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Society questions extended detention proposal

26 October 2010

The proposed new 12 and 24 hour detention limits in the Scottish Government's emergency criminal legislation have been challenged by the Law Society of Scotland.

Responding to the announcement by the Justice Secretary of a bill to be put before the Scottish Parliament this week in the wake of the Supreme Court decision in Cadder (click here for report), Bill McVicar, convener of the Society's Criminal Law Committee, said: “There is much to welcome in the Scottish Government’s proposed legislation, particularly provision to ensure that suspects have a right of access to a solicitor when detained by the police. We also welcome the decision to end the means testing of legal aid for suspects in a police station, which will ensure universal access to legal advice at the earliest possible stage.

“However, there appears to be little justification for the proposal to double, and in some cases quadruple, the length of time a suspect can be detained without charge. After all, the Lord Advocate's interim guidelines have been in place for four months and have worked well in the majority of cases. There are also serious concerns that facilities to hold suspects for such an extended period of time simply do not exist. There is a concern that any attempt to now increase the six hour detention period may well lead to suspects waiving their right to advice for fear of being held by the police for longer periods of time.“

Commenting on the court's decision, Cameron Ritchie, Vice President of the Society, said: “Today’s decision has reinforced the sea change in the way suspects are dealt with in the police station.

“The guidelines brought in by the Lord Advocate before today’s judgment allowed suspects to insist upon legal advice before being interviewed. The legal profession has worked hard to make the interim guidelines work; however it will be important to ensure that any further changes arising from today’s decision do work for all concerned in the criminal justice system.

“It will also be important to carefully consider any wider changes to the Scottish criminal justice system proposed as a result of this judgment.”

The Scottish Government also announced a review of Scottish criminal evidence and procedure, to take place under High Court judge Lord Carloway.

 

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