Scottish Solicitors in continued legal aid dispute with Government as they begin refusing cases

The Scottish Solicitors Bar Association (SSBA) has announced they will start refusing certain domestic abuse cases in the midst of a legal aid dispute.

Members of the association will be refusing cases where section one of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 is alleged.

This section aims to tackle coercive control in abusive relationships.

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The SSBA has said these cases “are inherently complex and involve significantly more work than most summary cases”.

They say with the current Legal Aid system, it is not possible for them to undertake this level of work.

A statement from the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association explained: "As a profession, we cannot undertake complex cases for a fixed fee rate which was set decades ago and was never intended to include such complex and lengthy cases.”

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"The Scottish Government has consistently ignored the profession when we alert them to the numbers leaving legal aid work.

File photo dated 23/01/20 of an advocate carrying his wig outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

"They have ignored us when we tell them that we cannot have fair access to justice when newly qualified prosecutors routinely earn upwards of £15,000 per year more than defence solicitors at the same stage.

"They ignore us when we tell them that the profession is in crisis.”

The Bar Association has said the vast majority of their members almost exclusively engage in legal aid work.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are aware of the further disruptive action planned by the profession, and that this will target specifically cases involving some of the most vulnerable victims and those accused who are explicitly barred from representing themselves.

“We have provided a 5 per cent increase to all legal aid fees in 2021, with a further 5 per cent increase from April this year. An offer of a further increase of up to 7.5 per cent has been rejected by the profession.

"It is simply not possible to provide the 50 per cent increase sought by the profession.

“The Cabinet secretary met with the Law Society president last week to discuss options to move this agenda forward, including a proposal for mediation or conciliation. This offer remains in place.

“While we remain committed to continuing our dialogue with the profession on a way forward, we are considering appropriate actions that we can take to mitigate the impact of this action.”

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