Attacks on court staff probed

THE ASSOCIATION of Magisterial Officers (AMO) is investigating the level of claims of violent attacks against magistrates' court staff.

AMO will survey its 6,050 members in April on the frequency, nature and treatment of attacks against staff, after its annual general meeting and conference, Fighting For Fairness.

AMO general secretary, Rosie Eagleson says court staff are spat at, threatened with needles and subjected to verbal abuse, and that anec-dotal reports reveal these attacks are becoming more frequent and serious.

Ushers, court clerks and enforcement officers, who execute court orders, are the most frequent victims of attack.

Eagleson says the increase is linked to the privatisation of prison escort work two years ago, when magistrates' officers took over police responsibility for the escort of prisoners on court premises.

Eagleson says the fear of attack will be made worse by plans in the Access to Justice Bill to make every magistrate's court responsible for the enforcement of court orders, including arrest.

She says: “We think this will increase the possibility of confrontation and violent incidents.”

Last month magistrate Alan King, chairman of the West Norfolk bench, resigned because he feared physical attack from defendants and their associates.