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ESTO directors withdraw proposed service in face of storm

14 December 2011

The proposed referral service for solicitors called to advise police station detainees is being withdrawn, its directors announced today.

ESTO Law Ltd was launched on Monday offering to relieve criminal defence solicitors of round-the-clock callouts, but met a hostile reaction from Glasgow solicitors who believed that its directors, mainly former members of the Law Society of Scotland's Legal Aid Negotiating Team, had used special knowledge gained in that capacity in planning their venture.

A letter by Glasgow Bar Association President Bernadette Baxter to Cameron Ritchie, President of the Law Society of Scotland, raised further questions about the Society's role and how it viewed its team members' actions. It also questioned whether the proposals were compatible with the rules governing the police station duty scheme.

In a statement today the directors said: "This service was conceived solely on the basis of publicly available information. Contrary to speculation, ESTO Law was offered no special assistance or advice. It received no help other than that which is available to all new firms.

"It had been hoped that the new service would help the profession as it sought to adapt to an entirely new aspect of legal assistance. Informal soundings before launch suggested support and enthusiasm for such a service. It has become clear that, while there is much interest and demand, there is also considerable fear and suspicion about what we intended. While we consider the negative response misplaced, the reaction of the profession tells us that the demand does not yet justify what we proposed. In the circumstances we intend simply to withdraw our offer of service."

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