Friday, June 17, 2005

CDS Direct

Police Station cases arise at any time of the day or night so generally as a criminal solicitor you get used to phone calls in the middle of the night, or calls at 5.30 pm on a Friday evening, requesting your services at the local Police Station. The Legal Services Commission dreamt up an idea last year where they wanted to take over the bulk of the work in dealing with phone calls from the Police Station so that solicitors would not be bothered by Police Stations until the Police Station needed a solicitor to get down there.

This is all very generous of the Legal Services Commission but the whole scheme is flawed and solicitors are up in arms now that the Legal Services Commission want to run a pilot of the scheme in October this year. If I am acting as duty solicitor for a period of time I am able to plan how each case will be dealt with as they are phoned through to me, i.e. I will know when the interview is likely to take place so I can arrange for myself or a colleague to attend. The LSC want a system where the Police Station calls them and they give advice over the telephone to the person who has been arrested, and then when an interview is going to take place the LSC will phone a solicitor and say, "Can you get to the Police Station for an interview in 45 minutes?" As these phone calls will come out of the blue I expect many of the solicitors will say that they are not in a position to attend at such short notice.

As I was feeling a bit militant today I e-mailed a number of people to see if any action could be taken in the areas where the LSC want to run the pilot. It had been suggested to me that one way to fight this flawed system is for solicitors to simply not accept the work that comes through the CDS Direct scheme, and hopefully after a period of time the scheme would be forced to come to an abrupt end. The problem is that the LSC are going to run the pilot in two very well chosen areas. Firstly there is Boston (Lancashire) where there are insufficient duty solicitors to adequately deal with the work available in the area - they are looking forward to some form of assistance with their heavy work load. The second area is Liverpool which has a large Public Defender Service presence which could probably cope pretty well if the solicitors in private practice refused to accept work from the CDS Direct scheme.

So what's going to happen with this CDS Direct pilot then? Well it is going to go down as a success in Boston just because they need the help there anyway. The system will probably not work very well in Liverpool but it will save the Government money as a shoddy service is provided. So all in all I expect that by 2006 the CDS Direct scheme will no longer be a pilot and they will be phoning me at all times of the day asking me to get to the Police Station - I expect that my response much of the time will be sorry I am already at Court, or sorry I am seeing a Client right now. This ridiculous immediate attendance idea is going to drive the system out of control.


Anonymous said...

Of course it will break sounds pretty useless already. I used to be a Customs (& Custody)Officer at Heathrow Airport, and I can foresee that the already limited time for investigations will be further compromised. This is in no-ones interest, as all that will happen is that a senior officer will authorise an interview to take place as the resulting delay will compromise the investigation!

Anonymous said...

Actually, Boston was one of the original pilot schemes for CDS Direct. There has been no collection of any data to show whether the scheme was a success. Towards the end, we ignored it to such an extent that it was several months before some of the duty solicitors had realised the pilot had ended.