UK: Lawyers have complained about ‘over-zealous and heavy-handed’ searches by court security staff, which one barrister likened to being assaulted.

The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) has made an official complaint to HM Courts & Tribunals Service about ‘invasive’ searches carried out on lawyers at Stratford Magistrates’ Court (pictured above) on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Enhanced checks take place on those days when the court is dealing with protest-related trials, due to incidents of disruption inside the court building, with people super-gluing themselves to benches, according to the letter.

The association says that it has received ‘numerous complaints’ about ‘over-zealous and heavy-handed’ searches, carried out by security staff ‘without applying due discretion and proportionality,’ which have caused ‘distress and inconvenience’ to its members.

Despite an ID card scheme which entitles lawyers to search-free entry, the association claims that lawyers have been subjected to pat down checks, requests to remove clothing or shoes, ‘extensive’ property searches, including inspection of privileged legal documents and have been asked to empty their bags. Requests made by security staff, the letter states, range from the ‘absurd to the genuinely disturbing’. They have included the confiscation of harmless personal items, like make up and requests to apply deodorant, perfume or lip balm.

More seriously, it gives an example of a female solicitor who had a guard’s hands placed ‘inside the neckline of her dress’, experienced ‘patting down the sides of the breasts and in between them’ and had her ‘leg felt under her dress up to her inner thigh, stopping barely short of her crotch’.

In another example, a different female solicitor was subjected to a pat-down search in an ‘unprofessional and discourteous way’ by four staff, including two men. The letter claims that she was forcibly ejected from the court building by two male security officers, had her lunch thrown onto the pavement and was denied re-entry.

On social media site X, barrister Paul Powlesland likened the treatment at the court to being ‘assaulted’ and said he was ‘treated like dirt’.

A HMCTS spokesperson said: ‘While we have a duty to ensure the safety of all court users and members of the public, we will carefully consider the points raised and respond accordingly.’