It was by no means business as usual today at the District ‘A’ Magistrates’ Court on Coleridge Street, The City, following yesterday’s security scare, with Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite indicating that a new and stepped up security procedure would be fully in place there by Monday.
Today, three security guards were stationed at the front entrance of the court, while police maintained their usual position at the steps and within the precincts of the Bridgetown court.
From the opening of court around nine this morning, the guards were busy carrying out detailed searches of bags and body scans with their security wands on all members of the public wishing to conduct business there. However, court employees, including lawyers, magistrates and clerks, were exempted from the checks.
And while the majority of persons seemed to accept the change with little fuss, at least one woman expressed her displeasure, saying: “All because of one fella”.
She was referring to yesterday’s incident during which a young man attempted to enter the precincts of District A with a loaded gun.
As investigations continue into the matter, police are deliberately withholding information surrounding his identity while they seek to get to the bottom of who was his intended target or targets.
Nonetheless, Public Relations Officer David Welch told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that lawmen were preparing to formally charge the young man, who was able to enter the precinct with the firearm, before his casual attire raised a red flag with the court’s security.
As he tried to make his way across the courtyard wearing short pants, he was stopped and subjected to a search, which revealed the gun.
A struggle ensued and the court offender was detained.
The incident has triggered renewed concerns about the safety of the Coleridge Street building, whose security arrangements are said to be a far cry from what exists at the ultra-modern judicial complex on White Park Road.
In fact, in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s incident, prominent attorney-at-law and former President of the Barbados Bar Association Wilfred Abrahams described the situation at Coleridge Street as a tragedy waiting to happen.
Abrahams said based on the information he had been able to glean privately about the incident, he was most worried about the fact that the main reason the man was not allowed into the compound was that he wore short pants, and not because he had sought to take advantage of “some inherent weaknesses” in the court’s security system.
In light of yesterday’s daring daylight incident, concern was also expressed that persons in custody were walking 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.
There were also calls for police officers working in court compounds to be armed.
However, though not going into detail about the measures to be introduced, the Attorney General said he was not prepared to bury his head in the sand on the alarming security matter.
Today, he promised that swift action would be taken.
“I can tell you without doubt, obviously, we will review our procedures within our Magistrates’ Courts in particular, because the Supreme Court has it security guards, the detectors, etcetera, and we will review them and see if we need to upgrade them,” Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY.
“If they need upgrading, they will be upgraded. Simple as that. And I can guarantee you that come Monday morning that where there are weaknesses they will be addressed. I can guarantee you that,” Brathwaite stressed.
While acknowledging that some young people involved in crime or with criminal tendencies had become more aggressive, Brathwaite’s message to the country was simply: “Don’t panic”.
At the same time, he reiterated his previous contention that Barbados was still a relatively safe place and that it had not yet reached the stage where residents needed to be unduly worried.