are guilty.
“If you are found not guilty you have bared all the costs, is that not unjust?”
The Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill proposes that the accused pays a contribution to legal fees in criminal cases, as already happens in civil cases.
However, Ms Grahame said: “A defender in a civil case may well get an order of expenses against a pursuer.”
Mr MacAskill replied: “If you want to be able to offer legal aid to people in other fields, then we have to make savings and it seems to me people facing a criminal charge should have to make a contribution.”
Lawyers have warned that some people might choose to plead guilty even if they are innocent to avoid being landed with massive legal bills, while others may opt to represent themselves.
However, Mr MacAskill told the committee: “All evidence from south of the Border shows hardly any increase [in accused not being represented] at all.”
However, Mr MacAskill said he would hold talks with the Law Society Scotland about the Public Defence Solicitor’s Office acting as a safety net.
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