Police 'encouraged not to arrest criminals' as lawyers threaten action


Source: stv news

Tayside Police officers were encouraged not to arrest alleged offenders over the weekend in case lawyers took action at the custody courts.

Last week, solicitors across the country agreed to take action over the coming weeks in a protest over proposed changes to legal aid but did not set a date.

They plan to walk out of custody courts, refusing to take on new clients. They would represent existing clients in other cases on the same day.

As a result, an internal email was sent round Tayside Police on Friday from Chief Inspector Conrad Trickett, worried the action would be taken on Tuesday after a holiday weekend.

The Courier reported the email said: "The Perth and Dundee Bar Association have voted to support the 'industrial' action by solicitors.

"PF Helen Nisbet has no information about when the action may take place but assess that court on Tuesday 27 November following the holiday Monday would be the most impactive day for such a protest.

"Whilst officers should not be deterred from arresting offenders where necessary; full consideration should be given to use of discretion and other available disposals to try to minimise impact on custody arrangements and those of our criminal justice partners, which will already be stretched after a holiday weekend."

A spokeswoman for the force denied officers were told to "go easy" on criminals, saying they were just being reminded of the options open to them.

She said: "An internal message went out on Friday reminding officers of the options available to them when dealing with incidents.

"Above all, it specifically advised them not to be deterred from arresting offenders where necessary. That could not have been clearer.

"Tayside Police rightly encourages its officers to solve problems and apply an outcome-focused approach to incidents they attend. They are trained and experienced in the use of judgement and the application of discretion. A range of other options are also available to police officers including warnings and tickets.

"In the event, the numbers of people in custody were in line with what we would expect from a holiday weekend."

Under new plans from the government, anyone with a disposable income of £68 a week or more would pay towards the cost of criminal legal aid.

Ministers says it will bring payments in criminal cases into line with the civil justice system and more than 80% of people applying for legal aid would continue to pay nothing. They say the cost of legal aid, which amounted to £157.2m in the last financial year, needs to come down.

  • Geographical area: United Kingdom
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