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Courts Act 2003


124.The Act introduces a new court security regime for any place where court business may be conducted by the Supreme Court, county courts and magistrates’ courts and to which the public have access. The impetus for this Part of the Act arises primarily from the Auld Review, which noted the gradual withdrawal of a police presence in the courts and the disparity of security provision and security powers between the magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court. Against the backdrop of intimidation of witnesses and violence or threat of violence against the judiciary and court staff, the Review found that “the overall picture is disturbing”.

125.Currently court security is provided in the magistrates’ courts, the Crown Court, some county courts, the High Court, the Court of Appeal and some tribunals, although the administration of court security is regulated differently.

126.Only in the magistrates’ courts is there statutory provision for court security where there is a mix of in-house officers employed by the MCCs, and contract officers who are procured through service contracts with private agencies. The Criminal Justice Act 1991, Part 4 (CJA 1991) sets out the statutory provision dealing with court security in the magistrates’ courts in relation to the provision of these officers, their functions and powers (sections 76 – 78).

127.There are currently no legislative provisions for security in the remaining courts. One of the key policy intentions behind the legislation is to ensure that guards employed in all courts enjoy the same powers and responsibilities.

128.In developing the proposals to which the sections now contained in Part 4 give effect the Department took into account the various debates in Parliament on the Police Reform Act 2002. Particular comments and concerns were raised about empowering civilian forces with ‘police’ powers of fine and detention and the provisions of existing legislation and common law (particularly regarding the power of arrest). Part 4 is designed to provide clear, additional powers to combat the level of disorder faced in court buildings, and thereby help increase public safety while on court premises and public confidence in the justice system. But no new or statutory powers of arrest are conferred on court security officers.

129.Court security officers will, like all citizens, have power to make an arrest under section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the common law. Section 24 provides that “any person” may arrest without a warrant anyone who is committing or who he has reasonable grounds to suspect is committing an arrestable offence. Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 confers a power on a person to use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders.

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