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Lord Donaldson of Lymington: As regards Amendment No. 80, it would be necessary, if it were generally acceptable, to look at the drafting with a view to protecting the position of a security officer who does not believe that someone claiming to be a magistrate or a judge is a magistrate or a judge, or has doubts about that. The measure should certainly be limited to people whom the officer concerned is satisfied are judges or magistrates. I do not think that we need bother with the phrase concerning entering
By way of pure anecdote and perhaps to enliven the proceedings, I shall recall when I was the judge in an IRA trial at the Old Bailey and was accompanied by an armed detective sergeant. Of course, as a judge I entered through the judges' entrance. When I was in the back corridors, I was met by a uniformed attendant employed by the Corporation of the City of London, who was obviously very doubtful about the whole situation. He accepted that I was the judge, and I said, "This chap's my minder", or words to that effect. He replied, "Well, I'll have to look at that". The detective
Lord Swinfen: The question of terrorist and major drugs trials has already been discussed in relation to Amendment No. 81, so I shall not go into that, but I would like to take the opportunity to raise a question about Clause 47(2). It states:
Lord Bassam of Brighton: It has been a helpful debate on the amendment. We ought to start by reminding ourselves of the purpose of the provisions, which I take to be that we are all concernedin a sense, I suppose that we are putting that concern into the legislationto ensure public protection and safety. We need to take measures that are, to use the expressions of the day, proportionate, reasonable in the circumstances and appropriate to the demands of the time.
I was drawn to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Carlisle. He was right, in that in general terms few of us have any objection at all to being searched. I take comfort when I am searched after going through the security barriers when I board an aeroplane, because it makes me feel more content that I am likely to be entering a safer environment on the other side.
We know that courts can be disrupted and that there have been incidents. We are well aware of the terrorist threat that can confront us, so what we have to do is to put in place measures that work, are flexible, operable and also sensitive. That is plainly what we are trying to do.
Clause 47 gives a court security officer power to search a person on entry or who is already in a court building, and to search any article in such a person's possession. It is worth saying that that power is in line with the existing powers enjoyed by court security officers, so it is based on something that we know works well, although it is no doubt not perfect. Clause 48 confers a power to exclude, remove or restrain persons who are in a court building, if it is necessary to do so for specified reasons.
Amendments Nos. 80 and 81 may not contradict each other; one could argue that they cover adjacent areas. They would raise some issues of interpretation. The new clause proposed in Amendment No. 80 would reduce the scope of the powers currently in place by preventing their exercise in respect of judges or justices of the peace who were present in, or sought to enter, a court building for the purposes of their duties.
As we heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, in general judges and justices of the peace enter a court building through a specially designated entrance, and the current search policy is that those who enter in that way are not searched. We have no doubt that that will continue to be the case. However, there may be occasions when judges or justices of the peace enter a building through the public entrance. In that situation, the policy is that they will be searched in the same way as all others using that entrance. That seems plainly sensible and right. Why should they be singled out or discriminated in favour of in any way? As some Members of the Committee have said, failure to search a judge or justice of the peace, who are often not recognisable as such, on using a public entrance to a court building could provoke complaints and accusations of discrimination from members of the public who are subsequently searched.
We appreciate that there will rarely, if ever, be occasions when a court security officer will need to exercise his powers of exclusion, removal or restraint in respect of a judge or a justice of the peace. As we all know, all judges are as sober as judges, and we would not expect them to be otherwise. They are people of good character. Equally, we appreciate that occasions on which searches will lead to the surrender or seizure of weapons will be exceptional. However, a universal policy on search, removal, exclusion and restraint is necessary to retain and promote public confidence.
Amendment No. 81 proposes that a subsection be added to the Bill restricting the ability of court security officers to carry out searches of those in, or seeking to enter, court premises. It would allow searches only in instances where court security officers had reasonable grounds to suspect that that person or some other person was in or was likely to be in possession of an item which might jeopardise the maintenance of order in the court building, put the safety of any person in the court building at risk or be evidence of an offence.
Members of the Committee may wish to note that the clause is in line with the existing powers enjoyed by court security officers in the magistrates' court under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 and court security officers under Section 80(1)(c) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. We are not aware of any evidence that the current "search of all" powers applied in the court are unacceptable to court users. We have not had complaints on that. The amendment therefore would represent a diminution of powers currently enjoyed, and would actively reduce the ability of court security guards to search those in, or seeking to enter, court buildings. Is that wise at this time? I do not think so.
Figures indicate that in excess of 22,500 firearms, knives and tools are collected each year as a result of the automatic search powers currently enjoyed by court security officers. That is a pretty devastating
We of course recognise the importance of abiding by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guards against unnecessary interference with an individual's right to respect for private life.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: We are seeking to absorb the statistic that the Minister threw at us. Rather than stating again that 22,000 guns, knives and other implements are confiscated, will he give us a breakdown of them, if only to reassure us that they are not in the main exceedingly serious implements? If they were, the approach necessary would have to change.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: When I first looked at the notes, I wanted to give such a breakdown, but I cannot. We can assume that there will be few firearms in that figure, but such items have been recovered at the entrances to courtrooms.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: Perhaps I can assist the Minister. It may be that some items are a pair of nail scissors or a penknife or something minor. If he cannot give the Committee any figures now perhaps he will do so before we reach Report stage.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: I have stood in a security queue at the Old Bailey when the person in front of me placed a flick knife in the tray and the policeman at the far end did a double take. He said, "What on earth do you think you are doing, I can arrest you for that", to which the man said, "I didn't think there was anything wrong in carrying it into the Old Bailey".
Lord Bassam of Brighton: All those points are helpful in underlining the importance of court security services. The vast majority of items will be knives. Far too many people carry knives in such circumstances and we must guard against that.
We take a serious view of the matter and that is why we believe that the powers in the Bill are right and appropriate. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate; it has underlined the importance that we place on the matter. While I understand the spirit in which both sets of amendments have been moved, I believe that we have the correct balance. As matters stand, the system works. The powers that we seek to continue are accurately described in the Bill as it stands. To depart from what we have drafted, particularly as suggested by Amendment No. 81, could have a serious impact upon court security.
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