Failure to invest in criminal law could risk improper practices or miscarriages of justice – Jane Hamilton

There’s an old proverb that’s stuck in my head this week.

It goes like this: “Any man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

Basically, that means if you think you can defend yourself in court, you’re, well, a fool.

The criminal justice system is an essential fabric of our society. And he is on the verge of collapse. Why, I hear you ask, and why should we care?

Well, for quite some time now, defense attorneys have been fed up with low salaries and fees that pay less than they did in 1999.

A lawyer told me, “Since 1999, legal aid costs have increased by 76%. It is simply not viable for some lawyers or firms to take on legal aid cases.

“It would cost the company more than it actually earns. Experienced lawyers are deserting.

There has been an exodus of trained criminal lawyers hanging up their robes and leaving the profession they have spent years learning. This has an impact on the courts.

But is it something we should be concerned about? I mean, who cares if some criminals can’t get a fair trial or even a trial at all, right? Bad.

Jodi Jones, murdered teenager

Sex offenders, wife beaters, thieves, drunk drivers, etc., they could all walk free without adequate representation in court.

It is a fundamental right in Scottish law that even the poorest in society have fair access to legal advice when they need it and, if charged with a crime, to legal assistance. a lawyer.

It’s a myth that all lawyers are rich. Forget what you see in American crime dramas, the ones in which the billable hours run into the thousands of dollars.

In real life, a solicitor conducting a criminal trial in Scotland on, say, a morning, earns the ‘princely’ sum of around £56 from legal aid.

We forget the preparation necessary upstream to ensure that our client receives the best possible service.

Regardless of the current cost of living crisis, the fact that fees have remained the same for over 20 years is a shocking situation.

We all need to eat and pay our bills, including avocados.

A summary legal aid case with two deferred sentences and a social work report would have paid £600 in 1999 – but only £578 in 2022.

Do we really want a country without defense lawyers? A system where only those who have money have access to justice?

Any of us could be accused of a crime. Who would we turn to?

Not everyone charged with a crime is guilty, and even then the guilty still deserve a fair hearing.

The Daily Record and the Sunday Mail have always been at the forefront of crime reporting in Scotland.

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And if you’re still firmly in the camp of thinking that lawyers are the elite, the privileged few, then spare a thought for the thousands of victims locked into the system as the pandemic backlog bites and defendants of crimes are struggling to find a lawyer.

Not investing in criminal law could mean there is much less vigorous scrutiny and questioning of how the state prosecutes people, which means a higher risk of inappropriate practices or miscarriages of justice .

Take the Luke Mitchell case, for example. There is a campaign to have his conviction reconsidered for the murder of his 14-year-old girlfriend, Jodi Jones.

But his supporters cannot deny that he, like others, benefited from a system that gave him access to an excellent defense team, which looked into all aspects of his treatment and evidence against him.

Meanwhile, newly qualified and experienced lawyers are expected to support a crumbling justice system for a pittance.

Where is the great British justice in this?

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