Court Security in the UK | Benchmark Your Own Operation

Updated: Oct 7


As many of our readers know, Shergroup’s heritage links back to its strong connections to the UK legal system and as the oldest operating Sheriff Office in England. We can date our start date back to 1780 – just 5 years after the American War of Independence! Unlike our American cousins, our role in the English legal system has evolved in a Sheriff Department where we are responsible for civil law enforcement – not criminal court enforcement.

Even today we are attending the High Court in London on a daily basis to issue new Writs to enforce on behalf of the prestigious Office held by our CEO as an appointed and authorized High Court Enforcement Officer. In fact, Claire Sandbrook has been involved in this oldest Sheriffs Office since 1980 and has been managing and building the Shergroup brand since 2003.

As some of you may know, we made the jump from being purely an enforcement business into new lines of work which as the Americans say, “are in our wheelhouse”. Security was one of the new services we created in 2007 to complement our role as Sheriffs and High Court Enforcement Officers.

It was in this vein, that we blogged about “Tampongate” where an insensitive approach to the contents of a female lawyer’s bag was highlighted by Claire. The story originated in The Law Society Gazette, which is the weekly journal of The Law Society of England and Wales, so it was a good reliable source for the story. Having been through the same sort of security check herself and had her bag checked by court security officer working in the role of court security guards, Claire was a little surprised at the crass approach. To have any item of a personal nature tipped out on a bench for the world to see is not pleasant and this is what happened to the poor person in this reported story.

However, as the story was out there, we looked to see what any follow up might be. Clearly it raised eyebrows and had to be put in context of a proper risk assessment, surveillance as part of ongoing security checks. The follow came from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) who procure the guarding service at the High Court. This large government agency which supplies staff to the all the courts in the UK, has started a regular bulletin about all things happening in the UK courts. Perhaps they read Claire’s “Tampongate” blog and decided to take some positive action.

In this blog piece, HMCTS, shared some insight from a court support officer who was explaining the role of security in her workplace and how it keeps and her environment safe from threats. It’s a very straightforward read, nothing too technical, and many of our readers can relate to what she is saying. She writes “Most items removed are brought in by people without malicious intent – people unwittingly caught out with pocket knives or tools they might use in their jobs. Other everyday items, which you wouldn’t typically think of as a risk, are also confiscated – things like perfumes, umbrellas, and bottles of makeup. That’s because items that might not be classed as an offensive weapon when found on the street must be handled with extra caution inside a criminal court, where somebody else could use it to cause harm or disruption”.

You can read the short blog in full here (see http://bit.ly/30cU1vt) and it got us thinking.

Does your organisation need to be considering checking for items such as 3” pocket knives, perfume bottles (which could contain acid) and even umbrellas as potential weapons? Do you carry out bag searches for visitors to your premises? Have you carried out a full risk assessment to check for what level of security checks, UK security breach could and should be done to keep people and property safe? You don’t need to be running a court to benchmark your own security operation, benchmark security, increase security standards. You could be a hotel, a theme park, a lawyer’s office open to the public – everyday items can become weapons when someone has a grudge against you, your organization, or life in general! In today’s world people view it as their right to complain and some people take that to uncomfortable levels resulting in injury or death. You know that, we know that and everyday you see it on the news.

A risk assessment should give you a workable plan, and assess the risk of something nasty happening in an objective way. May be you don’t have anything to worry about or may be you need to make tweaks to processing your visitors so they leave potential items at the front desk to prevent an escalating situation.

If you need support on how to do this book a call with Claire and her team to discuss how to go about tackling workplace safety so you anticipate risks and get a plan on how to deal with them. And well done to HMCTS for sharing this insight. Good to know 😊

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