It may be that we were the first duty solicitors appointed in the UK. In 1971 the annual August music festival in Reading was established and, for some reason or other, we were privileged to be asked to advise and assist in court, where necessary, any of the festival goers who found themselves arrested.
We recall that during the daytime we took it in turns to sit onsite in a tent and then had complete liaison with the local constabulary located at Reading Police Station. We visited the holding room underneath the old court and interviewed the suspects. Courts were held at specific times and even during the evening.
Subject to means, we were able to glean some payment for legal advice using a pink form. We picked up the odd £10 for representation in court, although this was completely voluntary and we mostly appeared pro bono publico.
Most of the offences were for petty theft, and the possession and supply of drugs. I remember that one young man was charged with ‘furious driving’ under the Offences Against The Person Act 1961 when he drove his car amok around the site and collided with a tent, causing a young lady’s long hair to get wound around his axles. He was sentenced at the Crown court to eight months’ imprisonment.
Mr Huggins remembers obtaining bail for a young lady and had previously alerted her father who, when he arrived from the Midlands, told him in no uncertain terms that she should have been remanded in custody.
We did this for two or three years and then the duty solicitor scheme became official. We wonder, however, whether there was any earlier scheme.
Rodney Huggins, Rodney Oliver, formerly trading as R P Huggins & Co, Reading