Paralegals and Police Custody

Paralegals and Police Custody

*This post is by no means a criticism of the skills of a paralegal, it is just an observation*

Before moving to Bonny Scotland I worked extensively as a sessional Appropriate Adult in Police custody suites in England. I have written another post recently about vulnerable detainees understanding of the consequences of giving a 'No Comment' interview when interviewed under caution in Police custody from observations that I made during this time and have rflected on since.

During my work as an Appropriate Adult I became aware that entitlement to legal representation whilst in Police custody in England (and Wales) did not necessarily equate to being represented by a solicitor, but could be representation by a paralegal instead.

A recent conversation (see below) led me to looking further into the legislative (and logistical) framework under which this occurs as I had been puzzled as to how this fitted with the Rights and Entitlements that people have under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 whilst they are detained in Police custody. 


The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984.

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 s.58(1) - (PACE) - states "A person arrested and held in custody in a police station or other premises shall be entitled, if he so requests, to consult a solicitor privately at any time." 

Section 58(4) states that “If a person makes such a request, he must be permitted to consult a solicitor as soon as is practicable”.

I was told by several legal representative whilst working in Police custidy suites that they were not in fact solicitors, something that they never shared with me when their clients were within ear shot, although they may have told them when I was not present due to legal privilege.


Police Interview Room


Why Use Paralegals To Provide Legal Representation In Police Custody?

Several solicitors told me that their firm or others were increasingly using paralegals due to cuts to Legal Aid. This is borne out by other sources.

According to the Institute of Paralegals:

Paralegals Acting As Accredited Police Station Representatives

This is a quasi regulatory situation. People arrested and held at police stations generally have the right to receive legal advice and assistance whilst in custody.

There are duty solicitor schemes providing this service.  They are paid for by the Legal Services Commission under the legal aid scheme.  Originally the idea was to have solicitors attend the police stations to give advice. However the rates of pay are very low and so increasingly (especially outside of office hours) solicitors' firms use accredited paralegal police station representatives instead.

To become an accredited police station representative paralegals must undergo a training and mentoring programme and receive approval from the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

We describe this as a quasi regulatory situation because a paralegal does not need to be an accredited police station representative to go and advise clients.  However if the instructing solicitors’ firm wants to be paid under the legal aid scheme for providing that service then they must use an accredited police station representative.


According to the Solicitors Regulation Authority: 

The Police Station Representatives Accreditation Scheme

About the scheme:

Most solicitors' firms that carry out publicly funded criminal defence work have one or more accredited representatives—non-solicitor employees who go to police stations to advise and assist people who would otherwise have no legal representation [By this I take it this means under the Duty Solicitor scheme]. Accredited representatives are usually called out to a police station after the duty solicitor has spoken to the client by telephone [although this did not happen in my experience - detainees were just told that this was their legal representative].

I was discussing this one lunchtime recently, over a pot of tea and the ‘Pie of the Day’ in a very good Schottische Restaurant in Glasgow with some colleagues from the SOLD Network. We wondered if the same was true in Scotland, so I endeavoured to find out.

The best document to refer to regarding this that I could find was the Police Service of Scotland Solicitor Access Guidance Document

This states that in Scotland:

Precognition agents, paralegals, first year trainee solicitors and any other people are not Enrolled Solicitors and should not be afforded access to suspects. This situation differs from the practice of access by “legal representatives” elsewhere in the UK, where a large number of access visits are made by individuals who are not solicitors.

So there is the answer – paralegals can only be used to provide legal representation to detainees in Police custody in England and Wales, but not in Scotland.


As I lack the facility here for people to make comments, please either email me or engage in constructive chat on Twitter if you wish to comment or discuss the points raised in this post.



About Hugh Asher


Hugh is an author, practitioner, trainer, researcher and consultant.

He keeps rare breed sheep and cows.

He also shares his house with the world’s largest puppy, called Charlie.

Although he was told from a young age that “Life isn’t fair” he has refused
to give up on his goal to make other people’s lives as happy as he can.

His vision for a better world involves giving people the skills and
confidence to make a positive change to other people’s lives.

To learn more about Hugh and the mission of Soma, click here.​





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