Review of legal aid system launched

Legal affairs minister Annabelle Ewing.
Legal affairs minister Annabelle Ewing.
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An independent review of the legal aid system has been announced by the Scottish Government.

Legal aid provides publicly-funded legal advice and representation in court for those most in need the year-long review will explore how best it can contribute to improving people’s lives now and in the future.

The review will be chaired by Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie Trust, who will be backed an expert advisory group including legal aid board chief Colin Lancaster, members of the Law Society and the Faculty of Advocates and representatives from Police Scotland and Citizens Advice Scotland.

Legal affairs Minister Annabelle Ewing said that the current approach is based on legislation dating back almost 30 years and that Scotland needs a “flexible and progressive system”.

She 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.”

Mr 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.”