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QCs to do free work; Exclusive.

Byline: By Dave King

SOME of Scotland's highest paid lawyers are to offer their services free of charge.

QCs who earn up to pounds 5000 a day will pitch in to fight for people who cannot afford to go to court.

Donald Findlay is one of the biggest names among the volunteers from the Faculty of Advocates who have signed up for the freebie scheme aimed at fighting civil court cases not covered by legal aid.

Liberal leader and member of the Scottish Bar Sir Menzies Campbell, QC, is also in the band of briefs.

Yesterday, Stephen Woolman, QC, said: "Members of Faculty take their obligations of public service seriously.

"People are often presented with the image of fat cat lawyers. "I hope this demonstrates that advocates are more than willing to put something back into the community."

Legal aid in civil cases is restricted according to what an individual earns and, although it is technically available for all criminal charges, it isn't always approved.

This could result in someone on income support not being able to defend what they regard as an injustice.

The list of lawyers who will now be on hand to help also includes Roy Martin QC, the dean of the Faculty of Advocates and Richard Keen QC.

Keen, whose steely attitude has earned him the nickname "Rotweiller", has spent most of his career in civil courts, representing some of the biggest firms in the world.

He was also a surprise choice to appear for Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah at the Lockerbie hearing in the Netherlands.

It was Keen's first criminal trial, but the move paid off for the Libyan, who was cleared.

More recently, Keen initially represented Tommy Sheridan in the MSP's defamation case against the News of the World before he was sacked by the socialist leader.

Findlay, meanwhile, has represented some of the country's most notorious killers, including teenager Luke Mitchell, limbs-in-the loch maniac William Beggs and Mohammed Faisal Mushtaq, 27, one of Kriss Donald's sadistic torturers.

Under the free lawyer scheme, the volunteers' next case could be appearing for someone in the small debt court.

So far, 63 advocates have joined the Free Legal Services Unit.

Woolman added: "Before legal aid, senior members of the faculty would have defended someone accused of murder for free. The current idea is just a fresh take on that.

"Most of the cases we will get involved in will be civil, such as employment and social security tribunals.

"We are trying to do work where we think there is a case and, for whatever reason, the particular individual is not eligible for legal aid.

"If it helps to change people's perception of the profession, then we are very pleased.

"We are just gradually starting to build this up but so far we have had nothing but a positive reaction from the public."

The group are using agencies such as Citizens Advice Scotland, the Scottish Child Law Centre and Strathclyde University Law Clinic, to refer worthy cases.

Maureen Docherty, service manager for the Community Help and Advice Initiative, said: "We have used the unit for advice for ourselves, representation for clients and training for staff.

"It has proved very helpful for us and for our clients."

The faculty is also offering a scheme of free advice.Using the same sifting system, their "devils" - trainee advocates - will provide written advice on legal issues and appear for individuals at employment and social security tribunals.

RECORD VIEW: Page 8

CAPTION(S):

TOP LAWMAN: Donald Findlay' NO CHARGE: Donald Findlay, main picture, Menzies Campbell, left, and Richard Keen are all taking part in the free lawyer scheme for the less well-off' SERVICE: Woolman
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 20, 2006
Words:612
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