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Chamber and committees

Criminal Justice Committee [Draft}

Meeting date: Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Agenda: Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 2, Online Safety Bill, Subordinate Legislation


Subordinate Legislation

Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) (No 2) Regulations 2022 [Draft]

The Convener

The next item of business is consideration of evidence on an affirmative instrument: the Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) (No 2) Regulations 2022. I thank Keith Brown, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, for remaining with us for this agenda item. I also welcome Justin Haccius, the unit head of access to justice at the Scottish Government. I refer members to paper 2, and I invite the cabinet secretary to speak to the instrument.

Keith Brown

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee about the Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) (No 2) Regulations 2022. The regulations have been brought forward primarily to support the proposed replacements for the temporary measures that were introduced to support legal aid providers at the beginning of the pandemic by way of the Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Coronavirus) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, with permanent provisions with equivalent effect.

The measures that were introduced in the 2020 regulations benefited legal aid providers by providing for enhanced interim fee arrangements to support cash flow as well as provision to facilitate greater delegation between solicitors to assist with the management of cases and court appearances.

The provisions in this instrument align with the Scottish Government’s intention to make permanent changes to the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 by way of the Coronavirus (Recovery and Reform) (Scotland) Bill—namely an enhanced provision of interim fee arrangements to support cash flow to legal aid providers. The regulations also provide that a person who is being prosecuted under summary procedure and who has been liberated by police to appear at court on an undertaking may appoint a solicitor of their choice to advise or act for them even when a duty solicitor is made available, increasing access to a solicitor of their choice.

That is a brief overview of the regulations and their context. I am happy to try to answer any questions that might arise.

Thank you. Jamie Greene has a question.

Jamie Greene

I have a brief question, given that the only evidence that the committee is taking is from the Government. Could the cabinet secretary summarise or paraphrase how the legal profession has received the change and whether the permanent changes that are proposed have been positively received or otherwise?

It slightly predates my time as cabinet secretary, but I understand that these were asked for and welcomed by the profession. However, I ask Mr Haccius whether he can confirm that.

Justin Haccius (Scottish Government)

Yes, the changes have been welcomed in general. The regulations allow for earlier payment and interim payments, so that solicitors can receive payments during the course of delayed or more extended proceedings.

The Convener

As there are no more questions, I invite the cabinet secretary to move the motion.

Motion moved,

That the Criminal Justice Committee recommends that the Legal Aid and Advice and Assistance (Miscellaneous Amendment) (Scotland) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 [draft] be approved.—[Keith Brown]

Motion agreed to.

The Convener

Thank you for attending, cabinet secretary. You may escape now.

That concludes our meeting. The next meeting of the committee will be on the morning of Wednesday 15 June, when we will hear from the new Scottish Biometrics Commissioner, Dr Brian Plastow, on his draft code of practice on the acquisition, retention, use and destruction of biometric data for criminal justice and police purposes in Scotland.

Meeting closed at 13:24.