A youth holding a knife

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HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it treats security “extremely seriously”

Thousands of knives and sharp objects are being confiscated annually at London family courts, with campaigners saying it showed how “desensitised” some people were to carrying weapons.

Eighty-six knives with blades longer than 3in (8cm) were seized in 2018-19, a big rise from just 18 a year earlier, Ministry of Justice data revealed.

Almost 4,000 shorter blades were found in 2018-19, the figures showed.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service said it treated security “extremely seriously”.

Family courts mainly deal with private family disputes that involve parents and concern their children, and public work when local authorities take action to remove children from their parents’ care.

‘Defies logic’

The figures, revealed following a Freedom of Information Act request from the BBC, covered 15 of the courts based in the capital.

Mandatory bag searches, metal detectors and surveillance cameras are used to find blades and anything considered an offensive weapon is reported to police.

Knives confiscated at family courts in London

Blades longer than 3in (7cm)

The number of longer-bladed weapons confiscated had fallen before increasing dramatically last year.

In the financial year 2015-16, 41 were taken by court staff but that dropped to 11 in 2016-17 and 18 the following year, before soaring back up to 86 in 2018-19.

The number of knives with shorter blades increased steadily from 1,814 to 3,893 over the same four-year period.

The figures for shorter blades include items of cutlery, razors, pen knives, key rings and scissors which have been confiscated, as well as weapons.

Knives confiscated at family courts in London

Blades shorter than 3in (7cm)

Patrick Green, chief executive officer of anti-knife charity The Ben Kinsella Trust, said the increase was likely to be partly down to improved security, but also showed how carrying a knife had become “normalised behaviour” for some people, even in places where they knew they would be searched.

“It defies logic to the majority of us but it shows their thinking and association with carrying knives,” he said.

The president of the Family Division of the High Court has expressed a similar view.

During a lecture in May, Sir Andrew McFarlane said the judiciary “do not believe that most, indeed any, of these knives were necessarily being brought in for use in the court building”.

“It simply seems to be a facet of everyday life in 2019 for some members of the population.”

The courts service said staff confiscated items to “keep our sites free of any article that could be used as a weapon”.

“HMCTS has a robust security and safety system to protect all court users and the Judiciary,” they said.

Research by Patrick Cowling, BBC News

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