Tuesday, October 11, 2005

C'mon, Keep Up

I am on the Court Duty Solicitor rotas for two busy London Magistrates Court. One of the Court Duty schemes can be quite productive, the other is a complete shambles.

The original rota system for one of the Courts was drawn up and seemingly operated without problem. Out of six active Courts three of them have a dedicated Duty Solicitor. A new Court scheduling system was then introduced but the Duty Solicitor rota was preserved. Due to the antiquated Court Duty rota slots are now allocated to Court rooms that are scheduled to have trials. On the days when I have appeared as Court Duty Solicitor for a Court room that has trials scheduled I am simply told to help out with other Courts. This often involves going to the other Courts that are already covered by Duty Solicitors to ask if they need any assistance, and to be told that no assistance is required. Of course no assistance is required because those Duty Solicitors rarely want to relinquish work when there is a scarcity of well paid legal aid criminal defence work in the first place.

Today I was Court Duty Solicitor for the remand Court at the shambolic Court. There were no overnights to be dealt with, and first appearances do not take place on a Tuesday at this Magistrates Court. That meant I was supposed to assist anyone who had already appeared at Court who wanted the Duty Solicitor. But the fact that people were returning to Court meant that the vast majority were already represented by other solicitors, if anyone had previously seen the Duty Solicitor then they are usually precluded from seeing a Duty Solicitor on a further occasion. Guess how many people I assisted today? Only one.

This particular Court Duty rota badly needs reorganising, and despite my whinging to the Court staff there seems to be no prospect of things changing.

Guess how much I get paid for waiting around at Court as Duty Solicitor and dealing with no cases? I get paid as much to deal with cases as I do for sitting on my backside. The wonders of the remuneration system for Court Duty Solicitors means that I paid a flat rate to deal with cases or not to deal with cases.

This Court Duty rota is causing waste in the criminal justice system and needs to be sorted out.

1 comment:

Lennie Briscoe said...

Maybe you should instigate change by talking to someone who will listen and have the ability to act?