The usual suspects as weapons seizures soar at city courts

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KNITTING needles, darts, hammers and corkscrews were among hundreds of offensive weapons that security guards have seized from people coming into Edinburgh’s courts.

New figures show that an array of potentially dangerous items were confiscated by those passing through metal detectors last year, as well as 231 pocket knives and three Stanley knives.

Guards at the city’s high court and sheriff court also seized 132 screwdrivers, 197 pairs of scissors and 39 syringes from those attending hearings. The massive number of knives and offensive weapons being seized inside the two court buildings was today branded “very, very serious”.

The Scottish Court Service (SCS) said the rate of confiscations was due to improved security measures. Anyone caught trying to take a weapon into the court buildings is immediately reported to the team of police officers on daily duty inside.

The confiscation figures, released under freedom of information laws, reveal a wide range of unusual but potentially deadly, items being brought to court.

Last year, security guards at the two courts recovered 80 chains, ten darts, eight dog chains, two hammers, 14 knitting needles, seven steel combs and 19 corkscrews.

The haul also included 94 razor blades, one lock knife, two laser pens and 37 “work tools”.

Councillor Paul Edie, the city’s community safety leader, said: “I find these figures remarkable and very, very serious. These are people who are taking knives and other offensive weapons into a place which has metal detectors, which suggests they may carry these things as a matter of routine.

“There is strong legislation in place to deal with those caught carrying these weapons. Unfortunately the message has not got through to some people.”

Staff seized alcohol from 264 people at the court’s security checkpoints last year, and 105 were caught bringing methadone into the buildings.

No drugs seizures were made last year, although 28 were made at Edinburgh Sheriff Court during 2009.

Concern over individuals making illegal recordings of court proceedings led guards to confiscate 732 cameras, 44 dictaphones and 12 video cameras during 2010.

A SCS spokeswoman said: “The SCS takes the safety of all court users very seriously and works closely with partners, including the police, to take all reasonable precautions against weapons being introduced to court buildings.

“The rise in confiscation figures can be attributed to a number of factors, including improved security at courts, improved recording of data, greater awareness among staff of security issues and more frequent sharing of security intelligence.

“The discovery of any weapon by staff is immediately reported to the police, who have responsibility for public order in all court buildings. Successful prosecutions have resulted from the SCS’s arrangements.”

Richard Baker MSP, Labour’s justice spokesman, said: “To have hundreds of people carrying offensive weapons into courts is deeply concerning. If people think they can get away with carrying weapons into these buildings, it’s clear tougher action needs to be taken by the Scottish Government.

“That’s why we’ve called for a mandatory minimum sentence for carrying knives.”

amcewen@edinburghnews.com