'War criminal' protest makes mockery of courts' security system
Security breach prompts another inquiry
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Tuesday 29 May 2012
The door behind the blue curtain framing Lord Justice Leveson is marked "fire exit". Nobody took much notice of it. But at 12.15, when judicial thoughts were turning to lunch, out from behind the drape jumped a man in a white shirt and khaki pants. Ushers and court officials wear black gowns. So who the hell was this?
Security at the Royal Courts of Justice is supposed to be tight. Key doors have swipe-card access only. Security staff roam the building. There are judges to protect; former prime ministers to be looked after.
David Lawley-Wakelin, a 49-year-old documentary film-maker, had just showed how pathetic the royal courts' security system actually is. He walked to the front of the court, to the right of Lord Justice Leveson, and said: "Excuse me." And pointing to Tony Blair, said: "This man is a war criminal." It was a rather mannerly demo.
Two Special Branch officers, perhaps on foam-pie duty, sitting in the public benches, were out of their seats like Olympic sprinters. But they weren't quick enough to head off the words accusing Mr Blair of being "paid off" by the US bank, JP Morgan.
Mr Blair barely blinked, just as when purple flour was thrown at him in the Commons. Robert Jay, QC, continued to lean on his lectern while Special Branch now limbered up for the Olympic wrestling contest, taking their man down in under 10 seconds. Lord Justice Leveson just looked inconvenienced. The protester's exit through the fire door, down into the court's court yard, saw him followed by reporters running from the large white press tent. He shouted his name and something about the Alternative Iraq Inquiry before being driven off to Belgravia police station.
So how did he get in? Mr Lawley-Wakelin kindly called The Independent after the police had finished with him. He said he'd come through the routine security at the courts' entrance, went up the main staircase, but found he was unable to get to where Mr Blair was. Asked to leave at one point by an official, he said he decided there must be another way in. He found another court room with an open door, went through the fire door behind the judge's chair and found himself in the backstairs network.
The explanation is too easy. How did he navigate through the back stairs and come out exactly where he wanted to? It is not mission impossible, but a lucky accident sounds equally implausible. One of the security staff nodded, saying "inside job". These questions will be asked by the inquiry's inquiry which Lord Justice Leveson ordered.
Lawley-Wakelin said he was treated politely in Belgravia. He promised he was going to do no more harm and said he was released without being charged.
When the inquiry resumed, Mr Blair looked and sounded unflustered.
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