New Chapter For FLSU
News - date posted 11.05.12
The Free Legal Services Unit of the Faculty of Advocates (FLSU) has launched a new chapter in its role of providing help in deserving cases in which justice would otherwise be denied.
Over the past decade the FLSU has intervened to provide pro bono advice in a growing number of cases which have benefited the lives of individuals and local communities.
Some of the recent issues that have been referred to the FLSU suggest that its work is becoming increasingly important in a wide variety of cases that have real merit but where there is no other means of obtaining legal assistance.
- The unit helped a Glasgow care home employee win his racial discrimination action after nine years by cutting through what the Court of Session described as a case of "grotesque length and complexity."
Lord Reed described the willingness of counsel and solicitors to provide their services free as reflecting the best traditions of the legal profession.
- The FLSU provided an important opinion for the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association over the legal status of the traineeship contract and whether trainee lawyers could be made redundant.
- As a result of a judicial review supported by the FLSU, Edinburgh Council was forced to carry out a proper assessment of the impact on residents of closing the historic Craigmillar Community Centre which has retained its role as a valuable resource for the local community
- Capability Scotland turned to the pro bono unit for help with its Barred! Campaign aimed at highlighting the physical access barriers which prevent disabled people from enjoying a full and active social life in clubs and pubs.
The unit provided free legal advice to pave the way for an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill which will create an obligation on licensees to provide a statement of accessibility as part of their licensing plans.
- In a case referred by Planning Aid, residents in the historic Fife town of Falkland enlisted the help of the FLSU to combat the threat of the complete demolition of a 200-year-old wall.
- The unit also helped a blind litigant in case where a tribunal agreed that an earlier hearing had failed properly to take her blindness into account in reaching its decision.
Now, the FLSU is being merged with the Free Representation Unit, (FRU) which until now has provided free legal advice by devils (trainee advocates). The aim is to provide an even more effective service for people who are seeking access to justice but don't have access to legal aid.
The merger has been driven by the desire to simplify and streamline the case-sifting process while making it more efficient and effective in matching the expertise of individual advocates to cases.
Mungo Bovey QC, Convenor of the Free Legal Services Unit, said: "I am very pleased that the Bar's pro bono work continues to develop so strongly and to offer support to a wide range of individuals."
Pro bono work is nothing new to advocates. They have always accepted it as part of their public duty to represent without payment those who cannot otherwise afford to vindicate their rights.
An Act of 1424 authorised the Scottish courts to provide an advocate in civil case for "onie pure creature, for faulte of cunning, or expenses, that cannot, nor may not follow his cause."
In Scotland legal aid was not available in civil cases until 1950 and in criminal cases not until 1964. In some murder cases the death penalty was still available and a QC and junior would be appointed from the Bar from the Poor Roll to provide free representation for an accused.
The FLSU is a modern manifestation of the Faculty's pro bono commitment and can be regarded as an additional safety net but not a substitute for a system of properly funded legal aid.
The FLSU will have a panel of more than 70 volunteer Queen's Counsel, advocates and devils from the practising Bar who can provide up to three days of free legal advice in all areas of law both criminal and civil, including representation in any court and tribunal in Scotland.
The help which members of Faculty provide includes written advice, advice in consultation and the provision of a mediator, as well as representation in courts and tribunals with the unit aiming to ensure that the pro bono work is carried out to the same high standard as if the case were funded.
Cases are referred to the FLSU through more 20 advice agencies including Citizen's Advice Scotland, Shelter, the Ethnic Minorities Law Centre, the Scottish Child Law Centre and the Drumchapel Law and Money Advice Centre.
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