Maria Strauss recently posted on the press report about the Sikh defence solicitor who sued the MoJ for religious discrimination after being refused admission to HMP Belmarsh because his turban was held together with pins. The MoJ settled before the case came to trial.
Hard on the heels of this comes the news that the Home Office has updated the Detention Services Order dealing with search procedures, following an incident in which Gurpreet Singh Johal, a trainee solicitor at Glasgow law firm Bilkus & Boyle and a baptised Sikh, was told that he would need to remove his kirpan in order to be allowed entry to a detention centre to see a client. The Law Society of Scotland had pressed the Home Office to update that part of the Order dealing with search procedures, arguing that that the position of legal advisers was anomalous because Sikh prison ministers were allowed to carry the kirpan, subject to it being properly secured.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Home Office agreed. The updated rules dated December 2014 read as follows:
54. Detention Centre Rule 2 defines ‘legal advisers’ in relation to a detained person as his/her ‘counsel, representative or solicitor, and includes a clerk acting on behalf of his/her solicitor’.
55. A Sikh legal adviser may be allowed to wear a kirpan when visiting a detainee in a designated visits area, subject to risk assessment. The kirpan must comply with the requirements on size and being secured to the body … Gate/security staff should confirm that the kirpan is being carried when the legal adviser enters and leaves the establishment. If a Sikh legal adviser is required to remove his kirpan as part of the search he must be allowed to do so in private and it should not be handled by anyone apart from the Sikh legal adviser. He should be allowed privacy to put the kirpan back on afterwards.”
[With thanks to Jamie Kerr for the lead]