You’re accused of a crime, arrested. Just one problem: there’s no lawyer to help you
Merseyside’s duty solicitors are leaving the profession — what happens now?
Dear readers — if you ever find yourself locked in a jail cell (and I sincerely hope you don’t), you’d assume, regardless of your income, a decent lawyer would be waiting for you on the other side of the bars, ready to fight your corner. In today’s piece, Abi investigates an alarming drop in the number of duty solicitors in Merseyside, and explores what this means for our criminal justice system.
But first, your Thursday briefing — including a new digital initiative in Liverpool and something rather murky in our waters.
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Your Post briefing
United Utilities is facing legal action over claims they underreported pollution and overcharged customers in the North West. Professor Carolyn Roberts, an environmental and water consultant from London, launched the claim against the water company, along with five other claims against Severn Trent, Thames Water, Anglian Water, Yorkshire Water and Northumbrian Water. If her claims are proven to be true, up to 20 million customers could be eligible for compensation. Water UK — the trade body that owns all of the water companies in England — has said the accusations were "without merit", and stated they will fight the claims in a tribunal.
Over 4,500 people in the Liverpool City Region are set to receive a free tablet with internet access in the next year to help tackle the digital divide. The scheme is part of a new Digital Inclusion Initiative, which aims to connect people with technology and stimulate economic growth across Merseyside. People will be referred for a tablet by the Department of Work and Pensions, with group training sessions also on offer to help acquaint people with their new technology. “It’s our duty to properly connect our residents up with this 21st century necessity,” Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said. “Schemes like this will help us to directly target those who are most in need of our support. We’re creating what I hope will be a better-connected future that everyone in our region can benefit from – it’s proper levelling up in action.”
Concerns have been raised about an oil refinery in Ellesmere Port after several residents developed coughs, headaches and sore throats as a result of strong smells and air pollution. Essar Oil UK, who run the refinery, said the nasty odour was related to an incident with a tank on-site over a week ago, and stated they — alongside the Environment Agency — are now monitoring air quality in the area. This isn’t the first time air pollution in Merseyside has hit the headlines, with a report from King’s College London linking around 1,000 deaths per year in the Liverpool City Region to bad air quality. We recently published a piece about the toxic air choking Merseyside — read that here.
By Abi Whistance
In 1981, Ray Gilbert and John Kamara walked into a police station in Liverpool for an interrogation. Over the next 48 hours they were quizzed about the killing of John Suffield — a Toxteth bookmaker who was viciously stabbed 19 times in the Coral Racing Shop on Lodge Lane. Neither Gilbert nor Kamara saw a solicitor through this process. Gilbert, under the immense pressure of police questioning, cracked — falsely implicating Kamara in the murder. The consequence? An innocent man spent nearly 20 years behind bars.
Thankfully, cases like this are not as common these days. Though that's little consolation to Kamara. But what is really concerning is that over the next decade, legal aid is set to plummet — with a predicted drop of 38% in the number of duty solicitors available in Merseyside.
So what does this mean for our criminal justice system?