How the duty scheme works:

  • Each duty scheme covers an individual hearing centre area and their associated courts
  • Duty solicitors are selected from firms that apply to us annually
  • The basis of selection is adapted to local needs
  • A duty solicitor can only represent one child and not their siblings
  • If the hearing involves more than one child then a duty solicitor will be appointed for each child capable of giving instructions to avoid any conflicts of interest
  • Participants in the duty scheme generally only have to be available for hearings within normal working hours although a small number of hearings take place outwith 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
  • The children’s duty scheme

The same applies to individual solicitors within a firm. A duty solicitor appointed to act in a case 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, as specific duty solicitor appointed by us, do not carry out the work, then you may not be paid for this work.

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 scheme.

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

  • A relevant person
  • 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 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 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.

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