Some bullet points from the Annual Report for 2006-2007 issued by the Scottish Legal Aid Board.
· The number of legal assistance grants fell by 1% to 408,654 although spending on legal aid increased by 2% to £140.2m.
· Payments to solicitors fell by 1% to £122m.
· The number of civil legal aid and criminal legal aid grants increased
· A new public defence solicitors office was opened in Kirkwall in March 2007 and 3 more are to be opened during 2007/2008 in other parts of Scotland.
· The number of solicitors firms actively providing civil legal assistance continues to decline as does the number of applications for civil Legal Aid and civil Advice & Assistance.
· The immediately main projects are: reform of summary criminal Legal Assistance – Transfer from the courts to the Board the power to grant Solemn Criminal Legal Aid – introduction of quality assurance for Criminal Legal Aid Assistance practitioners – Reform of feeing arrangements for solemn cases – delivery of project to simplify civil legal assistance – reform of civil Advice & Assistance – expansion of Legal Aid online – Introduction of Advice & Assistance provided by advisors other than lawyers.
· The Board is working with the Scottish Executive on the commencement provisions of the legal profession and the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 - which will increase access to justice.
· The number of cases of fraud and abuse of legal aid referred for possible prosecution increased substantially.
· Staff costs increased from the previous year from £8,443,000 to £9,122,000 or, approximately, 9% and operating costs increased from £3,816,000 to £4,083,000 or, approximately, 7%.
The full annual report is available on the board’s website at www.slab.org.uk and member’s are invited to suggest any other key points which should be added to the above bullet points.