In response to Covid-19, a joint interim interview protocol was agreed by the CPS, NPCC, Law Society, CLSA, and LCCSA in March 2020. This advocated the delivery of remote legal advice and interview support by legal representatives as temporary measure in extremis to cope with an unprecedented public health crisis. This led us to respond to three issues:
- The joint protocol did not mention children, vulnerable adults or AAs. Therefore, it did not take account of the special circumstances of these individuals, negative impacts on fairness and appropriate safeguards.
- In June, the Home Office launched an expedited public consultation on amending the PACE Codes to allow remote legal representation for a period of one year.
- It later became clear that the protocol had been poorly implemented and that remote legal advice presented a serious risk for children and vulnerable people, as well as to the integrity of the justice system.
- In March 2020, we raised with signatories to the joint protocol, that it did not mention children, vulnerable adults or AAs.
- In July 2020, we submitted a detailed submission to the Home Office raising concerns about the potential impact of remote legal advice on suspects for whom an AA is required under PACE. NAAN has continued to make strong representations in policy discussions with the Home Office and partners following the consultation.
- In February 2021, we co-published Not remotely fair? Access to a lawyer in the police station during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report highlighted the negative impact of remote legal representation on children and vulnerable adults. We followed the report with meetings wiht key decision-makers and officials.
- In April 2020, a revised version of the protocol was published, to which NAAN contributed. This included safeguards for children and adult vulnerable suspects, such as the requirement for police to secure the consent of the person's appropriate adult before remote legal representation in interview may take place.
- Following the consultation, the Home Office decided not to change the PACE Codes to support remote legal advice even temporarily.
- Following the publication of our joint report, the signatories agreed to end remote legal advice for children and vulnerable people from stage 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown (17th May 2021).