Legal Aid

LSC rethink on duty rota leads to compensation call

PUBLISHED June 16, 2007

Criminal law specialists have called for compensation from the Legal Services Commission (LSC) after it withdrew plans to change the duty solicitor rota system.

The LSC announced last week that after further consultation it would issue a new three-month rota based on the old allocation system ? determined by the number of duty solicitors at each firm ? and make a final decision on the way forward in October.

Its plans to base allocation on historical volumes of work were withdrawn after the LSC admitted that the data on which it based the quotas was inaccurate.

Criminal Defence Service director Derek Hill apologised for the uncertainty caused and said: ?We will collect data on any firms who reduced their duty solicitor numbers in response to the LSC?s original announcements and will consider this in deciding a way forward from October 2007.?

Law Society Vice-President Andrew Holroyd said the u-turn had caused mayhem. ?Their decision to effectively abandon all the market stability proposals has forced practitioners to spend a great deal of time reworking their own in-house rotas for out-of-hours cover. The LSC has brought this fiasco on itself by pushing the change process too fast and beyond its resource capabilities.?

Brian Craig, chairman of the Association of Major Criminal Law Firms and business manager at Tuckers, said: ?Firms have taken business decisions on the basis of the LSC?s published plans; many have already made redundancies or taken the decision not to recruit staff. This raises the question of whether the LSC should be liable for the loss of income and costs incurred by firms arising out of its absolutely dire performance.?

Karen Todner, partner at Kaim Todner, which has made redundancies based on the measures, said it was taking legal advice.