Attack of Legal Practitioners
The findings of a survey recently released highlighted the occurrence of extremely threatening or violent incidents in court buildings or lawyers’ offices. More specifically, one out of every three solicitors in Scotland that responded to the survey stated that they had suffered threatening behavior or violence linked with the execution of their professional duties. The research conducted by Scotland’s Law Society showed that nearly all the incidents occurred within the solicitors’ offices, the premises of a court or in a tribunal building.
The survey, which is the first of such nature in Scotland, showed that 12 percent of all the solicitors that responded to the survey had experienced one form of violence or the other. Over 1,100 solicitors responded to the survey and 60 percent of them indicated that they had been at the receiving end of threatening communications or conduct.
Further, the survey’s results showed that clients, former clients and opposing solicitors’ clients were the cause of 60% of all the incidents. The class of lawyers that faced the highest level of risk where the criminal defense lawyers. Lawyers handling sensitive cases like child custody or divorce also claimed that they had been targeted at one point or the other.
Sources claim that a 63-year old lawyer was left with a permanent scar sometime in July because someone attacked him on his way to his office somewhere around Glasgow Sheriff court. That case has been highlighted as one of the severe instances of the violence a lot of lawyers encounter on a regular basis.
The responses indicated that nearly 40 percent of criminal defense solicitors had been violently attacked in the past. The percentage of attack was lesser for family lawyers as only 25 percent of them had been violence victims, while 19 percent of all the respondent prosecutors said they had suffered violent attacks.
For threatening behavior, 70 percent of the criminal defense solicitors reported that they had been at the receiving end of such behaviors. 54 percent of family lawyers said they had been threatened and 61 percent of prosecutors reported that they had been threatened. The survey also showed that incidents reporting was quite low, and particularly that women were less likely to repent such violent acts than men.
The Law Society’s Reaction
The president of Scotland’s Law society, Alison Atack, expressed that she found the results of the survey alarming. She noted that threatening acts of violence towards the members of the legal profession should not be tolerated. According to her, such acts should also not be tolerated against anyone whose duty is to provide any kind of service to the public, and she made reference to he Scottish Parliament bill for the protection of those working in the retail sector.
She also added that the society was aware of the Justice Secretary’s intention to introduce some measures to help strengthen the rights of witnesses of crime and victims of crime. Attack further stated that a lot of people seek out the advice and help of their solicitors in any instance when they encounter difficult and threatening life situations. As such, she mentioned that it is important for solicitors who are out to help other people to be able to feel secure and safe during the course of undertaking any of the duties required of them in their professional capacity. Thus, she mentioned the Society’s intention to forward their recommendations so as to reduce the risk for those in the legal field.
Recommendations To Improve Solicitors’ Safety
To that effect, Scotland’s Law Society has offered different recommendations with the aim of championing an improvement of the solicitors’ personal safety as well as the safety of other professionals in the legal field.
These recommendations include
1. Ensuring an improvement in reporting of incidents of violence to the police
2. Using a safety-first approach including using safety apps on the phone, buddy system or personal alarms most especially by sole practitioners.
3. Ensuring that employers adopt strong procedures and policies to handle threatening or violent behavior
4. Training on awareness of risk
5. Offering support to those solicitors who have been victims of such violent acts.