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Detainees given greater legal rights under new legislation


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Criminal procedure shake-up to is said to be the 'most significant' since 1980.

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone at the Scottish Parliament

Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone at the Scottish Parliament


New rules on arresting and questioning suspects have come into effect under Scottish criminal law.

The police station duty scheme, introduced yesterday as part of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, will give everyone questionned the right to legal advice, regardless of whether they are going to be interviewed.

However, a quarter of all duty solicitors in the country have pulled out of the scheme over concerns about being unable to keep up with the demands.

The matter was discussed by the Justice Committee this week in Scottish Parliament.

Asked to explain the pressures the legislation may bring to officers and how it will affect day-to-day jobs, Deputy Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said preparation has been crucial.

“We have had to train and retrain for implementation a couple of times because of issues outwith our control,” he said.

The custody division, has carried out preparation to ensure there is someone on call and on duty 24/7 to answer queries on the new rules and the interpretation of the duties, according to DCC Livingstone.

“We have experts who can provide that insight. We have been working very hard towards that.”

DCC Livingstone also discussed the recent changes last week with the Crown Agent, Colin Lancaster—the chief executive of the Scottish Legal Aid Board—and Neil Rennick from the Scottish Government, following a justice board meeting.

He said it is a “significant challenge” given the position of the bar associations, but is still confident the legislation can be applied and if need be, the Scottish Legal Aid Board has several contingencies in place.

“There is an issue with the 2016 act, but I understand that the measure will be implemented nevertheless,” he added.

If prisoners cannot be given a solicitor at a custody centre, they could be transferred to another in order to facilitate their access to legal advice.

However, Calum Steele, General Secretary for the Scottish Police Federation, previously said the transportation of prisoners is putting custody officers at risk of assault.

Cuts to the number of facilities - there were 42 full-time and 60 part-time custody centres in 2013, but that has dropped to 35 full-time and 50 part-time centres – has resulted in prisoners travelling “unacceptably” long distances.

That has resulted in prisoners being kept in vans or handcuffs for longer periods, creating considerable stress for police officers as well as stress for prisoners, Mr Steele said.

The new legislation will also replace the separate concepts of arrest and detention with a single statutory power of arrest without warrant “where there is reasonable grounds for suspecting a person has committed an offence”.

Officers will be allowed to release a suspect with conditions for up to 28 days for further investigation, with the power to re-arrest them.

DCC Livingstone added: “We need to move forward to the new system of criminal procedure that the act is there to implement.

“The officers and staff of Police Scotland have been through an enormous amount of organisational change, including increased scrutiny and focus, and legislative change.

“In terms of our ability to flex with new legislation, policing is very good at dealing with unexpected things and responding quickly.”

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I'm not sure the notion of independent legal advice is that difficult to navigate.

The legal profession is a business as well as an institution...they will respond to the market forces.

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