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Bomb threats, mystery insect bite, and Covid breaches among over 100 incidents logged by Courts Service

Multiple breaches of Covid-19 restrictions involving members of the public and also members of the legal profession were reported.

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Ken Foxe

Bomb threats, a mystery insect bite, a defendant who headbutted a pane of glass, and a man who tried to bring his dog to court were among the accidents and incidents logged by the Courts Service last year.

Multiple breaches of Covid-19 restrictions involving members of the public and also members of the legal profession were also reported.

There were more than 100 events recorded in the Courts Service official estates management incident database for 2020, including a number of accidents involving judges.

One incident saw an altercation between court security staff at the public screening area at the entrance to the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin.

“The person tried to bring a dog into the building in their satchel,” said a log of the incident. “[The security staff] would not permit this.”

In another case in the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ), a member of the public said a door to a smoking area had slammed shut on their foot.

At Trim Courthouse in Meath, a sinister incident was reported where a witness was on the receiving end of abuse.

The Courts Service log said: “A person who was sitting in the body of the court received abusive comments and threats from another person when they were coming back from the witness box.”

Another incident saw a person wearing a “dark coat, [and] sunglasses with their hood up” threaten security staff with a knife.

“[They] threatened to blow up the CCJ,” said the courts log. “They left but returned a while later. They were recognised and garda assistance was provided.”

In Tipperary, a member of the public was observed using a recording device in court.

When they were spotted, they were ordered to leave the room. “One of them lashed out and hit a prison officer with their arm,” said the log.

At the CCJ, another incident was logged where a person forced their way into a secure section of the court buildings ending up in the jury area before being “removed”.

In Co Kerry, a prisoner in the cell area of the courthouse set a plastic tray and an item of clothing on fire. An alert prison officer was able to put the blaze out with no major damage.

Multiple accidents involving staff were also reported including one case in Dublin where an employee was hit by the door of a steel cabinet that had snapped off its hinges.

Another suffered a mystery bite while doing filing work in the Northwest. “Regional office arranged for filing area to be fumigated,” said the log.

A prison officer was also injured after a wedge holding a door open came loose and “struck them on the head” in Co Tipperary.

Another staff member hurt themselves on a “very slippery” floor that had just been washed in Louth while one employee reported a damaged shoulder “possibly moving/carrying files”.

There were also accidents involving judges including one who fell and banged their head on a radiator.

Another case saw a judge place their hand on a glass panel to push a door open. As they did, the glass panel came loose and shattered on the ground with the judge reported unharmed.

Multiple instances around Covid-19 restrictions were also reported including well-publicised incidents involving anti-lockdown protesters.

However, concerns were also raised about the behaviour of legal practitioners in Waterford. “Despite numerous requests, no regard was shown for social distancing,” the log said.

Large crowds of people were also reported in Portlaoise Courthouse without social distancing in June with similar issues reported in Kilkenny and Naas in the weeks that followed.

There were also two instances where people got stuck in lifts: one member of the public for thirteen minutes, and a barrister for six minutes.

A spokesman said: “The Courts Service has 103 buildings in its nationwide estate. We continuously manage the safety arrangements for all properties, including keeping a register and the reporting of incidents.

“This active management helps us to ensure the optimum environment for the health and safety of all persons entering Courts Service buildings. It also helps us comply with our legal responsibilities and to continuously improve our health and safety processes.”

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