Automatic legal aid for cases involving sexual offences, child witnesses, vulnerable witnesses and the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018

Sexual offences

The court may appoint you to an unrepresented client in both solemn and summary cases in respect of a sexual offence [Section 288C of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995].

If appointed by the court, you become the nominated solicitor for the purposes of criminal legal aid and will provide automatic criminal legal aid.

Child witnesses

Your client is prohibited from conducting their case in person at a hearing where a child witness is to give evidence. The offences to which this applies are:

  • Murder
  • Culpable homicide
  • Any offence which involves an assault on, or injury or threat of injury to, any person, including any offence involving neglect or ill treatment of or other cruelty to a child. but is not an offence to which section 288C of the Act applies
  • Abduction
  • Plagium

Vulnerable witnesses

The court may make an order prohibiting your client from conducting his case in person at a hearing where the vulnerable witness is to give evidence [Section 288F of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. This applies with the exception of the following proceedings:

  • In the JP Court
  • In respect of sexual offences to which section 288C of the Act applies
  • To which section 288E of the Act applies

Domestic Abuse Act

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018 extended the list of categories where the court can appoint you to act. These categories are:

  • Offences of abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner [section 288DC (1)(a) of the Act]
  • Offences that are aggravated abuse of partner or ex-partner [section 288DC (1)(b)]

The clerk of court must intimate to us any decision to you to act.

These are excepted proceedings for the purposes of summary criminal legal aid and you should apply to the sheriff using the application form CRIM/COURTAPP.

You should submit a detailed account at the end of the case.

Automatic criminal legal aid for such proceedings does not differ in any way from any other form of criminal legal aid, and the usual arrangements for sanctions, transfers of agency and submission of accounts also apply.

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