A judge has publicly condemned HM Courts & Tribunals Service and an outsourced security company by lifting the lid on the ‘chronic’ and ‘lamentable’ situation at his court, as the spotlight continues to shine on security across the court estate.
Maidstone Combined Court’s resident judge His Honour Jeremy Carey criticised HMCTS and Mitie, the security company it had contracted to work at the court, in a notice posted outside the building this week.
In the notice, shared by court visitors on Twitter, Carey said: ‘We are all heartily sick of the chronic failure for those responsible for providing effective and efficient security measures at the front entrance of this building to do so.’
Carey said the court has a ‘defective arch’ which sets off the beeper whenever anyone walks through as well as a poor security staff attendance record.
The judge said responsibility for providing security contracted out by HMCTS to Mitie and so ‘they must provide adequate trained staff and an adequate system. It seems that at other courts up and down the country, Mitie, or other contractors, are able to do so but not at Maidstone,’ he added.
According to Carey, on Monday this week the court was supposed to have an amended search procedure in place but that it had ‘made no difference’. He added that, on Tuesday, the day the notice was posted, one of Mitie’s staff ‘refused to come to work’, which had contributed to an ‘even more lamentable’ state of affairs. Mitie denies this and says a member of staff was sick.
Carey wrote: ‘It would take me hours to recite the efforts which have been made thus far from senior presiding judge Macur, LJ, downwards, to try to improve the position and you would not be any less disgruntled if I did – and I don’t blame you.’
The security situation at courts came under the spotlight last month after the Criminal Bar Association said one of its members had their child’s marker pens and toy car confiscated for fear they could be used as a weapon. The story prompted other barristers and solicitors to come forward with their own similar experiences.
HMCTS said: ‘We’re aware of the situation and are working to rectify it - the safety of legal professionals, staff and the public who attend our courts is one of our top priorities. The resident judge is being kept informed by our staff.’
A Mitie spokesperson said: ’We are working with our client to review the queuing situation outside Maidstone Combined Court and are already providing additional security officers. With only one search arch which all court attendees must past through, there will inevitably be a queue at busy times, however, working as quickly as we can whilst ensuring the safety of everyone entering the court is our primary focus.’