Solicitors will be able to bypass security at some courts from next month, the government confirmed today. A 12-week pilot scheme, allowing accredited legal professionals to have direct entrance to courts, will be piloted in five courts. Lawyers who regularly use those courts can register from today.
The courts are; Brighton Magistrates’ Court, Maidstone Combined Court; Southwark Crown Court, Tameside Magistrates’ Court and Wood Green Crown Court in London. If successful, the scheme will be extended nationally. Random searches will still place, the government said.
Last month it was revealed that an ID card was being considered for barristers. The Gazette then subsequently revealed that solicitors would also be part of the programme and that a pilot was expected to be set-up in the coming weeks.
The ‘professional entry scheme’ is intended to ease queues at court buildings and allow swifter access for legal professionals who come to court regularly.
Security measures have been a talking point in the legal profession for several months, with court users often taking to social media to share experiences of lengthy delays. In August last year, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) began requiring anyone entering the court, including solicitors and barristers, to take a sip from a drink they wanted to bring into a court building to prove its contents were harmless.
According to the pilot announcement, barristers will identify themselves with a Bar Council app while Law Society members will show an approved photo ID.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘Easier access will benefit our members and we welcome this sensible initiative. We have spoken to HMCTS officials about the delays practitioners can face in clearing security and we hope the pilot will pave the way for a permanent system of easier access.’
Random searches on a proportion of the participants in the pilot will be carried out, HMCTS said. Courts hearing terrorist or high security cases will still require lawyers to undergo security checks.