Report points out poor ethnic mix in Scotland

Ethnic minorities and women are under represented in the Scottish Criminal Justice system, and no ethnic minorities are represented among the staff of Scotland's prosecution service, according to a government report.

The study, published by the Scottish Office last week, concludes “the proportions of women and individuals of ethnic minorities working in criminal justice agencies are lower than their shares of the total workforce, particularly in the more senior positions”.

It also finds that, as of the 31 December 1995, there were no ethnic minorities among staff and prosecutors of the Scottish prosecution service, the Procurator Fiscal.

By February 1997, 34 per cent of Scotlands' 7,955 solicitors were female, while 52 per cent of solicitors under the age of 30 were female.

The Criminal Legal Aid account for the year 1995 to 1996 show that £22.3m was spent on 9,070 Solemn proceedings and £49.9m on 65,441 Summary proceedings. The total legal aid bill in Scotland for criminal and civil cases has almost doubled since 1991 from £67.6m to £133.4m. Last year, for the first time there was a drop of £1.6m in the cost of criminal legal aid.

Coinciding with the government report, the Scottish Legal Action Group has unveiled radical proposals to cut legal aid costs. The group claims the current system is “grotesquely distorted” in favour of the criminal scheme, to the detriment of civil legal aid.

The report recognises there is no incentive for solicitors to limit the amount of work they do and recommends a system of regressive fees so that work done beyond a certain cut-off point will be charged at a lower rate.