Pssst! Do you need a lawyer?
AN office set aside for solicitors to use at Staffordshire Police's main custody suite has been closed amid claims some lawyers are using it to 'tout for business'.
The Sentinel understands solicitors were allowed to use the office at Staffordshire Police's Northern Area Custody Facility, in Etruria, in return for a charitable donation.
But the arrangement has created tensions among law firms available to offer legal advice to people who have been arrested.
One Potteries solicitor said: "As far as I am aware, this was the only custody suite in the country which allowed solicitors to have an office.
"It was never an official duty solicitors' office, but it was an office which police allowed solicitors to use while waiting for their clients.
"The firms using it were expected to make a voluntary contribution to police, which went to charity. Those which did not make a contribution were not allowed to use the office.
"It has caused problems between a number of firms.
"I don't know if anyone has notified the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), but the use of that room was closed down overnight and one of the police inspectors told everyone they were no longer allowed to use the room.
"The allegation is one of touting for business, which is not allowed under the SRA, but proving that lawyers are soliciting for business may be difficult."
Touting for business is not allowed under the solicitors' code of practice.
The Sentinel understands that the SRA has been asked to investigate. However, under its guidelines, the SRA will neither confirm nor deny any investigation until any outcome has been determined.
An SRA spokesman said: "It is only if disciplinary proceedings become necessary that such actions become a matter of public record."
The spokesman added: "The Solicitors' Code of Conduct 2011 is very specific on the way solicitors can publicise themselves.
"No contact with potential clients should be classed as unwelcome or intrusive."
The SRA code of conduct states: "You do not make unsolicited approaches in person or by telephone to members of the public in order to publicise your firm or in-house practice or another business."
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "We can confirm that the office previously provided for duty solicitors has been temporarily closed."
The custody suite opened in 2005. It replaced custody suites at Hanley, Stoke, Longton, Newcastle and Leek police stations.