Weapon seizures at courts revealed
Published 01/09/2014 | 00:27
Thousands of knives, nearly 50 firearms and more than 100 replica guns have been seized at courts in England and Wales in the last two years, new figures have shown.
Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) insisted it took security "extremely seriously" and had "robust" systems in place to protect court users after the number of confiscated weapons was revealed.
In a Freedom of Information (FOI) response to the Press Association, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) revealed 14,094 knives were seized by court security staff between April 2012 and May this year.
They included 6,402 knives with blades longer than three inches and another 7,692 "legally held" blades less than three inches long.
Some 49 "genuine" firearms were confiscated at courts, while a further 113 replica guns were also taken from people entering court buildings, according to the figures.
A HMCTS spokeswoman said: "HMCTS takes the issue of security within courts extremely seriously and has a robust security and safety system to protect all court users and the Judiciary.
"This system includes mandatory bag searches, metal detectors and surveillance cameras, as well as court security officers who have legislative powers to protect all those in the court building.
"The powers of the court security officers include the ability to restrain and remove people from the building should there be a need.
"It is an offence to be in possession of a knife with a blade of more than three inches. If an individual is caught trying to enter any court building with such a knife or gun, the police will be called and appropriate action will be taken."
Under current laws, owners of confiscated knives with blades less than three inches can apply to have them returned.
However, the MoJ did not reveal how many knives were returned to their owners, stating that it would not exceed the cost limits under FOI laws to contact more than 500 court sites to discover the figure.
A HMCTS spokeswoman said: "The owner of a knife, no matter what length would not have them returned to them on leaving the premises. The return of legally held knives (blades under three inches) would require the owner to write to the appropriate manager on site, requesting its return.
"HMCTS does not hold information centrally on the number of requests made for the return of legally held knives."
Any seized firearms would be handed over to police, she added.
Some 2,510 knives with blades less than three inches were confiscated between January and May, along with 4,694 in 2013 and 488 between April and December 2012, according to the figures.
Another 1,002 knives with blades more than three inches long were seized from January to May, along with 4,504 in 2012 and 896 between April and December 2012.
Twelve genuine guns and 10 replica firearms were confiscated between January and May. Thirty four real guns and 54 replicas were taken from people entering court buildings in 2013.
Meanwhile, three guns were seized between April and December 2012 along with 49 replica firearms.
The MoJ said it did not hold figures prior to April 2012 or for the remaining months in 2014.