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Lawyers clash with prison staff in row over searches

LAWYERS have condemned prison staff for demanding they take part in intimate searches before being allowed access to their clients.

VICTORIA YOUNG: Has condemned prison staff.
VICTORIA YOUNG: Has condemned prison staff.

The Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Richard Keen, QC, has asked Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill to intervene directly in the matter following a complaint by leading advocate Victoria Young.

Ms Young, who has worked on a number of high-profile cases, including those involving Peter Tobin and William Beggs, was selected by staff at Barlinnie Prison for an oral inspection during a visit on Sunday with two solicitors.

She refused to let them look for drugs or other contraband and was then turned away from visiting her client.

Ms Young also claims she was asked to leave the prison reception area, where she wanted to wait for a colleague who had been allowed in.

The advocate said on Twitter: "I didn't feel that strongly about it until I was asked myself.

"It's actually quite offensive and humiliating.

"I can't believe they think I get up on a Sunday morning to bring drugs into a prison.

"Do they think I kiss my clients too?

"I was told my attitude would be noted for the future and then asked to leave reception rather than wait for the solicitor."

Lawyers have their possessions inspected as a matter of routine on entering a prison but staff can use their discretion and request a more intimate search.

In 2006, lawyer Angela Baillie was jailed for 32 months for smuggling heroin and diazepam into Barlinnie Prison.

Ms Baillie, then 32, claimed she had been suffering from bipolar disorder at the time and she had been coerced into supplying the drugs by a gangland figure.

Solicitor David Blair Wilson, 54, of Dunfermline, Fife, is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on December 6 after being accused of attempting to smuggle mobile phones and drugs, hidden in a folder, into Edinburgh's Saughton Prison.

He denies the charges and blames another person for the alleged offence.

The Faculty of Advocates declined to comment on the latest row.

Ms Young did not respond to a request for comment and has now locked her Twitter account.

Last night, a legal source said prison searches could be an annoyance for visiting briefs because of the view the legal profession is "above suspicion".

The insider said: "Some object and some don't. A top solicitor recently left a prison because they attempted to search him.

"They X-ray legal files and in some prisons they even make solicitors remove belts and shoes. Most prisons do mouth searches and rub-downs.

"An advocate or QC might object as they may believe they should be above suspicion."

A Scottish Prison Service (SPS) spokeswoman said: "We will respond in due course to any correspondence received on this matter.

"Searching procedures are in place to prevent prisoners, visitors or staff bringing into the prison, or on to SPS premises, items that are unauthorised, prohibited or considered a threat to security or to good order and discipline.

"If visitors refuse to comply with a search, staff reserve the right to refuse entry."

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