|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: I agree with every word that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, has said. My experience may be a little out of datebut perhaps not all that much out of dateand accords entirely with that of the noble and learned Lord. We spent our professional careers in the criminal courts, either as counsels or recorders. As the noble and learned Lord said, when one started at the Barcertainly in Manchester in the 1950sone always had
Judges are concerned about this issue. They say that they greatly miss at times the security of having a policeman present when they are dealing with particular criminals. They express their concern that standards of security in our courts, for understandable reasonsthere are other demands on police timehave reduced over the years. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I believe that the amendment is important. I am sure that the Lord Chancellor's Department must realise how vital it is that there should be a properly trained security service.
I have never had anything thrown at me but, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, I have been present during an incident. In my early days at the Bar, my first recollection was seeing a prisoner, who was giving evidence, picking up a jug of water, a glass container, and hurling itsome may say with justificationat the head of Mr Justice Austin Jones. The speed with which the then detective superintendent of police, Superintendent Nimmo, whom my noble friend Lord Waddington will remember, managed to get from where he was sitting to the witness box to flatten the man even before the glass arrived on the judge's desk was remarkable. It gives confidence if there are people present who are able to give that degree of security.
Lord Waddington: Before my noble friend sits down, surely he remembers the occasion when Noel Barrie Goldie was sitting as a recorder at Manchester when a criminal leapt out of the dock. He got as far as the clerk, Mr Redhead, who is reputed to have given him a leg up.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: If I were to reminisce about Mr Noel Barrie Goldie we would be here for rather longer than the time intended for the Bill. I can confirm that the matter described by my noble friend Lord Waddington did occur, although it is not necessarily confirmed that Redhead helped him on his way.
It is worth reflecting that the clause establishes on the face of the Bill, for the first time in law, the distinct role of a court security officer. We are debating a matter of substance to which the Government have given much thought. The clause also defines when a court security officer is considered to be acting in the execution of his or her duty. It gives the Lord Chancellor the power to make provision for training courses for officers and to specify the conditions that have to be met before a person is designated as a court security officer.
Currently there is a disparity in the security provisions for the magistrates' and county courts, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. Only in the magistrates' courts is there a statutory provision for court security. When I read my notes on this, I was somewhat surprised about that.
As many noble Lords have said, the number of court security incidents is rising, partly due to a lack of authoritative security personnel with effective powers and partly due to the general decline in society's respect for the law and for authority, a point made by a number of noble Lords. That is something that we as a government have a duty to get hold of, to consider and to act on. That is what we are doing with the clause.
I was somewhat heartened to hearit is all relativethat this is not a new problem. Noble Lords opposite waxed lyrical in their recollections, but they were quite valuable because they put a finger on the problem that there is a general decline in trust and respect for the law and authority. We need to tackle that issue.
The decision to establish the new role of court security officer is motivated by a desire to put in place uniform security provisions across all courts and to combat the rise in the number of incidents involving violence and threatened violence that is occurring. The appalling incident involving Judge Goddard is the most notable one in recent times.
As currently drafted, the clause gives the Lord Chancellor a power to make, by regulations, provision as to training courses to be completed by court security officers and to specify the conditions that must be met prior to a person being designated as a court security officer. The amendment would turn that power into a duty.
We recognise the importance of recruiting the right people to be court security officers. It is also vital that they receive suitable and, importantly, sufficient training to enable them to carry out these powers lawfully and effectively. The role carries significant responsibility, so it is crucial that a certain standard should be met before a person can become a court security officer. Although it is difficult to detail the kinds of qualities and skills that will be necessary, we believe that such qualities as effective communication will be important. We need to be certain that, in carrying that significant responsibility, people attain a certain standard. I ought to spell out at an early stage that it is envisaged that there will be a full criminal records check to make sure that applicants are of good character. A number of Members of the Committee referred to that important point.
The importance of the issues raised is clear. However, it is not yet clear whether regulations will be the most practical, effective or necessary way of dealing with the issues. Phrasing the clause in terms of a power will give the Lord Chancellor time to develop and test proposals, so that full consideration can be
Amendment No. 79 seeks to amend Clause 46(2). Again, as it currently stands, the clause gives my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor a power to make provision, by regulation, as to conditions to be met before a person may be designated as a court security officer. The amendment would require that regulations made under this power would include a condition as to the good character of the person concerned. I am clear that we will require persons of good character. As I said earlier, full security checks will be made.
The role of the court security officer will carry a high level of responsibility to the court, to its users and to the wider public. Inherent in the position is an assumption that the person will be of good character. Central to the function of a court security officer, therefore, is a requirement that a person inspires the confidence of his or her employers and the public and that he or she can be depended upon to carry out his or her role in a fair, responsible and efficient manner. At least one reference was made to officers not being overly officious in carrying out searches, for example. We shall come to that point later. The Government feel that if regulations are made setting out the conditions to be met before a person can be designated as a court security officer, conditions as to good character should rank as a high priority.
A question was raised about accountability. The performance of court security regimes will be covered by the inspectorate. In the past we have not had an inspectorate that has fully covered the court service, but the new unified inspectorate will make this one of its priority areas.
I believe that I have answered all the points raised and I hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will be able to withdraw the amendment. I am delighted that this issue has been treated with such seriousness and that there is a desire on all sides of the Committee to ensure that we get the very best from what is essentially a new court security service, and that it fulfils expectations in the way that we all hope it will.
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: Perhaps I may add one possibly constructive contribution. In the old days, when looking for security officers the courts made a great deal of use of retired police officers. Now, you hardly ever see a retired police officer around. They
|Back to Table of Contents
|Lords Hansard Home Page