A police station representative in hospital after contracting Covid-19 has told criminal defence practitioners not to risk their lives in the line of duty.
The representative gave permission for their comments to be shared on Twitter and were posted on former London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association president Jonathan Black’s timeline.
The rep said he picked up the virus at a London police station. ‘Clients coughing in your face with no mask, no gloves and worst, not even placing their hands by their mouth. When I asked for mask and gloves they said they had none.
‘On one occasion, they managed to issue a client with mask and gloves and five minutes into the interview he removed the lot. Police should have stepped in telling him that it’s no longer safe and if he doesn’t put it back on the interview would be suspended… Key worker or not. Legal aid hero or not. Please don’t risk it.’
The Law Society, practitioner groups, police and prosecution chiefs last month agreed an interview protocol to limit the risks of Covid-19.
Kerry Hudson, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: ‘It is disappointing that despite all the effort that went into agreeing [the] protocol in such a short timeframe, that two weeks on we are still on the ground hearing of officers and entire police stations purporting to either not have even heard of the protocol or mistakenly believing that it does not apply to them.’
Hudson said her firm, Bullivant Law, implemented a policy that it would not send anyone to police stations face to face. 'Even if they provide personal protective equipment, they don't provide any instructions on how to use or dispose of it. We have managed to do quite a few remote police station attendances now and staff have been told to refuse outright to attend in person.'
She said staff are still attending magistrates' courts in person 'but under strict instruction that they take no risks and they simply walk out and tell me if they, at any point, feel their safety is at risk. I can then write to the court and our Legal Aid Agency contract manager accordingly explaining why - – if they can’t follow the government advice on social distancing etc, then we are not going. We have made that clear'.
The Gazette continues to hear reports of solicitors being asked to attend the police station in person for lower level offences.
One solicitor said his client was asked to attend in person for what was effectively a neighbour dispute. The solicitor said: 'They should not have interviewed her. There is no way this could not have waited a month. There was no risk of danger. There was no assault involved. In the end we pushed for her not to go in.'
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.