Almost a month after the new security screening system was implemented at provincial court in St. John's, sheriff's officers have uncovered plenty of restricted items. - Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram
Nail clippers, tweezers, box-cutters, pocket knives, razors and scissors.
In the first month of operation, the new security screening system at provincial court in St. John's has uncovered dozens of items people commonly carry in purses and kit bags - things people don't give a second thought about when they head out and which are often discovered at airport security checkpoints.
But you wouldn't expect to find bear spray, a steak knife, marijuana and two bottles of beer - one of them opened.
They were some of the more serious items sheriff's officers - with the help of X-ray scanners - confiscated since the new screening process started Dec. 20.
"There's been extremely few (restricted) items found ... and nothing too serious," Justice Minister Felix Collins told The Telegram earlier this week.
"We actually thought there would be more than that."
The process is similar to what's in use at airport check-in gates. Visitors entering court on the fourth floor of Atlantic Place are required to walk through a metal detector and be searched with hand-held wands. Baggage items are put through X-ray screeners.
Any restricted objects are confiscated and not returned.
It's all meant to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the court process.
Collins couldn't say whether or not people found with prohibited items intended to use them inside the court.
"Who knows what the motive was, if any," he said.
"Maybe they were some things in their pockets they forgot, just like what you'd find at an airport screening.
"These things will happen. People will always wind up with (common) items like that.
"So, whether or not it prevented anything, there's no way of telling."
Still, Collins is glad the items were found.
"It's certainly positive," he said. "It shows the system is working."
The provincial government invested about $300,000 to put the stepped-up security measures in place. It included renovations to the fourth floor of Atlantic Place, the installation of two perimeter screening stations, the development of new policies around screening and the development of regulatory authority to conduct screening and physical searches of the public entering the courts.
So far, Collins said, operations are running smoothly and sheriff's officers have adjusted well to their new duties.
"We're pleased with how things are going so far," he said.
"We haven't heard anything (negative) from the court and that's good news. ... We're satisfied with the comments we're getting from the people at court and sheriff's officers."
Roughly 200 members of the public go through provincial court in St. John's every day, including family members and friends of those accused of crimes.
For the most part, people have been co-operative in going through screening before entering courtrooms, Collins said.
"We're very happy with (the response)," he said. "We anticipated there'd be complaints, such as the time it might take to go through, but there's been none of that at all.
"Most people are generally relieved that it's there because it's in the best interest of the courts."
Collins doesn't foresee changes in the system, but said they'll consistently review how things are working.
"If there are glitches, we'll take a look at things. Right now, we're playing it by ear," he said.
"But we're constantly chatting with the high sheriff (Ernie Boone) about it and the (provincial) chief judge, (Mark Pike).
"If something needs to be addressed, we'll do it."
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