Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

I’m going to give you the good news. Because it IS good news, and I thank the powers that be for sorting it out.

Here it is :

HMCTS have formally launched a pilot to fast track lawyers through court security so that we can all arrive at court earlier and in a less grumpy state than we sometimes have hitherto. Hurrah for that.

You can read about the pilot here and here.

The bad news is this :

It’s only five courts at the moment and we don’t know when the rest of us can expect to see it rolled out further. If you want to play court bingo to see if your local court is one of the winning ones the five are :

  • Brighton Mags,
  • Maidstone Combined,
  • Southwark Crown,
  • Tameside Mags,
  • Wood Green Crown.

I’m currently pondering the logistics of the fact that the pilot scheme (for the bar) will operate through a phone app, which presumably means entry will be slowed down by security immediately confiscating the phone on production, on the basis that they incorporate a camera, and spending ten minutes filling in a ticket for collection later on.

That hopefully-overly-cynical-and-not-at-all-likely-to-eventuate worry put aside, at present I’m a little perplexed at how a scheme that requires security (who don’t have devices) to check our names against a list is going to be much quicker than a search – if they are really going to check us off every morning. I also don’t quite understand why, if you produce the ID in the form of your app, you ALSO need to be checked against a list. No doubt the pilot will test and iron all this out.

I take this opportunity to note that I have today received my response to a complaint I made about court security back in June. Without going into the details, a large part of which comprises an explanation of the background to this pilot and the security rationale for the different searches carried out, it does acknowledge the difficulties caused by security being run by a number of different organisations under different PFI contracts at different courts, all of whom interpret the overarching HMCTS guidance differently. It also confirms that the tightening of court security was in response both to an increase last year of acid attacks in the community, coupled with an increase of attempts to bring weapons into court. My FOI request about the risk assessment and underpinning of the HMCTS policy remains outstanding.

I’m pleased to see specific acknowledgment in the press release that things aren’t always dealt with as they should be :

‘We have also seen some instances where searches and confiscations haven’t felt respectful or proportionate.’

I could quibble with the notably delicately expressed language chosen there. Suffice to say I would put it more forcefully, whilst also noting that court security have an important and tough job and that by and large they are cheerful and tolerant and attempt to make the search process as quick and painless as possible.

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