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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Legal aid fee dispute escalates
Law Society of Scotland panel
The society is withdrawing co-operation over legal matters
The ruling body for Scotland's 10,000 solicitors has voted to take action in a dispute over legal aid fees.

The Law Society of Scotland will not now co-operate with the Scottish Executive and the Scottish Legal Aid Board "on all legal matters".

Members have accused the executive of failing to increase legal aid fees in line with court reforms. Ministers said they were committed to fair payments.

The Glasgow Bar Association may refuse to represent sex offenders in the row.

The row centres on delays in the introduction of a new system of "block" fees, and an executive offer of an interim increase in fees under the present system.

The executive said it was committed to setting rates of payments which ensure fair remuneration.

Increased workload

Solicitors are paid 63 an hour for representing a client in court in serious cases in the sheriff or High Courts.

This also covers overheads including the running of their office, and their wage has only been increased once in the past 14 years.

They argue the new fees proposed by the executive do not take into account increased workloads caused by recent reforms to High Court procedures.

The society is seeking a meeting with Deputy Justice Minister Hugh Henry and has urged Holyrood's Justice 1 Committee to look again at commitments it made in 2001 to conduct an inquiry into criminal legal aid fees.

Friday's decision will see the society's legal aid team pull out of talks with executive and the board on legal aid reforms.

In a separate move, criminal lawyers in Glasgow are considering withdrawing from complex cases, especially those involving sex offences.

Lawyer move could halt sex cases
26 May 06 |  Glasgow and West
Vote steps up legal aid fees row
19 May 06 |  Scotland
Legal aid system changes mooted
17 Jun 05 |  Scotland

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