Police say no to in-house team

POLICE officers have rejected a move towards recruiting in-house lawyers as a means of cutting the soaring cost of their legal representation.

The Police Federation conference threw out an amendment calling for finance officials to examine whether an in-house system would be cheaper.

Delegates agreed to continue with the contracted out system, which uses Russell Jones & Walker as its main adviser along with about 200 other firms handling minor work.

The amendment was tabled following a report which detailed how annual legal bills were set to reach £12 million by the turn of the century.

Conference agreed to allow the federation treasurer, Barrie Biddulph, to increase the monthly £8 subscription fee by an average of 13 per cent per year up to the Millennium, in order to cover the increasing costs.

Biddulph says: “Conference decided not to explore the option of looking at recruiting in-house lawyers.

“We will continue the existing arrangement, but we can raise the subscription fee from the beginning of next year. Overall we believe we will be able to fund our legal services.”

The federation says the total bill has risen because of the increasingly complex nature of cases brought on behalf of the federation's 126,000 rank-and-file police officer members.

As well as the cost of representing officers caught up in criminal court cases and disciplinary hearings, the federation has incurred massive bills for members who sue for libel. “We are victims of our own success,” Biddulph says.