Perfect storm for policing, law and order by 2027
The number of duty solicitors available plummeted by 26% between 2017 and 2023 (1,446 fewer). We estimate 618 more duty solicitors could be lost by 2027.
“Our projections show the widescale collapse of duty solicitor schemes across England and Wales is ever more likely,” said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.
“Combined with more police officers and cases, this is creating a perfect storm in criminal justice that will affect victims of crime, witnesses and society as a whole."
Growing pressure on police stations
We predict there will be fewer duty solicitors covering 42 out of 43 police areas with Cumbria, Dorset and Gloucestershire among the worst hit.
An extra 729,000 cases are set to enter the criminal justice system by 2030, because of 20,000 extra police officers (see National Audit Office 2021 report).
But unless the government funds the rest of the criminal justice system appropriately, there will not be enough duty solicitors to represent people detained in police stations.
We’re already hearing from our members and local police forces that they’re struggling to cover duty schemes and of instances where police are being forced to release suspects as interviews are unable to progress without representation.
If a police station cannot find a duty solicitor:
- police may be forced to release suspects as they cannot interview them without a legal representative
- pressure builds on police station cells and local court backlogs
- victims will be forced to wait even longer for justice
- innocent bystanders who are arrested in error will have to wait even longer to be released