Practitioners fear that suspects in police detention are being denied proper access to justice following reports that a call centre system for defence solicitors has gone into 'meltdown'.
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, detainees are entitled to free and independent advice at any time while in police detention. However, solicitor Kerry Hudson, vice president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, said police are struggling to log cases with the DSCC. She said: 'When they are getting through, we are hearing of delays of four or five hours between the police first call and the DSCC then contacting the solicitor. When they are contacting the solicitor, much of the key information is missing (including the detainee name in some cases) and the crucial DSCC reference number. Solicitors cannot get paid without obtaining this reference number within 48 hours of the event so some are refusing to attend through fear of not being remunerated. Cases are also being deployed to the wrong solicitors outside of the scheduled duty slots owing to the time delays.' Hudson warned that the system problems could affect cases that later go to court. For instance, an interview where the suspect was denied a solicitor at the police station could be excluded as inadmissible.