Operation of duty scheme under the 2011 Act

How the duty scheme works under the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011:

  • each duty scheme covers an individual hearing centre area and their associated courts
  • duty solicitors are selected from firms that apply to us annually and they must be on the Children’s Register
  • the basis of selection is adapted to local needs
  • a duty solicitor can only represent one subject child and not their siblings or any other relevant party
  • if the hearing involves more than one subject child then we will make available a separate duty solicitor for each subject child capable of giving instructions to avoid any conflicts of interest
  • solicitors who chose to be registered on the children’s duty scheme generally only have to be available for hearings within normal working hours although a small number of hearings may take place out with standard office hours including evenings and on public holidays.

Criminal duty scheme

If a child is kept in custody for the alleged commission of an offence, any assistance given at that time falls under the criminal duty scheme.

If the Crown decides to refer the matter to the Reporter, this will then be dealt with through the children’s hearing system rather than the criminal courts.

If the child is then referred to a children’s hearing the children’s duty scheme will apply.

General expectations of duty scheme registered solicitors

All firms of solicitors on the duty scheme must be registered on:

  • the Children’s Legal Assistance Register and
  • the children’s duty scheme Register

The same applies to individual solicitors within a firm. A solicitor who agrees to act as a duty solicitor to a subject child cannot pass the case on to another solicitor unless they tell us in advance and the new solicitor is dually registered as above. If you have agreed to act as the specific duty solicitor do not carry out the work, then you may not be paid for this work.

A trainee solicitor with or without a restricted practising certificate cannot act a duty solicitor to a subject child even in their second year.

Firms of solicitors participating in the duty scheme are expected to give priority to this work where necessary. If you are continually unavailable then we may consider removing you from the duty Register.

The duty scheme only covers the subject child or children involved in the hearing. So even if your client is under eighteen, you can never act as a duty solicitor for:

  • a relevant person (such as a seventeen-year-old mother)
  • deemed relevant person
  • non-deemed relevant person.

If you agree to act as a duty solicitor to a child at one of the four different hearings, you must ensure that the subject child:

  • does not already have their own solicitor of choice
  • is old enough and able to give you direct instructions
  • wants you to represent them
  • has given you direct instructions as to what they want to happen at the hearing

If some or all of the above circumstances are not met, then you can no longer act as the duty solicitor for that subject child.

We will check these factors with you at the accounts stage and if they cannot be met you may not be paid for this work. You can charge for returning to your office or ordinary place of work when it is apparent that you can no longer as as the subject child’s duty solicitor.

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