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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 13:34 GMT 14:34 UK
Concerns over legal aid for women
Woman's silhouette
Women in the Highlands are finding it hard to get legal aid
Women in the Highlands who are victims of domestic abuse or going through marital break-ups have difficulty accessing help, an MSP has claimed.

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan said women in some parts of the north find it hard getting civil legal aid.

She has raised the issue in a letter to Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry.

Mrs MacMillan said there have been difficulties for women finding solicitors to advise them.

She said: "I have been approached by local women's aid groups and Scottish Women's Aid who have raised their concerns at the lack of access to civil legal aid in Skye & Lochalsh and to a certain extent in Caithness and Sutherland.

"I understand that at present there are no solicitors in the Skye and Lochalsh area offering civil legal aid work.

"At the moment, women who, for example, need the support of the law to obtain an interdict to protect them from a violent ex-partner are unable to access civil legal aid representation."

She added: "Solicitors in Fort William and Inverness have been contacted by women's aid groups but find it impossible to take up cases since they cannot be reimbursed for travelling to Portree Sheriff Court."

"Legislation to reform legal aid is due to come before parliament shortly.

"I have both spoken and written to the deputy justice minister urging him to ensure that the regulations on payments for travelling to courts such as Portree be changed as a matter of urgency."

"It is vitally important that those escaping domestic abuse have all the support they need, including legal aid representation in civil courts."


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