I cannot let Alexander McCulloch’s letter pass without comment. His comparison of the old duty solicitor scheme with Grayling’s price-competitive tendering is invidious.
I was a duty solicitor for many years; the scheme was never about restriction of choice. Both at the police station and at the magistrates’ court the following morning, the arrested or charged person was always entitled to their own solicitor.
The duty solicitor was there to fill in the gaps where there was no ‘own solicitor’ or where that solicitor was unable to be present at such short notice. Indeed, the duty solicitor scheme was often helpful to both client and their own solicitor. Of course, some defendants then elected to switch to that duty solicitor on a permanent basis, but that was entirely their choice.
PCT has many deficiencies, but the removal of choice strikes at the very heart of criminal justice. Mr McCulloch’s examples dwell on the problems for the profession, but we also need to consider the rights of our poor clients.
Ian Craine, London N15