REVIEW OF 2019
2019 has been another busy year for the Edinburgh Bar Association! From addressing serious issues such as continued underfunding of Legal Aid to resurrecting the EBA football team.. have a look at our review of 2019!
EBA WITHDRAW FROM EXTRADITION COURT DUTY SCHEME IN JANUARY
Following on from our withdrawal from Police Station Duty and the Justice of the Peace Court Duty, EBA members withdrew from the Extradition Court Duty Scheme in January this year. Vice President, Robert More had this to say "over the last 12 months the Edinburgh Bar Association has been conducting a review of our capacity in light of an alarming reduction in the number of solicitors registered to provide criminal Legal Assistance which this jurisdiction has witnessed in recent years....The extradition court is a national court but is one which sits only at Edinburgh. Since its inception, a dedicated group of Edinburgh criminal solicitors with an expertise in extradition law has developed. They are paid at rates set in 1992 for all work with the exception of travel- something which a lawyer has no control over- which is paid at half the rate set 27 years ago...It is a matter of profound regret that our members have reached a point at which continued service of the duty scheme is impossible. That this point has been reached is the inevitable consequence of the refusal of the Scottish Government to fund the system of Legal Aid adequately."
APRIL: 3% INCREASE IN LEGAL AID RATES COMES INTO EFFECT
The insulting, inadequate and barely noticeable 3% increase in Legal Aid rates came into effect in April 2019. The Scottish Government were at pains to point out that Martyn Evans (author of the Independent Review of Legal Aid) thought we should get no increase at all and that we should all be terribly grateful to the Scottish Government for ignoring that ridiculous conclusion.
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
The EBA AGM took place in April. Many thanks to our outgoing President, Leanne McQuillan, and Vice-President, Robert More for all their hard work and dedication over the last two years.
Jacqui Macoll continues as EBA Secretary for the 17th year!
Julia McPartlin and Neil Martin were installed as President and Vice President respectively and Sarah Quinn as Treasurer.
In the news in May....
Crisis is looming over Scottish criminal lawyers salaries... read more here
EBA DINNER IN JUNE
Special thanks to our guest speaker, Jim Robertson. The dinner will be moving to The George Hotel in 2020. Our thanks to The Balmoral for being such excellent hosts over the last few years.
Sheriff Noel McPartlin
Sadly, June 2019 also saw the passing of former Edinburgh Sheriff Noel McPartlin. Greatly respected by all his colleagues, he is very sadly missed. The Scotsman paid fitting tribute in their obituary
The A Team Retires
In August, Edinburgh Sheriff Court bide a very fond fairwell to Sheriff Frank Crowe and his bar officer, Irene Brown
Response to Legal Aid Reform Consultation
Following on from Martyn Evan's Review of Legal Aid, the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the reform of Legal Aid. The consultation documents can be viewed here. The response submitted by the Edinburgh Bar Association can be viewed here.
There are aspects of the consultation that we welcome such as the simplification of eligibility for Legal Aid. However, there are a number of areas of concern.
The consultation document clearly points to a system of contracting but lacks any detail as to what form this might take. Representatives of the EBA have met with SLAB twice now and they claim they have no more idea than we do. There is no indication of what new responsibilities we might be expected to undertake or what obligations the government might then have to us (the example frequently referred to is that of GP contract but those come with benefits, such as pensions).
One aim of the consultation is to consider how to fill gaps in the provision of Legal Aid. Those gaps relate to certain types of work and to geographical areas. It appears to us that those gaps exist because of years of underfunding, rendering some areas of work financially unsustainable. The Reform Consultation will not consider fees, that is being considered by a separate Payment Review Panel. Effectively, increased funding has been taken off the table as a potential solution to the problem.
As an Association, we are concerned that SLAB and the Scottish Government are angling for contracting arrangements to compel solicitors to undertake work that is not financially viable at present.
View the full EBA Response here
Scottish Legal News reports that the 3% Legal Aid fee increase has not improved morale among lawyers
November: EBA responds to the findings of the Scottish Government Jury Research Report
Special thanks go to all the individuals and organisations that have helped us with our free CPD programme this year:
Stop It Now
The Listening Service
Aid and Abett
and EBA members Paul Smith and Jonathan Campbell