Criminal court duty plans, eligibility criteria and consultation with local faculties

We arrange for duty solicitors to be available at all times throughout the year in each sheriff and JP court district.  These arrangements take the form of “court duty plans” which are made available to court offices, police stations and other places where the client may need to be put in touch with you.

Each plan shows:

  • The period of duty assigned
  • The name, business address, and business and home telephone numbers of each duty solicitor
  • The procedure to be followed for obtaining the services of an alternate duty solicitor
  • Any conditions applicable to the plan

Eligibility criteria for inclusion on the duty plans

To meet the criteria you must:

  • Hold a practicing certificate with no restriction affecting your entitlement to provide criminal legal aid at the time of application
  • Be accepted on to the Criminal Legal Assistance Register
  • Have a place of business within the sheriff court area for which the duty plan is being prepared and conduct the majority of business within that area
  • Be able to provide professional services which are of a competent and reasonable quality

In order to meet this definition, you must be able to demonstrate that you are a competent and knowledgeable criminal practitioner. You should be able to demonstrate a level of professional experience in the following:

  • The number of criminal instructions taken in the High Court, Sheriff Court and JP court
  • The number of criminal trials carried out per month
  • The number of appearances in the criminal court on a weekly/monthly basis
  • Continuing professional development record
  • Continuing compliance with the Code of Practice
  • Quality assurance compliance record

You must be able to demonstrate that you:

  • Practice in the criminal courts in a significant way
  • Have regimes in place to keep abreast of developments in criminal law, procedure and practice
  • Meet the requirements of the quality assurance and compliance schemes

Firms on the duty plans

If you move from one firm to another, the respective shares of the duty plans will remain the same until new plans are drafted. You will still be entitled to provide duty services for the new firm if they feature on a court duty plan.

You will be entitled to apply for inclusion on both the sheriff and JP court plans.

You and your firm can normally only be included on a duty plan for one sheriff court district at any one time. If your firm has more than one place of business in different court areas, allocations can be made on each plan based on the eligible solicitors conducting their business at each office.

Duty plans: our consultation with local Faculties and reflecting local circumstances

It is our responsibility to operate the duty schemes.  While we cannot accept any changes to the basic eligibility criteria, we recognise the value and importance of engaging with local faculties.  We will tailor local schemes to reflect particular local circumstances where this is appropriate.

Examples of these issues are:

  • How a duty period is delegated to someone else if the duty solicitor is unavailable
  • When the alternate duty solicitor is required (usually the next firm on the list)
  • The exact starting time of a period of duty
  • The basis of allocations to firms
  • Arrangements for covering undertakings by alternate duty solicitors
  • Combined plans for both sheriff and JP courts where this is appropriate

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