Court Balances Security and Access to Justice in Unique Case Involving Potentially Violent Litigant

Citation: [2024] EWFC 61
Judgment on


In the matter of A Local Authority v D & Ors [2024] EWFC 61, Mr Justice Peel provides a judgment concerning the delicate balance between ensuring court security via the HMCTS Protocol for Managing Potentially Violent People (PVP Protocol) and maintaining the fundamental right to access to justice as enshrined in common law and under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). This case poses a unique challenge in managing court proceedings where a party has been identified as a potential security risk yet must participate meaningfully in proceedings directly affecting her and her children’s futures.

Key Facts

The case involves public law proceedings regarding the future care of four children, where the Local Authority proposes their removal from the parents’ care. The mother (“M”), who has a history of drug misuse and mental health instability, is barred from physically attending court due to a knife incident which triggered the PVP Protocol. The judgment relays the incident of M smuggling a knife into the court building and then surrendering it, claiming her objective was to highlight knife crime and the court’s lax security.

As things stand, neither remote attendance nor physical attendance at the court are viable options for M without specific arrangements or concessions, given her risk status and the subsequent restrictions placed upon her, coupled with the logistical challenges presented by her environment and the assessments conducted by interested parties such as her legal team and the Local Authority.

The legal principles employed in this decision revolve around:

  1. Access to Justice and Fair Hearing Rights (Articles 6 & 8 ECHR): Mr Justice Peel emphasizes the necessity for M to participate in her proceeding substantially, considering the potential permanence of the outcomes on her family. The court must take special consideration of the right to a fair trial, especially when a public authority seeks to remove children from their family, as explained in Re S-W [2015] EWCA Civ 27.

  2. Management of Potentially Violent Persons (PVP Protocol): The Protocol plays a crucial role in protecting the judiciary, staff, and other court users from potentially violent individuals. The risk assessment and subsequent barring of M from the court building are pursuant to the Protocol’s updated guidelines, following a violent incident involving a litigant in November 2023.

  3. Proportionality and Balance of Rights: The court must balance the risk posed by M with her and the other parties’ right to a fair trial. Any restrictions or conditions on M’s attendance need to be proportionate to the risk she presents and the necessity for her to engage in the proceedings.


In deciding upon a fair yet secure protocol for M’s court attendance, Mr Justice Peel provided a set of stringent security measures tailored to the unique risks presented by M while ensuring her right to access to justice. These measures include being accompanied by security at all times within the court building, restricted movement, the confiscation of her mobile phone during court attendance, and thorough searches upon entry and exit from the building. Importantly, the judgment stressed cooperation among the Court Service, judiciary, and parties to establish practicable solutions in such cases.


A Local Authority v D & Ors [2024] EWFC 61 showcases the judiciary’s responsibility in ensuring the administration of justice is not hindered by security risks while safeguarding fundamental human rights such as fair access to legal proceedings. The case is a paradigm of the necessary equilibrium between court security measures and individual rights—striking a balance between the need for safety within the courtroom and the inalienable right to participate in the judicial process effectively. Mr Justice Peel’s judgment underscores the requirement for flexibility, creativity, and cooperation within the court system to adapt to unique challenges, ensuring justice is served without compromise to security or individual rights.