Consultation launched on a revised Code of Practice for Criminal Legal Assistance

Monday, Feb 06, 2017

We are inviting solicitors to give their views on a revised Code of Practice in relation to criminal legal assistance.

The original Code of Practice was published in April 1998, and has remained relatively unchanged since that time.  Much has changed elsewhere since 1998, both in criminal legal assistance and the wider criminal justice system. 

With the main implementation of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 expected later in 2017, it is now appropriate to update the Code of Practice.

This is necessary to reflect new areas which have emerged over the recent years, such as police station duty work, and the significant reforms to the criminal justice system and the way in which justice agencies now operate. 

We had previously been asked to consider the role that entering into more formal contracts with solicitors could have in the delivery of criminal legal assistance. Some initial work was carried out on this, including holding a number of consultation events with solicitors to discuss how this could work and be taken further forward.

However, at this stage, the Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs has concluded that any move to contracting would be impossible in the current financial climate but that a revised Code of Practice would help to manage any risks associated with the delivery of duty services. Therefore, the new draft Code includes specific requirements relating to court and police station duty work. 

The Scottish Government announced last week more details on a wider review of legal aid that is underway. The review will run in parallel to the Scottish Government’s short to medium term activities to reform and streamline the legal aid system. Revisions to the Code of Practice also need to be seen in the context of this wider review which may in turn lead to the requirement for further changes to the Code.

Responding to this consultation

We have published a consultation paper on our website setting out the main differences between the new draft Code and the current version, and the main points for consideration in this consultation is also enclosed.

The revised Code of Practice is also available from the website.

We are seeking your views on a series of specific questions.  Of course, views on any other matter would also be most welcome.

We have provided in the consultation paper details on how to send us with your response to the revised Code.

Deadline for responding

Consultation on the new draft Code runs for the required eight week period, so please ensure any responses are submitted to us by 5pm on 3 April 2017.

We look forward to your participation in this important consultation.  

For further information, please contact:
Kingsley Thomas
Head of Criminal Legal Assistance

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