Criminal justice

Defence Solicitor Call Centre issues

Update: 5 September

The Law Society and the other practitioner groups met the LAA and the chief commercial officer for HGS, the company now running the DSCC.

They acknowledged that the service has fallen far below acceptable standards and they are working hard to restore it to normal levels.

The LAA is going to set up a dedicated email address for complaints but, in the meantime, use the usual DSCC address - - and head your email ‘Complaint’. Make sure you keep a copy.

We also asked for an assurance that the LAA will compensate firms who have lost work as a result of this situation.

The LAA has advised using the existing procedure for maladministration claims.

We are aware of the considerable problems with the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC) this week.

We understand that there have been widespread and significant failures, including:

  • engaged phone lines
  • lengthy delays
  • reference numbers not being provided
  • the police and practitioners unable to get through to the DSCC
  • refusals to provide the client’s name or incorrect names being given
  • solicitors sent to the wrong police station
  • duty solicitors not being called and the police going ahead with interviews without them

We understand that this situation is ongoing. We have been contacted by practitioners all over the country who feel unable to carry out their duties as a result.

What we’re doing

We have:

  • written to the head of the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) asking for urgent clarification as to when the DSCC situation will be resolved
  • requested confirmation that all work undertaken by solicitors who have been unable to obtain a DSCC reference number will be paid for by the LAA
  • asked the LAA to confirm that firms will be compensated if they lose income as a result of the DSCC failing to contact them and the police going ahead with interviews without them
  • expressed concerns about the apparent lack of training of the new DSCC operatives
  • offered to assist the LAA in undertaking a review of the DSCC and to consider alternatives

Our advice

We advise our members to:

  • make a detailed note of all duty attendances in order to claim payment
  • provide a direct contact number to the police stations whose rotas you are on so they can contact you directly
  • email DSCC enquiries to request a reference number and keep clear records of any problems arising
  • keep a detailed note of all attempts to contact the DSCC
  • try to keep a copy of the custody record where it shows your firm being instructed or the client requesting the duty solicitor
  • keep a record of any cases where you have lost income due to the police going ahead with an interview despite the client requesting your attendance

The LAA states they are meeting urgently with the supplier and are working to fix the problems. We will update you when we have more information.

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