A pilot scheme enabling legal professionals to enter courts and tribunals without the need to pass through security is to be rolled out across England and Wales - but only for barristers initially.
The ‘professional-user access scheme’ has already been piloted at 10 courts and will be extended to an additional five courts this month. HM Courts & Tribunals Service said it expects the service to be operating nationwide by next year. The five new courts will be; Manchester Minshull Street, York Crown Court, Reading Crown Court, Guildford Crown Court and Cardiff Crown Court.
Registration for the national scheme has already begun with the Bar Council, whose members have been entering court using a specially designed app. HMCTS said it will be working with other legal bodies in ’due course’.
The scheme allows lawyers to enter courts without the need for a full security search each time. Security procedures will continue for non-legal professionals and random searches will still be carried out.
Lawyers had previously reported numerous examples of overzealous security measures.
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.’
Richard Atkins QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘A lot of hard work and investment has gone into developing this scheme, It will be of immense benefit to members of the Bar who will hopefully now gain quicker access to the courts and tribunals in which they work and perform a vital public duty.’
At the same time, a wider effort is being made to make sure there is clear information about search procedures when entering courts and tribunals. Under the banner of ‘Expect, Inspect, Respect’, HMCTS is informing court users about the use of mandatory bag searches and archway detectors.
Lady Justice Macur, senior presiding judge for England and Wales, 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.’