In the Media

Concern over police use of interview loophole

PUBLISHED April 18, 2012

Thursday 19 April 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The Law Society has raised concerns with the Home Office about police officers denying suspects their right to consult a solicitor.

Richard Atkinson, chair of the Society's criminal law committee, told the Gazette that police are circumventing the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) by interviewing suspects at home without a solicitor present.

Atkinson said: 'The police are not acting unlawfully, but exploiting a loophole in PACE to circumvent people's rights to independent legal advice.' Section 58 of PACE, he said, specifically provides that a person 'held in custody in a police station' is entitled to consult a solicitor, but it does not mention suspects interviewed elsewhere.

However, Atkinson said legal aid regulations provide for free independent legal advice for anyone interviewed by a police officer at any location.

The Society this week wrote to the Home Office proposing the act be amended to provide for independent legal advice wherever an interview with a suspect takes place.

Criminal Law Solicitors Association committee member Robin Murray said he had been shocked when a serving officer told him the police had 'got wise' to the fact that they do not need a solicitor present if they interview suspects at home. He said: 'It is a naked and cynical attempt to circumvent suspects' rights, eroding at a stroke the protections provided by PACE.'

The CLSA has asked for solicitors to send examples of this practice to Robin Murray.