Court guard's anger as yobs 'let off'

MONTHS of frustration working in the criminal justice system, has driven a security guard who witnessed countless yobs escaping prison sentences, from his job.

MONTHS of frustration working in the criminal justice system, has driven a security guard who witnessed countless yobs escaping prison sentences, from his job.

Outspoken Mike Smith got so fed up of trying to hold his temper and bite his tongue when he and other staff were threatened, shouted and spat at on the frontline reception desk at South East Suffolk Magistrates Court in Ipswich, that he has now jacked in the job.

This 6ft giant of a man is not afraid to speak out publicly, to tell of his bitterness about the way young offenders are set free to repeatedly re-offend. He fully supports police inspector Andy Solomon's plea in the Evening Star last week for courts to lock up young repeat offenders.

The security guard, with more than 20 years experience, including being a chief security officer at Felixstowe Docks, then working for Securicor and Group 4, has now found a new docks job away from the courts - a role which his conscience can finally accept.

He remains full of admiration for the clerks and ushers who continue to work at court, but could not square it with his own conscience.

Mr Smith, 60, said: "I am confrontational. I don't like being pushed around, and in the court it was getting increasingly hard for me to hold my temper.

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"I had a conscience problem - I had to stand there and watch teenagers be brought back time and again, for threatening an old lady, for burning a car, for robbing someone of a mobile phone, or their pension. They always pick on the vulnerable, the old, the blind, people with disabilities. It should be like America - three strikes and you're out … 12months in jail."

Mr Smith admits his zero-tolerance approach, devoid of political correctness, got him into trouble with his boss, but insists taking early retirement after five months in the job was his own decision.

His anger boiled over when a yob threatened his wife who is battling cancer, and said: "One of a gang of four youths said to me 'I know where you live guard, and when you're not there your wife is on her own.' I took it as a threat and dealt with it as that. I made it clear to him that I don't pussy foot around. I told him what I'd do to him if he laid a hand on my wife - that he wouldn't be brought back to court again but he would be put in hospital - and it got me into trouble when he made a complaint.

"I still live in the 1960s, when mothers said 'wait til your father gets home' and you knew you would get it in the neck. I used to get a good hiding and it never did me any harm. The beat bobby would take his belt to you, and I can tell you from personal experience that it worked. Some of these kids are 18 - when I was 18 I'd been out at work for four years.

"I am not condoning violence, but I am of the Tony Martin school - if you find someone in your home they're not there innocently. You shouldn't shoot them, but you should take action."

He thinks police should have more powers to discipline youths on the streets, and said: "I agree wholeheartedly with Inspector Solomon - they don't give enough custodial sentences and I have a real problem with that. What does community service mean these days?"

He questions why defendants get a lesser sentence if they plead guilty at an early stage, and how magistrates believe the same defence lawyers' pleas that clients have turned over a new leaf - when they maybe saw the youth in court for more offences just days ago - or led astray.

The Magistrates Court Committee has insisted magistrates take offences like repeated breaches of ASBOs very seriously. Christopher Bowler, director of legal services for Suffolk Magistrates Court Committee, said: "As far as we are concerned, breach of an ASBO is a very serious criminal offence.

"We agree with Inspector Solomon to the extent that it is a serious matter and people who breach ASBOs should be dealt with seriously, but it is not right that everyone should be put in custody."

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Do you agree with Mr Smith?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or email StarNews@eveningstar.co.uk.

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