Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Abolition Of Legal Aid In Scotland

It's with some relief that one can take a break from writing something about Scotland that doesn't involve either condoms or football referees, and get back to one's usual pastime of knocking the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government'.
The Tartanissimo has decreed that sheriffs will no longer have the power to grant Legal Aid in solemn criminal cases, this power now reverting exclusively to the Scottish Legal Aid Board. My own recollections of dealing with that body mainly involve feeling a very strong sense of frustration, my imagination conjuring up an image of banks of semi-literate 16-year old clerkessess, upon whom the enormous power of determining whether those with rights would be able to exercise them had been bestowed indiscriminately and without accountability.
I am sure that the SLAB under which the hopes of justice held by a generation of Scots has been buried is managed as efficiently as it can be. It owes its existence, and the consequent pay and perks of those who work within it, to the ideologically driven, power mad philosophies of the Thatcher government - SLAB could almost be an avatar of that government's centralising tendency, a tendency criticised so thoroughly by writers as diverse as Norman Davies and Simon Jenkins. There was nothing wrong with the pre-SLAB Legal Aid system; but it was administered by solicitors, those who used it, and as such it had to go.
And the last remnant of that system has now gone, and, from what I can see, for no reason other than spite and the desire to ingather power. Unlike what might sometimes have been the case in some local Legal Aid boards, the sheriffs have never had a financial stake in the success or failure of the Legal Aid system. Their wages get paid regardless of whether the accused has Legal Aid or not. However, in solemn cases they were able to determine whether a grant of Legal Aid was in the interests of justice. According to the soi-disant, ersatz 'Scottish Government', they aren't to be trusted with that decision any more.
The SNP do seem like such shits sometimes.

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2 Comments:

Blogger twentyfive said...

Is this really such a bad thing? A solemn case has some air of severity to it and for this to reach prosecution stage must have some credible evidence. I'm not entirely sure I agree that people that have committed serious offences should have the luxury of having a legal team supplied. Admittedly not all who will go through this will be guilty, however the majority certainly are. If you cannot afford the help then tough. If I committed murder I wouldn't get help, I have no interest that those that are a drain on society getting it.

30 November, 2010 23:51  
Blogger Martin said...

Twentyfive,

Your Blogger profile describes you as "Ditsy, bewildered, unorganised, fun, cheeky somewhat loud and opinionated."

A less generous commentator than myself might also be tempted to add the words 'illiberal' and 'daft' to the list. I don't think I'ver seen a sentence beginning with anything quite like 'If I committed murder I wouldn't get help'. This is a very noble stance, but the prospect of spending 20 years in Cornton Vale might sharpen up your ideas quite considerably.

You are quite right to say that 'A solemn case has some air of severity to it and for this to reach prosecution stage must have some credible evidence'. It is for that very reason that the recent case of Cadder -v- HMA was such a bombshell under the Scottish legal establishment, if only because it forced many of its members to revise their views of some of the circumstances under which such weighty and credible evidence can be collected.

If you think that miscarriages of justice don't happen, let me fire two names at you. The first is John Preece. The second is Ernie Barrie. Google their names, and see what you come up with.

01 December, 2010 22:58  

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