Half of all suspects aren’t using the free legal representation they’re entitled to because of police pressure:
Solicitors questioned by the National Audit Office (NAO) say they believe that the reason half of all suspects do not use their free services is a direct result of the action – or inaction – of the police. This is partly confirmed by further research in the NAO report which finds that solicitors “can experience barriers to accessing their clients” at the police station. Between April and October last year 29 per cent of calls from legal advisers working for the Legal Services Commission went unanswered. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 the police must inform anyone detained at a police station of their right to a solicitor.
Last night the Law Society warned that police failings jeopardise defendants’ right to a fair trial. A spokesman said: “It is very disturbing that half of suspects in police stations don’t make use of solicitors providing advice for them. It is even more disturbing that 31 per cent do not recall being advised that they have the right to free advice, and that many solicitors consider that it is because of pressure by the police.”
I wish I could say I was surprised. It’s not remotely unusual for the police to convince suspects that they don’t need representation at the outset, stacking the books unjustly in their own favour, and thus denying the suspect fair treatment throughout their experience in the criminal justice system. And it’s amusing watching the argument in the comments section of the article – of course denial of legal representation doesn’t happen at the duty sergeant’s desk – it happens off the record, in the car, a pressurising ‘suggestion’ here, a word on the way into the station there – they don’t like the time it takes for solicitors to arrive, they want an advantage they’re not entitled to and they know how to get it. I’m shocked at the scale of it though, but don’t think for a minute that anything’s going to change; this is the police after all.