Legal Aid (Civil Cases)

Justice and Law Officers – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 22nd March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP 2:15 pm, 22nd March 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how much legal aid has been provided to those pursuing civil cases in the last year. (S2O-12432)

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

In 2005-06, the cost of providing legal aid on matters of civil law was £50.3 million. That includes advice and assistance as well as civil legal aid.

In 2005-06, the Scottish Legal Aid Board made almost 11,000 grants of civil legal aid and solicitors provided more than 117,000 intimations of advice and assistance and assistance by way of representation.

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP

Is the minister concerned that many people who try to pursue civil cases under employment and family law or to tackle big business are unable to access due process because legal aid is capped in such cases, which leaves solicitors unable to carry out the required work? That situation has created what are described as "advice deserts", which means that poorer people in society do not have adequate access to justice. Will the minister guarantee that everyone in society can fully access justice in all areas?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I make it clear that 60 per cent of all civil legal aid applicants are successful and that of those, three quarters make no contribution whatever.

There is a clear issue about value to the public purse and very significant amounts of money have already been committed. On the other side, there is also a commitment to access to justice. The member spoke about advice deserts. We are particularly mindful of the issues that are faced by women fleeing violence and have said that we wish to address them. Although a new funding review was agreed earlier in the year, as a consequence of some of the concerns about problems for people who wish to access justice, we have agreed to a full review of civil legal aid and financial eligibility. Such issues can be addressed properly as part of that review.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

Will the minister advise me what proportion of that £50-plus million has been paid under civil law for people who are incarcerated in Scottish prisons? If she can tell me that, can she advise me how many of them have made claims under the European convention on human rights?

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

I do not want to mislead the member. If my officials have those figures available, I will make sure that he receives them. We are clearly committed to a civil legal aid system that meets needs and allows people access to justice. On this side of the chamber, we are not interested in those who wish to abuse the system.