Nova Scotia

N.S. attorneys file courthouse safety complaint

Crown attorneys in Nova Scotia have filed a complaint with the Department of Labour over what they say is lax security at provincial courthouses in metro Halifax that is threatening their safety.

Lack of security at Halifax area court buildings an 'unacceptable hazard'

Crown attorneys in Nova Scotia have filed a complaint with the Department of Labour over what they say is lax security at provincial courthouses in metro Halifax that is threatening their safety.

The lack of security at the provincial court buildings on Pleasant Street in Dartmouth and on Spring Garden Road in Halifax creates "an unacceptable hazard" for everyone who enters the buildings, says the complaint filed Tuesday by the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys Association.

"Over 1,600 weapons have been seized at the doors of this courthouse," Crown attorney Rick Woodburn said of the provincial court building in Halifax.

"In our view, it's a very unsafe environment. It's unsafe for the Crown attorneys; it's unsafe for the public to be here.

"We already have the evidence. We already have people convicted of assaulting Crown attorneys, convicted of assaulting people in this courthouse."

Lawyers could walk if problem not fixed

In the hallways of the courthouse, the accused, witnesses, police, defence and Crown lawyers all rub shoulders, and it can be a volatile combination.

A16-year-old girl was charged with attempted murder after a 22-year-old woman was attacked with a knife inside the Spring Garden courthouse last October.

The incident happened in a public waiting area on the second floor of the courthouse.

The girl had smuggled in a flip-knife in her vagina. She set off the metal detector but told security the scanner was simply picking up a body piercing.

A lawyer and court worker were able to wrestle the knife away from her before anyone was injured.

The attorneys association had asked the province to pay for security improvements at the courthouse following the incident but was turned down.

Woodburn, who is president of the attorneys association, says the association wants a full investigation of court security by safety experts.

There could be serious implications for justice if the situation isn't fixed and lawyers decide to strike, bringing Nova Scotia's court system to a halt, he said.

"After a review and a complete investigation is done, we have a right to walk out," said Woodburn.