The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced a new pilot scheme for practising legal professionals which will allow for them to get direct entrance to courts without the need to be searched. The scheme aims to reduce queues and grant legal professionals easier court access. In preparation of the schemes launch the MoJ is encouraging legal professionals to register with their local courts prior to the start of the pilot.
The scheme is to be piloted by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) in five courts—with registration beginning in August 2018 and fast-track entry from September.
Alongside the pilot the Bar Council has developed an app for its members to use as ID, and Law Society members will also benefit from the pilot, using approved photo ID.The ‘Professional Entry Scheme’ will not hinder the tightened security procedures introduced in 2017. It will recognise the trusted status of legal professionals without compromising security and is supported by the judiciary.To help the pilot run smooth, the MoJ is encouraging practising legal professions to:
A proportion of pilot participants will be searched to ensure the scheme is working correctly. If successful, the scheme will be extended nationally and could be grown to other professional groups. However, it will not be implemented at courts hearing terrorist or high security cases.
- register with their local court;
- agree to conditions of entry (which continue to include a list of prohibited items);
- meet secure ID authentication requirements when they attend court—by identifying themselves as a legal professional and showing photographic ID, which will be checked by a court security officer against a registration list.
Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer, said:
'Courts and tribunals are the daily workplace for many trusted legal professionals. This pilot will make it easier for them to simply get on with their job. Of course, we need to do this in the right way, without compromising the security of our courts. To ensure this pilot is a success we are working closely with the legal profession.'
Chair of the Bar, Andrew Walker QC, said:
'The Bar Council has worked hard with HMCTS to promote a scheme that enables barristers to avoid long delays and searches. We are delighted that this has now led to a pilot of the Professional Entry Scheme. If the pilot is a success, then the new secure, easy to use ID app that we are developing should enable practising barristers to make the most of the scheme, wherever they practise.'
Law Society President, Christina Blacklaws, said:
'There is no doubt that easier access will benefit our members and we welcome this sensible initiative. We have spoken to HMCTS officials about the delays practitioners can face in clearing security and we hope the pilot will pave the way for a permanent system of easier access.'