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.