Union fears someone could be killed as youths clash in Willesden Magistrates’ Court
Public and Commercial Services Union are calling for extra security in court houses across London
A union representative is claiming someone could be killed in violent clashes between rival youths that have been taking place in court houses.
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has spoken out following a gang fight at Willesden Magistrates’ Court in which a rock in a sock was used as a weapon.
In the m�l�e, which the Times exclusively revealed last month, the court was forced to close after violence erupted as a result of a ‘postcode war’ between Brent youths.
During the fight, in which a 16 and two 17-year-olds were arrested for affray, several other people fled before they could be detained.
According to the PCS the outcome could have been graver if police officers who were attending another hearing had not intervened.
In a letter to Alan Eccles, the boss of London’s courts, PCS officer Lois Austin said management in Brent “got a lucky break, our luck is going to run out, we cannot wait until someone’s life is taken.”
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In addition, a solicitor who has been assaulted at the court told PCS that ‘public order offences’ occurred there almost every day.
In other incidents in courts across London weapons used include a six-inch blade, a baseball bat, and a screwdriver.
A witness to the fight, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Times that concerns had been raised that disputes between rival youths would be fuelled by the closures of courts.
His concerns have been backed by PCS who have also cited staff cuts and compromised security will leave staff in a vulnerable position.
Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “The courts service refuses to talk to us about extra resources but the statistics are shocking, the victims are often children, and we fear it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.
“We need immediate action including more staff, more security, x-ray machines, and the re-modelling of courts to ensure that youth cases are held in a separate and safe environment.”
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service said: “HMCTS works proactively to reduce incidents at courts across London. This includes close liaison with the Metropolitan police, intelligence sharing and provision of special arrangements where necessary.
“We take the issue of security within courts extremely seriously and have a rigorous system in place, including mandatory bag searches, bag scanners, metal detectors and surveillance cameras, to ensure the safety of all court users.”
Brent Police are appealing for witnesses to the fight which took place on January 9 to come forward.
Anyone with information should call DS Russell Norval on 0208 733 3709 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.