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Byline: Kat Baldwyn

SECURITY staff at Birmingham courts have seized a shocking 40,000 weapons from crime suspects, witnesses and others attending proceedings. Two live firearms were among the haul seized at the city's crown court over the last three years.

Three replica firearms were con-fiscated at Birmingham magistrates' court.

And a dagger-style fixed bladed knife was among the most alarming finds taken by the security staff at the youth court.

Security staff called police at least 269 times to investigate attempts at smuggling guns and knives with blades of more than three inches into the courts.

Tools, including hammers and screwdrivers, were also recorded among the court confiscations by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The total weapons figure include items which security staff feared could be used as a weapon or to disrupt court proceedings, such as umbrellas and aerosols.

The massive haul was among a total of 44,350 'prohibited items' seized by security staff.

Those attending criminal cases also tried to smuggle in 688 alcoholic drinks. Security staff seized 19 bottles and cans of booze in the youth court. A total of 2,766 cameras and videos and voice tapes were also confiscated to prevent proceedings being illegally recorded.

Crime reduction charity Nacro said the findings show that early intervention is imperative to stop offending.

HMCTS, which released the data, for January 2009 to August 2011, under the Freedom of Information Act, said it takes the issue of security within courts "extremely seriously".

A spokesman said: "There is a rigorous system in place, including mandatory bag searches, bag scanners, metal detectors and surveillance cameras, to ensure the safety of all court users."

He said that police would be called if anyone was caught trying to enter a court building with a gun or knife with a blade of more than three inches.

In the case of knives that have a blade shorter than three inches, the owner is given 28 days to apply to the court to reclaim it. If the court considers that the knife was lawfully held then the owner can reclaim the item, he added.

Sally Benton, head of policy at Nacro, said the fact that items were being seized at youth court shows work needs to be done to address the behaviour of young people.

"At Nacro we take violent crime very seriously, but this is an issue which requires an intelligent response," she said.

"Simply locking up these young people won't end the cycle of offending, in many cases it will just delay the next offence.

"Courts around the country need to have the ability to refer young offenders to intensive and targeted intervention programmes which challenge young people and get them to take responsibility for their actions and look for positive solutions to address their problems.

"It also means investing in measures which get in there early and target the most at risk young people in order to steer them away from crime. By the time they go out on the streets to cause trouble it can often be too late."

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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 15, 2011
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