Revealed: The weapons and alcohol stash seized at Northern Ireland courts - and then given back
Alcohol and scores of weapons were seized by people entering Northern Ireland courthouses last year - and then returned to owners on their way out - it has emerged.
Information obtained by the News Letter also reveal drugs were permanently confiscated by courthouse staff, namely a bag of tablets and cannabis.
Items returned to their owners after being seized by security include stanley knives, lock knives and even a knuckle-duster.
In total, 439 items were confiscated by security staff last year - a 7% rise on the previous year.
The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) said it would be taking the matter up with G4S, the private security firm in charge of running courthouse security in the province.
They said legislation only permits staff to confiscate items until the owner leaves the building, unless it is believed to be "evidence of or in relation to an offence".
A NICTS spokesperson said: "In accordance with legislation, possession of a lock-knife in a public place without good reason is an offence.
"The knuckle-duster is an offence weapon and should have been retained. NICTS is working with G4S to improve the security at all court buildings and to ensure there is clarity around the authority to confiscate and retain such items."
Patrick Green of knife crime awareness charity The Ben Kinsella Trust said: "These figures should serve as a wake-up call, we must ensure that knives and those who carry them are removed from our streets, but also that young people are educated about the dangers associated with carrying a knife."
Some 71% of all items seized last year were from Laganside Courts in Belfast.
Belfast Telegraph Digital