Susan Acland-Hood

Many of you who are frequent visitors to courts have voiced concern and frustration over the last few months about the security processes and delays that searches can sometimes cause.

I was delighted to be able to announce last week that, as a result of the ongoing and collaborative work with the Bar Council, we were able to address some of those concerns with the planned national roll out of the professional users' access scheme

This work has only been made possible with the support and input of colleagues at the Bar Council, with whom we have successfully devised a digital ID card with a secure identification system. We will be rolling the scheme out during this year, and will cover all courts by early 2020.

We are also working with other professional bodies, and will bring them into the scheme as they are ready. The way we are running the scheme recognises that it needs to be professional bodies who have responsibility for holding up-to-date and checked lists of their recognised members, and are working with each to get to the point where - like the Bar Council - they hold these in a form against which we can check in a streamlined enough way to make the scheme work at scale.

Security risks

As you know, hundreds of people pass through our courts and tribunals every week. But for many of us, these buildings are our daily workplaces. Legal practitioners aside, the long list of regular users also includes court staff, the judiciary, police, prison and probation staff, among others.

By their very nature, courts are places where people bring their disputes, and where emotions and stakes can run high. Many of those who use our courts live complex and troubled lives, which can often be characterised by poor impulse control and lack of sound judgement. These factors mean that, in turn, we face multiple risks in our court and tribunal workplaces every day.

We know that, although in a minority, people do sometimes come to court with theintent to harm themselves or others. We also know that some people, including those for whom it is their workplace, can unwittingly attend court with items which could be used by others as a weapon.

Making sure we have robust security processes in place - which reflect the latest risks and intelligence - is the right thing for us to do, to ensure the effective administration of justice and the safety of all those who our use and work in the system.

Addressing immediate concerns

We've added extra officers and security arches where we can, particularly at peak times to improve the flow.  

We're also well aware of the instances, particularly those reported on social media, where searches and confiscations have not felt as respectful or proportionate as we should all expect.

Rest assured, we will continue to investigate every reported incident thoroughly and take any necessary action as swiftly as possible, working closely with our security contractors and their staff.

We've also published more consistent and transparent information about security processes and searches, so that all court users and workers know what to expect and understand the rationale behind them.

We'll be using the materials as a training tool for our security contractors, so we can continue to reinforce the importance of processes being applied consistently, regardless of the location or prior knowledge of those entering a building.

The campaign will feature a mix of media, including posters in courts, video and social media content, and will run throughout May and June. I'd welcome your feedback on the materials and value your support for our work to improve court security.

Susan Acland-Hood, Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service