Page 5: The launch of the Public Defender Service
In creating the PDS, it was vital to provide a consistent, high quality service. As a result, careful thought and planning have been put into deciding where and how the new service should be set up. Four key factors to consider were location, customer service, recruitment and IT.
In deciding where to locate PDS offices, care was taken to identify the areas of greatest need and where the quality or quantity of the supply would meet client requirements. Resources would have been wasted if a poor quality service had been provided in an area of pressing need. The first priority was to recruit high quality teams. Final decisions on locations were made in the light of where high quality teams could best be recruited.
A key consideration was the appointment of top quality office heads to lead these teams. Another was to provide a 7-day, 24-hour service from the outset. This required a minimum number of solicitors and accredited representatives working to a rota with sufficient cover to meet peak demand times.
The location shortlist identified nine large conurbations within England and Wales, from which four were chosen: Birmingham, Liverpool, Middlesbrough and Swansea.
The PDS operations are centred on customer service, and the needs of clients are and will remain the key consideration.
In selecting office heads, priority was given to choosing experienced, first-rate lawyers with expertise in criminal defence work, who also possessed inspirational leadership ability and business expertise. Teams typically consist of three duty solicitors, three accredited police station representatives, a practice manager and two administrators.
Typically, the people who choose to work for the PDS place a high value on promoting social justice, on working in an ethical environment, and on achieving a good balance between their working lives and other aspects of living, such as bringing up a family and spending time with them. This lifestyle choice tends to contrast with that of lawyers in private practice who typically face long hours and late nights and are driven by the need to earn high fees.
We live in an age of advancing computer technology. Many areas of the legal profession have been slow to incorporate these developments. The PDS, however, has adopted new technology to better serve its clients by developing a comprehensive case management system.