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Rising demand for Legal Aid amid declining duty solicitor numbers

Rising demand for Legal Aid amid declining duty solicitor numbers


Increased police station advice needs highlight shortage of duty solicitors; risking legal representation for suspects

Recent legal aid statistics for the period of July to September 2023, unveiled on December 21, shed light on a concerning trend in the availability of legal counsel for suspects in police custody. The data reveals a notable surge in the requirement for legal assistance during police station attendance.

The figures indicate a substantial increase, with the number of instances where suspects received legal help from a solicitor rising from 133,982 in April to June to 152,985 in July to September. This upsurge underscores the critical need for an adequate number of duty solicitors to provide essential early legal advice.

Nick Emmerson, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, emphasized the significance of these statistics, expressing concern over the shortage of duty solicitors. He highlighted the paradoxical situation where growing police numbers and subsequent arrests coincide with a diminishing pool of solicitors, primarily due to financial constraints pushing them out of the profession.

Between April and October of the current year, an additional 71 duty solicitors departed from the profession, exacerbating the shortage. The dwindling number of remaining duty solicitors are reporting being overstretched, raising fears that the situation will worsen if the workload continues to increase. Disturbing reports have already surfaced of suspects being released without interviews due to the unavailability of legal representation.

The situation paints a concerning picture, where the shrinking availability of duty solicitors jeopardizes the fundamental right to legal representation for individuals in police custody. Urgent attention is needed to address this imbalance and ensure that adequate legal aid and representation are accessible to those in need during critical moments in the justice system.