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BANK OF LEGAL AID: £1billion of public money thrown at ‘struggling’ lawyers since 2008 financial crash adds up with latest £150.5 million Legal Aid hand-out for Scotland’s rip-off legal sector

03 Nov

Struggling lawyers? Here’s a billion of YOURS to keep THEM going. TIMES ARE TOUGH – we all know it. Not for Scotland’s legal profession though, as the latest figures released by the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) show another £150.5 million of public money sliding into the pockets of ‘struggling’ Scots lawyers on the premise of keeping the already buckled wheels of Lord Gill’s “Victorian” justice system turning.

Feeling poor? Have no fear, as ‘struggling’ lawyers hankering after a second estate car, a chance to buy fishing rights, send their own kids to posh private schools, or in need of a third buy-to-let property stuffed in the name of some fictitious client … need not worry as the Billion pound Bank of Legal Aid funded by taxpayers is there to help them out.

It is of course, time for the annual announcement of taxpayer funded hand outs to struggling lawyers, meaning, if you haven’t been keeping track, around ONE BILLION POUNDS of public money has been thrown at Scotland’s ‘struggling’ legal profession in the years since the 2008 financial crash. Go back a few more years, and it’s a billion more.

Scottish Legal Aid paid to legal profession since 2008 (figures provided by SLAB): 2013-14 £150.5m, 2012-13 £150.2m, 2011-12 £150.7m, 2010-11 £161.4m, 2009-10 £150.5m, 2008-09 £150.2m, 2007-08 £155.1m, making £1.06Billion (£1,068.6m)

Add to those billions the hundreds of millions over the years spent on lawyers by the Scottish Government and a vast range of law related quangos, the courts, rich judges wallowing in offshore tax dodges & undeclared investments, dodgy prosecutors, public service crooks, spivs and even top cops over the years, another billion can join the total. And for what exactly? To keep the wheels of justice going and prevent injustice? Not likely.

BIG SPENDERS: Spot your solicitors & law firms who take home the legal aid pounds. From total figures of £150.5 million, spend on civil legal assistance was £47.8 while criminal legal assistance was a mere £94 million. Children’s legal assistance stands at £4.9 million. Payments to solicitors increased by 1.7% from £115.1 million to £117.1 million while payments to advocates fell by 21% from £18.3 million to £14.5 million. Payments to solicitor advocates fell by 4.2% from £4.5 million to £4.3 million and expert witnesses along with ‘court reports’ raked in £19.5 million of public money.

Speaking about the release of this year’s figures, Iain A Robertson CBE, Chairman of the Scottish Legal Aid Board, said: “This is by far the most challenging time for legal aid in Scotland since my appointment. The continuing pressure on public finances has led Scottish Ministers to seek further savings and efficiencies in legal aid expenditure, and legal aid must play its part in achieving savings alongside all other public services.

“The need to find savings in legal aid expenditure means that businesses have to work with us to achieve efficiencies. Where legal aid reforms are required to deliver savings and also enhance the long term sustainability of legal aid then they must be considered, even if they are deemed radical or unpopular by business.”

Mr Robertson added: “2014-15 will bring continued challenges. Maintaining and developing constructive relationships with the legal profession and other stakeholders will be crucial.”

Among the list of regular legal aid recipients, readers should note all those ‘top notch’ Edinburgh law firms who tell clients they refuse to do legal aid work just so they can extract higher fees for doing the same work. But, sure, there are a few law firms who do their clients proud on legal aid, and a few solicitors who are actually human beings. At least two or three, anyway.

But the system of legal aid grubbery and the results it delivers, mostly for drug dealers, embezzlers, ex prosecutors & court staff on criminal charges, and of course, murderers, hit-men and dodgy businessmen is not really worth £150 million a year, to the community, is it. Not really.

The flip side of the argument. Well, solicitors will say the £150 million a year sub is, of course, about providing justice and therefore worth it for lawyers. Worth it so much, a bunch of lawyers once surrounded the entrance of the Scottish Parliament and loitered around in the rain outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court, blocking the doors of courts holding placards begging to ‘save justice’. However, everyone outside the legal bubble who witnessed the spectacle knew the posters really meant “Axe Nurse First”.

Legal Aid is not about justice or providing access to justice, is it. It’s about money for the legal profession.

Investigation on Legal Aid in Scotland: SCOTTISH JUSTICE IN THE DOCK : Scotland’s lawyers earn more from Legal Aid than whole of Italy, shock report reveals

The Euro study showed that Scotland disciplined a tiny number of lawyers compared to countries of similar size. Just three were struck off and 13 reprimanded in Scotland in 2010. Denmark, with a similar population, took action against 309 lawyers, with six struck off and 145 fined. And in Finland, also close in size, 99 rogue solicitors were sanctioned. Critics blame the Law Society of Scotland’s dual role of representing lawyers while also acting as regulator.

A large proportion of alleged criminals reported to prosecutors in Scotland are not being put in the dock. Of 265,830 cases sent to the Crown Office, only 41.7 per cent were brought to court. In England and Wales, 90.6 per cent of all cases resulted in court action.

The difference is thought to be partly due to Scotland’s recent introduction of spot fines and fiscal fines for what the authorities insist are more minor offences. Critics claim such fines lead to a secret justice system.

The report reveals that Scotland’s sheriffs top the European pay league.

Our sheriffs, with an average salary of 150,106 euros (£120,000), were number one, ahead of the Irish and Swiss. Next were sheriffs’ counterparts in England and Wales, who were paid 120,998 euros (£95,000). Not only were sheriffs the highest-paid, they also topped the table comparing their earnings to the national average. They earned 5.2 times the average Scot’s wage.

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