Duty lawyer services
Legal Aid Queensland’s duty lawyer services offer free, initial legal advice and representation to people charged with criminal and some traffic offences, who are on bail or in custody in Queensland.
The duty lawyer
The duty lawyer must be a lawyer with a current practising certificate and duty lawyer accreditation approved by Legal Aid Queensland. Separate accreditation is required for magistrates and childrens courts.
Duty lawyers must arrive at the court in sufficient time to view the prosecution brief of evidence (QP9), see prospective clients, take instructions and provide advice. Duty lawyers must attend to defendants in custody and in the court precincts.
There is generally a room made available for the duty lawyer to interview clients. The duty lawyer should get a copy of the court list (if available) from the prosecutor or court staff. The duty lawyer should have access to:
- a supply of Criminal law duty lawyer forms and Criminal law duty lawyer session reports
- a Duty Lawyer Handbook
- the Criminal Code
- the Summary Offences Act 2005
- the Bail Act 1980
- the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, and
- Legal Aid Queensland application forms.
Duty lawyers should deal with clients the same day and not remand matters because the client or matter is difficult. Duty lawyers must complete Criminal law duty lawyer forms and record their client’s instructions and their advice to clients, and have the client sign the completed form.
Client instructions will depend on their decision in their matter, eg basic instructions taken on a guilty plea in a straight forward matter might include:
- client’s version of events
- financial and employment background
- family and marital status
- previous convictions
- summary of court submissions.
Duty lawyers for defendants can engage in case conferences with prosecution representatives to discuss issues in dispute and resolve proceedings in line with the Criminal Jurisdiction Reform Administrative Arrangement. Duty lawyers should attempt to negotiate with prosecutors, if reasonably practical and considering their service demands.
Duty lawyers can negotiate for straight forward issues such as:
- amending, substituting or withdrawing charges
- reaching a common agreement on the factual basis for a plea.
Due to the limitations of duty lawyer services, different duty lawyers will often appear on separate occasions for defendants. This means complex, prolonged negotiations will be impractical.
Duty lawyers should not attempt case conferencing for matters requiring complex and lengthy negotiations. These matters should be adjourned and defendants should be advised to apply for legal aid or get private legal representation.
For more information on case conferencing, read Practice Direction 9 of 2010, issued by the Chief Magistrate.
Pleas and remands
Duty lawyers can enter guilty pleas, make bail applications or request remands for clients. Duty lawyers should not conduct trials or committals, or apply for extradition proceedings requiring more preparation in the time available. For more information, read the duty lawyer guidelines.
If it is possible to get details of clients requiring a duty lawyer, the duty lawyer should ask the prosecutor to provide a QP9 form containing an accurate summary of the offences and details of any previous convictions known to the police, so meaningful instructions can be taken from the client. Duty lawyers should check with the prosecutor the names of defendants appearing and their instructions to enter a plea or ask for a remand.
For clients in custody, duty lawyers should consider applying for bail. If applying for bail, ask the prosecutor if the application will be opposed, or if they will be requesting any bail conditions. Record bail instructions on the Criminal law duty lawyer form, or if the application is refused, attach the form to the Legal aid application form.
Applications for legal aid
The duty lawyer should consider if it is appropriate to take a Legal aid application form from the client. Complete the Legal aid application form and the relevant Legal Aid Queensland checklist with enough details for a Legal Aid Queensland officer to decide the application.
Announce your appearance as duty lawyer on each case. After each appearance, record the following information on the Criminal law duty lawyer form:
- the result of the client’s plea
- the next appearance date, the purpose of the appearance and the court location (and then give the client the original slip), and
- the result of any bail application, and if refused, the reasons for the refusal.
After all appearances, the duty lawyer should consider if an application for bail should be lodged in the Supreme Court or if an appeal should be lodged as a result of any penalties imposed.
If the duty lawyer considers a Supreme Court bail application should be lodged, complete the Supreme Court bail checklist and Legal aid application form and return them to Legal Aid Queensland for processing.
If the duty lawyer considers an appeal should be made, the duty lawyer should:
- consult and discuss this option with the client — the advice must be recorded on the Criminal law duty lawyer form
- where possible, attend the cells/watch-house to see clients remanded in custody, and complete Legal aid application forms or legal advices as needed
- ensure the Legal aid application form and Notice of appeal are lodged,
- check if the client wants to proceed with the appeal and if they do, complete or arrange for a Notice of appeal and a Legal aid application form to be completed, and
- provide any information needed to assist with any application for bail pending appeal.
The duty lawyer must complete any necessary administrative work within three working days of the appearance. This includes:
- completing the Criminal law duty lawyer session report
- returning the Criminal law duty lawyer forms and Criminal law duty lawyer session reports to Legal Aid Queensland (this applies to duty lawyers providing services on behalf of tender firms/consortiums)
- arranging for Legal aid application forms, bail applications and/or Notices of appeal to be processed
- attending any follow-up work from appearances or visiting people in custody, and
- advising the legal representatives of any legally-aided person (represented by the duty lawyer that day) of court dates and/or other relevant developments.
These standards are an extract from Legal Aid Queensland’s Case Management Standards –Criminal Law – Part B – Case management standards specific to duty lawyer services.