Trams before justice, claim city lawyers

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POOR people accused of a crime may have to pay to clear their name under legal aid reforms designed to save the equivalent of just 65 metres worth of Edinburgh tram track, according to experts.

Legal, disability and human rights experts condemned a proposal to make people pay a financial contribution towards their legal aid. The Scottish Government has published draft legislation designed to save £3.9 million from the legal aid budget.

Innocent people could forego their right to a lawyer and end up in prison because they could not afford to pay for their defence, MSPs heard.

Opting to represent themselves rather than pay for a lawyer could undermine their right to a fair trial, it was claimed. Mark Harrower, of the Edinburgh Bar Association, criticised the proposal saying trams appeared to be taking priority over justice.