The Legal Aid Agency is holding a snap consultation on one of its police station schemes after duty solicitors required to be on call for 24 hours raised health and safety concerns.

The Wakefield and Pontefract police station scheme consists of a 24-hour rota that starts at 9am, with one duty solicitor on call. The scheme has 22 members from 10 firms.

However, according to the consultation document, providers have told the agency that since Wakefield and Pontefract were amalgamated, the scheme is busier. With other demands on their capacity, such as the magistrates’ court duty rota, practitioners are worried about their health and safety as they have to drive after long periods in the police station.

The agency is consulting on splitting the 24-hour rota into two 12-hour shifts, with one duty solicitor on call for each slot.

The consultation closes on 20 February and the proposed change would begin on 3 April.

The toll that duty work can take on a solicitor was revealed in the Law Society’s recent judicial review on criminal legal aid fees. One solicitor revealed in written evidence that over one particular three-day period, he got just six hours’ sleep. A solicitor in a different scheme began her duty slot at 1pm – she did eight duty calls between 2pm until just after midnight, got four hours’ sleep, then worked ‘flat out’ doing duty calls and other work until the following midnight.


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