Page last updated at 05:34 GMT, Friday, 20 October 2006 06:34 UK

Legal aid reform 'harmed justice'

Jury - generic
The reforms were designed to make courts more efficient

Miscarriages of justice are more likely after reforms carried out to the legal aid system, it has been claimed.

The reforms, brought in seven years ago, aimed to cut legal aid bills and speed cases through the sheriff courts.

But a report carried out for the Scottish Executive and released to BBC Scotland under Freedom of Information legislation found they had failed.

The executive said the report was being considered in the context of wider reforms currently being undertaken.

The research, seen by BBC Scotland, was carried out by academics from Manchester and Strathclyde universities.

It followed a request by the parliament's justice 1 committee.

MSPs asked the executive whether its reforms had achieved the aims of reducing the legal aid bill and making court proceedings more efficient.

In fact the report found they had done neither.

It suggests by paying a fixed fee of £500, rather than allowing lawyers to charge for work actually done, the amount of time they spend with clients has been reduced.

Gerry Considine, president of the Glasgow Bar Association, has warned that this increases the chances of miscarriages of justice if cases are not thoroughly prepared.

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