NEW LAW ENHANCES COURT SECURITY
The Minister for Courts, Hon Georgina te Heuheu, today welcomed the passing by Parliament of legislation to enhance the security of courts and the safety of those who use the courts.
"The Courts Security Act is empowering legislation which establishes court security officers, their powers and duties. Now, the Department for Courts can begin recruiting and training suitable people as court security officers," Mrs te Heuheu said.
Mrs te Heuheu said court security officers will be appointed by February 2000 and they will be based at ten locations throughout the country, but will move to other courts where a security risk is identified.
"In time, I can envisage that court security officers will be extended to all courts where there is a demonstrated need," Mrs te Heuheu said.
"Access to court in order to have impartial dispute resolution is a fundamental right for the people of New Zealand, and in exercising that right they are entitled to feel safe.
"The Courts Security Act safeguards the security of courts as a cornerstone of the proper functioning of our community and contributes to safer communities by helping to prevent crime."
"The Court Security Act takes a balanced approach to security, recognising that prudent rather than excessive security measures are appropriate in facilities owned by and serving the public," Mrs te Heuheu said.
The Courts Security Act authorises court security officers to exercise specific powers and duties in respect of courts and their associated buildings and grounds. The powers and duties of court security officers include:
Asking any person to identify themselves and their reason for wanting to enter or for being in a court;
Asking the person to submit to a search of their person or any property in their possession;
Examining any items detected in a search and taking any items considered to be a security threat into temporary custody;
Detaining, until the arrival of the police, any person who commits a specified offence in a court. These offences relate to offences involving the possession of unauthorised items and offences relating to acts of violence.
Mrs te Heuheu was pleased to note the support of all parties for the legislation and thanked the Select Committee for their careful consideration and helpful recommendations.
The 1999 Budget provided funding of $1.3 million a year for court security officers at 10 locations shown by security incident statistics to have been most at risk; these are: Auckland, Otahuhu, Papakura, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.
The deployment of dedicated court security officers was the main recommendation of the Independent Review of Court Security conducted by former Deputy Secretary of Justice Mr Mel Smith.