Yobs' threats and abuse were last straw

MONTHS of frustration working in the criminal justice system has driven a security guard from his job. Outspoken Mike Smith has reached the end of his tether after witnessing countless yobs avoiding prison sentences. AN EVENING STAR EXCLUSIVE

By Tracey Sparling

MONTHS of frustration working in the criminal justice system has driven a security guard from his job.

Mike Smith witnessed countless yobs avoiding prison sentences. He got so fed up trying to hold his temper and bite his tongue when he and other staff were threatened, shouted and spat at on the reception desk at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court in Ipswich, that he has now left his 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.

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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.

"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 … 12 months in jail."

Mr Smith admits his zero-tolerance approach 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.

He 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 pussyfoot 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 would be put in hospital - and it got me into trouble when he made a complaint.

"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."

Mr Smith 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?"

However, Suffolk magistrates court committee insisted magistrates take offences like repeated breaches of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders very seriously.

Christopher Bowler, director of legal services for the 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."