Client service and court security : 'softening the barrier' to enhance court safety

  • Douglas Arthur Jackman

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This is a study of the role that court staff play in helping create and maintain a safer court environment and thereby helping to ‘soften’ the security barrier that envelops most courts today. This study examines court safety from the vantage point of client service staff working in a major Federal court system in Australia by looking at the contribution they make to helping clients feel safer whilst at court. The study was conducted as part of an Australian Research Council funded national study of court safety (Reference Number LP9882179). The study draws upon existing theory on court security, service quality and work-related stress but differs from existing research in terms of the study’s context, vantage point and the connections found to exist between court security, workplace safety and service quality. Existing court security research literature has tended to emphasise the design of court rooms, court buildings and their surrounds, the use of security technology and the deployment of specialist security staff as strategies for improving court security. This study focuses on how a court’s boundary tier (consisting of those court staff who work between the court and its clients) can help to support the wellbeing and security concerns of the court’s clients and, thereby, contribute to a safe court environment. Service industry and social science research literature tends to ignore courts as a research setting. This study makes a contribution to existing knowledge by exploring the relationship between employee commitment, job satisfaction and job performance amongst the court’s client service staff. In addition, contemporary service industry research also tends to promote the role of the ‘positive client’ in the co-creation of services. This study focuses on how complex situations and difficult clients are perceived by the court’s client service staff to be psychosocial stressors that act as factors that hinder their service performance. This study is a case study of a court system with a complex service setting that includes numerous court registries and a moderately sized centralized national call centre. The study adopts a parallel, mixed research methods design and presents a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data obtained from the court’s client service staff along with qualitative data obtained from a sample of their team leaders, managers and some of their professional client contact colleagues. This study demonstrates that the staff working in a court’s boundary tier can make an important contribution to client safety, that an important relationship exists between court security, workplace safety and service quality, and that the relevance of a court’s boundary tier to client safety can be influenced by the level of support provided to boundary staff to help them cope with complex situations and difficult clients. This study will be of interest to any court administrator currently using, or thinking about using, their boundary staff to help improve client security.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDeborah Blackman (Supervisor), Debra Rickwood (Supervisor) & David TAIT (Supervisor)

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