The Legal Services Commission of South Australia provides a free duty solicitor service in the courts of summary jurisdiction to ensure disadvantaged people are not denied access to justice. The duty solicitor provides legal advice, assistance and representation to those people who face disadvantage in court due to factors such as a lack of financial resources, lack of understanding of court procedures, language barriers, cultural background, age, physical or mental health, and gender.
The duty solicitor service operates at all Magistrates courts and the Youth Court of South Australia. This service operates full time in the Adelaide Magistrates Court and the Youth Court situated in the Adelaide CBD, and is staffed by employees of the Commission. The duty solicitor service is also available in all metropolitan Magistrates and Youth Courts, as well as Mt Barker, Port Augusta and Whyalla, when the courts sit to hear the general lists. This is when matters are listed for mention, and which may proceed by way of plea or remand/adjournment.
In addition to Commission employees, local practitioners also assist with duty solicitor advice and representation at the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court, on a roster basis, and in other country areas. Prior to the adoption of the Australian Solicitors’ Conduct Rules by the Law Society of South Australia on 25 July 2011, private practitioners appearing as duty solicitors were advised in the following manner which is worth noting: 'Practitioners shall not suggest to any person who consults them as members of an Advisory Service or as Duty Solicitor that such person should engage them or any firm of which they may be a member…[and] if persons ask to be recommended a practitioner to act for them, either privately or on assignment from the Legal Services Commission, practitioners may give to the person their name, address and telephone number but must also give to the person the names, addresses and telephone numbers of two other practitioners or firms of practitioners'.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) also provides a free duty solicitor service for Aboriginal people in the courts of summary jurisdiction. On occasion, duty solicitors from the Commission do assist and represent Aboriginal people in custody, usually when ALRM solicitors are not available or unable to act due to conflict.