No legal aid changes required following implementation of new Sheriff and Jury procedures


Wednesday, Aug 30, 2017

This update is to confirm that no legal aid changes are required to accommodate the new Sheriff and Jury procedure changes implemented over the summer under Part 3 of the Criminal Justice Scotland Act 2016.

What’s new?

Some sections of Part 3 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 relating to sheriff and jury cases have been implemented over the summer. These affect solemn proceedings in the Sheriff Court. 

The changes will effectively bring sheriff and jury procedure in line with that which exists in the High Court. An accused will be indicted to appear at a first diet only, and before that diet there will now be a statutory requirement for the Crown and the defence to communicate.

The requirement for the Crown and defence to communicate and create a joint written record on case preparation in advance of the conduct of the First Diet has been in place since 1 December 2015, in terms of the Criminal Courts Practice Note 3/2015.

No legal aid changes are required for these court procedure changes.

The implementation dates were as follows:

  • Sections 79, 80, and 81(1)(2) and (5) came into force on 29 May;
  • Section 81(3) and (4) came into force on 31 July; and
  • Section 81(6) and (7) came  into force on 28 August. 

The effect of these commencement dates, and the transitional provisions are as follows: 

For all cases indicted on or after 29th May 2017:

  • The Crown and defence are now required to communicate within 14 days of service of the indictment and submit a written record two working days before the first diet
  • There must be 29 days between the first diet and the trial
  • An accused person on bail shall be indicted to a first diet within 11 months of the date of committal for further examination and any trial shall take place within 12 months of that date
  • An accused person in custody shall be indicted to a first diet within 110 days of the date of full committal and any trial shall take place within 140 days of that date

Between 29th May 2017 and 30th July 2017 the Crown was able to:

  • Indict cases either to a first diet and trial diet (where the first diet and trial diet are set for dates before the 28th August 2017); or
  • Indict cases to a first diet only (where that first diet is set on or after the 31st July 2017)

From 31st July 2017:

  • The Crown will indict all cases to a first diet only
  • Where a case has been indicted to a first diet only, the court will consider the information available and, if appropriate, appoint a trial diet

From 28th August 2017:

  • All cases are in the “new” system
  • All trial diets, which will have been set by the court, can be continued without calling for four days after their assigned date, at the end of which they must call, be adjourned or be discontinued

Applications process

No changes are needed to the applications process for solemn criminal legal aid.

Payments to solicitors

There are no changes needed to the criminal legal aid fees regulations as a result of the implementation of these sections of Part 3 of the 2016 Act. The existing fee regime allows for separate and distinct detailed charges for a range of work undertaken in the early stages of a solemn case which are not otherwise covered by inclusive (block) fees.  That includes:

  • Letters
  • Telephone calls
  • Framing of documents
  • Time spent perusing the indictment, witness lists, statements, productions and labels received from the Crown and defence precognitions
  • Precognition work
  • Meetings and consultations with an accused person at liberty, advocate depute, expert witnesses

For the Joint Written record, the changes which were implemented on 1 December 2016  will continue. For sheriff and jury cases where counsel is not instructed, we now allow a time-based charge of up to one hour for the work related to the completion of the Written Record by the defence solicitor where the solicitor elects to claim a fee on that basis as an alternative to the standard framing charge (based on sheetage) which remains available.

This provision does not affect any other circumstances, and the framing fee will continue to be the only fee payable for the framing of all other necessary documents.

For further information, please contact:
Kingsley Thomas, Head of Criminal Legal Assistance, thomaski@slab.org.uk
or
Steven Carrie, Senior Accounts Specialist, carriest@slab.org.uk


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