Solicitors are locked up with suspects

PUBLISHED: 07:26 13 April 2006 | UPDATED: 09:07 24 May 2010

SOLICITORS are being put in danger by being locked inside interview rooms with 'potentially dangerous' suspects by the police, a new report claims. The survey conducted by the Law Society says Weston Police Station is one of only 16 nationwide where this

SOLICITORS are being put in danger by being locked inside interview rooms with 'potentially dangerous' suspects by the police, a new report claims.The survey conducted by the Law Society says Weston Police Station is one of only 16 nationwide where this practice is being carried out.The report by the professional body for solicitors detailed how a female duty solicitor had been locked in a room with a convicted rapist while in another case a male solicitor was spat upon.Lawyers are routinely required to interview suspects in a room behind a locked five-bar metal gate at the building in Walliscote Road, Judith Mills of Gordon and Penney solicitors in the Boulevard, Weston, has called on the police in the town to stop leaving lawyers with suspects under lock and key.Mrs Mills, who has been a solicitor for 16 years, said: "It does concern me as you just do not know who you are going to be with. Suspects may be coming down from drugs or have mental health problems."In Weston Police Station, if something does happen there is no guarantee someone will come quickly enough to stop any real damage."I have had one or two worrying experiences and the idea that something serious might happen is always in the back of your mind. "I do not think anyone should be locked in with a suspect."I understand there is the question of security, but if other police stations do not lock solicitors in, Weston should be able to manage the situation too."There should be a secure unit where you can see your client but not be locked in." Duty solicitors are not employed by the police or courts. They are available 24 hours a day and give independent and free advice to suspects both at police stations and in court.Law Society president Kevin Martin said: "The police are being cavalier with the safety of duty solicitors by locking them in interview rooms with unknown and potentially dangerous clients."A police spokesman said: "Risk assessments have to be made by the police to ensure the safety of all visitors, including solicitors, to custody units."Prisoners have the right to privacy with their solicitor so we cannot place police officers with them."The right to privacy has to be balanced with prisoner security and this is why rooms are secured. "Solicitors are informed why a prisoner has been arrested so they can make a decision on whether they are happy to conduct an interview. "We do urge solicitors who have concerns to raise these with the custody officer."Additionally, there are special panic strips at waist height in interview rooms to raise the alarm.

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