Update on Protocol December 17th 2021

PUBLISHED December 17, 2021

Update on Protocol

We are in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency, and senior public health advisors are advising us all to exercise caution and minimise contact whenever we can because of the extraordinarily transmissible nature of the Omicron variant.

The LCCSA needs to be mindful of the risk to our members and the clients we serve. The risk is currently growing at an exponential rate.

Covid 19 case numbers have never been this high and will get higher for the next few weeks. There will be increased hospitalisation with beds already at 94% occupancy.

Even if, with the protection of 2 vaccinations and a booster, the risk of serious illness is low, the vast numbers of people being infected will result in a correspondingly large number of people whose symptoms will not be mild and who will go on to develop Long Covid.

Hopefully, we will avoid the tragically high death rate of earlier parts of the pandemic. However, there will be knock-on effects on non-Covid emergency admissions and essential procedures in other life-threatening conditions. Those effects will last month’s even if this ‘flare up’ peaks and drops very quickly.

Although mindful that our members do not speak with one voice on the issue of remote representation, we have felt that as an Association, we need to reflect the views of those who, for personal or professional reasons, may evaluate risk differently. Furthermore, we need to consider our collective and individual responsibility to the NHS and the wider community.

The WHO and our senior medical advisors have advised that Omicron should be treated as a severe health risk. The UK Health Security Agency head has called the Omicron variant “probably the most significant threat” since the pandemic began.

Considering this, we have advocated for a return to an earlier version of the protocol in the meeting.

Unfortunately, the NPCC takes a different view. The police take the view that they feel able to properly mitigate infection risks in custody suites through increased cleaning and PPE provision. However, in our opinion, these steps do not provide the necessary safeguards to minimise the chances at this current stage of the pandemic, especially because MPS officers have as a cohort never adequately or consistently followed public health guidance, as many of our members can attest. Furthermore, the risks to those in custody arise from airborne transmission in small, poorly ventilated spaces which the MPS have never addressed. Moreover, as many more people with Omicron may be asymptomatic or have mild cold-like symptoms, the common covid questions posed by Custody staff are of questionable use.

The LCCSA’s advice to members is to follow the Governments guidance and seek to reduce the spread of this virus.

Members will want to be satisfied that attending a police station is safe to do so.

If a firm takes the decision it is not safe for their staff to attend custody suites in person; they should contact their LAA contract managers to explain that decision. Please notify us if you take this step under separate cover.

We stress that the LCCSA is opposed to remote representation as a general tool and views in-person representation as essential for our client’s rights. Still, we are in extraordinary times, and business as usual is, for the moment, not an option. We may be only midway through this pandemic, but history has shown we cannot take this lightly.