Serious security failings at one of the ‘Nightingale’ courts created to deal with the huge coronavirus backlog of cases have been exposed.
Ten special sites have been set up by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland in an effort to start dealing with more than half a million cases.
However, members of the public have been able to enter the makeshift courtrooms without any security checks.
The Nightingale court in London – the first of its kind to hear criminal cases – carried out security searches on visitors when they first arrived, but later waved them through without checking their bags.
Normally in crown and magistrates’ courts, fastidious checks are conducted each time someone enters the building.
In another surprising lapse, the Nightingale court does not operate X-ray scans in the same way as many other court complexes.
Only X-rays are able to detect whether an electronic device contains a bomb.
The special London court is housed in a private office building – Prospero House, in Borough High Street.
The security failures are even more shocking because the building is ten minutes’ walk from London Bridge, the scene of the 2017 terror attack in which eight people were murdered by three Islamist terrorists, and the 2019 attack which left two dead.
Just a mile away on the other side of the River Thames, the Old Bailey is guarded by police police armed with semi-automatic rifles and pistols.
But at the Nightingale, a Mail reporter was repeatedly allowed into the building’s court number one from the street, without even going through security.
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, which runs the new courts, began an urgent inquiry after the Mail raised the security lapses.
A spokesman said: ‘We take the security at all our courts very seriously.’