What are Legal Aid Solicitors in Edinburgh, Scotland?

by Five Fantastic Lawyers™ on December 18, 2010

Scottish Legal Aid

If you want to know if you’re entitled to legal aid to cover the costs of a solicitor representing you either in criminal or civil proceedings in Scotland, then see the Scottish Legal Aid Board’s website, which provides free online guidance on Scottish legal aid.

A definition of civil legal aid is provided in section 13 of the Act. This should be read in conjunction with Part I of Schedule 2 to the Act (which indicates the courts in which legal aid may be granted for proceedings) and Part II of Schedule 2 to the Act (which excludes legal aid from certain proceedings).

Legal aid consists of representation by a solicitor and, where appropriate, by counsel in any proceedings covered by the Act. It includes all assistance usually given by solicitor or counsel in the steps preliminary to or incidental to proceedings, or in arriving at or giving effect to a settlement to prevent them or bring them to an end. Where it is appropriate for representation to be provided by counsel, that representation may instead be provided by a solicitor holding rights of audience by virtue of section 25A (rights of audience) of the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 in proceedings before the court or courts in which the solicitor holds such a right of audience.

Part I of Schedule 2 to the Act specifies the courts in relation to which civil legal aid is available. These are
• the sheriff court
• the Court of Session
• the Supreme Court
• the Lands Valuation Appeal Court and
• the Scottish Land Court

Legal aid is also available
• in relation to proceedings before any person to whom a case is referred in whole or in part by one of these courts
• in proceedings in the Lands Tribunal for Scotland and the Employment Appeal Tribunal
• in proceedings before the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission, set up under the Terrorism Act 2000, to any person affected by the refusal of the Secretary of State to remove an organisation from the list of proscribed organisations.

If one of these courts makes a reference to the European Court of Justice under Article 234 of the EEC Treaty, proceedings in the European Court of Justice are part of the proceedings in the court making the reference. Any grant of legal aid for proceedings in a “domestic” court would, therefore, cover the proceedings in the European Court in connection with the reference.

Legal Aid Solicitors in Edinburgh, Scotland

It may, still, not be clear precisely what legal aid is, what the eligibility criteria are, what legal aid solicitors do or how they can provide representation or legal advice in Edinburgh or indeed in anywhere in Scotland. It is hoped, therefore, that the following information clarifies what legal aid is, how legal aid can be obtained and what representation or legal assistance can be provided.

What is Legal Aid?

Legal aid is governed by the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 and Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 1996. Generally, it is public funding providing access to justice for those otherwise unable to afford legal representation. If unable to afford legal representation and legal aid is not made available, there may be a breach of that persons’ rights under their right of access to a court under the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Who is entitled to Legal Aid?

Whether or not legal aid is granted to anyone is a matter for the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB), which has published its own detailed criminal legal aid guidance here. Legal aid can be available in a variety of circumstances and you do not need to be out of work to be entitled to it.

However, legal aid is not always free. Depending on personal finances and the nature of the case, you could have to pay a contribution from your income or capital towards the cost of the case and potentially some of the opponent’s legal costs.

For criminal legal aid, the applicant must pass two tests before legal aid is granted: first, an evaluation of personal finances; and second, whether it is in the interest of justice for legal representation to be funded. If full criminal legal aid is awarded where a not guilty plea is to be tendered, the legal aid will cover all of the legal costs. On the other hand, for someone seeking legal advice or looking to plead guilty, the applicant may have to pay a contribution towards the legal costs.

What services do Legal Aid Solicitors provide?

Legal aid covers representation by a solicitor and, if appropriate, counsel, also known as advocates, in any proceedings covered by the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986. Such aid is also known as “assistance by way of representation” or the acronym “ABWOR”.

Generally, it may include advice, whether oral or written, on a matter of Scots law, or legal representation, which generally includes assistance in takings steps to institute, conduct or defend criminal proceedings in Scottish Courts.

In some situations, it may be possible for criminal legal aid to be made available automatically without the legal aid solicitor making an application on behalf of the accused. These situations may include identification at an identification parade, certain proceedings under solemn or summary procedure where the accused is in custody, cases involving insanity, sexual offences, trials in absence, or cases where on appeal the High Court has granted authority for a new prosecution for the same offence.

The Scottish Courts in which a legal aid solicitor may represent you include, among others, the Sheriff Courts, such as Edinburgh Sheriff Court, the Court of Session, the High Court or the Supreme Court.

Further guidance

Certain law firms, such as Criminal Defence Lawyers in Edinburgh., McSporrans, are registered with the Scottish Legal Aid Board (http://www.slab.org.uk/) as a law firm eligible to provide Legal Aid. Their Legal Aid solicitors can help you determine whether you are entitled to Legal Aid and are happy to offer a free consultation no matter what your circumstances might be.

Legal Aid Solicitors Edinburgh Legal Aid Solicitors Edinburgh
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