Security fears heightened after sex offender slits throat in Riverina courtroom

Wagga Courthouse
Wagga Courthouse

A peak law body has called for a security review at all Riverina courthouses after a man facing child sex abuse charges allegedly attempted to slit his throat during a trial

The incident, where the accused sex offender smuggled a sharp object into Griffith District Court, has prompted the “urgent” call for change. 

With reports of just one sheriff on duty at the time, a number of Riverina solicitors have backed a potential review to combat the danger.  

Public Service Association regional organiser Michelle Mackintosh said the incident highlighted a “glaring issue”. 

“We are calling on the government to do a total review of all courthouse security, especially those in remote and rural areas,” she said. 

“They’re not immune to these types of incidents.”

It is believed the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was before a judge and jury as it handed down a guilty verdict on Thursday when it became apparent he had injured himself. 

He was transported to Griffith Base Hospital with self-inflicted wounds to his wrists and neck after allegedly smuggling a sharp object into court.  

Ms Mackintosh said staffing numbers were also an issue and additional wand scanners would be a positive starting point. 

“Courthouses can blow up at any stage with emotions on a high,” she said. 

“A court is a hotspot and we have to look after our people, we have to look after everyone.” 

A department of justice spokesperson said the NSW Sheriff are continually reviewing security to ensure the safety of its users with 58 new sherrif’s officers appointed in 2017. 

“In the last two years, four new recruits have been deployed to Riverina courts,” the spokesperson said. 

Wagga solicitor Zac Tankard has supported the call for a security review. 

“What if the man decided to go the Crown prosecutor because he didn’t like what he had to say or didn’t like the jury,” he said. 

“I think we’re fortunate to have not experienced too many serious incidents so far.” 

Mr Tankard noted the difference between the Riverina and Sydney court security and sometimes ponders what would happen in an emergency situation. 

“It’s obvious in court that there are tense moments when people go to jail and don’t want to,” he said. 

“You do look around the room and wonder what if someone jumped over a desk and attacked the magistrate?

“Would it be you as a lawyer having to stop it? 

Fellow Wagga solicitor John Weir said there was a need for funding to facilitate greater screening at all courts. 

“I’m not concerned so much with weapons, it’s more so with people’s unarmed behaviour,” he said. 

“But it is concerning that the man in this instance could’ve easily directed the frustrations to people around him.” 

For crisis support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 224 636.  

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