No more sip tests? ID card pilot to help jump the court queue by Law Gazette

Barristers and solicitors will be given electronic ID cards to allow them to bypass onerous security measures in place at courts around the country.Both the Law Society and Bar Council have confirmed a pilot scheme is ‘very likely’ to take place next month at a select group of courts. If successful it could be rolled out nationally.Security measures have been a talking point in the legal profession for several months, with court users often taking to social media to share experiences of lengthy delays.In August last year, HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) rolled out a scheme requiring anyone entering the court, including solicitors and barristers, to take a sip from a drink they wanted to bring into a court building in order to prove its contents were harmless.It is understood that if the pilot scheme is successful solicitors and barristers would be exempt both from that scheme and general searches.It is likely that the ID card will be provided via a mobile phone but that hard copies may also be made available.Law Society president Christina Blacklaws, said: ‘We have been speaking to HMCTS officials about the delays our members face in clearing security and we support the plans for a pilot scheme.‘It is clear that improved access for regular court users could lead to efficiency improvements and this will benefit the court service, and lawyers alike.’The Gazette understands that the Bar representative body the Bar Council has been speaking extensively to HMCTS officials about it and that they are sympathetic.Andrew Walker QC, chair of the bar, said: ’A high level of security in our courts is essential, but this should not prevent barristers and other lawyers gaining easier and speedier entry so that they can do their jobs more efficiently and with less hindrance.  They are delivering a vital public service, and few other professionals are required to waste time in lengthy queues and to pass through onerous and intrusive security checks every day simply in order to carry out their work.’Courts differ in their approach to security at the moment, and we will be looking to HMCTS to ensure there is a consistent approach both to the use of these new identity cards and their security arrangements, including what items barristers may and may not bring with them into our court buildings.’

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