‘Sip test’: Coffee-loving lawyers slam new security rules for bringing drinks into court

‘Is this really necessary?’

New security procedures rolled out this week will require solicitors and barristers to complete a “sip test” if they want to bring drinks into court buildings.

Introduced by HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS), the new measures will require all court users to taste unsealed beverages in order to prove the contents are harmless.

Details of the new “sip test” emerged on social media after a Coventry Crown Court official sent an email to lawyers requesting that they “support” its implementation.

The email — a copy of which was tweeted by barrister Andrew Keogh — states that “anyone refusing to comply with this request will be refused access to the court.”

Amusingly, the email goes on to play out a scenario in which a barrister (probably a pupil) has been sent to the local Costa on a caffeine supply mission. It continues:

Often, I see one member of the bar entering the court building with numerous coffee cups having drawn the short straw for the coffee run that day. I just want to highlight that this new security procedure will in such circumstances require the sip test to be conducted on all drinks and not just a single cup.

The new rules — introduced yesterday, according to the email — haven’t gone down well with many lawyers on Twitter.

Rebecca Herbert‏, a criminal barrister at 36 Bedford Row, sensibly suggested that lawyers should be given a special “photo ID”.

Echoing Herbert’s sentiments, Simon Myerson QC argued that lawyers should not be subject to the sip test.

9 Bedford Row’s Max Hardy cheekily claimed that the refreshment analysis could lead to a more intimate security check.

Meanwhile, Keogh too questioned whether the test was a step too far.

Responding to the criticism on Twitter, HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood said that the sip test approach is “based on good security advice.” However, she did note Herbert’s photo ID suggestion and reassured lawyers she would look into it.

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18 Comments

Buster

This isn’t new it already applies in many places. And one rule has to apply to all otherwise it is unenforceable. Blimey first world problems.

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Anonymous

Exactly. Regular users of the premises aren’t exempt from committing the kinds of security breaches that these rules seek to combat.

No one is seriously arguing that lawyers never break the law, are they?

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Anonymous

Everyone in the exciting world of HMCTS is a ‘customer’

In the robing rooms there are posters requesting customer feedback and customer satisfaction forms to be completed.

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Scouser of Counsel

I was at Reading Crown Court when a disgruntled victim tried to set fire to a defendant with petrol that they had smuggled into court in a drink bottle.

The sip test was introduced some years ago there for that reason.

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Teaholic

I get the reasoning, but I’m pretty sure that is one were inclined to commit arson in a court, they would also be prepared to sip petrol on the way in. Or conceal it on their body. Determined people do determined things. I don’t see how sipping a drink proves that it can’t be used to harm others.

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Harvey Dent

Wouldn’t the lighter have been identified and confiscated by security?

I don’t know the layout of Reading, but it seems odd that the victim and defendant were in such close proximity.

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Disgruntled barristers clerk

I’ve watched the delightful clients (due in crown court within a matter of minutes) complain at having to open their drinks to sip them.
If you have nothing to hide, what’s the issue?

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Anonymous

I’m sorry barrister your extra hot soya vanilla latte is no longer vegan because I had to also sip the other 4 drinks I’m carrying first. Hope my lactose intolerance doesn’t flare up too badly in the courtroom

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Anonymous

Had to do a sip test today on the way in to court. Completely reasonable in my view given the current vogue for acid attacls. Don’t think there’s a slippery slope argument here. This is a specific, limited response to a specific threat.

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