Automatic legal aid for solemn proceedings

Criminal legal aid is automatically available to your client whose case is being prosecuted under solemn procedure until either:

  • Their application for legal aid is determined by us
  • They are admitted to bail or committed until liberated in due course of law

Your client will be given the benefit of automatic criminal legal aid while they are in custody. However, they must apply for legal aid once they are bailed or fully committed.

You can apply to us for solemn legal aid at any time provided it is clear that the accused is being prosecuted under solemn procedure. There is no time limit for submission of a solemn criminal legal aid application.

Scope of work covered by automatic legal aid

Assuming that solemn legal aid is not granted until full committal, automatic legal aid will cover:

  • Your representation when your client is brought before the sheriff for examination
  • Any interview with your client prior to such examination
  • Any further occasions when your client may be brought before the sheriff for further examination

The automatic criminal legal aid also covers:

  • An application for bail prior to committal
  • A review of the court’s decision on bail
  • Opposing a Crown appeal against the allowance of bail or the amount of bail fixed

Automatic criminal legal aid ceases at the point that your client is admitted to bail or fully committed in custody.

Automatic criminal legal aid ceases if an application for criminal legal aid is determined (whether granted or refused) before full committal.

You should apply to us for solemn criminal legal aid as soon as possible, and no later than admission to bail or full committal if there is to be no interruption in cover.

Solicitor of own choice or, if required, the duty solicitor

Your client receiving automatic criminal legal aid in solemn proceedings is entitled to the solicitor of their choice. Your client may use the duty solicitor instead.

A court duty solicitor is available to advise and to act for your client on the day when they are first brought before a sheriff for examination and thereafter until they are admitted to bail or fully committed. The services of the court duty solicitor do not extend to the proceedings prior to the day they are first brought before the sheriff.

The exception to this rule is if your client is in police custody on a charge of:

  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Culpable homicide

In such cases, a duty solicitor is allowed to attend, advise and act for them until they are admitted to bail or fully committed [regulation 5 of the Criminal Legal Aid (Scotland) (Fees) Regulations 1989]. Any solicitor is entitled to act in these circumstances.

Advice and assistance is also available.

Preliminary pleas

When your client is first brought before a court to answer to a petition, any preliminary plea will normally be submitted before a plea of guilty or not guilty is tendered. The services to be provided by a duty solicitor may include:

  • A preliminary plea to the competency or relevancy of the petition
  • Conducting any plea in bar of trial
  • Conducting any mental health proof
  • Conducting any proof in mitigation (in summary proceedings)

These matters form part of the automatic criminal legal aid available to your client in custody under summary procedure, where only the duty solicitor can provide the criminal legal aid.

You may give advice and assistance in relation to such matters, but this does not include representation in court.

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