Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Answer The Phone

Part of my job involves going down to Police Stations to advise and assist people when they have been arrested, and now and then those people are bailed from the Police Station to go back there pending further enquiries by the Police.

I have a real dislike for going back to the Police Station for what I call bail to return appointments. The Legal Services Commission are my paymaster and I have to keep within their rules. Currently their rules state that I should not be paid for attending at the Police Station for a bail to return appointment unless I have made checks to ensure that something is happening that requires legal advice and assistance. I think that this caveat on payment is only fair.

What is not fair is that I have to run around and waste my time to see if the appointment is going to result in action that requires my attendance (such as a reinterview or the person being charged and informed they are to be prosecuted), or whether my attendance is not required because the Police have either dropped the case or have given the person an appointment even further off in the future. None of this work involved to check the case is paid for as the Legal Services Commission states that such work falls outside the scope of legal advice and assistance at the Police Station.

Here is an example of the lengths I have gone to for an appointment today.

  1. Phone call yesterday to the Officer's office. He is not on duty until today so I leave a message for him to call me.
  2. Phone call yesterday to the Police Station where my Client has to attend. The Custody Sergeant cannot help me as he knows nothing about the case and is not prepared to make an effort to find out.
  3. Today I have made 7 phone calls to various numbers to the Police Operator, the Officer, and the Custody Suite. None of these phone calls has been answered.

It is about 1 hour before the appointment and I still do not know what is happening. I must have spent 30 minutes of wasted time trying to find out what is happening. I am playing within the Legal Services Commission's rules so that if I am unable to find out what is happening I will still get paid for attending no matter what the outcome of the case is. Why am I forced to waste my time finding out what is happening when I cannot be paid for any of that wasted time? Even the cost of the phone calls at say £4.05 per phone call for the calls where I actually speak to someone would be nice.


thinblueline said...

Even the cost of the phone calls at say £4.05 per phone call for the calls where I actually speak to someone would be nice. ???

Id change your telephone service if thats what you are paying, or maybe thats what you charge to make a telephone call. If so shame on you :)

Gavin said...

I think that you might have misunderstood what I was trying to explain.

It does not cost me £4.05 to make a phone call through a telephone operator.

The Legal Services Commission (who are my paymaster) say that if a Client is detained at the Police Station my firm will be paid a flat fee of £31.45 for all the phone calls made to and from the Police Station whilst they are in the Police Station for the initial period of detention. This generally covers the time and cost involved in making and receiving calls during the initial period of detention.

The Legal Services Commission then say that I cannot claim for any other telephone calls to the Police Station after the Client has been released. So if the Client has been bailed to return and I have to check to see what is happening to the Client when he is due to go back to the Police Station I cannot claim for it (here are of course limited exceptions to this rule).

In a routine Magistrates Court case telephone calls that materially progress a case a charged at the rate of £4.05 per call, for Crown Court work the rate per call is less at £3.60 per call. Each call is charged on a per unit basis, each unit is assumed to take up 6 minutes.

So if I make ten phone calls for a Crown Court case, each lasting 6 minutes my firm earns £36.00 during that hour. If I make ten phone calls trying to find out what is happening at the Police Station and those calls all last 6 minutes I get paid nothing.

Is it fair that I have to make the phone calls, under rules set out by the Legal Services Commission to ensure that my firm can be paid for attending at the Police Station, when there is no provision for the payment of these calls?

You might think that it is fair that every now and then I make these phone calls and they go unpaid. But if I have to chase up to 3 bail to return cases a day and waste fee earning time the lost revenue adds up. I am sure that you would not sit at work ad do extra hours of unpaid work and expect it to be fair.

You seem to object to the suggested charge rate for a phone call being paid at £4.05 for 6 minutes work. That is cheap in the grand scale of things. If one of your nearest or dearest passes away I am sure the probate solicitor who deals with the will would charge upwards of £15 for a phone call. Then think about a corporate laywer, I would guess their charge out rate for a phone call would be closer to £40.

Sorry to rant on...