A scheme allowing lawyers to enter courts and tribunals without a full security search is to be rolled out nationally after a successful pilot, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has announced.
Registration for the national scheme has begun with the Bar Council and will continue with a “phased rollout programme”.
HMCTS said it was working with “other legal associations” that wanted to participate to open the scheme for their members “in due course”.
The ‘professional-user access scheme’ followed widespread complaints about both the length of security queues and how they were being conducted, although HMCTS said last year that thousands of knives are removed every year from people entering court buildings.
The scheme has already been trialled at 10 courts, with 86% of those surveyed saying it improved entry.
The 10 are the magistrates’ courts in Brighton and Tameside, Crown Courts in Chester, Nottingham, Southwark, St Albans, Swansea and Wood Green, and combined courts in Maidstone and Portsmouth.
It will now be rolled out to an additional five courts this month – the Crown Courts in Manchester Minshull Street, York, Reading, Guildford and Cardiff – with ahead of national coverage being completed next year.
Using a secure ID app, those registered can enter courts and tribunals without the need for a full security search each time, although random searches will be carried out to make sure the scheme is working as intended.
HMCTS said that, while tightened security procedures introduced last year would continue, “the entry scheme intends to ease queues to get into court and tribunal buildings, thereby freeing up security staff time to focus on other court users”.
Justice minister Lucy Frazer said: “We have worked closely with the legal sector to ensure this scheme is a success without compromising the security of our courts and tribunals.
“Expanding it across the estate will mean professionals can get on more quickly with their work.”
HMCTS said that, simultaneously, “a wider effort is being made to make sure there is clear and consistent information about search procedures when entering courts and tribunals”.
Under the banner of ‘Expect, Inspect, Respect’, HMCTS is informing all court users about mandatory bag searches and archway detectors.
The senior presiding judge for England and Wales, Lady Justice Macur, said: “Everyone who works in courts and tribunals is responsible for ensuring our buildings are safe and secure places. HMCTS security processes at our courts and tribunals are a vital part of this.
“Security officers identify and confiscate numerous dangerous items every year. They carry out an important, and often difficult, role and should be treated with the respect and courtesy that all court users should expect in return.”