It took six peace officers to subdue two family members of a murder victim who went after a defendant in court yesterday morning.
The incident is proof courthouses need more security, says Rick Woodburn, head of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys’ Association.
“Let’s invite society’s most violent people into your workplace, with weapons, and let them sit behind you for several hours,” Woodburn said.
“Are you going to be looking over your shoulder?”
The fight occurred during a routine court appearance yesterday for Steven Maurice Colley, charged in the first-degree murder of Andre Jonathan Slawter in January.
Woodburn said the Crown attorney handling the case, Perry Borden, suspected there might be trouble, so he asked to have a metal detector set up and extra sheriffs posted in the courtroom.
He also asked two RCMP officers who were at court yesterday morning to sit in.
Woodburn said when the two men went after Colley, it took all the Mounties and sheriffs to subdue them — leaving Borden alone with the unshackled accused.
“Luckily, (Borden) looks more like a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers than he does a Crown attorney. The majority of our prosecutors are not like that. We’re not trained to defend ourselves,” Woodburn said.
For a year, the association has been asking for more courthouse security. Woodburn said courthouses need permanent metal detectors, and partitions to keep spectators from going after lawyers or the accused.
The Spring Garden Road provincial courthouse has a permanent metal detector, and Woodburn said sheriffs are confiscating knives from people who were convicted of stabbings in the past.
“My fear is that without the metal detector, they could have easily come in with weapons (yesterday),” he said.
The two men, one 26 and the other 20, were later charged with causing a disturbance by fighting. The 26-year-old also faces a charge of assaulting a peace officer. Both were released and will appear in court at a later date.
Thursday’s courtroom fight is under review by the provincial Justice Department, even though security precautions were taken.
“It is very rare, fortunately, that we have an assault within the courtroom setting and we do take every incident seriously. Ultimately courts are public places,” said Sheri Aikenhead, a Justice Department spokeswoman.
Installing permanent metal detectors is something the Justice Department is looking into, Aikenhead said.
“A final decision hasn’t been made but metal detectors have been up at Spring Garden and Dartmouth when needed.”