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Survey reveals majority of Scots consumers support Lord Gill’s civil justice reform proposals as access to legal services debate gathers pace

15 Mar

Which logoWhich? consumer survey backs up Lord Gill’s report. MOST CONSUMERS IN SCOTLAND want increased access to legal services with more informal means made available for dealing with minor disputes than can be obtained at present, reports new research carried out by the consumer organisation Which?, showing widespread support for the proposals contained in Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review for updating Scotland’s woefully restrictive & inadequate legal services market, access to which is currently controlled & dominated by solicitors & the Law Society of Scotland.

Scots back Lord Gill reforms to legal servicesWhich? research on legal services announced today. The results of the survey on legal services show that more than eight in ten (83%) people in Scotland agree that legal services should be easier to understand, and a similar number (79%) agree that they should be less formal and more user-friendly. More than eight in ten (83%) Scottish people think that a relatively informal method of dealing with small claims disputes about poor quality goods and services, with no wigs and gowns, and no need to hire a lawyer would be a suitable method.

Should they need to settle a legal dispute about poor quality goods or services themselves, around eight in ten (79%) Scottish people would like to have the option of accessing less formal ‘problem solving’ courts where people could get redress without having to use a lawyer.

Speaking on the results of the research, Which? principal public affairs officer, Julia Clarke, said: “The idea of having to go through a formal court process may put some people off pursuing legal disputes over faulty goods or services. That’s why it’s important that other, less formal, ways of settling disputes are made available to Scottish consumers.”

Lord GillLord Gill’s Civil Courts Review was highly critical of ‘Victorian’ Scots justice system. You can read more about Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review, which detailed significant proposals to reform Scotland’s Civil Justice system in one of my earlier reports, here : Scots Law ‘shake up’ as Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review supports McKenzie Friends, Class Actions & wider access to justice for all. I would remind readers that while the Scottish Government and Holyrood are dragging their feet over Lord Gill’s highly critical review of Scotland’s civil justice system, some good has already come of it with the introduction of McKenzie Friends to Scotland’s courts, a much needed reform to access to justice which Lord Gill himself supports.

Lord Gill’s Civil Courts Review itself can be viewed & downloaded at the following links

Civil Courts Review

The Report of the Scottish Civil Courts Review was launched today Wednesday, 30 September 2009 and is available to download below :

My Previous coverage of the Legal Services Bill and its sometimes rocky progress through the Scottish Parliament can be viewed here : Legal Services Bill – The story so far

You can watch video coverage of evidence given to the Justice Committee by the Consumer lobby & OFT, HERE and view the legal profession’s point of view on Scotland’s legal services market, HERE.

Further video coverage of the Parliamentary debates on widening access to justice in Scotland can be found at InjusticeTV & LawyerTV

Justice CommitteeHolyrood’s Justice Committee were quick to listen to the legal profession, but excluded individual court users experiences on access to legal services. Sadly, the Justice Committee excluded members of the public from giving their own impressions & experiences of Scotland’s legal services market, which is a pity because if they had allowed ordinary members of the public in to testify, they would have gained first hand knowledge of how difficult & obstructive the Scottish justice system is to consumers & court users.

One could easily conclude however, the MSPs on the Justice Committee simply did not wish to hear such damning evidence from ordinary people who actually have experience of being denied access to justice by the Scots legal services market which the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill is in part at least, seeking to reform …

An official from one of Scotland’s consumer organisations agreed with queries put to him over the lack of any input from members of the public in the Justice Committee’s evidence sessions.

He said : “Considering the importance of the Scottish Government’s proposals to reform legal services, I am somewhat surprised the Justice Committee chose not to invite one single solicitor’s client or court user to establish for themselves the opinions of consumers on the ground. Leaving out the very people the legislation is supposed to benefit raises serious questions on what the Justice Committee actually wanted to hear.”

I would urge all readers & consumers to support the passage of the Legal Services Bill, by contacting your particular MSP at the Scottish Parliament, asking them to support your choice of wider access to justice for yourself and all Scots.

Make a difference and be part of the debate. Make your opinion count, ensuring Scots consumer interests take precedence over those in the legal profession who have for far too long manipulated & controlled individual Scots access to justice for the profitable ends solely of the legal profession. Its your justice system, you pay for it, make it serve you !

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