The president of the Bar Association has recently been advised by the commissioner for corrective services that Corrective Services NSW intends to standardise access control to prisons âin the context of safety and security.â Corrective Services have concluded that there is no reasonable justification to retain the exception for legal practitioners from a requirement to register on a Biometric Identification Device (BID). No other groups of visitors are currently exempt including police, both state and federal.
It is suggested that this requirement will come into effect on 1 December 2013. It is intended that on a lawyerâs first visit to a correctional centre after that date, where a BID is in place, lawyers will need to register on the BID and will then be recorded as a professional visitor.
Within 24 hours of registering, lawyers will be on the BID system state wide, and will not need to re-register if they subsequently attend a different centre. Once registered, all visitors are required to have their identity verified when they enter and when they leave a correctional centre. For the purposes of initial identification, legal practitioners should present a current valid identification card, issued by either the Law Society or by the Bar Association.
Comments are invited from the Bar Association in relation to the proposed changes and have also been sought from the Law Society.
The Bar Association and the Law Society have a representative on the recently revived CSNSW legal practitioners consultancy group. At the last meeting of that group, where this proposal was raised, concern was expressed that the priority of access to gaols by lawyers in the context of the rights of prisoners to consult and instruct their lawyers must be ensured in any new policy. Processing of lawyersâ visits should reflect that, i.e. they should not be held up unduly, if at all, by a requirement to be subject to BID access.
In order to inform the Bar Associationâs response to the proposal, a meeting of interested Barristers and Solicitors will be held on 28 October at the Bar Association Common Room, starting at 5 oâclock. It is understood that this proposal may be of concern to many members. It is also the case that there remain ongoing issues for practitioners in getting into and out of prisons to do their professional duties and that there will be other associated issues that may need to be canvassed.
The meeting will be chaired by Graham Turnbull SC, the barâs representative on the consultancy group, along with Pauline Wright, the Law Societyâs Criminal Law Committee.
Luke Grant, Corrective Servicesâ assistant commissioner, strategic policy and planning, will be in attendance to explain the proposal and respond to concerns raised.
28 October 2013