A tragedy waiting to happen!
That’s was the reaction of one prominent attorney and former President of the Barbados Bar Association to today’s worrying incident, which occurred on the precincts of the District “A” Magistrates’ Court on Coleridge Street,
It was well before noon when a young man reportedly attempted to enter the busy Bridgetown court with a loaded gun.
However, police said in a statement issued just after noon today that he was stopped and questioned by a security guard, along with police officers, as he attempted to gain access to the building via the main gate. A struggle ensued and the court offender was detained, searched and the firearm discovered.
Up to late tonight, police were yet to confirm the identify of the court offender, but attorney-at-law Wilfred Abrahams, who is also an Opposition Barbados Labour Party Senator, told Barbados TODAY that based on the information he had been able to glean privately about the incident, he was worried that one of the main places of work might not be safe.
Abrahams said he had been informed that the main reason the man was not allowed into the compound was that he wore short pants, and not because he was carrying a loaded weapon.
While giving kudos to the security guard who eventually discovered the firearm, Abrahams said today’s disturbing event highlights “some inherent weaknesses” in the court’s security system, as he went on to compare the situation at the magistrate’s court with that at the island’s main judicial building, the Supreme Court.
He explained that while in the Supreme Court the security scanning was at the entrance to the building, in the magistrate’s court, “you can walk right up to the door of the court without being searched.
“Lucky for us, the man happened to be wearing a short pants, because that is the only reason he was stopped at the gate. If he was wearing a long pants, he would have gotten right up,” Abrahams told Barbados TODAY.
The attorney further cautioned that there was a similar security weakness at the gate leading into the Central Police Station “where if you are coming through to go to the police canteen, you can just walk through that gate without being searched once again”.
He further took issue with the current procedure whereby “persons in custody are walked across the courtyard within touching distance of their family, friends, supporters or people who might wish to do them harm, or try to rescue them”, saying, “It is unacceptable”.
In light of today’s “scare”, he said it was time for the authorities to face up to the reality that criminals in the country were getting daring, while suggesting that at least some of the police officers working in court compounds should be armed.
“It is a real risk, and the court is a hot bed for passion, by its very nature it deals with the criminal elements in the country. So it is now time for us to stop burying our heads in the sand and accept that violence has now come to the steps of the court and arm some of the police officers in the precincts of the court,” he emphasized.
With police and other judicial officials and staff tightlipped about the investigation, Abrahams stressed that “had that [man] not been wearing a short pants, Lord alone knows what would have happened! That’s the only reason he got stopped.
“It happened to be a guard who said, ‘no, you are not going through . . . you are not appropriately dressed for court’. It was only when the man insisted that they held him . . . the gun was up between his legs. Had he been properly dressed, somebody would have died,” he added.