Dr Vicky Kemp has 30 years' experience of studying criminal legal aid and police station legal advice. With her research identifying potential barriers for suspects in accessing free and independent legal advice, as required by legislation, it is not surprising that a number of problems have arisen during this pandemic.
The main concern was over the police requiring legal advisers to provide face-to-face advice when it was not safe to do so. The police, CPS and defence practitioners agreed a national protocol, setting out appropriate steps to be taken, which includes providing remote legal advice. While this has been helpful in some areas, it is ignored in others. This is leading to legal advisers risking their lives when attending clients in custody to provide advice, without hand wipes, sanitisers, face masks or other protective equipment.
In her blog, Coronavirus and the dangers of providing police station legal advice in England and Wales, Dr Kemp commented on some of the key issues arising, which attracted over 52,000 views on Twitter. These key issues have been reported to the Home Office PACE Strategy Board, which oversees legislation relating to the detention and questioning of suspects.
As the pandemic continues, Dr Kemp is examining how this impacting on the legal rights of children drawn into the criminal justice system, and she will be exploring how digital technology could provide assistance at this difficult time.