Hundreds of dangerous weapons seized in court

Hundreds of dangerous weapons were seized at crown courts across England last year, including more than 50 at two courts at which Wigan suspects appear.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 9:59 am
Security staff seized more than 800 blades and other weapons at security gates in 2018

Security staff seized more than 800 blades and other weapons at security gates in 2018.

A leading knife-crime awareness charity, The Ben Kinsella Trust, said the figures were “very worrying”.

Figures show that at Manchester Crown Courts Crown Square and Minshull Street no fewer than 51 blades were together seized in 2018, although in the latter court’s case that is 30 fewer than were confiscated the previous years.

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No figures are available for Bolton and Liverpool Crown Courts where the majority of Wigan suspects appear.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said anyone found with a serious weapon “will be restrained and the police will be called”.

There were 694 knives seized at crown courts last year, a 23 per cent rise on the year before.

Among them were 55 knives with blades over three inches long, in breach of the legal limit for carrying in public.

There were 639 knives seized which had blades of less than three inches, as well as 110 bladed objects and 11 other weapons, a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed.

Small knives can be returned to their owner on written request.

Winchester Crown Court had the most weapons seized in 2018, with 95 confiscations.

The MoJ had originally refused to reveal the figures, but was forced to do so after the JPIMedia Data Unit lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner.

And the true number of seizures may be much higher, as the information released by the MOJ did not include crown courts housed within combined court centres, such as those at Leeds, Derby or Bradford.

Patrick Green, chief executive of knife-crime awareness charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, said the figures were concerning: “With England in the grip of a knife crime epidemic it is very worrying to see that even our courts are not immune from this scourge,” he said.

“It is concerning that some people feel the need to intentionally bring a knife to court even when they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be caught.

“This illustrates how normalised knife carrying can become. It highlights that more needs to be done to remove knives and those who carry them are removed from our streets.”

Anyone entering a court building in England must go through security gates where staff search bags and use metal detectors to find and seize dangerous objects.

But questions have been raised over the effectiveness of these searches.

In April this year, a man died after dousing himself with acid while in the dock at the Inner London Crown Court.

Marc Marshall, 55, poured a noxious substance onto his face shortly after being sentenced for fraud offences. The incident sparked a review of court security measures.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service said its security system is continually monitored and those who enter court and tribunals are subject to mandatory searches each time.

A spokesperson said: “With stringent security measures now in place, including mandatory bag checks and metal detectors, finds of large knives have fallen by over 90 per cent in the past five years.

“Inevitably, we are also confiscating more everyday items like nail scissors and cutlery that people keep in their bags.

“Anyone found with a serious weapon will be restrained and the police will be called.”

A HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesperson said: “With stringent security measures now in place, including mandatory bag checks and metal detectors, finds of large knives have fallen by over 90 per cent in the past five years.

“Inevitably, we are also confiscating more everyday items like nail scissors and cutlery that people keep in their bags. Anyone found with a serious weapon will be restrained and the police will be called.”

All knives or blades are seized regardless of size or type.

Knives or blades over 3ins, fixed blade knives or any blade that may be illegal to carry are confiscated and referred immediately to the Police for their consideration and action under Section 1 of the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 and section 139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service has worked with security contractors to clarify the categorisation of items seized and items such as scissors are now categorised as Other Types of Blades.

Knives or blades under 3ins are confiscated and include pen knives, multi-tools, key rings and cutlery. Blades under 3ins are returned following a written request from the owner.

We employ Court Security Officers (CSO), who have the power to restrain and remove people from the building should there be a need.Those who enter court and tribunals are subject to mandatory searches each time. People will be asked to take a sip of drinks, with the exception of unopened cans or cartons.

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

Patrick Green, CEO, The Ben Kinsella Trust said: “With England in the grip of a knife crime epidemic it is very worrying to see that even our courts are not immune from this scourge.

“It is concerning that some people feel the need to intentionally bring a knife to court even when they know that there is a high likelihood that they will be caught.

“This illustrates how normalised knife carrying can become. It highlights that more needs to be done to remove knives and those who carry them are removed from our streets.

“To do this we need to tackle the root causes of knife crime and start by making sure our young people are educated about the dangers associated with carrying a knife.”