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Union renews security concerns amid trial over ‘horrific’ B.C. courtroom stabbing

Click to play video: 'Alleged attack in B.C. Supreme Court raises questions about security' Alleged attack in B.C. Supreme Court raises questions about security
An alleged attack in a B.C. Supreme courtroom is raising questions about security in the judicial system. As Rumina Daya reports, it wasn't the first time a courtroom has become a crime scene – Apr 18, 2022

The union representing workers in B.C.’s court system is calling for tougher security, amid the trial of a woman accused of attempted murder inside the Vancouver Supreme Court building last year.

Catherine Shen is accused of using a hammer and fish knife to attack Jing Lu, a woman she was in a legal dispute with, inside a courtroom last May, leaving the other woman with serious injuries.

Read more: Trial of woman accused of attempted murder inside B.C. courtroom hears of chaotic, bloody scene

“It was traumatic, it was tragic, and I can only imagine just how traumatic that event was for our members who were working in the court system when this event took place,” Stephanie Smith, president of the BCGEU, told Global News.

Security video shown in court last week and obtained by Global News shows what Crown says is Shen entering the building with a purse and case on wheels on the day of the attack.

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Attendees at the courthouse are not required to go through a metal detector or show the contents of their bags, and in the video sheriffs do not check Shen’s bags.

Within the hour, Lu was lying bloodied on the ground and Shen was in custody after sheriffs flooded the courtroom when a clerk pressed the panic button.

“We are incredibly fortunate that a very, very violent incident did not result in someone’s death, whether it’s the death of a court attendee in this particular case or the death of one of our members,” Smith said.

More robust security measures are standard at some other British Columbia courthouses. The B.C. provincial courthouse at 222 Main Street, for example, requires all attendees to go through airport-style screening including a bag check and metal detector.

Read more: Courtroom stabbing raises questions about security at B.C. Supreme Court

Those are measures Smith wants to see extended throughout the court system.

“The most obvious is strong screening, and that includes metal detectors, that includes having the agility to screen people’s personal handbags or parcels … very practical, very easy,” she said.

“We’re saying it’s possible, we’ve done assessments, we’ve worked with our occupation health and safety teams, we’ve worked with our members that work in these facilities — we know it’s possible to put in the materials that are needed to keep working people safe, not just our members but others who are attending court.”

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Click to play video: 'Questions about security in B.C. courts after stabbing leaves woman fighting for life' Questions about security in B.C. courts after stabbing leaves woman fighting for life
Questions about security in B.C. courts after stabbing leaves woman fighting for life – May 26, 2021

B.C. Attorney General David Eby acknowledged the concerns raised by the “horrific” incident.

Eby said the case prompted investigations by WorkSafeBC along with the court itself.

“It’s a challenging building the downtown Vancouver courthouse, there’s multiple entrances, it’s a sprawling facility,” Eby said.

“Happily this very high profile but terrible incident was unprecedented almost in the court, they are very rare despite the tensions and emotion … but the reviews that have taken place will result in changes around security at that specific facility and our sheriffs services are always taking steps to make sure the facilities are safe and brining forward concerns so we can address them.”

Shen’s attempted murder trial, meanwhile, has been adjourned until April 20 to allow for psychiatric reports.

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Shen’s defence lawyer Scott Wright has also told Global News he will be filing an application to have his client declared not criminally responsible on account of a mental disorder.

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