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Criminal Defence Service (Advice and Assistance) Act 2001


7.The Legal Services Commission was established by the Access to Justice Act 1999. That Act replaced the legal aid system with two new schemes (the Community Legal Service and the Criminal Defence Service) to secure the provision of publicly funded legal services for people who need them. The Legal Services Commission, (which has replaced the Legal Aid Board), runs the two schemes.

8.In criminal cases, the Criminal Defence Service has replaced the legal aid scheme. Section 12 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 requires the Commission to establish, maintain and develop the Criminal Defence Service.

9.The purpose of the Criminal Defence Service as set out in section 12(1) is to secure that individuals involved in criminal investigations or criminal proceedings have access to such advice, assistance and representation as the interests of justice require.

10.Section 12(3) imposes a duty on the Commission to fund services as part of the Criminal Defence Service in accordance with sections 13 to 15 of the Access to Justice Act 1999.

11.Section 13 sets out the extent of the duty to fund advice and assistance. This is explained in more detail in paragraph 14.

12.Section 14 requires the Commission to fund representation for an individual who has been granted a right to representation.

  • * Representation is defined in section 26 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 as meaning representation for the purposes of proceedings and includes the assistance which is usually given by a representative in the steps preliminary or incidental to any proceedings, and subject to any time limits which may be prescribed, advice and assistance as to any appeal.

13.A right to representation must be granted in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Access to Justice Act 1999, which sets out how and at what stage it may be granted and the criteria (the interests of justice test) for the grant of the right.

The extent of the duty to fund advice and assistance as originally enacted

14.Section 13(1) as originally enacted provided that the Commission must fund such advice and assistance as it considers appropriate for individuals who are arrested and held in custody at a police station or other premises and for individuals involved in criminal investigations in such other circumstances as may be prescribed.

  • criminal investigations is defined for the purpose of section 13 as meaning investigations relating to offences or to individuals convicted of an offence.

15.The intention was that this advice and assistance would include some limited representation in the form of advocacy. It was intended that advocacy assistance would be available in broadly the same situations as those in which was available under the Legal Aid Act 1988 as part of the ABWOR scheme.

Part III of the Legal Aid Act 1988 and regulations made under it set out the scope of the ABWOR scheme.

16.Advocacy assistance provided under the legal aid ABWOR scheme included-

  • the duty solicitor scheme at magistrates’ courts;

  • assistance to a prisoner who has been permitted to be legally represented in disciplinary proceedings;

  • assistance to a detained person whose case is referred to the Parole Board.

The duty solicitor scheme

17.A duty solicitor under the old legal aid scheme (under arrangements made by the local duty solicitor committee) would attend a magistrates’ court to give advice and assistance to accused individuals, including assistance by way of representation, such as-

  • making a bail application;

  • representing a defendant in court proceedings who entered a guilty plea and wished the case to be concluded on that day;

  • representing an accused person who was at court and at risk of being imprisoned for failure to pay a fine or obey a court order.

18.It was arguable that section 13 as originally enacted did not allow the Commission to fund limited representation in the form of advocacy in the types of situation listed in paragraph 16. The concern was that a person involved in a hearing before a court or other body might not be involved in a criminal investigation while the hearing takes place (even though he has been and may later again become so involved). The fact that “assistance” was not defined in the Access to Justice Act 1999 to include advocacy arguably compounded the uncertainty, particularly as it was so defined in the legal aid provisions.

19.Further, representation, granted in accordance with section 14 of and Schedule 3 to the Access to Justice Act 1999, would not have been (without the amendment made by the Act) available to individuals in the types of situations currently covered by the ABWOR scheme. Representation would not have been available where an individual needed it urgently - for example where an individual is charged with an offence, he or she will often appear in court within 48 hours. Such an individual may not have time to apply for (and there may not be time for the court to consider) the grant of representation under section 14. It is also recognised that an individual may not be entitled to representation under section 14 because he fails to satisfy the interests of justice criteria, but that it is still appropriate that he receives some limited assistance in prescribed circumstances.

20.The Act amends section 13 to put beyond doubt that limited advocacy assistance can be funded.

Widening the classes of individual in respect of whom the Commission may fund advice and assistance

21.The amendment of section 13(1) by the Act also widens the Commission’s power to fund advice and assistance for other individuals who may otherwise have been outside the scope of section 13(1).

22.As originally enacted, section 13(1) provided the Commission with power to fund individuals who are held in custody, and individuals who are not held in custody but who are currently involved in criminal investigations.

23.The duty to fund advice and assistance as originally enacted appeared narrower than the duty under section 12 to secure that individuals involved in criminal investigations or criminal proceedings have access to such advice, assistance and representation as the interests of justice require.

24.On a literal reading section 13(1) as originally enacted was more restrictive because it focused only on criminal investigations and not on criminal proceedings as set out in section 12(2) – including those proceedings which the Lord Chancellor may prescribe by regulations under section 12 (2) (g). The Act allows certain quasi-criminal proceedings (for example, proceedings for anti-social behaviour orders) will be prescribed under section 12(2) (g). It was always intended that advice and assistance would be capable of funding individuals who are, may be or have been involved in such proceedings.

25.The second effect of the Act is therefore to amend section 13(1) to widen the power to fund individuals who may not have been within the scope of the section as originally enacted.

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