Home > All publications > Court architecture, Court security, Reports > Fortress or Sanctuary? Enhancing Court Safety by Managing People, Places and Processes

Report on study funded by Australian Research Council, Linkage Project, Lp0882179

December 2014

This research was conceived to address potential conflicts between courts as places open to anyone and providing safety and security to everyone.

This report brings together the research of a multi-disciplinary academic team and their project partners who are responsible for the conception, administration, operation and design of court environments in Australia and New Zealand. Their sharing of data, experiences and ideas – between practice, research and university/academia occurred over a three year period. The wide diversity of views and ways of dealing with the issues of safety and security, with all the inherent complexities and contradictions, has been woven, for coherency, into a theoretical framework based on the work of the French philosopher, Frédéric Gros. The issues raised and explored by the research material are thus framed in terms of a secure person, a secure society, a secure environment and secure processes. The multi-dimensional discussion, while providing recommendations that may inform future policies about safety and security in courts, aims to record a wide range of views and approaches. The key message of the research is that there are no ‘pure’ or simple answers that can be applied across time, different social contexts, environments and jurisdictions.

The report encourages those engaged in the administration and design of courts and tribunals to carefully analyse – for the specific place – the potential security risks and the potential safety opportunities (both physical and psychological) for each group of users and to evaluate a broad matrix of potential solutions which encompass physical, technological and operational elements. The research highlights that the welcoming smile of the person at the front entry is as important as technologically advanced screening; that the ability to wait in a space bathed in natural light looking out to a garden and to use a clean bathroom gives court users an enhanced sense of personal security beyond that provided by CCTV cameras. Moreover, as approaches to safety and security change (often rapidly) over time, the report highlights the need for flexibility in the design of places, technology and processes.

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Fortress or Sanctuary Sample – Chapter 1 (low resolution) (pdf 1.9 Mb)