Courts: Safety

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 21st July 2015.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to ensure the safety of court and security staff following the attack on a custody officer at Blackfriars Crown Court on 29 June 2015.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The incident at Blackfriars Crown Court occurred within the custody suite, which is only routinely accessible to defendants and Prisoner Custody Officer (PCO) personnel. Controlled access for Court staff and Court Security personnel is permitted but is subject to a risk assessment by the Escort Contractor. There are existing security arrangements in place to ensure the safety of court users and staff when high risk offenders are moved from custody areas to court hearing rooms. These are managed by a risk assessment process that include moving the case to a secure dock, escort and supervision by additional Prisoner Custody Officers, and application of restraints in the dock with the agreement of a Judge. For defendant/witnesses required to give testimony from the witness stand an application for the use of restraints can also be made to the Judge. There is also a framework of security controls in place within courts, which operate on a day to day basis, to protect staff, users and the judiciary from harm.

The National Offender Management Service is currently undertaking a full investigation into the incident at Blackfriars. The incident is also being investigated by the MET Police and an individual has been charged with murder. The NOMS investigation is due to report shortly and it would not be appropriate to comment further in light of the ongoing criminal investigation. Escort contractors are also reviewing their procedures in light of the incident.

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