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Letter: Pride in the Criminal Defence Service.

Sir - i was concerned to read the comments Denise Robertson made in her column about Criminal Defence Service (CDS) Direct, "Right to remain silent?", (Western Mail, October16). The article misled your readers in several ways.

Since the mid-1990s advice at the police station can be provided by a solicitor or a suitably qualified person who has obtained the Police Station Qualification (PSQ); this is a very demanding qualification administered by The Law Society.

Legal aid solicitor firms have, for several years, used representatives who have obtained the PSQ to provide advice at the police station.

CDS Direct is an innovative telephone advice line run by the Legal Services Commission, which also uses advisers, under the supervision of a solicitor, who have obtained the PSQ.

CDS Direct only deals with less serious cases such as drink driving and non-imprisonable offences and, even then, if the police intend to interview someone, the case is deployed to a legal aid solicitor firm to attend the police station.

We are confident that CDS Direct provides a very high standard of advice (contractually the firms providing the service have to obtain a higher standard than legal aid solicitor firms) and that this will be verified by the independent analysis that is planned.

There are three organisations providing the service and one of those does use PSQ holders that previously worked for the police.

This point is far less important than the speedy, high quality and independent advice clients are receiving from CDS Direct.

I am tremendously proud of what we have achieved with CDS Direct, including saving the taxpayer pounds 4m a year - a saving that will increase further in January. It would be a great shame if Denise's article put people off requesting advice when they are detained at the police station. JOHN SIRODCAR, Head of Direct Services Programme, Legal Services Commission.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 22, 2007
Words:308
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