Judge slams court service for ‘lamentable’ security

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Dec 11, 2017
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A member of the security staff at Maidstone Combined Court allegedly refused to come into work on Tuesday

David Barbour

A judge has condemned the “chronic” and “lamentable” security measures at a court in Kent.

Maidstone Combined Court’s resident judge, His Honour Jeremy Carey, criticised HM Courts & Tribunal Service and Mitie, the security company contracted to work at the court, in a public notice posted outside the building.

He wrote: “We are heartily sick of the chronic failure of those responsible for providing effective and efficient security measures at the front entrance of this building to do so.”

He noted that the court had a “defective” security arch, which set off an alarm whenever anyone walks through. He also alleged that the attendance record of security staff at the building was poor.

The judge said security was the responsibility of the courts service and its contractor. “They must provide adequate trained staff and an adequate system,” he said. “It seems that at other courts up and down the country, Mitie, or other contractors, are able to do so but not at Maidstone.”

Judge Carey said that a week ago, the court was supposed to have an amended search procedure in place but that it had “made no difference”. He added that on Tuesday, when the notice was posted, one of Mitie’s staff had “refused to come to work”, contributed to an “even more lamentable” state of affairs.

Mitie denied the allegation and said that the staff member was on sick leave.

Judge Carey added: “It would take me hours to recite the efforts which have been made thus far from senior presiding judge [Lady Justice Macur] downwards, to try to improve the position and you would not be any less disgruntled if I did — and I don’t blame you.” 

The security problem in courts was highlighted last month when the Criminal Bar Association said one of its members had their child’s marker pens and toy car confiscated for fear they could be used as a weapon. The story prompted other lawyers to come forward with similar experiences.

A spokesman for the Courts and Tribunal Service said: “We’re aware of the situation and are working to rectify it. The safety of legal professionals, staff and the public who attend our courts is one of our top priorities. The resident judge is being kept informed by our staff.”

A Mitie spokesman said: “We are working with our client to review the queuing situation outside Maidstone Combined Court and are already providing additional security officers. 

“With only one search arch which all court attendees must pass through, there will inevitably be a queue at busy times, however, working as quickly as we can whilst ensuring the safety of everyone entering the court is our primary focus.”


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