Independent review of legal aid
Ensuring approach fits with changing needs.
An independent review of legal aid to ensure it meets the changing needs of Scotland’s justice system has been announced.
The legal aid system provides publicly funded legal advice and representation in court for those most in need. With legislation in Scotland dating back nearly 30 years, the review will explore how best the legal aid system can contribute to improving people’s lives now and in the future.
The review, which is expected to last a year, is being chaired by Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Trust, an organisation dedicated to improving wellbeing for those who are disadvantaged.
Announcing the review in a statement to Parliament, Legal Affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said:
“I am proud we have a legal aid system that enforces people’s rights and upholds social justice. Our guiding principle is to focus legal aid on those who need it most and we have maintained access to publicly funded legal aid in both civil and criminal cases.
“With legislation that dates back to the 1980s, change is needed and the time is right to conduct a comprehensive review of legal aid. This is about ensuring we have a flexible and progressive system that is sustainable and cost effective.
“Martyn Evans brings a wealth of experience as a champion for the rights of Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens. I am delighted he has agreed to chair the review and look forward to receiving his report.”
Martyn Evans said:
“The provision of timely and effective legal assistance is a necessary part of a fair and equitable society. It’s important therefore that Scotland has a system that delivers the best possible support to those who rely on it.
“I am pleased to be asked to chair the review of legal aid and, over the coming months, I look forward to engaging with and hearing from the widest range of people with an interest in this area.”
Martin Evans will be supported by an expert advisory group drawn from justice organisations and those who have benefited from the legal aid system. Their views will help to shape recommendations on possible reforms of the system, which will be presented to ministers.
The advisory group includes:
- Martyn Evans (Chair), Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust,
- Colin Lancaster, Chief Executive, Scottish Legal Aid Board
- Professor Alan Paterson (international legal aid expert)
- Janys Scott QC (Faculty of Advocates)
- Brian McConnachie QC (Faculty of Advocates)
- Lindsey McPhie, criminal defence solicitor advocate (Law Society)
- Jackie McRae, civil legal aid (Law Society)
- Susan McPhee, Citizens Advice Scotland
- DCC Iain Livingston, Police Scotland
- Professor Fran Wasoff
- Alison McInnes OBE
Martyn Evans was appointed chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust in 2009. Previously he was director of the Scottish Consumer Council from 1998-2008, prior to which he was CEO of Citizens Advice Scotland (1993-1998) and director of Shelter (1987-1992).
Both the Scottish Legal Aid Board and the Law Society of Scotland have underlined that the legal aid system (based primarily on the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986) needs to change to become more modern, efficient and practical.