Court Security Act 2005

The objects of the Act are to provide for the secure and orderly operation of courts and to provide judicial officers and security officers with functions and authorities for that purpose: s 3.

Set out below is a summary of the main features of the Act.

[50-000] Definitions

“Court premises” means the premises or place where a court is held and includes a forecourt, yard, parking area, toilet facility and other area used with the premises, an entrance or exit from the premises where the court is held and where an audio/visual link is used: s 4.

“Security officer” means a sheriff or person appointed by the sheriff under the Act: s 4.

[50-020] Entry and use of court premises

1. 

Members of the public

Subject to any law as to who may be present in a court or court premises, or any implied jurisdiction of the court to regulate its own proceedings, a member of the public has a right to enter and remain in an area of court premises open to the public if:

(a) 

the orders of the judicial officer have been complied with, and

(b) 

directions of the security officer have been complied with: s 6.

2. 

Journalists

Journalists can enter and stay in court premises open to the public that is outside the building in which the court is housed or sitting to make a media report provided they are not obstructing or impeding others from access to the building: s 6(2).

Power to close court

If a judicial officer considers it necessary for securing order and safety in court premises or a part of court premises, the judicial officer may order members or specified members of the public to leave any part of the court premises or may order they not be admitted to the court premises or part of the premises.

It is an offence for a person to contravene an order of a judicial officer (maximum penalty 50 pu): s 7.

Possession of restricted items in court premises

It is an offence for a person without reasonable excuse to be in possession of a restricted item while in court premises. Restricted items includes firearms and knives: s 8. Penalty from 5 pu through to 20 pu and/or 2 years depending on prior convictions for possession of a knife.

Exemptions apply to exhibits, police officers and where a judicial officer has given approval.

Use of recording devices in court premises

It is an offence for a person to use a recording device to record sound or images in court premises. Maximum penalty of 200 pu and/or 12 months: s 9.

The prohibition is subject to a number of exceptions including devices that have been expressly permitted by the judicial officer, those for transcribing court proceedings and use of recording devices by a journalist exercising a right under s 6(2). That right applies to an area outside the building in which the court is housed or sitting. This right does not include a right to record proceedings without the permission of the judicial officer.

It would not prohibit a person using a mobile phone that has a recording function from making a call but would prohibit the use of the phone to record court proceedings and would prohibit taking photos in court premises (see definition of court premises above).

[50-040] Court security powers

Section 10 outlines the power of a security officer to require a person entering or within court premises to submit to a scanner search, a personal search, to stop a vehicle being driven in or within the court premises, to search a car, to produce the thing detected for inspection, and to require the person to answer questions about the thing found.

Section 10 also outlines the various preconditions for the search, for example, that the need for a belief on reasonable grounds that the person possesses a restricted item (eg firearm, knife) or offensive implement, the restrictions on who may carry out the search and the age of the person who may be searched.

Power to confiscate restricted items and other things

A security officer may in court premises take possession of a thing the officer has reasonable grounds to believe is a restricted item, offensive implement, a recording device or recording medium used in a recording device that is used in contravention of s 9: s 12.

The security officer must consider whether to return it or hand it to the police depending on an assessment as to whether the item is further required and whether it is lawful for the person to have possession of the item. The section sets out the various appeal provisions open to a person following confiscation.

[50-060] Power to ask for identification particulars

A security officer may, on providing certain information to the person and giving a warning as required under the Act, require a person entering or in court premises to disclose their name, address and reason for the visit to the court premises, if the officer believes on reasonable grounds, the person is carrying a restricted item or offensive implement or that the person has committed an offence in court premises: s 13.

A failure to comply with the request is an offence. Penalty 2 pu.

[50-080] Power to give reasonable directions

A security officer may give a direction to a person in court premises to reduce or eliminate obstruction of another person, harassment, intimidation or conduct that is causing or likely to cause fear to another person: s 14.

[50-100] Powers of arrest

A security officer can, without a warrant, arrest a person in court premises for any offence under the Court Security Act: s 16(1). There are various restrictions on the power of arrest outside court premises: s 16(2).

Use of force

A security officer exercising a power under the Act may use such force as is reasonably necessary to exercise the power.

[50-120] Limitations on the exercise of powers

Sections 19 and 20 detail the limitations and safeguards in the exercise of powers by the security officer.