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Cake slicers, pen knives and Buckfast among items seized by security staff at courts since 2014

CAKE slices, pen knives and bottles of Buckfast were among items seized from people going into Northern Ireland courthouses in the past three years. The figures, released in a Freedom of Information request to The Irish News, cover objects confiscated by security staff at courts since 2014. Items were seized at just three of the north’s courthouses; Coleraine, Dungannon and Omagh. The G4S firm provide security at courts in Northern Ireland and data on items seized has been recorded since April 2014. A court security officer can ask for an item to be surrendered if they believe it causes a safety risk or if they believe it “may be evidence of, or in relation to, an offence”. The vast majority of items were seized in Coleraine, where there were 45 separate incidents in the three year period. A total of 25 knives of varying kinds were removed from people at the courthouse, while there were five instances of staff intervening to seize alcohol. In September 2015, two bottles of Buckfast and a bottle of Kopparberg cider were taken from people at the court in separate incidents on the same day. Among the more unusual items removed include cake slicers, confiscated from a court attendee in May 2014, and a screwdriver last October.

One pair of scissors, two nail clippers and five helmets were also taken by staff during the three year period up to July this year. In Omagh, a stanley knife and lock knife were removed by staff, while three darts and ‘possible illegal drugs’ were also confiscated in March 2015. Three pen knives and a three inch blade were seized by staff at Dungannon courthouse in 2014 and 2015.

Items seized by court staff: Omagh Court: Lock knife

Stanley knife Darts Possible illegal drugs

Dungannon: 3 inch blade knife Pen knives

Coleraine: Rucksacks Cider /beer

Bottles of Buckfast Cake slices Pocket and pen knives

Swiss army knives Nail clippers/files Motorcycle helmuts

Survival tools Trimming knives Screwdrivers

Assorted hand tools

Scissors

UK’s 2m support for Egypt security projects branded ‘deeply disturbing’ – The Guardian

The government is facing questions over transparency after almost 2 million in aid and defence funding was given to security projects in Egypt, including support for policing, the criminal justice system and the treatment of juvenile detainees. The news comes with Egypt s security forces under fire1 from human rights groups for routine disappearances, the torture of detainees, and the jailing of political opponents and journalists. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the cash was granted to the Egyptian authorities through the conflict, stability and security fund (CSSF), the operations, objectives and achievement of which were described as opaque by a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year.

MPs and Lords criticised the secrecy2 of the 1.1bn fund, claiming they could neither scrutinise it nor provide taxpayers with information about how it was spent . The avowed aim of the secretive CSSF, which is financed by the aid and defence budgets, is to build security and tackle conflict overseas. Human rights group Reprieve said it was concerned that 650,000 of the 1.85m security funding granted through the CSSF in 2015-16 appeared to involve direct engagement with the Egyptian police and criminal justice system , including programmes relating to juvenile detainees . Reprieve asked for further details from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but the request was refused on the grounds that it was not in the public interest. Maya Foa, Reprieve s director, said the FCO s lack of transparency was deeply disturbing .

Foa said: Ministers are well aware of rights abuses by Egyptian courts and prisons, including against juveniles like Ibrahim Halawa .

It is, therefore, deeply disturbing that the government refuses to release any information about its work with these serial human rights violators.

Transparency in the use of taxpayer money is crucial where there is a risk that the UK could be contributing to abuses as serious as torture and illegal executions . The Foreign Office should urgently explain what these projects involve, and demonstrate they are not exacerbating the terrible ordeals of people like Ibrahim. The case of Halawa, an Irish citizen who has been detained in Egypt for five years awaiting trial, provides a stark reminder of the nature of criminal justice in Egypt under President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Halawa, who faces the death penalty if convicted, was arrested with his three sisters during a protest against the ousting of Mohamed Morsi at a Cairo mosque in 20133 . He was then 17, and a juvenile under international law .

