The chief executive of Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) has defended what some say are overzealous security measures at courts in England and Wales.

‘We can’t simply adopt a, "she looks OK but he doesn’t" approach to searches', she told Saturday's Bar Conference.

Susan Acland-Hood said she recognised there had been instances were security measures were intrusive, but stressed security staff could not pick and choose who to search. She revealed that 8,000 knives were confiscated in 2017 and 5,000 had been seized so far this year from people entering court buildings.

The fast-track entry scheme, by which solicitors will use ID cards and barristers a smartphone app to bypass security, could be extended to all courts pending a successful pilot, Acland-Hood said. However, even under the new measures one in ten ID holders (lawyers) will still be searched, she added.

Since August five courts have been piloting the system and last week, the scheme was extended to courts in Chester, Nottingham, Portsmouth, St Albans and Swansea.

The day before the conference, HMCTS confirmed that an initial investigation had established that a court security officer did ‘unintentionally use inappropriate language’ when he asked a female lawyer to ‘spread her legs’. 

A tweeted statement said: ‘He has since been suspended by his employer, pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation’. 

The response followed a tweet from barrister Becky Owen, who asked Acland-Hood why such language had been used towards her by a male security officer at Bromley Court on Friday morning.

Acland Hood also defended the decision to pilot flexible court operating hours in family and civil courts. Participation in the scheme will be voluntary.