New advice for police on suspect access to lawyers

Image caption,
Guidance for police forces comes ahead of a Supreme Court decision

Suspects will be advised that they can have access to a solicitor when questioned by police following guidance which could mark a shift in the law.

The Crown has issued the guidelines to "minimise risk" pending the outcome of a human rights appeal being heard at the Supreme Court.

In England and Wales, an accused has a right to legal representation.

Under Scots law, police can question suspects before formal arrest without automatic access to a solicitor.

The development follows a ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of Yusuf Salduz, who was arrested in Turkey in 2001 during a Kurdish protest.

The court found his rights were infringed because he did not have access to legal representation when questioned by police and ordered a retrial.

In Scotland the ruling prompted challenges. However a test case was rejected last year by a panel of top judges.

Despite the finding that a lack of legal representation does not breach the European Convention on Human Rights, the issue reached the Supreme Court in London, where a decision is expected this year.

'Minimise risk'

But pre-empting any decision, the Crown has issued updated guidance to police forces.

A Crown Office spokeswoman said: "The Crown is taking steps to minimise risk to any prosecution pending the outcome of the appeal and has issued guidance to the police.

"As appeal proceedings are live, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

George Hamilton, of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "(We) continue to liaise closely with the Crown Office to ensure that police officers are in receipt of appropriate guidance.

"Following discussions this week, guidance to officers has been updated to minimise any risk of criminal cases being compromised while awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court."

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