His sisters were released but he was charged, along with 493 others, with attending an illegal protest. Intense diplomatic efforts by the Irish government have failed to secure Halawa s release and his trial has been delayed more than 30 times, partly due to the complications inherent in organising a mass trial involving almost 500 defendants . Last year, he told the Guardian4 he had been stripped, beaten and left for dead after a hunger strike . On 29 June, Halawa s case was postponed again, to 2 October, according to the FCO. In a letter sent to Reprieve in response to its request for further information about the CSSF s support for security initiatives in Egypt, the FCO said that providing further detail about the projects could jeopardise the trust and confidence in us by the Egyptian government and therefore our ability to both protect and promote UK interests in the future .

The revelations expose wider concerns about the rising percentage of Britain s 13bn aid budget being spent by ministries other than the Department for International Development, and the implications of such spending for public scrutiny .

Some 36% of aid is spent through other departments who have direct responsibility for that portion of budget. Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary, called for all government departments to publish aid-related data . Osamor said: This alarming case raises yet more urgent questions about how the National Security Council is deploying the CSSF to spend aid money that should be earmarked to help the world s poorest.

The government needs to come clean on how they are spending aid money through other departments, and make sure these other departments quickly get themselves up to DfID s level of aid transparency . In this day and age, every government department should be publishing data for all aid-financed programmes, and not hiding behind the excuse of national security . The NSC should publish their country strategies, open up the CSSF to scrutiny, and tell the public whether or not our aid is being spent on detaining juveniles.

Members of the Egyptian police special forces guard Cairo s Tahrir Square on the fifth anniversary of the Arab spring uprising . Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images

In a recent briefing, the FCO reported that the human rights situation in Egypt continues to deteriorate with reports of torture, police brutality and enforced disappearance5. In a statement, a spokesman for the FCO said: The UK is committed to working with Egypt to support political and economic reform, and we encourage the Egyptian government to deliver on its international and domestic human rights commitments . But it is not good enough to merely criticise other countries from the sidelines . We have to work with Egypt to encourage change .

All projects carried out by the UK government comply with the UK s domestic and international human rights obligations.

The statement said the CSSF was working with the International Aid Transparency6 Initiative to ensure they meet standards.

References

  1. ^ Egypt s security forces under fire (www.hrw.org)
  2. ^ criticised the secrecy (www.theguardian.com)
  3. ^ at a Cairo mosque in 2013 (www.theguardian.com)
  4. ^ he told the Guardian (www.theguardian.com)
  5. ^ reports of torture, police brutality and enforced disappearance (www.gov.uk)
  6. ^ Transparency (www.theguardian.com)

Security barriers close to Windsor Castle to be made permanent

Security was the hot topic at a Windsor Town Forum meeting last night (Wednesday). Residents and representatives from the Royal Borough attended the forum at Windsor Guildhall. RBWM s head of planning David Scott updated the meeting on safety barriers in the town centre.

Temporary barriers were put up around Windsor Castle in March after a terror attack at Westminster where five pedestrians were killed when a car ploughed into them. They are currently in six locations around the Changing the Guard route and permanent measures are due to be installed. Two or three other locations have also been identified which could have barriers installed.

Mr Scott said the new barriers will bring the same level of security as the temporary ones, creating a ring around the guard route.

They will significantly reduce the risk of a vehicle being able to attack crowds or military personnel, he added. He said TVP and the Royal Borough are working with an external company to come up with plans for an integrated street scene solution which are due to be reviewed this month. The permanent aesthetically pleasing and strong barriers are expected fit in more with the street scene and not affect parking on the road.

Chairman of the forum, Cllr Jack Rankin (Con, Castle Without), said: It is good to hear that the permanent solution won t look as out of place in conservation areas as the temporary. Town centre manager Paul Roach said rules about what shops can do when the Changing the Guard takes place have also changed. Before increased security measures were introduced, cars could park within the cordon and make deliveries to shops.

Now this is not possible from 10.30am-11.30am on days the ceremony takes place. With heightened security in the town, some residents raised concerns about how safe the building site at York House will be while it is being redeveloped. Resident Robert Muir said: You are making a construction site in one of the most security sensitive places in Windsor, they will be within feet of the troops.

The council building in Sheet Street is opposite the army s Victoria Barracks.

You are building an extra floor with a garden on top that will look straight down into the barracks . Has the MOD (Ministry of Defence) been consulted? RBWM s property service lead Rob Large told the meeting he had the same concerns and met with the barracks and a senior police officer who are happy with it .