Mencap calls for duty solicitors' vigilance

Duty solicitors at police stations must play a more active role in identifying people in custody who may have learning difficulties, according to the mental health charity Mencap.

Under the terms of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, people with learning difficulties must be accompanied by an appropriate adult to ensure that they are treated fairly and know what is happening when being interviewed by the police.

But figures due to be released at a conference this week suggest this only happens in as few as one in 13 cases.

Speakers at the conference in London were expected to say duty solicitors had a key role to play in improving these figures.

Mencap's director of campaigns Steve Billington said that solicitors must become more familiar with the requirements of the 1984 Act. He called for duty solicitors to be on the look out for those who have obvious problems and make sure any interview is delayed until an appropriate adult has arrived.

The Criminal Law Solicitors Association recently produced a leaflet to explain what the adults concerned could expect when accompanying people with learning difficulties at police stations.

See page 9.