Is­land cou­ple un­able to se­cure lawyer for case

The Oban Times - - NEWS - DAVID MCPHEE dm­cphee@oban­times.co.uk

A TEX­TILE artist on Lis­more may have to rep­re­sent her fam­ily in court af­ter be­ing un­able to se­cure a lawyer, de­spite qual­i­fy­ing for le­gal aid.

Sarah Camp­bell and her fam­ily have been in­volved in an on­go­ing dis­pute with their neigh­bour for the past seven years re­gard­ing ac­cess to a path that leads to their croft.

The fam­ily of four are cur­rently re­liant on Sarah’s in­come of around £ 8,000 per year as her hus­band, Yorick Paine, is busy build­ing their home.

Ms Camp­bell said: ‘ We got in touch with ev­ery lawyer in Oban and had meet­ings with two of them and spoke on the phone at length with an­other three. Even though all of them said we see where you’re com­ing from and it does sound like you have a strong case, not one of them was pre­pared to take it on.

‘I think that the re­mu­ner­a­tion from the gov­ern­ment was not go­ing to be enough to jus­tify them tak­ing it on; it didn’t make any sense fi­nan­cially.

‘When we asked a lawyer how much they thought it could cost, we were given a sum of £ 50,000.

‘ We went to the Civil Le­gal As­sis­tance Of­fice, whose job it is to find lawyers to rep­re­sent peo­ple on a le­gal aid ba­sis, and it con­tacted ev­ery lawyer in Oban and then they put out a search na­tion­wide for a lawyer who would be pre­pared to rep­re­sent us. Noth­ing. No lawyer. Then I thought, this is a much big­ger is­sue. Is this hap­pen­ing to other peo­ple in the coun­try?

‘Peo­ple who don’t have the means to be able to get jus­tice, fi­nan­cial means, are be­ing com­pletely left in the lurch.’

A spokesper­son for the Scot­tish Le­gal Aid Board said: ‘In 2014-15 more than 80,000 grants of civil le­gal aid and ad­vice and as­sis­tance were made to help peo­ple across Scot­land fight for and de­fend their in­ter­ests.

‘How­ever, the de­ci­sion to take on a le­gal aid case rests en­tirely with an in­di­vid­ual firm of so­lic­i­tors and is usu­ally based on their as­sess­ment of the case and avail­able busi­ness re­sources.

‘There are cur­rently six firms reg­is­tered to carry out civil le­gal aid work in Oban and a fur­ther two in the Ar­gyll area. Our Civil Le­gal As­sis­tance Of­fice (CLAO) in Ar­gyll and Bute also works to help meet un­met le­gal needs in the area. It does this by of­fer­ing a re­fer­ral ser­vice and a case­work ser­vice.

‘ When a client presents with a case in­volv­ing a highly spe­cialised area of law, such as croft­ing law, which falls out­with the prac­tic­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of CLAO’s so­lic­i­tors, the re­fer­ral ser­vice to firms in pri­vate prac­tice is used to help the client. This can help put some­one in con­tact with a firm who will rep­re­sent the client us­ing le­gal aid.

‘If no pri­vate firm is will­ing to rep­re­sent the client, then other sources of pos­si­ble ad­vice and guid­ance are given by CLAO.’

Sarah Camp­bell and Yorick Paine stand at the gate to their croft.

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