Aclec paper backs common training

SOLICITORS in London are to seek meetings with the Metropolitan Police to discuss problems they face representing clients held at stations.

A newly-formed police liaison sub-committee of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association is now gathering complaints to raise with the force.

Chair Colin Reynolds says most of the issues likely to be raised stem from the provisions of the new Criminal Justice Act. Examples include the attitudes of custody officers and those conducting interviews, to making available information about why the client is being held.

Another is the difference in officers' interview techniques and how they respond to intervention by legal representatives during questioning.

Reynolds, a partner at Reynolds Dawson, says: “If there are problems which are common and recurring, it seems sensible to meet the police and discuss these areas.”

The new committee consists of Reynolds plus Sue Green, partner with JP Malnick & Co, Rachel Hubbard, associate at Magrath & Co, and Peter Binning from the Crown Prosecution Service.

It has already written to Scotland Yard's Criminal Justice Office stressing the need for confidential interviewing facilities at stations, access to telephones and offering to help train officers in solicitors' needs.

Earlier this year, Magrath & Co partner and association secretary Mark Haslam predicted that solicitors would face longer and more frequent visits to stations under the new Act.

Reynolds wants any solicitors' who have had problems to contact him at Reynolds Dawson, 34 John Adams Street, Charing Cross, London WC2.

Solicitors and barristers should share a common professional training from the outset of their careers, according to the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct (Aclec).

The proposals come in a consultation paper on the vocational stage of education and are the second stage of the committee's review of the legal profession.

Aclec says “there should be the maximum amount of common education for the different branches of the legal profession”.

Other proposals include “adequate funding arrangements” to ensure people from diverse backgrounds can enter the profession, and specialist practitioner training in a flexible framework to place “lifelong learning” at the heart of lawyering.

Rigorous basic education in “common professional values” is also needed, it says.

Aclec chair Lord Steyn, commenting in the forward to the paper, says legal education “should provide students with a rigorous but broadly-based intellectual preparation equal, or superior, to the higher education of students in core academic disciplines and other professional fields”.

He says students should be “equipped with up-to-date skills for professional practice in the context of rapid, and radical, changes in the provision of legal services”.

He adds that “access to legal education should be open to people of all classes and conditions, because the law is the foundation of a democratic society”.

The committee proposes five models for combined courses including an MA course.