Allowing police to carry guns into courts may undermine current security protocols and cause confusion, says the president of the NSW Bar Association.
The change came into effect yesterday, following an announcement by the state government last week that police will now be permitted to carry weapons into courts.
Courts have previously been firearm-free for police under a directive from NSW’s chief magistrate. However, the heightened terror threat has led the government to reverse the policy.
President of the NSW Bar Association Jane Needham SC (pictured) said the new protocol on guns in court obscures the real problem relating to court security.
“If there are concerns regarding the security of our courts they should be directly confronted, rather than through a patchwork agreement that enables police officers to now carry their guns in courthouses,” Ms Needham said.
Under the protocol, police officers may carry weapons when attending court to give evidence and, in the District and Local Courts to brief prosecutors.
“These ad hoc arrangements have the potential to cause confusion and harm in the event of a security incident in one of our courts,” continued Ms Needham.
“Traditionally the sheriff has been responsible for all court security and under the protocol will continue to have overall responsibility in this regard.
“However, that oversight is compromised by police officers carrying firearms in court and the potential for them to respond independently to possible incidents raises concerns for the safety of judicial officers and parties.”
Ms Needham said that if the government is serious about security in NSW courts, it should ensure adequate resources are allocated to fund the necessary improvements.
“The current protocol is a quick fix, which ironically may compromise rather than enhance the safety of the judiciary and court users,” she concluded.