Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill

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Mr. Browne: Small but perfectly formed the amendment may be, but I am afraid that I must

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disappoint the hon. Member for Reigate. The best way to explain why is by reference to the powers that the Bill already provides for security officers.

Under clause 79, court security officers have the powers to search persons entering a courthouse and to exclude or remove any person who refuses to permit such a search or who refuses to surrender an article that the court security officer reasonably believes may jeopardise the maintenance of order in the courthouse. They may also exclude or remove any person from a courthouse or restrain any person in a courthouse where reasonably necessary to maintain order. Court security officers also have the power, as officers of the court, to detain a person misbehaving in court until the court has risen.

The clause also provides that a court security officer must act in accordance with any instructions from a person in authority. That can be a judge, coroner or magistrate exercising any function in the courthouse, or a member of the court service who is authorised to give him instructions. The powers in the clause are based on the powers of equivalent court security officers in England and Wales under sections 77 and 78 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991, which do not contain provision for the power of arrest. We are not aware of any need being demonstrated for the power in England and Wales, and I hasten to add that the provisions in England and Wales are contained in an Act passed in 1991. We all know who was in government then.

Court security officers have powers of arrest in relation to more serious offences under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, in particular article 26. We believe that the Bill gives court security officers sufficient powers to enable them to maintain order in the court room or surrounding court premises. As the Bill already provides that court security officers must act in accordance with instructions given by a person in authority, I urge the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Blunt: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation. The Government have properly considered the matter, and I imagine that if there is a problem in the future, they will come back and address it. As such, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 79 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Stringer.]

Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes to Eight o'clock till Thursday 14 February at half-past Nine o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Pike, Mr. Peter (Chairman)
Atherton, Ms
Barnes, Mr.
Blunt, Mr.
Browne, Mr.
Calton, Mrs.
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Clarke, Mr. Tony
Dobbin, Jim
Francois, Mr.
Garnier, Mr.
Hayes, Mr.
Hermon, Lady

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Heyes, Mr.
Kilfoyle, Mr.
McIsaac, Shona
McWalter, Mr.
Mallon, Mr.
Merron, Gillian
Mole, Chris
Ošpik, Lembit
Stringer, Mr.
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tynan, Mr.
Woodward, Mr.

 
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