Chief Justice Wayne Martin renews calls for metal detectors at WA courts

Chief Justice Wayne Martin. Photo: The West Australian.
Chief Justice Wayne Martin. Photo: The West Australian.

CHIEF Justice Wayne Martin wrote to the Department of the Attorney General more than a year ago concerned about security at suburban courthouses, but was told the department considered it sufficient.

Justice Martin has reiterated those calls after the stabbing death of Susan Thomas at Joondalup Justice Complex on December 20.

He would not comment on the incident given it was before the courts, but a spokeswoman confirmed he had again written to the department to renew his request for metal screening in all courthouses.

WA’s head judge was willing to share the letter he sent to former Department of the Attorney General head Cheryl Gwilliam in September 2015.

The letter asked why courts in central Perth had metal detectors but suburban courts, such as Joondalup, did not.

Justice Martin wrote that there did “not appear to be any reason to suppose the risk of someone entering a suburban court” with “a knife or other metal weapon” was any less than that of a CBD complex, such as Perth Magistrates Court.

“Nor is there any reason to think that those attending court at, say, Fremantle, where jury trials have been conducted in the past… are any less likely to attend court carrying unacceptable metal objects than those attending court in the CBD,” the letter said.

He also said WA Legal Aid representatives had “very real concerns” for their safety at courthouses that did not have an “inner secure cordon protected by metal screening devices”.

Ms Gwilliam said existing arrangements at suburban courts addressed the “current identified” security risks.

She said security officers at suburban courts used metal-detecting wands on targeted visitors and at random.

She said the CBD had an elevated security risk because of a “high volume of visitor traffic”.

Ms Gwilliam’s explanation was last month echoed by Attorney General Michael Mischin, who was responding to questions after Ms Thomas’s death allegedly at the hands of her former partner Paul Gary Thomas.

While announcing a state-wide review of courthouse security, Mr Mischin said the CBD courts dealt with matters at a greater volume and of a heightened criminal nature.

He also said the design of some suburban courthouses complicated the installation of security measures such as metal detectors.

“It is a bit more difficult to go and back fill these buildings… when they were built in a gentler time when there weren’t so many concerns,” he said.