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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 9 May 2021

Solicitors say they can't social distance properly while providing advice to clients in custody

Gardaí said obtaining PPE for solicitors is not their job.

Image: Shutterstock/New Africa

SOLICITORS HAVE VOICED their concerns at being unable to speak to clients in custody while maintaining social distancing. 

According to a survey conducted by Dublin-based Shalom Binchy Solicitors, many respondents said that the provision of legal advice to suspects in custody had been difficult to do whilst complying with hygiene guidelines. 

Some legal professionals claimed that when a solicitor attends a garda station there is no consistency in the approach in complying with social distancing.

Some solicitors also said that there was no provision for remote advice during questioning.

According to the report, this has left those in the legal profession two choices; a solicitor attends the station in circumstances where it is difficult if not impossible to comply with guidelines or reverts to the old practice where the client gets the right to access legal advice before and after questioning but not during questioning. 

The report found a number of flaws with the current system. 

It found, in certain circumstances; no social distancing was being practised, there was no proper ventilation, non-urgent arrests were being carried out, solicitors had to bring their own PPE, a solicitor was the only one using PPE during the interview proceedings. 

In another situation highlighted a perspex screen installed as a safeguard was too small and ineffective.

A garda spokesman said a host of measures have been put in place so solicitors can access their clients. However, gardaí said supplying solicitors with PPE is not their job.

A statement reads: “An Garda Síochána has identified dedicated Garda stations where the detention of persons in custody can take place within Public Health guidelines.

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“In addition, An Garda Síochána has identified within those stations rooms for the appropriate interviewing of persons in custody, has retrofitted protective Perspex screens to facilitate interviewing and consultation. 

“Where not available An Garda Síochána undertakes to provide alternative private communications between a solicitor and their client r for a solicitor to monitor an ongoing interview.

“In relation to PPE An Garda Síochána as an employer is very aware of its responsibilities under the Health and Safety at work legislation to provide PPE to their employees and persons under their care. 

An Garda Síochána is not responsible for the provision of PPE for third party employees/ persons attending/ working at Garda stations who should have their own provisions for the supply of appropriate PPE.

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