Garden Court Chambers statement on security searches at Stratford Magistrates' Court

Wednesday 8 May 2024

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Garden Court Chambers note with concern the reports of invasive searches that are said to have taken place at Stratford Magistrates' Court, including the examples set out in the letter sent by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association (LCCSA) to the Head of Security at HMCTS on 23rd April 2024. We are unaware of any examples of lawyers bringing items into court that have been used to endanger or disrupt proceedings. Subjecting professional court users to intrusive searches of themselves or their personal items is unlikely to be justifiable, and this often disproportionately affects women lawyers. Whilst we understand that there has been no concluded investigation of the reports, we are of the view that there can never be any justification for sexual assault under the guise of a search, as set out in some of the accounts provided to the LCCSA.

We further note the report of a serious assault by security staff against a duty solicitor attending Stratford Magistrates' Court on 1st May 2024, as detailed in the LCCSA’s letter sent to HMCTS the following day. We welcome LCCSA’s concern to ensure the safety of court users and endorse the call for a full and independent investigation of events. HMCTS are required to provide a safe working environment for everyone who attends court and all court users are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.

As a Chambers we have a duty to ensure our pupils’ safety and wellbeing. In light of these reports, we consider that we would risk breaching those obligations should we require them to attend Stratford Magistrates' Court without the issues identified above having been fully investigated and resolved. As such, we shall not be sending our pupils to this court until that happens.

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