While LSA`s core work is legal case work, we also use our knowledge and experience from practice to influence and improve policy. For example:
Originally in Scotland there was no form of defence or procedural delay to a mortgage repossession action. It all rested on good will. We were involved with the inception of the Mortgage Rights Act which introduced procedure to control mortgage repossession.
As the economic turndown developed, we and others recognised a need for further reform. LSA took part in intense discussions with the Scottish Government and publicly. We successfully argued that Pre-Action Requirements should be part of the court process with the requirement that every mortgage repossession calls in court. We also worked with the Scottish Government to improve court documents to make them clearer and with date, time and place of calling highlighted.
We continue to raise concerns about mortgage repossession, for instance the recall procedure.
It is now over 30 years since the reasonableness defence was introduced in public sector eviction actions. It took about 15 years for the complexity of this defence to be properly recognised. Throughout, LSA has emphasised the importance and complexity of the court procedure and warned against the practice of defending an eviction action by simply throwing oneself on the mercy of the court.
We have been concerned about the poor practices of a minority of landlords. Working with the Scottish Government and national housing charities, we took part in the debate that resulted in Pre-Action Requirements in rent arrears cases being introduced in the Scottish Secure Tenancy Procedure. This gives tenants similar rights to those of home owners. The Pre-Action Requirements set out good practice. Complying with these should not be difficult for most landlords who adhere to, and even exceed, good practice.
LSA has considerable experience of Criminal Injuries Compensation cases, particularly complex ones. These have mostly focused on claims for domestic abuse but we have also acted for clients with serious mental health problems, with catastrophic injuries, or with novel injuries (such as trafficking victims).
We have publicised the scheme and, with Castlemilk Law Centre, run regular training and education events.
We campaigned vigorously against government proposals (in 2012) to make severe cuts to the scheme. During the consultation process, we raised the issue of unfair treatment of asylum seekers. We were pleased that the government incorporated some of our views in its final policy.
However, other cuts were retained in the proposed Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme 2012. This included sharp cuts to, or entire removal of, the first 12 of the 25 tariff bands for compensation for injuries, making the scheme ineligible for most victims. The proposed compensation for wage loss was minimal, and would have affected the most seriously injured victims. LSA, along with USDAW and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers took up the challenge. As a result of some very effective lobbying from us and others, the government had no support from any MPs at committee and withdrew the cuts. This was a great result for everyone concerned about the rights of victims of crimes of violence and an effective partnership approach. LSA provided technical legal input and briefing whilst USDAW provided excellent economic analysis and unique expertise of parliamentary procedure and lobbying.