Host Organisation: JustRight Scotland

Maria Macleod

I am a trainee solicitor with JustRight Scotland, Scotland’s legal centre for justice and human rights.

I hold an LLB with Honours and Diploma in Professional Legal Practice from the University of Strathclyde. I have also completed a research Master’s degree (MPhil) in legal ethics, which I expect to receive later this year.

During my studies, I volunteered as a Student Adviser with the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. Following my undergraduate degree, I gained further experience working in civil society organisations promoting access to justice in Scotland.

I worked for the Western Isles Citizens Advice Service as a Legal Adviser for over three and a half years, providing information, advice, and lay representation services to clients on a variety of matters, particularly: debt; housing, including eviction and repossession; employment; and discrimination. This was within a project funded by the Scottish Government and the Money Advice Service, and administered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board.

In January 2018, I joined JustRight Scotland as a Caseworker for the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre (SWRC). In this role, I assisted the Centre’s lead solicitor to provide legal advice and information to women impacted by gender-based violence through the provision of legal surgeries and helplines, and direct legal advice and representation to clients in courts and tribunals. I also assisted with the development of resources for the SWRC public legal education programme and undertook policy work in areas of importance to SWRC client groups.

I am delighted to continue working with JustRight Scotland in this new role as a Justice First Fellow.

Project

The aim of our Justice First Fellowship project is to improve access to justice in remote and rural areas of Scotland by reducing geographic barriers, with a focus on women impacted by gender-based violence.

At JustRight Scotland, we are aware of an increasing demand for our services in more remote and rural parts of Scotland across all of our areas of work. I have particular experience of this from working in the SWRC, a collaborative project which brings together the expertise of JustRight Scotland with Rape Crisis Scotland and the University of Strathclyde Law Clinic. Our helpline receives calls from women in almost every part of Scotland, including more remote areas in the Highlands and Islands, and the Borders. The volume of enquiries we receive – along with feedback from our partners in the area – serve to highlight the unmet legal need in the violence against women sector and underline the importance of expanding the service provision of the SWRC to address access to justice gaps in remote and rural communities. My project will seek to address these gaps with a model that we hope can be applied to other access to justice areas in the future.

At the outset of our project, I will undertake a scoping exercise to identify gaps in service provision. Thereafter, I will produce and disseminate resources for women and frontline workers to improve awareness and understanding of women’s rights and entitlements, including information about how to access specialist legal services from remote areas. I will work collaboratively with local partner agencies and solicitors to improve access to justice through direct service provision, in particular by initially providing Skype legal surgery appointments and then undertaking casework through the SWRC and facilitating training through the SWRC’s public legal education programme.

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