Court security efforts pay off

By Joanne Carroll

Lockett will reappear in court on December 6. Photo / NZ Herald
Lockett will reappear in court on December 6. Photo / NZ Herald

One of the men accused of firearm charges after the Urewera raids has been charged with taking an offensive weapon to the Auckland District Court.

The charge comes as Justice Department staff believe the presence of weapons in courts has been dropping - although one person in almost 200 is still likely to be carrying a weapon.

Jamie Beattie Lockett, 50, was stopped at the electronic security screening at the court on October 12. Officers allegedly found a rope with a solid metal ball woven into the end.

Lockett is also charged with intimidating an Auckland District Court security guard with the threat: "I'll come back and smash you."

He will reappear on December 6. Lockett's Urewera charges were dropped in September this year.

The Ministry of Justice court and judicial security director Mike Tomkins said vigilance was climbing with 11 new court security officers being recruited this year, taking the total to 95.

He said staff dealt with 61 incidents involving threats to court security staff between October 2010 and September this year. They also reported 59 incidents of verbal abuse, 37 weapons were discovered and 415 people removed from the court in the same time period.

"The Ministry of Justice takes the safety of all court users seriously, and is progressively rolling out enhanced security at courts around New Zealand, using $9 million funding made available over four years in the 2009 Budget. The screening effort has seen the ratio of items detected fall from one item per 150 people screened in January 2011, to one item per 190 people screened in May 2011, which indicates screening is changing the behaviour of those attending court," he said.

Manukau Court security team leader Mike Raynes has worked in the high risk and challenging court environment for the past decade. A typical day involves dealing with youth gangs, victims, witnesses and supporters of defendants.

"Ten years ago, Manukau would definitely have been one of the highest risk courthouses in the country. But that has changed dramatically over recent years as we have moved to a single point of entry for the public and using full-time security screening equipment similar to that used at airports.

"I remember one chap a few years ago who turned up here on his horse and attempted to ride it into the court. You could say he wasn't particularly a fan of the court system and he seemed to think that appearing in court on his horse was going to make some form of statement.

"I had a colleague who had a lot of experience with horses and he was sure that it would never intentionally trample over a person, so we just approached it and took the bridle while we explained to the man that he was going to have to leave his horse outside. We tied it up to a tree and kept an eye on it until he came out of the courtroom and then he went on his way. That was certainly a one-off situation," he said.

Courting trouble

In the past year, New Zealand court staff have reported:

* 59 incidents of verbal abuse
* 37 weapons
* 415 people needed to be removed from court

- Herald on Sunday

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