Surge in suspects needing police station advice as duty solicitor numbers continue to fall

Legal aid statistics for July to September 2023 have been released – showing that the number of times a suspect receives legal help from a solicitor in attendance at the police station has increased from 133,982 in April to June to 152,985 in July to September.

Law Society of England and Wales president Nick Emmerson said that the new figures show a recent surge in police station attendance demonstrating how “crucial it is that there are enough duty solicitors to give out this critical early legal advice”. He continued:

“This substantial rise in police station work comes at a time when there are increasing police numbers, leading to more arrests. However, there are fewer and fewer duty solicitors to do the work as they continue to leave the profession as it is no longer financially viable. Another 71 duty solicitors left the profession between April and October this year.

Those that remain are already telling us that they are overstretched and this can only get worse if the increased workload continues. We have already heard reports of suspects being released without interview as there is no legal representation available.”

The increase of 19,000 in police station attendances between Q2 and Q3 2023 is the largest quarterly increase on record, taking the overall figure back to levels last seen in 2014-15.

The Home Office has estimated that an extra 729,000 cases are set to enter the criminal justice system by 2030, because of the uplift of 20,000 police officers. In recent years, more than twice as many solicitors left duty schemes as joined or returned. Between 2018 and 2022, 2,216 solicitors left duty rotas but just 1,033 joined or returned.

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