Tuesday 17 September 2019

Armed gardaí storm Dublin court to tackle 'gunman' armed with suspect device

Security review under way after fake firearm and hoax bomb cause mayhem

Arrest: The suspect is taken to a police van. Picture: Collins
Arrest: The suspect is taken to a police van. Picture: Collins
Safety: Officers help a woman during the evacuation. Picture: Collins

Tom Brady, Shane Phelan and Ryan Nugent

A man waving a gun and carrying a suspicious wired device sparked a major alert in a courtroom yesterday.

The man surrendered when armed gardaí were called to the scene and confronted him.

An in-depth review of court security arrangements is now under way after the incident at a family court at Phoenix Court in Smithfield, Dublin.

The man's gun was found to be an imitation and his suspect device a hoax.

However, the case has highlighted the lack of security in some courts which do not have a Garda presence.

The man interrupted the hearing of a case in the court at about 11.30am.

He began shouting at Judge Susan Ryan and others in the court after producing the imitation firearm and opening his coat to reveal the device.

A garda on routine duty at Phoenix House heard the noise and opened the door of the court. He quickly withdrew and raised the alarm.

Within minutes of the call, a Garda armed support unit arrived at the scene.

Members of the unit, who were in full intervention gear with helmets and ballistic shields, drew their weapons and burst into the court.

The man immediately dropped his weapon and raised his hands before he was grabbed by the officers.

The device was left on the ground as the court was evacuated. A Defence Forces bomb disposal unit carried out a controlled explosion on the device at the scene.

It was later described as "an elaborate hoax".

Officers said that the man, although appearing irate, had not threatened anybody or sought to take a hostage.

All court hearings in Phoenix House were suspended and the building evacuated until the area was declared safe.

The man was arrested under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act and taken to the Bridewell station for questioning. He can be detained without charge for up to 72 hours.

Brendan Ryan, the chief executive of the Courts Service, met with senior gardaí yesterday evening as part of a review of security.

Members of the judiciary have been expressing concern about security issues for several years and there have been a number of incidents in family courts and circuit civil courts where there usually is no Garda presence.

A spokesman for the Courts Service said: "The Courts Service is very concerned at the nature of this incident, and is thankful that all our colleagues and the public remained safe.

"This incident highlights the need to constantly keep courthouse security under review - in terms of both a Garda presence and appropriate security at each court sitting."

The President of the Circuit Court, Judge Raymond Groarke, said the judges of the court were grateful that Judge Ryan was safe.

He said the incident had a been a dreadful experience for someone attending to her work conscientiously and carefully, as she did every day.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he viewed the incident with great concern.

While thankful that nobody involved was injured, he was conscious, he said, of the impact on the judge, court personnel and all others in the court at the time.

The security of the courts and the safety of all who used them, was a matter of the highest priority to him, he said.

The minister added that the courts played a fundamental role in the justice system and must always be able to operate without hindrance.

Irish Independent

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