Scots public defender to handle 15% of cases

THE Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) intends to handle 15 per cent of all summary criminal cases in the Edinburgh courts for its public defender pilot, which is due to begin next October.

According to SLAB's proposals, published last month, the Public Defence Solicitors' Office (PDSO) will cover the full range of summary cases during its five-year stint.

SLAB is considering potential office sites near the Royal Mile in the city centre.

The proposal paper envisages a time when the PDSO will generate its own workload but initially clients will be selected randomly according to their date of birth.

SLAB plans that the PDSO will provide the same services to clients and work within the same financial constraints as a law firm.

The board has already advertised the post of Director of Public Defence Solicitors, due to be filled by spring 1988. He or she will oversee the appointment of five public defence solicitors, play a key role in the development of the office, and defend cases.

Scottish Office home affairs minister Henry McLeish last week announced he would set up a task force to tackle delay in the legal system. McLeish said a “small expert group” of sheriffs, procurators fiscal, lawyers and police, would be appointed to look at potential improvements to the system and report back to ministers and the Criminal Justice Forum, a Scottish think-tank.