6 inmates accused in N.S. jail beating make first court appearances
Burnside jail inmate was rushed to hospital last month with life-threatening injuries after vicious assault
Six of the 15 men accused in a brutal attack at a Nova Scotia jail last month made court appearances Thursday, and were each brought into court separately and under tight security to face charges that include attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and forcible confinement.
"Given the nature of the charges and the seriousness of the charges ... of course, there's always a security concern here at the courthouse, but also I understand there were security concerns at the jail itself," Crown prosecutor Rick Woodburn said outside court after the first appearances.
Police were called to the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Centre in Burnside early on the evening of Dec. 2 for a report of a violent assault. An inmate was rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries. As many as five other inmates are accused of doing the actual attack, while 10 prisoners formed a human wall to prevent guards from intervening.
Some of the accused have already been transferred out of the Burnside jail and are now being housed in other facilities around the province.
Some of the ones remaining in Burnside are being held under close confinement. Four of them went to court last week to argue that the added restrictions were unfair; a claim rejected by a Supreme Court justice.
At that habeas corpus hearing, a senior jail official testified that as many as 18 correctional officers a day are refusing to work because of safety concerns.
"I'm not hearing those numbers, to be honest with you," Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey said Thursday following a cabinet meeting.
"I work very close with our labour leaders and many issues come to my attention that are topical and are concerning."
Furey's department is conducting an internal review of the jail attack, which he said hasn't been completed yet. Furey said the system worked and it would be "naive" to think that such violent incidents can be entirely prevented.
The 15 accused are scheduled to return to provincial court next month, but because of the seriousness of the charges, any bail requests and an eventual trial will have to be held in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
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