Criminal Legal Aid Again

DOI10.1177/0032258X6804100609
Date01 June 1968
Publication Date01 June 1968
AuthorW. A. Ratcliffe
SubjectNorth of the Border
W.
A.
RATCLIFFE
Assistant Chief Constable of Glasgow
CRIMINAL LEGAL AID
~GAIN
Criminal legal aid in Scotland is of ancient origin. An Act of
the Scottish Parliament in 1425, provided for the defence of the
poor,
and
the legal profession, in both the solicitors' and advocates'
branches, sacrificed a great deal of time to the operation of the
Poor's Law defence. In any of the busy Sheriff Courts the
poor's agent was a familiar and much sought after person.
Probably it was because the legal profession made the old scheme
work, so that no person accused of committing a crime lacked
skilled defence because of poverty, that it was not until 1964
that the existing scheme in which payment is made for criminal
legal aid was instituted.
And
this despite the fact that provision
was made for such a scheme in the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act,
1949.
Legal aid in criminal proceedings is now available in the High
Court, the Sheriff Court and the specially constituted juvenile
courts (in the city of Aberdeen
and
the counties of Fife, Renfrew
and
Ayr) set up under s. 51 of the Children and Young Persons
(Scotland) Act, 1937.
The
scheme is operated and controlled by the Law Society of
Scotland through acentral committee, aSupreme Court com-
mittee and 16 local committees each of which covers a single
Sheriffdom or a combination of Sheriffdoms.
Each
of the local
committees receives the names of solicitors who wish to take
part in the scheme and the committee must arrange a duty plan
that will ensure that there is always one or more solicitors avail-
able at all times when they may be required.
It has been agreed that when a person is charged with murder
or culpable homicide the police will inform him of his right to
legal aid and, on request, send for the duty solicitor, who will
visit the person in custody and act for him thereafter until he is
committed, until liberated in due course of law or admitted to
bail. In all other cases the accused person who is in custody is
first seen at the Sheriff Court on his arrival there. In a busy
court there will probably be three duty solicitors available each
day
but
on a Saturday or Monday morning each of these solicitors
will have to represent five or six different accused in separate
cases after interviewing each of his clients for a very brief time.
The
interview rooms are adjacent to the cells and in some instances
June
/968
275

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