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Duty solicitors at court

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Duty solicitors at court

Postby Spankymonkey » Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:02 pm

If you go to court unrepresented will the duty solicitor only advise you on matters relating to your defence, or would they be willing to assist you during the trial itself?
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby dls » Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:10 pm

Things may have changed since my day.

They obviously have very limited time. It can be professionally wrong to take on anything complicated without proper preparation.

The system has clear limitations. They can often be very helpful, but on a busy day they may get a dozen requests for assistance. Only so much is possible
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby Maz JP » Mon Nov 14, 2016 6:08 pm

Duty solicitors are not allowed to represent you in a trial.

There's a good pragmatic reason for this; in any modern courthouse there will be several courts operating, with sentencing, hearings etc all going on. One solicitor could not manage all of this, as dls notes, if he was taken out of circulation for an hour or more in order to defend someone in their trial.

(In addition, I don't think the duty can represent someone who appears in custody or who is appearing for the first time for an imprisonable offence).
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby shootist » Mon Nov 14, 2016 6:35 pm

So what do they do?
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby dls » Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:48 pm

So what do they do?

Sit down in front of a queue of random size, listening advising, checking, negotiating, representing . .breathing
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby diy » Tue Nov 15, 2016 8:47 am

I think the most they can achieve is spot any glaringly obvious mistakes by the prosecution, e.g. a failure to serve evidence in time or perhaps charges which have a clear statutory defence. e.g. protecting/preventing damage to property in an assault charge or accidental damage in a criminal damage case.

In my own experience, giving witness evidence in a magistrates court, the clerk of the court can sometimes help the defender in person frame his or her questions, but things will be going pretty bad for the defence if it gets that far as the clerk may be stepping in, in the interests of getting a fair trial.
My suggestions are not legal advice
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby Maz JP » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:05 am

dls wrote:Sit down in front of a queue of random size, listening advising, checking, negotiating, representing . .breathing


And generally being all round heroes. It's a far from easy job, and the good ones perform an absolutely invaluable service to us all.

diy wrote:I think the most they can achieve is spot any glaringly obvious mistakes by the prosecution, e.g. a failure to serve evidence in time or perhaps charges which have a clear statutory defence. e.g. protecting/preventing damage to property in an assault charge or accidental damage in a criminal damage case.

In my own experience, giving witness evidence in a magistrates court, the clerk of the court can sometimes help the defender in person frame his or her questions, but things will be going pretty bad for the defence if it gets that far as the clerk may be stepping in, in the interests of getting a fair trial.


Actually, in my experience it's rare that the duty will get into attacking the prosecution case (tricky for them unless there is an absolutely glaring hole in it). But they can do a whole lot more than just considering procedural matters. For instance, for defendants offering a guilty plea, the duty will provide the defence account of the offence, and make all of the offence/offender mitigation which a defendant on his own might find difficult. They can thus significantly affect sentencing.
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby shootist » Tue Nov 15, 2016 10:17 am

diy wrote:In my own experience, giving witness evidence in a magistrates court, the clerk of the court can sometimes help the defender in person frame his or her questions, but things will be going pretty bad for the defence if it gets that far as the clerk may be stepping in, in the interests of getting a fair trial.


Some of the hardest times I've had in a magistrates trial were cases where a defendant was defending himself and had the clerk assisting him. Not only were some quite antagonistic, but they seemed to hold the whip hand on stifling a relevant reply when it was clear it wasn't going to suit the defendant. I'm not saying they are acting correctly, but it made for hard going.
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby Spankymonkey » Thu Nov 24, 2016 1:13 am

They were utterly, utterly useless.

Abjectly refused to assist the defendant on the day of the trial despite the fact he was unrepresented (and had been denied legal aid on the grounds it was too trivial offence to bother with) and had called the court several days before who told him to speak to the duty solicitor on the day.

Both the Justice's clerk and the duty solicitor then told the defendant on the day of the trial he should have came in the day before to speak to a duty solicitor.

Justice clerk then spent the rest of the trial attempting to expedite the hearing as swiftly as possible "because there were three more cases to hear", occasionally doing the prosecution's job for them, refused to adjourn the case despite CPS not having disclosed much of the evidence to the defendant (despite repeated requests) and then right at the end, the magistrates found the defendant guilty on the grounds of hearsay evidence that suggested the defendant "was that type of person". A suggestion blurted out by the only witness to the event who just so happened to be the arresting officer and the alleged victim.

Then to top it all, after the magistrates handed down a conditional discharge, the Justices' clerk told the defendant not to waste everybody's time by appealing.

British justice at it's finest.
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Re: Duty solicitors at court

Postby dls » Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:44 am

As has been said, the Duty Solicitor is not allowed, or permitted to represent you on a trial.
It may be correct that he cannot therefore be of use to you, but the system says that he is there to be run ragged for several hours doing certain things. Representing one person at trial may easily take up half that time (or more), leaving him unable to do those things he is actually there to do.

Your remark is like criticising a train driver for not doing the ticket collector's job on a train not set up for the task.
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