To carry out our work, we collect and use information about the people we deal with and the work done under legal assistance.

Most of the information is about:

  • Individual people and their applications for legal aid
  • The solicitors and advocates who carry out legal aid
  • How the legal aid system is working – what help people are receiving and how much it costs
  • How we run the legal aid system.

The General Data Protection Regulation

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) sets out how organisations should use and protect personal information. As part of the GDPR you have the right to ask if we process any personal information about you and receive a copy of it.

GDPR refers to you as a Data Subject, and to the information we hold about you as personal data. Your request is known as a subject access request.

Privacy policies

Our general privacy policy provides information on how we will use your data and your rights.

Information we keep about legal aid applicants and applications

  • Why would we have information about you?

    We will have information about you if you have applied, through your solicitor, for legal aid or advice and assistance.

    This will include information about your finances and your case.

    We may also have information about you if your opponent in a case has applied for civil legal aid.

  • How we use information

    By applying for legal aid, you permit us to discuss the information within the SLAB and, where necessary, with other people outwith the organisation.

    For example, we may check your earnings with your employer, or the benefits you are claiming with the Department for Work and Pensions.

    Solicitors representing the Law Society of Scotland may also see information in your application as part of the random quality assurance checks that the Society makes.

    By law, we have to be very careful about how we use information that people give us. We will normally only pass on information to do with an application for legal aid if the person who gave us it has given their permission, or if the law says we must.

    However, if you ask someone like your MSP to contact us about your case, we will assume that, by doing so, you permit us to discuss it with them.

    We also have duties to keep certain information confidential, and to supply other information, under the data protection legislation and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act.

    For example, we can’t give you personal information about another person. But you have the right to ask us about information we hold on you, and some other information that we record about legal aid and how we work.

    We sometimes use the information to check your identity, if you phone us. We also collect certain details to make sure that our ways of working do not discriminate unlawfully, and do allow equal opportunities and access for all.

  • What can the information about you be used for?

    It can be used only for the purposes that you gave it to us for, or that the law says we can use it for. That includes:

    • To decide whether you qualify for legal aid or advice and assistance
    • To allow us, or other people such as the court or Scottish Government, to carry out our duties under the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 – for example, for research
    • To help the Law Society, Faculty of Advocates or Scottish Legal Complaints Commission look into complaints against solicitors or advocates
    • To help investigate or prosecute any offence
    • To help the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman look into complaints.
  • What rights do you have?

    Under the data protection legislation, you have the right to be told whether we hold any information about you as an individual.

    If we do, you have the right to be told what we are using it for, and the names or types of organisations or individuals that we may pass it on to.

    This includes information about you that we hold on paper files and on computer.

    You also have a right to rectification of information and to erasure.

    There is also a right to ask for processing of information to be restricted, as well as a right to object to processing, although these are not available in all situations.

    The law provides a right to data portability but it is not clear how this would apply to the information we hold.

    You also have the right to have access to the information we hold, and to be told who we got the information from. There are exemptions to these rights, however, some of which are set out below.

    The exceptions, where we cannot give you information we hold on you, include if:

    • The information relates to someone else we hold personal information on
    • Someone else gave us the information in connection with a legal aid application, and they have not given us permission to pass the information on to you
    • The information relates to an investigation we are carrying out into possible fraud or abuse of legal aid.
  • How do you see information about yourself?

    You should make a “data subject access request”.

    You should contact our Data Protection Officer. Please email SAR@slab.org.uk or call 0131 226 7061 if you would like to make a subject access request.

    You should tell us enough about yourself to enable us to easily identify the information we hold about you. If you have applied for legal aid, you should give us:

    • Your name, including any names you may have been known by previously
    • Your address
    • Your date of birth
    • Your legal aid reference number(s).
  • How much will it cost you?

    There is no charge for providing this information.

  • How long does it take to get a reply?

    You will receive a reply as soon as possible and, in any event, within one month.

  • How can you get us to put information right, if you think it is wrong?

    We always aim to record the information you or your solicitor gives us accurately, and to keep it up to date with any new information you or they give us.

    If you send us a “data subject access request”, and you think the information we send you is wrong, you should write to the Data Protection Officer:

    • Setting out what information you think is wrong
    • Saying why
    • Giving us evidence showing what is wrong with it, if possible.

    We will look at the information, and decide whether to correct it.
    If we decide not to, we will tell you why not.

  • What if you are unhappy with the response you get from us?

    If you are unhappy with the response you get from us, you can ask us to look again at your request.

    You can write to our Data Protection Officer at SAR@slab.org.uk or use our postal address.

    At any time, you are entitled to ask the Information Commissioner to review our decision or go to court to enforce your rights. The contact details for the Information Commissioner are:

    Access to information
    Website: www.ico.gov.uk (This website includes a complaints form that you can email to the commissioner.)
    Email: casework@ico.org.uk
    Scotland Regional Office Address:
    Information Commissioner's Office
    45 Melville Street
    Edinburgh
    EH3 7HL
    Tel: 0303 123 1115

    UK address:
    First Contact Team
    Information Commissioner’s Office
    Wycliffe House
    Water Lane
    Wilmslow
    Cheshire
    SK9 5AF
    Tel: 0303 123 1113

    If you want more information about data protection, you can contact the Information Commissioner or, to see our full policy on data protection, go to our Freedom of Information publication scheme on our website.