Lawyers belonging to one of the country’s largest bar associations will no longer provide on-call legal advice in police interviews amid concern over an “enormous” increase in their workload.
The Edinburgh Bar Association (EBA) said it was withdrawing from the police station duty scheme ahead of new legislation coming into force next month.
Under the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, all police suspects will have the right to a solicitor, and those considered vulnerable will no longer be able to waive that right.
The EBA said the Scottish Government had repeatedly failed to listen to its concerns over the burden the changes would put on the “ever-reducing” number of solicitors prepared to do duty work.
In a statement, it said: “The Edinburgh Bar Association has engaged at every opportunity throughout the past year in the hope that it could continue to offer assistance in the provision of legal advice sought by those who
find themselves in a position of extreme vulnerability.
“The fact that the amendment which we suggested in September has not been mentioned at any time during the passage of these regulations has served to highlight a complete disregard for the concerns which this body has
It added: The association takes the view that it would be unreasonable – and indeed irresponsible – to advise its members to offer to service the police station duty scheme when the burdens which will be placed upon their ever-reducing number will increase enormously.
“Accordingly, the unanimous view of the membership of the association is that it will cease to do so.”
Changes to the legislation were made following the landmark Cadder case, where the Supreme Court ruled the defendant had his human rights infringed as he was interviewed by police without a solicitor present.
While new pay rates for solicitors providing police station advice are due to come into force next month, there is a dwindling number of lawyers prepared to carry out on-call work.
Ian Moir, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s legal aid committee said: “During our discussions with the Scottish Government, we highlighted the implications of solicitors being expected to provide legal advice at police stations around the clock.
This could have a particular impact on those solicitors with young children or with other caring responsibilities. The proposed rates of legal aid also fall well short of what we consider to be fair and reasonable.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Legal Aid Board said: “We will be contacting the EBA to discuss their concerns. “The new regulations introduce increased fees, extended unsocial hours payments and a simplified payment system.
“Solicitors will continue to be available for police station work from a mix of private firms and our employed solicitors to assist solicitors who are not able to respond to requests from their clients for assistance.”