The unacceptable shoddiness with which court security is approached by the authorities was displayed again in Limassol when in the early hours of Wednesday a room in which evidence for criminal cases was kept was set on fire. The perpetrators had used a ladder they placed on an external wall and through the windows set the room ablaze, destroying evidence being used in ongoing trials at the criminal court.

This was not the first time a room in the courts in which evidence was kept had been set on fire. A little over three years ago, at the Nicosia district courts, the evidence related to a big drug case being tried in the criminal court was completely destroyed after it was set alight and there was an explosion. The suspects were let off as a result, even though the supreme court subsequently overturned the acquittal.

While the authorities decided to tighten security at Nicosia district courts, having 12-hour police guard, quite absurdly, no such measure was implemented in the courts of the other districts. It was an illustration of the slapdash treatment of security matters. An evidence room was guarded only in the district at which the arson attack took place; in the other districts a police guard would be assigned only after an arson or explosion materialised.

The courts need to have 24-hour security. CCTV should be installed on court premises and there should be a control room monitoring movements 24 hours a day. In addition, a police patrol should also pay a visit during night-time. As for evidence of criminal trials, it should be kept in a strongroom, brought out during the hearing and returned when it is not needed, rather than be kept in a non-secure room as happened in Limassol.

It is very easy to blame the government for this shoddiness, but the supreme court also has a big responsibility for safeguarding the security relating to the courts. If it had requested a security budget or asked for the state to provide security it is very unlikely the government would have turned it down. The problem though is that the authorities do not take the issue of security at all seriously. This is why police resources are wasted on ‘guarding’ politicians who are in danger from nobody, instead of guarding the courts.

There has to be more awareness of security matters, in general, and at the court in particular. The new justice and public order minister should address the matter as part of the government drive to reform the justice system.