Deputy sheriffs used pepper spray to stop an attempted escape from Halifax provincial court Wednesday afternoon, shutting down the Spring Garden Road courthouse for about an hour.

Cory Cameron, 32, was in court to be arraigned on five charges including assault, uttering death threats and resisting and obstructing a peace officer.

Before entering the courtroom, deputy sheriffs followed procedure and Cameron was freed of his handcuffs.

"My understanding is that he managed to break free when they uncuffed him, and when they did, he bolted for the door," said Rick Woodburn, president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys Association.

Cameron jumped over a railing and ran to the first floor before he was pepper-sprayed by a deputy sheriff in the foyer, Woodburn said.

"Luckily, we had enough sheriffs on the front door to secure this individual and make sure that he didn't make it outside."

Three deputy sheriffs also inhaled pepper spray and needed to be treated by paramedics at the scene. Nobody was taken to hospital.

Woodburn said other jurisdictions leave offenders handcuffed until they're in their cells or sitting down in the courtroom. "In this process, there's plenty of room for review," he said.