Courts confiscate firearms and knives in east of England

Seven firearms, about 50 replica guns and nearly 3,000 knives have been confiscated in courts in the east of England over the past three years, the BBC can reveal.

After a Freedom of Information request, the government told the BBC between the financial years 2009 and 2011 officials confiscated 24,695 items.

The items include cameras, recorders and alcohol as well as weapons.

Real guns were confiscated at courts in Ipswich, Cromer, Harlow and Chelmsford.

Items are seized by court security staff at the entrance or in the court if they decide they could be used as a weapon or cause a hazard to others in the building.

BBC News asked how many prohibited weapons were seized in courts in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The figures also show that between April 2009 and April 2010, 15 replica guns were seized in Norfolk, eight at Norwich Combined Court, three at Cromer magistrates, two at Thetford magistrates and two at Wisbech magistrates.

In the same year 10 replica firearms were seized in courts in Hertfordshire, nine in Cambridgeshire and eight in Essex.

Of the 2,985 knives confiscated in the courts, 66 of them had blades of more than 3in (7.6cm).

Peter Beeke, chairman of Peterborough Magistrates' Court, said he was surprised at the number of weapons confiscated in court buildings.

"I am astonished anyone would think about bringing these items into court. It is a lunatic thing to do," he said.

"It is certainly worrying that anyone would think about having a knife or gun in court."

He said anyone possessing a weapon faced the possibility of being charged and jailed.

An HM Courts and Tribunal Service spokesman said: "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."

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