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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-13840: Neil Findlay (Lothian)

Scottish Labour

Date lodged: 15 January 2018

To ask the Scottish Government, in light of the Court of Session granting permission for the case to proceed to a full hearing, for what reason the Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB) refused to grant legal aid to Tilly Gifford to allow for a judicial review of the decision not to extend the inquiry into undercover policing to Scotland; whether it can confirm that SLAB had initially stated that Ms Gifford's case had a "strong probability" of success and, if so, whether the decision not to grant aid contradicts SLAB's guidelines, which recommends aid being granted when it considers there to be a "probability" of success, and what its response is to concerns that this decision could deny access to justice to people who consider that they have been subjected to abusive tactics by the police.

Answered by: Annabelle Ewing 24 January 2018

Scottish Government and the Scottish Legal Aid Board (the Board) have different responsibilities in the legal aid system. While the Scottish Government sets policy for legal aid and provides significant funds to the Board to administer the Legal Aid Fund, they do not make decisions on legal aid applications.

The Board are responsible for assessing whether an application meets the eligibility criteria set down in law. This means that neither Scottish Government Ministers nor officials can intervene in an individual case.

The eligibility criteria for those accessing civil legal aid are consistent and transparent. There are three tests. The first two tests are applied to the legal content of the application where it must be shown that the case is plausible and that it is reasonable for legal aid to be granted. The third test is applied to an applicant’s financial circumstances.