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Minister calls for expansion of PDSO network

8 March 2006

The Deputy Minister for Justice, Hugh Henry has called for the expansion of the Public Defence Solicitors’ Office (PDSO) network.

Speaking during a visit to the PDSO office in Glasgow, the minister said the Scottish Executive's consultation "Advice for All - Publicly Funded Legal Assistance in Scotland", had asked if there should be an expansion of salaried solicitors through the PDSO.

He went on: "The answer, as shown in the summary of responses that we published last week, is 'yes'. I would therefore wish to see the PDSO expanded further and I will be discussing with the Scottish Legal Aid Board how best to take this forward.

"The PDSO plays a vital role in widening the range of choices available to accused persons. In delivering an accessible, user friendly, effective and efficient modern justice system, the PDSO is ideally placed to lead by example."

At present there are three PDSO offices in Scotland - Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. PDSO solicitors are paid a fixed annual salary rather than on a case by case basis, and are governed by the same rules as private solicitors.

Matthew Auchincloss, director of the PDSO network in Scotland, said: "Over the last three years there has been a threefold increase in the number of more serious cases dealt with by PDSO.

"PDSO Edinburgh has demonstrated clearly that its operation has led to a significant saving to the legal aid fund and we would aim to replicate this cost effectiveness across the PDSO network, as our newer offices mature.

"The Deputy Minister’s announcement is very welcome and we look forward to working with the Scottish Executive to develop a network that further ensures the availability of an accessible, user friendly and efficient public defender service throughout Scotland."