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Solicitors raise concerns over new Crown guidelines
The Law Society of Scotland has called for an urgent meeting with the Lord Advocate to resolve issues arising from the publication of new interim guidelines on police interviews which conflict with the solicitors’ code of conduct.
The interim guidelines, issued to chief constables last week but not published until yesterday, require suspects detained in a police station to be given access to a solicitor before they are interviewed by police. They have been issued in anticipation of the UK Supreme Court ruling, due in October, that such access is required to comply with European human rights law.
According to the Society, the guidelines as they stand could lead to complaints being raised by solicitors' clients because they contravene the code of conduct, which states that instructions to solicitors can only be accepted from the client directly.
Oliver Adair, the Society’s legal aid convener, said: "The code, which all solicitors must adhere to, states: 'instructions must come directly from the person detained and not by virtue of the police arranging for a specific solicitor to be contacted who is unknown to and has not been requested by the accused’. This is in direct conflict with some of the advice given in the guidelines."
He added: “It’s unfortunate that the Society wasn’t consulted during the preparation of the guidelines and didn't have sight of them before they were published, as we would have been aware early on that they conflicted with our code of conduct.
“We’ve requested an urgent meeting with the Lord Advocate and Crown Office to address the incompatibility of the interim guidelines with the code of conduct for criminal work, to ensure that our members can continue to meet their clients' needs, their own professional standards and fulfill their duties to the court."