Urgent action must be taken to ensure that solicitors are not at risk of being threatened and abused by violent suspects in locked interview rooms at police stations.
The Law Society, the professional body for solicitors, is warning that it is only a matter of time before a solicitor is seriously hurt. The Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Society have complained to the Health and Safety Executive about the increasing trend of police locking duty solicitors in interview rooms with violent suspects.
The Criminal Law Solicitors Association has uncovered evidence of this dangerous activity occurring at 16 police stations.
Commenting on their findings, Kevin Martin, Law Society President, says;
?The police are being cavalier with the safety of duty solicitors by locking them in interview rooms with unknown and potentially dangerous suspects. The police arrest violent suspects with handcuffs but some officers are leaving solicitors locked in interview rooms with them. It is not always clear when suspects could become violent, particularly if they suffer mental health problems or from the effects of drug abuse. The police must be educated about their responsibilities.?
Ian Kelcey, Chairman of Criminal Law Solicitors Association, says:
?It is time for the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office to issue a directive that to lock solicitors into interview rooms with clients is totally inappropriate. The facilities in many interview rooms at police stations are woefully inadequate. The panic button in some rooms is too high on the wall and the police response to panic buttons can be appalling.?
The 16 police stations involved in locking solicitors in interview rooms are Bridgwater, Penrith, Chester, Plymouth, Exeter, Northampton Campbell Square, Carlisle, Torquay, Weston Super Mare, St Annes Liverpool, Longsight Greater Manchester, Charing Cross, West End Central, Kingston, Hereford, Bridlington.