Today’s holiday custody court has been boycotted by lawyers in Glasgow.
Lord Carloway, the Lord President, stated last year that such courts would be convened during court holidays. Contrary to prosecutors and other professionals, the defense profession was not consulted or offered any additional remuneration.
Fiona McKinnon (president of the Glasgow Bar Association) wrote to Keith Brown, Justice Secretary, at the weekend. She stated that she had been told by the GBA “that there is no reasonable prospect that our concerns will be addressed by legislative changes until next Autumn at earliest”.
All GBA members who took part in a poll favored action.
Ms McKinnon wrote that “This would ordinarily cause us to be anathema as our raison de’etre it to help those most vulnerable in society.” This is evidently a result of decades of low investment in defence and an increasing gap between Crown and defense.
She spoke of the “disastrously implemented resilience fund” for defense firms by the Scottish government, which was only saved with the help of “input from bar association presidents” and “representatives of the Law Society”.
“Our members voted together to enjoy public holidays. We will not attend your holiday custody courts for the foreseeable future. Voting against the continuation of holiday custody courts was not supported by any member.
“The fact that there is total unity around this shows the strong beliefs of practitioners about how they were treated by successive Scottish governments, and the apparent lack respect we have amongst our justice partner.”
Aberdeen Bar Association has joined the GBA, whose president Ian Woodward-Nutt stated that “Aberdeen criminal attorneys have decided to boycott any future holiday custody courts until further notice”.
He said, “It shouldn’t be obvious to an impartial observer that it can’t be right for defence lawyers to work during holidays without reasonable compensation.”
Defence solicitors from West Lothian, Peterhead and Banff confirmed that they would adopt the GBA position. They will also “decline” to attend holiday custody courts till further notice.
Ms McKinnon warned that unless members of the defense profession are given clear information about the funding for the duty solicitor scheme at COP26 in November “our members will not be able to make an informed decision about whether or not they want to participate”.
Aamer Anwar, Solicitor, stated to Scottish Legal News “Defence bar is hemorhaging lawyers at such an rate to the Crown Office that there is no hope for diversity.”
“Defense lawyers are typically between the ages of 50 and 55, and are predominantly white and male.”
He stated that the Crown Office could only “click their fingers” to get millions of dollars from a government that forgets that justice is not complete without a defense.
Mr Anwar said: “But don’t worry, because soon there won’t be any miscarriages in justice. Because there won’t be any defence lawyers that can launch an appeal on legal assistance.
“Keith Brown’s silence about the worst crisis facing our legal system speaks volumes. As he dances to the beat of his justice department’s music, our legal system sometimes feels like it’s more comparable to a third-world country’s.
According to the lawyer, today’s action “likely will be the first of many” but that until the courts are completely closed down, the rapid decay will not stop.