Third of Scottish Solicitors have Experienced Violence or Threats

Third of Scottish Solicitors have Experienced Violence or Threats

The Scottish Law Society have revealed that one third of Scottish solicitors who took part in a recent survey have been victims of violence or threatening behaviour in connection with their work.

The survey of over 1,100 solicitors revealed that around one in eight respondents (12%) have experienced violence, a third (33%) have experienced threatening conduct and over one in four (27%) experienced threatening communications. Only a fifth (20%) of physical attacks on solicitors were reported to the police.

The vast majority of incidents (90%) took place within solicitors’ offices or in a court or tribunal environment. Clients or former clients of a solicitor, or of the opposing party’s solicitor, accounted for over 60% of violent incidents.

The research highlighted that criminal defence solicitors are most at risk, with almost half of those who responded reporting more than four incidents in the last five years. Prosecutors and family lawyers, who often deal with highly sensitive cases such as divorce and child custody, had also been targeted.

The responses showed that:

  • Almost 40% of criminal defence solicitors, 25% of family lawyers and 19% of prosecutors have been victims of violence.
  • Around 70% of criminal defence solicitors, 54% of family lawyers and 61% of prosecutors have been victims of threatening behaviour

Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said:

“I am extremely alarmed by the survey findings. People often turn to their solicitor for help and advice when they are going through very stressful and difficult times in their lives. It’s vital that solicitors, who have chosen a career in law because they want to help others, can feel safe and secure while carrying out their professional duties.

 

“There should be no tolerance of any threat of violence towards legal professionals, or indeed anyone providing a service to members of the public, something that has been highlighted recently by the proposed Scottish Parliament bill to protect retail workers. We are also aware the Scottish Government Justice Secretary intends to introduce measures to strengthen the rights of victims and witnesses of crime.

 

“We intend to take forward our initial recommendations, including working with other organisations in the legal and justice sectors, as a matter of urgency to try to minimise the risk of violence against people working in the legal sector.”

Further information about the survey data on violence affecting the legal profession is available at https://bit.ly/2NAb6gV

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