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Holiday Courts damaging overstretched criminal justice system

Holiday Courts damaging overstretched criminal justice system


The Law Society of Scotland and Bar Associations protest against holiday court hearings

The Law Society of Scotland, supported by the Glasgow and Edinburgh Bar Associations, has strongly criticised the practice of holding criminal court hearings on public holidays, citing significant negative effects on legal professionals and the justice system as a whole.

In a letter to the Lord President, Susan Murray, President of the Law Society of Scotland, expressed serious concerns over the impact of these "holiday courts" on legal practitioners and their clients. Murray highlighted that the criminal justice system is already under severe strain, and these additional court sittings are exacerbating the hardship faced by practitioners in small legal firms, who struggle to maintain a work-life balance. Murray emphasised the importance of a well-supported and sustainable criminal bar that can ensure access to justice for vulnerable clients.

The Glasgow Bar Association and Edinburgh Bar Association have joined in the opposition, with their members boycotting these holiday court sessions. Tracey Mulholland, President of the Glasgow Bar Association, noted that while practitioners have historically appeared for custody matters over major holidays, they were not consulted before extending these sessions to all holidays. Mulholland pointed out the risks of burnout for solicitors, who already work long hours under unfair legal aid rates. She highlighted the additional burden of last-minute childcare arrangements and cancelled personal commitments, particularly affecting women practitioners, who are leaving criminal practice in significant numbers.

The call to end holiday court sittings comes at a time when the legal profession is grappling with numerous challenges, including increased workloads and resource constraints. The Law Society of Scotland's appeal underscores the need for a sustainable approach to criminal justice that supports legal practitioners and ensures the effective representation of all clients.