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Legal Opinion

Volume 489: debated on Friday 13 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much his Department and its predecessors spent on external legal advice in each of the last five years. (257636)

The accounting systems in the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Office of Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) do not separately distinguish expenditure on external legal expenses from other types of legal expenditure. This information can be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, OCJR has been able to determine that expenditure on external legal advice in 2007-08 was £64,304.71.

For activities relating to the former Department of Constitutional Affairs (comprising the core department and its agencies, HM Courts Service, Tribunal Service and Office of the Public Guardian) accounting records indicate that expenditure over the last five years on external legal services was as follows:










2008-09 (to 31 December 2008)


Expenditure on external legal services includes all use of counsel and solicitors in private practice and excludes advice from in house legal advisers or Treasury Solicitors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effect of (i) Criminal Defence Service Direct and (ii) the Defence Solicitor Call Centre on the numbers and proportion of suspects who received legal advice from a legal adviser in person; and if he will place in the Library a copy of that research. (262822)

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) and the Ministry of Justice have not commissioned specific research on the effect of CDS Direct or the DSCC on the number and proportion of suspects who receive legal advice in person, but the LSC continues to record the number of cases funded each year. In 2007-08, there were 602,000 (574,000) cases in which publicly funded legal advice was provided in person at a police station and 94,000 (48,000) cases in which telephone advice was provided by an individual solicitor or firm. In addition, in 2007-08 CDS Direct dealt with 78,000 (123,000) telephone advice cases. Final figures will not be available until after the financial year ends, but the figures in brackets represent cases for the 2008-09 period up to February 2009.

The Defence Solicitor Call Centre handles all requests for legal advice from police stations and refers them, as appropriate, to either the duty solicitor, the detainee's own solicitor if they have one, or to Criminal Defence Service (CDS) Direct.

CDS Direct is a separate service which provides telephone advice to individuals detained at police stations in England and Wales in relation to one of a small group of specified offences such as drink driving. These are relatively less serious, non-imprisonable offences that do not normally require the police to interview the suspect and therefore telephone advice is considered to be appropriate and cost-effective. In February and April 2008 the service was expanded in two phases to handle all cases appropriate for telephone advice, including those where the detainee has named a particular solicitor or firm. Even prior to the expansion of CDS Direct, if a named solicitor provided advice directly to a client on a case involving this group of offences, that solicitor would receive a fee from public funds for telephone advice only. The expansion of CDS Direct in early 2008 has not increased the scope of publicly funded telephone advice or reduced entitlement to face to face advice.