A Duty Solicitor is
A Criminal Solicitor - independent of the Police or the Crown Prosecution Service who provides free legal advice and representation at Police Stations or Magistrates Court to people suspected or charged with a a criminal offence.
2. Usually works for a Criminal Solicitor's firm within the local area. The firm will
be contracted by the Legal Aid Agency to provide those services at local
courts and police stations at times and dates specified on a duty rota. Anyone who asks for legal advice assistance or representation during those times can request the services of the Duty Solicitor (subject to certain exceptions)
3. Is fully independent of both the police and the court service. Is duty bound to provide the best independent legal advice and assistance and representation to their particular client.
(Note it is a common fallacy that if you ask for the Duty Solicitor they are working with the Police - they do not and incidentally most Criminal Firms who do private work have Duty Solicitors as well)
4. Will be Legally qualified and experts in Criminal Law. To be a police station duty solicitor will have passed a qualifying exam, a practical police station assessment and passed a portfolio assessment of at least 9 police stations. To be a Magistrates Court Duty Solicitor will have passed an advocacy test and a portfolio assessment.
5. Will be extremely experienced and may also have further qualifications in Criminal law - Could also be a Higher Court Advocate - qualified to represent clients in the Crown Court. Most solicitors will have a law degree and done two years training in a law firm and at least have one years practical experience on top before they become a duty solicitor.
6. Will be committed to social justice and what they do. Most Criminal Solicitors are not fat cats" and most earn less that £40,000 per year if that. This is for a 7 day week 24 hour a day job. It is a sad fact that your plumber will proabably earn three times the rate they do.
The author of this article is Robert Cashman, a Criminal Solicitor and Higher Court Advocate who maintains the Police Station Agent website. He may be contacted on (07535) 494446. Robert practices in Kent Court and Police Stations on a daily basis for Police Station Agent and a major national criminal solicitors practice.