What is a Duty Solicitor?

PUBLISHED ON November 9, 2021

You are entitled to free legal representation, regardless of your financial means, or the circumstances or alleged criminal offence. You can exercise this right by way of a Solicitor of your own choice, or a Duty Solicitor.

If you do not identify a Solicitor or firm that you know, you will simply be assigned a random local Solicitor from the area. If you request your own, named Solicitor, it will be someone from that firm who will attend the police station to help you. If the firm you request has a legal aid contract, representation can be provided free of charge, or on a private-paying basis, depending on the level of service, and seniority of the Solicitor that you require.

Hudson Marshall Solicitors are able to accept both legally aided, and privately funded instructions. If you are charged with an offence and have to appear in court, we are able to apply for legal aid in your matter. Eligibility criteria will have to be met; it must be in the interests of justice, and you must qualify by virtue of the level of your financial means.

In this article, we seek to explain the nature of the job of a Duty Solicitor, and how they provide their legal services to individuals who might have trouble navigating potentially lengthy and incredibly stressful legal matters. A Duty Solicitor’s primary role is to provide you with the best advice and representation in your case.

What is a duty solicitor?

A Duty Solicitor is a legally qualified Criminal Defence Solicitor, independent of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). They provide free legal advice and representation at either the Police Station or the magistrate’ Court. They have a duty to provide you with independent legal advice and assistance on your case.

Duty solicitors are available 24/7 in all police stations throughout England and Wales. There is also a Duty Solicitor in courts throughout England and Wales. They are able to provide advice at your first appearance at a Magistrates Court if you are eligible to receive advice. Eligibility is based on the seriousness of the charge you face, and accordingly, the likely sentence you might receive.

Hudson Marshall Solicitors are contracted with the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) to provide these services at local courts and police stations on days and times established on the duty rota. For this reason, if you instruct us on legal aid, the LAA, pay 100% of your legal fees; you will not have to pay anything in the Magistrates Court. It is a little different in the Crown Court, as even if you have ‘legal aid’, you may be asked to pay an amount to the LAA every month. The ‘contribution’ amounts vary, and dependent on your means, you may also receive completely free legal representation.

Duty Solicitors at the Police Station and Magistrates’ Court

If you find yourself at a police station being accused of a criminal offence, you really should request a Solicitor. Remember, this is completely free, and it will enable you to make an informed decision as to what your approach should be in a police interview. You can specifically ask for Hudson Marshall Solicitors if you wish for us to assist you.

They will ensure you are given the best possible legal advice in the given circumstances. They will advise you on the strength of the police investigation, the charges against you and the interview process. They have a duty to make sure your interests are protected and that your rights are upheld. If you do not request a Solicitor, you will go into a potentially life-changing police interview, with little to no actual information as to the strength of the evidence against you. There may not even be enough evidence for you to be charged with an offence.

The Police must advise you that you have the right to free and independent legal advice. If you have requested a Solicitor after you have been arrested, we would attend the police station as soon as the police let us know that they are ready to interview you. Contrary to popular belief, requesting a Solicitor will not delay your time in police detention. In fact, the involvement of a lawyer could be the difference between you being ‘remanded’ or kept in overnight to attend the Magistrates Court the following morning.

‘Voluntary’ Interviews

You can request a Solicitor whilst detained at the Police station or in instances where you are asked by the police to attend for a voluntary interview. Whilst this may feel quite informal, and does not require you to be held in a police cell, the status of this interview is as serious as an interview after being arrested.

The police officer may say that they just want a quick chat with you. It may also be implied that it is likely that the case can easily be dealt with at the police station, without the need for you to go to court. You may be offered a ‘police caution’, a ‘conditional caution’, or a ‘community resolution’ if you attend. You should be under no illusion that despite the fact that the interview is voluntary, the consequences to you may be equally as dire as a police interview after arrest.

If you are contacted by the police and asked to attend a voluntary interview, you should immediately contact an experienced Solicitor. You should not attend a police station interview without a lawyer. If you were to instruct Hudson Marshall Solicitors, we can make efforts to obtain disclosure from the police, to include information on the type of evidence they hold in relation to the allegation(s) against you. We are able to then go through that evidence with you, and advise you as to what you should do in your police interview.

In attendance at the Police Station, you and your Solicitor will have time to privately and confidentially discuss your matter, prior to any interviews taking place. Additionally, we will ensure that the police are complying with the correct procedure throughout your detention, and the interview itself.

If you have already passed the police station stage and your matter has been sent to Court, you should contact us without delay, so that we can assess the case against you, and advise you as to a case strategy, going forward.

How to get a Duty Solicitor?

If you have been brought into the Police Station for any alleged criminal offence(s), the police must inform you of your right to free legal representation. Immediately alert the officers that you wish to exercise your right and request a Solicitor. The Police will then make contact with a duty solicitor on the rota for that police station, or a Solicitor that you choose. You can request telephone contact with your solicitor at any time, prior to their attendance.

If you are being called in for a voluntary interview, alert the police officer you are in contact with, that you wish to be represented by a Solicitor in the interview, as soon as they request your attendance. The police officer will then make contact with a duty solicitor on the rota and put them in touch with you. If you request your own Solicitor, either we would make contact with the police, or they can contact us.

Are Duty Solicitors Any Good?

Many Criminal Defence Solicitors are also Duty Solicitors. As with any sector of professionals, the quality of service and advice you receive will vary. If you do not request your own Solicitor, you will be assigned a random Duty Solicitor. You would have no way of assessing the quality of a lawyer who is simply allocated to you. At Hudson Marshall Solicitors, you can be assured that our lawyers will focus 100% of their attention and expertise on ensuring your rights are well-protected and you obtain the best possible outcome, whatever the circumstances.

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