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Security Procedure in Courts and Tribunals

You will find enhanced security procedures when entering a court building or one used for a tribunal case. There are strict rules and restrictions placed on items you can take into the premises.

The information in this help guide explains the process of going through security at a court or a tribunal building.

Items You Cannot take into a Courthouse

You will not be allowed to take offensive weapons with you when entering a court or a tribunal building.

That means you cannot take firearms, guns, and knives passed the security point at the entrance of the building.

The same rules and restrictions would apply if the security staff think that a ‘harmless’ item could be used as a weapon.

Note: You can take phones and cameras into a courthouse. But, you must not use them for taking photographs or for making videos.

A list of items that you are not allowed to take in to a court building includes things like:

  • Alcohol
  • Blades (e.g. penknives, razors, scissors)
  • Full-length umbrellas
  • Glass (e.g. bottles)
  • Liquids that are not a drink or a prescription medicine (e.g. cleaning products, lighter refills, oils, perfumes)
  • Metal cutlery
  • Ropes and chains
  • Sharp items (e.g. darts, knitting needles)
  • Syringes (allowed if you have a prescription for them)
  • Tools (e.g. hammers, nails, screwdrivers)
  • Toy guns (and replica guns)

The security staff will report you to the police if you attempt to take a weapon into courts and tribunals.

Taking Medicines and Drinks into Court

As a rule, the medicines and drinks that you can take in to a courthouse or a tribunal building, include:

  • Drinks inside cartons and cans that are unopened.
  • Drinks in a plastic bottle.
  • Drinks in a disposable cup that contain a secure lid.
  • Medicines for which you already have a prescription.

Note: Special rules apply to opened drinks and those inside a plastic container. The security staff will ask you to drink some of the liquid to prove that it is not harmful.

Going through a Security Checkpoint

Similar to the process of going through airport security, the court staff will check your bags and your pockets for any items that should not be there. This part of the security procedure may include having to:

  • Empty the items of your pockets into a tray for inspection.
  • Take off your coat, gloves, hat, and shoes.
  • Remove your trouser belt.
  • Walk through an archway detector or get checked with a handheld scanner.

Note: Some people may be wearing a head covering for religious or for cultural reasons. As a rule, there is no need to remove the head covering when entering a court or tribunal building. But, security staff would need to check it with a handheld scanner.

Collecting Items You Cannot take in to Court

The security staff would give you a receipt for any items that you cannot take into the court building. You would need the receipt to collect your belongings when you leave the premises.

Collecting Knives

The United Kingdom has strict rules on selling, buying, and carrying knives – with severe penalties for offenders.

The staff will not allow you to collect a knife when leaving the building. Instead, you would need to write a letter to the court (within 28 days) to get it back. The letter must state:

  • Your full name (first and last) and your full address.
  • The date and the time that the security staff confiscated the knife.
  • A detailed description of the knife (e.g. colour and length).
  • The number on the receipt given to you by the security staff.

It usually takes the court around one (1) month to return hazardous items, such as knives, after receiving the letter.

Note: Someone can act on your behalf by writing the letter to the court for you (e.g. a guardian or a solicitor). If so, they must also include their full name and address in the letter.

Making a Complaint about Security Staff

You should use the complaints procedure to provide feedback or to make an official complaint to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS).

The guidance notes explain how to complain about the way you were treated or what to do if you are not happy about the way the court staff carried out a security search.

Security When Entering a Court or Tribunal Building in United Kingdom