Sunday, 5 July 2015

Legal advice in Police Stations ~ is it too much to ask that it be properly funded?

For those arrested and detained by the Police, access to legal advice is an important right.  English law does not go so far as to force the detainee to obtain advice but they ought not to decline it too readily.  Many solicitors are protesting at cuts to payments imposed by the government for both legal advice at Police Stations and representation in the criminal courts.  Some are declining to attend Police Stations to advise detainees.   Duty Solicitor Schemes may or may not be affected by this action. 

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s.58(1) - (PACE) - states:

A person arrested and held in custody in a police station or other premises shall be entitled, if he so requests, to consult a solicitor privately at any time.  Section 58(4) states - If a person makes such a request, he must be permitted to consult a solicitor as soon as is practicable.  Section 58 goes on to set out certain instances where the Police may delay access to legal advice but these need not concern us here.  Section 58 must be read along with PACE Code C  (2014).

Code C (Chapter 6) requires that all detainees must be informed that they may at any time consult and communicate privately with a solicitor, whether in person, in writing or by telephone and that free independent legal advice is available. A detainee who wants legal advice may not be interviewed or continue to be interviewed until they have received such advice but there are important exceptions to this and these are set out in Code C at paragraphs 6.6(a) to 6.6(d).

6.6(c) deals with the situation where the solicitor selected by the detainee (i) cannot be contacted; (ii) has previously indicated that they do not wish to be contacted; or (iii) having been contacted, has declined to attend, AND the detainee has been advised of the Duty Solicitor Scheme but has declined to ask for the duty solicitor.  In those circumstances the interview may be started or continued without further delay provided an officer of inspector rank or above has agreed to the interview proceeding.

Neither PACE nor Code C directly address the issue of legal advice not being available due to protest action by lawyers.  Code C para 6.6(c) does not cover this because it clearly is based on their being at least a Duty Solicitor Scheme in operation.  This may put both detainees and the Police into a difficult position but lawyers are also in the difficult position of having their remuneration cut significantly.  It is a mess created by government policy - (The Guardian 25th June).  In a modern democracy, is it really too much to ask that representation at the Police Station is adequately funded so that individuals may receive timely advice about the case.  Such advice frequently resolves the matter and can save costs that might otherwise arise further along in the criminal justice process.  As the old adage goes - "A stitch in time saves nine" - Ian Dunt 1st July - Anatomy of a legal strike ....

The Guardian - John Briant 2nd July - Legal Aid cuts will hurt vulnerable people, not 'fatcat' lawyers

Addendum Monday 6th July:

Law Society Gazette - PDS Lawyers move in as direct action bites  

Law Society Gazette - Bar urges solicitors to withdraw legal aid tenders - (Note: Criminal Bar Association ballot result on or soon after 14th July).


  1. It's a perfectly reasonable question and in a decent and fair country, the answer would be no, it should not be too much to ask.

    The problem is that this is not a decent and fair country.

    I do not think that this is about saving money. The false economies of these sort of polices are just too obvious for that to be the case. I think austerity is being used as a cover for the imposition of ideology.

    Put simply and crudely, I think the state just wants to be able to bang up at will poor people and other people whom they don't like.