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Update on experts
Thursday, Sep 12, 2013
The Board has been looking at the rising cost of experts, which is over £6 million per year. We have been seeking to establish with the Law Society of Scotland how to achieve best value from these services.
The intention is to achieve better consistency in the cost of commissioning experts, better assurance over the quality and better certainty of availability and supply. In the longer term we intend to publish a directory of experts who have committed to undertake legal aid work under the terms that the Board and the Law Society of Scotland agree in due course.
Included within this process we consulted with health professionals and have made recommendations covering qualifications and quality, which require solicitors responsible for contracting these important services to ensure that those instructed are appropriately qualified.
This includes registration with the relevant bodies e.g. specialist registration within the GMC for medical experts or the Health Professions Council for other health professionals.
Travel rate and conditions
With effect from 1 March 2013 all experts instructed on or after that date had their travel reduced to half the hourly rate.
In addition to the half travel rate the following conditions were confirmed:
- Restriction on rail travel to Standard Class only
- Overnight stay, where necessary, up to £80 per night inclusive of bed and breakfast
- Evening meal up to £20
- Costs for alcohol, newspapers, telephone calls and sundries to be borne by the expert
- No secretarial fees, postage or courier fees payable including arranging meetings/appointments payable
- Full breakdown of time spent to be produced by the expert for meetings, travel, preparation etc.
Following analysis of a broad range of different experts and fees we consulted with the Law Society of Scotland who subsequently developed a proposal to categorise experts into three general bands reflecting the range of specialism and expertise and that each band would be paid at a set rate.
It was considered overly complex to have individual rates of each specialism such as they have in England. The Law Society of Scotland’s recommendations were as follows:
- Band 1- highly specialised experts up to £140 per hour
- Band 2 -professional experts up to £120 per hour
- Band 3- general skilled experts up to £80 per hour
The Law Society consulted with the profession on these proposals through their website. Further research has been undertaken by the Board in examining the costs incurred under each category from information extracted from online cases which will be shared with the Law Society.
Before we consider introducing changes to expert fees we propose to consult more widely to include other professional bodies to establish how we can achieve best value and secure sufficient supply.
There is a considerable amount of work still to be done in this review and consultation process due to the wide variety of professions commissioned in legal aid cases. The initial focus was on civil experts but will now include criminal and children’s.
For further information, please contact:
Director of corporate services and accounts
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