Police and Law Society declare ceasefire

THE POLICE and the Law Society have for the first time agreed to hold regular meetings in an effort to co-operate over criminal justice issues.

The meetings, which began on Friday, are an attempt to find common ground on issues like disclosure and the right to silence. They follow a public slanging match last spring, when the police accused Chancery Lane of trying to evade the new right to silence rules.

They, in turn, were accused of disregarding the law.

Friday's meeting was the first of the planned twice-yearly get-togethers between the society's criminal law committee and the crime committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Legislation, joint training, police codes of practice, differences over the new right to silence rules and the efficiency of the criminal justice system were all on the agenda.

Until now official communication between the two groups has been irregular.

Roger Ede, secretary of the criminal law committee, said: “The need for regular meetings was underlined by the battle of words that took place some months ago over the society's guidelines on the change in the right to silence regulations.”

The right to silence row was sparked off by police criticism of society guidelines outlining a variety of circumstances when it could still be appropriate to advise silence. Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Condon complained the guidelines would “get round” the new rules.

Ede said the police should have anticipated the guidelines given the role of the solicitor in the criminal justice system. Their surprise and hostility had reflected their misunderstanding of this role, he added.