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Glasgow City Council v The Scottish Legal Aid Board [2018] CSIH 37

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Glasgow City Council v The Scottish Legal Aid Board [2018] CSIH 37

24 May 2018

The Inner House issued its opinion today in Glasgow City Council v The Scottish Legal Aid Board. The Board had granted legal aid to PQ to reclaim a decision of a Lord Ordinary in judicial review proceedings brought against Glasgow City Council. Glasgow City Council judicially reviewed the Board’s decision to grant legal aid on the basis that the Board had acted unfairly towards it in determining PQ’s legal aid application. The Lord Ordinary held that fairness required that Glasgow City Council be provided with a statement giving fair notice of PQ’s case, and that the Board should not consider the application until he did so. The Board reclaimed.

The Inner House granted the reclaiming motion. The Inner House confirmed that the Board had a duty to act fairly. However, the Inner House emphasised that what fairness required in different situations is variable, citing the dictum of Lord Mustill in R v Secretary of State for the Home Department ex parte Doody [1994] 1 AC 531 at 560. What fairness requires depends upon what is to be decided, and its effect on the complaining party. The determination of a legal aid application does not of itself affect a potential opponent’s civil right or obligations. The practical impact was limited to the fact that a legal action may be raised against him. The legal aid system did not infringe an opponent’s right to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions under A1,P1. The statutory framework of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 1986 reflected the absence of a direct effect of the grant of a legal aid application on an opponent’s civil rights and obligations. The opponent is only provided with limited information; namely the nature of the case. There was no requirement to supplement the statutory procedures; which create an appropriately balanced regime. Fairness did not require detail of the legal underpinnings of the case to be given to the opponent, nor proposed grounds of appeal. Fairness did not require the Board to give the opponent reasons for a grant of legal aid.

Ruth Crawford QC appeared for the Scottish Legal Aid Board; Anna Poole QC and Elisabeth Roxburgh appeared for Glasgow City Council.