More than 1,000 weapons seized at Bristol courts

ALMOST 100 knives, 1,000 tools and 300 cans and bottles of alcohol have been seized by security staff at Bristol courts.

Defendants, witnesses and supporters have attempted to smuggle an arsenal of knifes, screwdrivers, Allen keys and nail files past staff working at Bristol’s Crown and Magistrates Courts between May 2014 and 2015.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the Bristol Post has revealed a total of 84 knives under three inches were confiscated from people entering the magistrates court during the 12 month period, in addition to three attempts to sneak blades over three inches.

In comparison, there were 13 attempts to conceal knife blades longer than three inches in to crown court, alongside the confiscation of three fixed blades in the period.

This follows a case in North Avon Magistrates Court, Yate, four years ago when a teenager stabbed security officer with a blade made out of a toothbrush handle.

A spokesman from the Public and Commercial Services Union which represents court staff said: “Court staff and the public have been let down by the government, with scores of courthouses closing and cuts to legal aid.

“These things fuel the sense of a justice system that is remote and not set up in the interests of ordinary people, and staff all too often bear the brunt.”

Everyone who enters the Bristol courts is asked to pass through a security gate and can be checked with a hand-held detecting device.

Bags are searched and security guards ask the individual whether they are carrying any banned items.

During the 12 month period 71 cameras and nine recorders were seized at Bristol Crown Court.

Bristol Magistrates also seized 917 “tools” – which include bike helmets, nail files and any item which security staff deem to be a risk – in comparison to 48 at crown.

No one attempted to smuggle genuine or replica firearms.

A spokesman from HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it takes the issue of security within courts “extremely seriously” and has “a robust security and safety system to protect all court users and the judiciary.”

They added: “This system includes mandatory bag searches, metal detectors and surveillance cameras, as well as court security officers who have legislative powers to protect all those in the court building.

“The powers of the court security officers include the ability to restrain and remove people from the building should there be a need.

“Our security system is continually monitored to ensure that it is effective and proportionate and mitigates against the risks faced.”

Last year Parliament revealed that the number of contraband items detected at courts in England and Wales more than doubled in the past three years.

In total 3,713 knives were seized across the country in the financial year 2013/14, compared to 1,574 the year before.

At the time, former shadow justice secretary Sadiq Kjan, told Parliament: “It is staggering that the number of offensive weapons in our courts has doubled in just one year.

“Under David Cameron our justice system is in crisis, and is increasingly violent and dangerous for staff and court users alike.

“Much more needs to be done to stop weapons being brought into our courts as well as protecting our hard working staff.”

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