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Lord Hunt of Wirral moved Amendment No. 80:

In sections 47 and 48, the term "any person" does not include judges and justices of the peace who are present in, or seeking to enter, a court building for the purposes of their duties."

The noble Lord said: We now move on to consider powers of search and powers to exclude, remove or restrain persons. The purpose of the new clause is to press the Government to explain the powers of court security officers in relation to judges and magistrates. Clauses 47 and 48 give court security officers the power to search any person seeking to enter a court building. The power to exclude, remove or restrain also applies to any person in a court building in certain circumstances. There appears to be no qualification of the phrase "any person" in the Bill. Presumably, those powers could be exercised in relation to judges or magistrates who were seeking to enter or were present in a court building for the purpose of hearing cases. The powers could even extend to the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls when they were seeking to enter the Royal Courts of Justice.

I hope the Minister will be able to say whether the Government intend that the provision should apply to everybody. If so, will court security officers be given training or guidance on what to do if they are concerned to deal with the searching of a judge or magistrate?

There are a number of ramifications. For instance, one can imagine a senior female judge refusing to undergo a search by a male court security officer. Under the powers given in Clause 48, the judge could be excluded from the court building, which would create obvious difficulties.

I hope the Minister will be able to clarify the position and will tell us what guidance the Government intend to issue to court security officers on how to deal with judges and magistrates, whom they may encounter in the course of their security duties.

I have not spoken to Amendment No. 81, which is also worthy of attention. I leave that to the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. I beg to move.

Lord Goodhart: I shall speak to Amendment No. 81, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 80, although it raises a slightly different point. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, has raised a serious point, although the way in which it has been framed may reinforce the view of some that judges are not, in fact, people.

We have tabled Amendment No. 81 because it seems clear that most of the court security officers will come from private security companies rather than being trained police or other public servants. In general, the public have a right of access to courts. Keeping the courts in general open to the public, save in very limited circumstances, is a constitutional obligation. It is therefore desirable that members of the public seeking to enter a court should not be deterred from exercising their right to do so by intrusive searches by

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court security officers. Can the Minister assure us that searches will be carried out sensitively and that officers will be given guidance on that?

The intention of our amendment is to specify that a court security officer can search people only if there is something suspicious about the person or if the circumstances are such that special care is likely to be needed. That would be the case during a trial for a terrorist offence or a trial of someone who is believed to be a member of a violent gang. In those circumstances, there could be justification for searching everybody, but in many cases searches would be unnecessary and intrusive. We hope we can be assured that excessive searching will not be carried out in such cases.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Waddington: I am a little concerned by the wording of Amendment No. 81. I am glad that it is included in the Marshalled List as it gives us the opportunity to discuss an important matter.

Routine checks are carried out at St Stephen's entrance as it is impossible to tell among a considerable throng of people whether someone is carrying a rope to enable him or her to abseil down from the Gallery, as once happened, or whether someone is carrying a brick to throw at some politician he or she does not like, or, indeed, in these dangerous times, whether someone is carrying a hand grenade. It is important to carry out such routine checks when people wish to enter this building. I cannot see the difference between the situation here and that which appertains in a court. Many people attend court for good reason. They may be parties to a case or genuinely interested in, or worried about, the outcome of a case. However, others attend from idle curiosity. Others attend to pass the time of day and others attend, I fear, in order to make mischief. Therefore, I believe that it is proper that routine checks should be carried out to ensure that people are not carrying dangerous material.

Lord Borrie: The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, made some important points which we should all take into account. Everyone who took part in the debate on the previous amendment—I believe that although the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, was present, he did not take part in that debate—appreciated the very great importance at the present time of ensuring the safety and the security of court users. I include in that everyone from judges and jurors to witnesses and, indeed, those who attend court as members of the public to observe the proceedings.

Recently there have been a number of violent incidents. In the debate on the previous amendment Members of the Committee mentioned the decline in the number of uniformed policemen in our courts and the rather extraordinary situation that the Crown Court seems to be less protected in regard to security than the magistrates' court. Members of the Committee considered that the security of those who entered court buildings was of the greatest importance.

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If the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, had been made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, I should have accused him of using words at variance with those he used with regard to the previous amendment. I do not understand how he can support Amendment No. 81—to which his name is not attached—spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart. If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart—

Lord Goodhart: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, for giving way. The two amendments are not inconsistent. Amendment No. 80 gives judges and justices an absolute right to enter court buildings without being searched. Amendment No. 81 does not give any such right to members of the general public. It merely seeks to ensure that searching is not intrusive or excessive.

Lord Borrie: It is my fault if I did not make myself clear but I was not referring to the differences between Amendments Nos. 80 and 81. I was referring to the differences between the proposition in Amendment No. 81 and the statements made by Members of the Committee on both sides and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, in the debate on the previous amendment as distinct from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, in this debate.

What we are talking about here are court buildings and the safety of those who carry out various roles—judges, witnesses and so on—in them. To hobble the power of search in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, suggests and to require "reasonable grounds to believe"—a phrase with which we are all familiar and which has been legally tested as requiring a heavy burden of proof to satisfy—before taking certain action is to go too far. If the noble Lord had used the term "reasonable suspicion", I should be happier. The powers of search we are discussing do not apply anywhere and everywhere. They apply to court buildings. Given our experience in court buildings in recent years, the lack of security and the view expressed on all sides of the Committee in the debate on the previous amendment as regards the need for a deterrent presence, preferably of uniformed security officers, it would be unwise to support Amendment No. 81.

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: Like my noble friend Lord Waddington, I am concerned about the wording of Amendment No. 81 which states:

    "An officer may carry out a search . . . only if he has reasonable grounds to believe—

    (a) that the person is in possession of an article which ought to be surrendered".

I find it difficult to see how a court security officer showing people into the public gallery of a court will be able to say whether he has reasonable grounds to believe, or even suspects, that any of them are carrying a weapon. The measure is far too restrictive as it stands.

I go wider. I cannot see what is the objection to a general search, certainly in certain circumstances. What does one mean by the word "search"? Does one

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mean a search physically carried out by an individual or a search carried out by a machine? I remind the Committee that every single member of the public, every single member of the Bar and every single instructing solicitor who walks into the Old Bailey passes through a machine and must also put his possessions through a machine to enable them to be checked. I do not think that I have ever heard any member of the Bar complain about that. I believe that that is the only way in which one can obtain the necessary security.

In a major drugs trial or a major terrorist trial is it unreasonable to search those who enter the public gallery? Must an officer limit searches to those he has reasonable grounds to believe may be carrying an article which ought to be surrendered? I say to my noble friend Lord Hunt, speaking purely for myself, that although I recognise that it is important to respect the dignity of judges and justices, I question whether it is appropriate to exclude them from search provisions. I was involved in a trial of Libyan terrorists in which all counsel were physically searched each day before we entered or left the court or re-entered it. One might say that that was unnecessary but the police obviously were not of that view. They believed that they were right to conduct those searches. To my knowledge no one complained of being searched.

I suspect that in some areas magistrates when entering court may pass through machines similar to those in place at the Old Bailey. They may also be searched as they enter court. I question whether Amendment No. 80 is necessary to uphold the dignity of judges and magistrates. Certainly, I believe that Amendment No. 81 goes much further than is desirable.

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