Each new act of the Scottish Parliament should be accompanied by information leaflets and online information properly explaining the new law and its impact on the citizen, according to the Law Society of Scotland.
With just two weeks to go until the Holyrood elections, the Society has challenged Scotland's political parties to ensure the impact of any new legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament over the next five years is properly understood by the general public.
In the first section of the Society's manifesto for 2011, a lack of public awareness with respect to the law and the legal system was identified. In research for its manifesto, the Society held a number of discussion evenings with local stakeholders including charities, universities, businesses and voluntary organisations to identify the needs of the wider civic community in relation to the legal system.
President of the Society, Jamie Millar said: “We heard about some of the practical difficulties this lack of understanding has caused, with the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 highlighted as one example of where there appeared to be a poor understanding of the impact of the law on co-habitants. A number of important Bills have been passed during last parliament, such as the including the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill and the Patients Rights (Scotland) Bill. Both of these will have significant impact on citizens and it's important they are aware of the legislation, their rights and most importantly the help available to them.
”From those we spoke to, there was a strong feeling that for the legal system to be effective there had to be a better understanding and awareness amongst the general public of how the law and justice system operates not least to try and grow a greater sense of citizenship in our society and our democracy. That is why we have called for this in our manifesto.
“Public education is not simply a job for government and our parliamentarians however. The Society, as well as the wider legal profession, has an important role to play in partnership with others to increase awareness. The Schools Law Web is one example of where stakeholders have recently come together to successfully provide legal education for schools.”
A number of political parties have already talked about the importance of providing better information for the public and praised the Society's proposals for the introduction of legal education in secondary schools to build awareness of the justice system and installing citizenship from an early age.
Mr Millar said: “Increasing the public's knowledge and understanding of the law would have significant benefits not just for the legal system, but for society as a whole. It is something that we will continue to push for during the election campaign and indeed once a new government is in place.”
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Journalists can contact Emily Young on 0131 476 8154 or Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884 or at the Law Society of Scotland Communications & Marketing department.
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