On June 20 this year, legislation to assist Federal Courts and tribunals in the management of their security was passed in Parliament. The Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus QC described the new laws as clarifying and enhancing the powers available to security personnel at the Courts, including the power to request security screening and deposit of dangerous items for safekeeping. Training and licensing requirements for security personnel have also detailed in the new Act.
Mr Dreyfus noted “Federal Court proceedings, particularly family law proceedings, are often highly charged and sometimes involve hostility and violence“. He also noted “Family Law Courts, in particular, are frequently required to respond to security threats and incidents“.
With many family law horror stories of what can happen without appropriate security measures, any initiative that improves the safety of people attending the Courts is welcome. Victims of family violence can feel especially exposed and vulnerable when attending Court, having taken steps to detail the wrongful conduct of another person once close to them and so anger, fear and desperation can boil over into violence.
In the Canberra registry of the Family Law Courts, there are security facilities at the entrance to the building and all persons and their belongings are x-rayed on entry. Questionable items will be collected and retained by the staff until a person’s attendance at the Court is concluded, and security personnel are always present and visible.
If you have particular concerns about your safety when attending court, specific arrangements and security plans can be put in place on your behalf with the assistance of the Registry staff and the security personnel prior to your attendance at Court. Your concerns will be taken seriously by all at the Court.
For many people, having their day in Court can be stressful given the nature of the matters being disputed. It is even more distressing if these worries are compounded by a fear of harm. In all of these instances, it is important that you ensure your family lawyer is always aware of how you are feeling and that they take steps to aid your protection.
Di Simpson is a Director at Dobinson Davey Clifford Simpson Family Law Specialists, 18 Kendall Lane, New Acton, Canberra ACT 2601 and can be contacted on (02) 6212 7600.