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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 04:52 GMT
New lawyer call system 'in chaos'
Arrested man
Arrested people are having to wait longer for their lawyers
Lawyers say a new call centre system which is supposed to put them in touch with arrested clients in England and Wales is in chaos.

The Defence Solicitor Call Centre does not handle requests properly, says the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association.

The call centre blames faulty computer software for requests taking four times as long to process as before.

The Legal Services Commission, which runs the centre, says the system will be working properly "within days."

Legal aid

Previously, police officers requested a duty lawyer for those arrested and detained.

Now, as part of a government drive to control spending on legal aid in England and Wales, all requests for publicly-funded advice have to go through the Defence Solicitor Call Centre (DSCC).

We are not there yet but I am confident that we shall have the service stable within the next few days
John Sirodcar, Legal Services Commission

The DSCC records the basic details of the person's alleged offence before passing the case on to a duty solicitor.

Even if a detainee requests advice from his or her own solicitor, or one known to them, the solicitor still has to be contacted via the call centre instead of directly.

Government figures show that the centre receives over 460,000 calls from police stations each year and makes 840,000 outgoing calls to solicitors.

The Criminal Law Solicitors' Association says its members have so far made 54 detailed complaints about the new procedures. They have also posted hundreds of critical comments on the Association website.

The Legal Services Commission admitted that cases are taking four times as long to process as before.

It said a "bug in its software" generated incorrect solicitor contact details, and that a backlog of information needed updating.

Commission spokesman John Sirodcar said that more call centre staff would be also brought in at peak times to cope with the demand for solicitors.

He said: "We are not there yet but I am confident that we shall have the service stable within the next few days."



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