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One Law for the rich, another for the poor

Both the Faculty of Advocates and the Law Society of Scotland have criticised the Courts Reform (Scotland) Bill. The Faculty of Advocates warned that the reform will create a system where those who can afford it receive the best legal representation, while those on legal aid will suffer.

People relying on legal aid would automatically be represented by an advocate in the Court of Session, but in the sheriff court that would only happen in “exceptional” cases, it claimed. The faculty said in a statement:
“The effect of these combined measures will, in the view of the faculty, fundamentally undermine both access to justice and equality of representation...The proposal would in effect deprive individuals on low and moderate incomes and SMEs [small and medium sized businesses] with serious cases, of the right and ability to instruct an advocate. This aspect of the proposal would favour wealthy and corporate litigants, who can afford to instruct counsel, over ordinary people and would cr…

The Legal Class Struggle

Defence lawyers are protesting against a change to the legal aid system contained in the Scottish Civil Justice Council and Criminal Legal Assistance Bill, which will not only force anyone with a disposable income of more than £68 a week to contribute to the cost of their representation in summary cases, but will make lawyers responsible for collecting the money. "Due to the nature of criminal law, a huge number of the people you are dealing with have substance abuse problems, alcohol problems, mental health problems or learning difficulties,” says Cameron Tait, the president of the Edinburgh Bar Association “Trying to get these people to play ball, to turn up at court and to engage with the criminal justice system can be difficult enough, but when you are trying to get them to pay part of a fee they can’t afford, it’s going to cause an impossible situation. The underlying point is that the Scottish Government knows most of these contributions will not be paid and they want the …

Even the lawyers are striking

Lawyers in Edinburgh caused chaos in a court as they staged a walkout in a dispute over changes to the legal aid system.

Anyone with more than £68 of disposable income each week or with £750 in the bank will be expected to pay all or part of the cost of their defence in court under the plans, designed to cut £3.9 million a year from Scotland's legal aid bill. Solicitors say the move will risk miscarriages of justice and deny access to legal representation for all.

Edinburgh Bar Association and Glasgow Bar Association have already voted to take industrial action over the issue and in the first round of action, members at Edinburgh Sheriff Court walked out of the custody court at 11.45am yesterday and protested outside.

one law for the rich ...

The millionaire owner of the House of Bruar retail complex escaped a driving ban and was allowed to stay on the road despite now having 14 points on his licence after persuading a court it would cause him exceptional hardship. Birkbeck claimed he would be forced to sack staff at the shopping complex if he was banned from the road as no-one else in the company was capable of buying the goods on display at the upmarket shopping centre. He was fined £300.

Birkbeck was driving a £70,000, 3.6 litre Range Rover Vogue TDV8 when he was detected by police speeding at 90mph on the M90 motorway.

“If he is disqualified for six months there will be a large number of redundancies at House of Bruar...He would have no option but to let people go – breadwinners who live in the local area." Solicitor David McKie, defending, said.

Actually, to Socialist Courier, that sounds very much like blackmail.

Not legal eagles but legal vultures

Two solicitors who took millions of pounds from compensation payouts given to sick miners have been struck off.
The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal heard the men acted "unacceptably" by charging clients even though the government was paying their fees.
Beresford, 58, said last year to be Britain's highest-earning solicitor, and Smith, 52, made millions of pounds from personal injury claims for miners under the government's coal health compensation scheme. Tribunal chairman David Leverton said: "If ever there was a group of persons who needed the full care and attention from solicitors, it was these miners. Mr Beresford described himself as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, his attitude allowed himself and Mr Smith to put commercial goals before his clients' best interests."
The lawyers were also accused of not giving adequate advice and entering into contingency fee deals against their clients' best interests.The tribunal heard that up to 30% of a…

Crime Pays for Some

A junior barrister was handed more than £1 million in legal aid last year, it was revealed yesterday. Balbir Singh, head of Birmingham’s Equity Chambers, was paid £1,116,000 in 2005/06.

The second-highest paid was Nigel Lithman, QC, who received £978,000 in legal aid, followed by John C. Rees, QC, with £947,000.

Four of the 10 top-earning criminal barristers were from the same chambers: 2 Bedford Row in London. Mr Lithman, William Clegg, QC, Jim Sturman, QC and Howard Godfrey, QC had a combined pay-out of £3.3 million.

Tuckers Solicitors was the highest paid criminal firm, receiving £8.5 million in the year from the legal aid purse. They were followed by Irwin Mitchell (£5.3 million) and Burton Copeland (£5 million).

In a separate list of community legal service firms - carrying out non-criminal work - the highest paid was Duncan Lewis Solicitors with just under £7 million, followed by Irwin Mitchell with £5.2 million.

The law is an instrument of the owning class, that pretends to be f…