Serious concerns from solicitors as expansion of police duty scheme comes into force

Written by Jenni Davidson on 26 January 2018 in News

The legislation gives all suspects detained at police stations the right to legal advice from a solicitor

Police - Image credit: PA Images

New rights for suspects detained by police to have increased access to legal representation will have “enormous” implications for solicitors, the Law Society of Scotland has said.

The legislation that came into force this week gives all suspects detained at police stations the right to legal advice from a solicitor at any time.

Previously only those who were actually being interviewed by police had the right to speak to a solicitor.

But lawyers have raised concerns about the increase in workload and the inadequate funding from legal aid to cover it.

Some bar associations have already withdrawn from the Police Station Duty Scheme altogether amid concerns about the impact on their members.

The Edinburgh Bar Association announced in December that it was withdrawing from the scheme after a unanimous vote.

The Glasgow Bar Association has postponed making a decision on withdrawal, but several other bar associations have followed Edinburgh.

The Law Society of Scotland estimates that over 160,000 people will be eligible to access legal advice after the change with increased numbers of consultations with vulnerable adults.

Ian Moir, convener of the Law Society of Scotland Legal Aid Committee said, “The new legislation means that any suspect detained at a police station has the right to access to a solicitor.

“While we accept the good intentions of the act in protecting a suspect's human rights and in particular some of our most vulnerable members of society, there are enormous resourcing implications.

"During our discussions with the Scottish Government, we highlighted the likelihood of significant increases in the number of requests for a solicitor’s attendance and the implications of solicitors being expected to provide legal advice at police stations around the clock.

“The new procedures could have a particular impact on those solicitors with young children or with other caring responsibilities."

The Law Society said that while legal aid rates had been increased for this work, and were a modest improvement on the Scottish Government’s initial proposal, they remained inadequate.

Moir said the proposed rates of legal aid “fall well short of what we consider to be fair and reasonable” and it would be up to individual solicitors and firms whether they wanted to take part, with a risk that solicitors would opt out.

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