Security in the courts

How can you guarantee secure access?

A court, whether it is a supreme court, a first-instance court, a commercial court or administrative court is classed as a public access facility where a population that is as diverse as it is wide-ranging may come into contact with one another.

Management of the various accesses is therefore essential in order to ensure the safety of judges and magistrates, attorneys, court officials, and also defendants or plaintiffs.

External access points

Hearings in a courthouse are open to the public, but that does not mean visitors should not be checked as they arrive in the building.Thus, having passed the checkpoint and presented an ID document to the security officers there, visitors are taken through a metal detector gate.Secure, lockable lockers are then available for them to deposit items prohibited in the courtroom, such as cellphones, cameras, and recording devices.

Ensuring rapid evacuation

As with any public-access building, a court should similarly ensure rapid and safe evacuation of everyone on site, whether or not they are familiar with the premises. Mechanical anti-panic bar systems or monitored electromechanical locks should be installed on emergency exit doors, and these should comply with the HFS 61-937 or EN 1125 standards.

Access to protected areas not open to the public

Several entrances in a court building are strictly reserved for staff working there and should be strongly protected, to prevent any undesired (even dangerous) intrusion.

This is true for the office of the presiding judge or magistrate, for the prosecutors’ office, but also for the storerooms where the court seals are stored.

These highly sensitive areas are therefore subject to very strict entry and exit controls, and only authorized staff can access them via an electronic access control, which may comprise either an electronic cylinder lock, a monitored lever handle or a proximity card reader.

The holding area and cells are similarly subject to maximum security. In fact, these rooms, often located in the basement, are where those due to appear before a magistrate are held after being released from custody, or those brought from prison to be sentenced or brought before a judge. Security is ensured using reinforced high-security mechanical locks which, in most cases, have undergone ram testing.

Access to protected areas open to the public

Some entrances to a court building are for use by the public. This is true for the chamber of the presiding judge, where all protagonists in a case are heard, but also for the registry, where all the files for an on-going investigation are held. Even if these areas are open to the general public, it is no less true that they should still be protected and safeguarded when they are closed, and when no staff are present. Supplementing mechanical or motorized locks, a key management chart can be set up, as a means of facilitating a hierarchy of access for authorized persons.

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