Solicitors boycott Edinburgh Sheriff Court as legal fees row escalates

Solicitors staged a protest outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court after claiming one of their members was “removed” from the court building by police.

By Alexander Lawrie
Tuesday, 2nd November 2021, 12:47 pm

Members of the Edinburgh Bar Association (EBA) to refused to enter the building to conduct the day’s business following an incident in the cells area on Saturday morning.

The EBA is currently conducting industrial action regarding legal aid representation and were holding a boycott of the court when the incident occurred.

An EBA member was in the cell area handing out leaflets to detainees when it is claimed he was “removed” by police officers.

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The Scottish Court and Tribunal Service (SCTS) has admitted the solicitor was “asked to leave the court building” but denies there has been any “interference” preventing solicitors from taking instructions from clients.

Police Scotland denied officers “escorted or removed” the solicitor from the court.

Following the incident, an EBA spokesperson tweeted: “One of our members, conducting legitimate business, was removed from Edinburgh Sheriff Court today by @PoliceScotland on the instruction of @SCTScourtstribs.

“This is an absolute outrage. You would expect this of a totalitarian state. An urgent investigation is required.”

Solicitors protesting outside Edinburgh Sheriff Court

The EBA members refused to enter the court building and sent a letter to the SCTS informing them of the action.

The EBA letter states: “On Saturday 30th October while our association undertook a clearly publicised and defined boycott of the custody court, one of our members was told by an officer of Police Scotland that they had to leave the building.

“No explanation was given for this.”

The EBA letter demanded to know “who instructed the removal of one of our members from the building?” and asked for assurances there would be no further “interference from SCTS or officers of Police Scotland acting on their instruction”.

It concludes: “We would hope that this can be addressed swiftly so as not to impact the court day, but until our questions are answered we have no alternative but to refrain from entering the building.”

The SCTS has printed an open reply to the solicitors’ concerns on its own website.

It states: “A specific isolated incident occurred in Edinburgh on Saturday 30 October involving one solicitor who was asked to leave the court building at the request of an SCTS member of staff.

“This followed SCTS staff being advised that the solicitor was within the cell area advising prisoners, who were not his clients, by discouraging them from using the duty solicitor.

“Contrary to social media reports, the solicitor was not in consultation with a nominated client when asked to leave the court building and we understand had no further advice, instructions or nominated client representation to undertake that day.

“The court had facilitated his consultation with his client.

“There has been no interference from SCTS or officers of Police Scotland preventing solicitors from taking instructions, providing advice or representing their clients.

“SCTS is happy to give reassurance to all EBA members that the court will not only facilitate defence solicitors providing advice to clients in the court cells, but welcomes the assistance this brings to the criminal justice system.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police Scotland officers did not escort [or] remove anyone from the court.”

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