A Duty Solicitor provides an essential and valuable service 24 hours per day, to those who are accused of committing a crime. Playing the role of advocate, they assist individuals detained at a police station for questioning, assist those who are under arrest and appear alongside those same individuals as their representative in court. Although a highly challenging career choice, the role of a Duty Solicitor is equally rewarding – ensuring alleged offenders have access to qualified legal aid and access to a fair trial.
What is A Duty Solicitor?
A Duty Solicitor is a Criminal Defence Solicitor who helps offenders if they are suspected or accused of committing a crime. They are qualified to work for a firm, or independently on a self-employed basis, but are neither a member of the police force nor employed by the courts. Instead, they form part of a panel of Solicitors who ensure that an offender’s legal rights are observed. When the police allege an offender has committed a crime, it is the Duty Solicitor who represents the alleged to ensure their legal rights are protected. If a case goes to court, the Duty Solicitor also ensures a fair hearing is provided. They will always use their knowledge and experience to ensure the best outcome possible for the alleged offender.
Depending on where their office is based, a Duty Solicitor can work in up to six local justice areas, covering police stations within these justice areas, 24 hours per day. They also work with the courts in these areas from Monday to Saturday, throughout the year. They are paid by the Legal Services Commission, which is the government body that administers legal aid and therefore do not charge a fee for the advice and representation they provide.
A Duty Solicitors role
A Duty Solicitor’s primary role is to represent those who do not have access to a Solicitor. Therefore, if an alleged offender is in police custody and does not have a Solicitor, they will be given the option of speaking with a Duty Solicitor who is on rota at that time. Although there is a chance that a Duty Solicitor may not have met an offender before a case goes to court, their role is to ensure an offender’s legal rights are observed, and that proper legal advice is given. In addition, a Duty Solicitor will explain what could happen with the case, discuss the evidence the police have against the alleged and whether that evidence is strong enough to charge the alleged with a crime. They can guide and provide advice when being interviewed by the police and will answer any legal questions the alleged may have.
If a case goes to court, the Duty Solicitor will be able to help with the following:
- Gathering and preparing evidence
- Challenging evidence which can be used against the alleged
- Interviewing witnesses to support the case of the alleged
If an alleged offender is appearing in court for the first hearing and has been charged with an offence for which they could go to prison, the Duty Solicitor can help. Their assistance is also available if the alleged is appearing in custody. If the alleged already has a solicitor, is appearing for a trial, or is charged with an offence which does not result in imprisonment, then a Duty Solicitor cannot help.
A Duty Solicitor offers a vital service to those who have been suspected guilty of a crime. Being accused can be a trying experience, but with the assistance of a Duty Solicitor who represents your interests and makes sure your rights are protected, you are steps closer to receiving a fair trial, which is a right for everyone.