Hundreds caught taking weapons into Norfolk’s courts

More than 850 knives have been confiscated from people heading into Norfolk's courts over the past three years, new figures have revealed.

And more than 500 tools, a firearm, pepper spray, hundreds of cameras, alcoholic drinks and two toy guns were also seized at courts in the county, according to figures obtained using the Freedom of Information Act.

Metal detectors and checks have been introduced at courts around the county, which is considered to be one of the safest in the country, but it seems people still attempt to get into the courts while carrying all manner of weapons, although the numbers are falling.

In 2009, 150 knives were confiscated at the Norwich Combined Court, which includes the crown and county court, at Bishopgate, but that number fell to 41 in 2010 and just three in 2011.

At Norwich Magistrates' Court 219 knives with blades longer than three inches were seized in 2009, with four shorter than three inches and 10 described as fixed-blade knives.

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In 2010 96 blades measuring more than three inches were confiscated, with four less than three inches and six fixed blade knives.

This year just three fixed-blade knives were confiscated, along with 43 which were more than three inches long. No knives shorter than that were seized.

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Apart from Norwich, the only other court in Norfolk where knives were seized this year was the magistrates' court in King's Lynn, where 36 were confiscated, down on the 92 found last year.

The figures also revealed how someone tried to sneak pepper spray into Norwich Magistrates' Court this year, with toy guns seized at the combined court this year and last year.

The statistics also revealed how a firearm was confiscated at King's Lynn Magistrates' Court last year and replica guns this year at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court and at Thetford Magistrates' Court, before its closure in March.

Items which are prohibited within a court building are knives, firearms, tools, alcohol, solvents and photographic, audio or video recording equipment, with the exception of mobile phones.

Court security staff can also seize other objects which they consider could be used as weapons - with 544 such seizures in the county this year.

A spokeswoman for Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service, said: 'HMCTS takes the issue of safety within courts very seriously and has a rigorous system in place to ensure the safety of all court users.

'This includes mandatory bag searches and the use of metal detectors and surveillance cameras.

'Items are confiscated to preserve the orderly working of the court and to ensure the safety of all personnel within the building.

'If an item, in the opinion of the court security officer, could be used as a weapon, cause a hazard to others in the building, or be used to disrupt court proceedings, it will be confiscated as the owner enters the building.'

Norfolk police say the number of crimes involving knives in Norfolk remains low, but said their message is clear - don't carry knives.

It is illegal to carry any sharp or bladed instrument in a public place, with the exception of a folded pocket knife with a blade of less than three inches.

The maximum penalty for an adult carrying a knife is four years in prison and a fine of �5,000. If any kind of knife is used in a threatening way it is regarded as an offensive weapon by the law.

Last year 118 offenders were dealt with in the county's magistrates' courts for having a knife on the streets or in schools.

That was up from 80 convictions in 2006, while nationally the figure rose by 5pc, according to figures released in Parliament.

Chief Supt Tony Cherington, from Norfolk police, said earlier this month: 'Carrying a knife can have serious consequences – you risk injuring yourself or others, and you may get a criminal record if found to be in possession of an item with a blade in a public place or on school premises.

'We are pleased to report that so far in 2011, the number of knife possession offences have reduced by 11pc.

'Whilst numbers of such offences are low, we will deal robustly with those people who are found to be carrying a knife.'

Anyone with information about knife crime should contact Norfolk police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11.

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