Dublin-based firm of solicitors Shalom Binchy says it has been difficult to provide legal advice to suspects in custody while also complying with public health guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.
It has called for the development of a “clear protocol” governing arrests, charging and detention during the current public health emergency.
The firm carried out an online survey of defence solicitors from 1 May to 13 May, asking about their recent experiences of providing legal advice to suspects held in Garda stations during the first stage of the COVID-19 emergency.
The survey found that there was currently no consistency in the approaches to complying with health guidelines when solicitors attend a Garda station. It also found that there was no provision for remote advice during questioning.
Shalom Binchy said solicitors were being left with the choice of either attending the station in circumstances where it is difficult, if not impossible, to comply with guidelines, or going back to the pre-2014 practice of giving legal advice before and after, but not during, questioning.
“We acknowledge that clients have been allowed to step outside and get legal advice during the interview but this is very different to having constant contemporaneous advice and having a solicitor present during the interview,” the firm said.
It has called for remote access between a solicitor and a suspect by videolink to be facilitated for the consultation and during the interview.