CCTV to help combat courthouse bomb threats

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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WITH concerns growing amid a string of bomb hoaxes at three courthouses — the latest occurring yesterday at the Supreme Court — Justice Minister Delroy Chuck says closed-circuit television cameras that are to be installed at court complexes islandwide are to help combat these types of security issues.

The ceremonial opening of the Michaelmas Term of the Home Circuit Court at the Supreme Court building in downtown Kingston came to a premature end yesterday, amid reports that a bomb threat had been issued. The threat, like the ones before, turned out to be fake, but the building was evacuated and services at the courthouse temporarily halted.

Yesterday's fake bomb threat is the fourth such report since August, including one made against the Trelawny Parish Court and two at the Kingston and St Andrew Parish Court.

Responding to concerns about the threats at an installation ceremony for 22 new justices of the peace in Trelawny last Friday, Chuck said they shouldn't be happening.

“... We are going to put in cameras across each court complex. The idea of the camera is that it can detail what happens 24 hours per day. So we can always search what happens in each space... Very shortly all of the court complexes will have cameras detailing what is happening in each courtroom, each corner of the court, and around the court.

“We will certainly be able to identify any movement that may happen because these cameras are such that it can identify any movement; so if there is a movement at night, it can be detected and we hope that will prevent similar occurrences, which as I say, turned out to be fake,” Chuck said.

In the meantime, head of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC), Assistant Commissioner Fitz Bailey, said the police are taking the threats seriously.

During the bomb scare yesterday, the firefighters and police personnel from the bomb squad and the Canine Division were summoned to respond to the situation. However, individuals, including court staff, were overheard criticising the way in which it was handled.

Among the criticisms were that an alarm should have been used in the evacuation of people from the building instead of the people being told to evacuate and that the workers should have been quickly transported to a safe location.

People who had gathered for the ceremonial opening were either making their way inside the building or were already inside the building when news came about the bomb threat, however, no one was observed at the door preventing others from entering.

Members of the media were about to enter the courtroom for the ceremony when they were informed by a staff member that a bomb threat had been issued. While making their way down the stairs, they observed a judge and her team making their way to the first floor before they, too, were informed of the bomb threat.

People were then told to make their way to the car park, which is behind the Supreme Court, but many of them stopped in close proximity to the court.

A Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) bus, which was on the compound, was then used to quickly whisk most of the judges away, but a few were seen outside the court building conversing. About an hour later, two police buses were seen transporting staff members to the Jamaica Conference Centre.

After the building was completely cleared and was thoroughly checked and no bomb was found, operations resumed about 2:00 pm.

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