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HomeBusinessAnalysis: History says Vancouver Law Courts security unlikely to change, even after vicious stabbing

Analysis: History says Vancouver Law Courts security unlikely to change, even after vicious stabbing

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Bob Mackin

A nasty feud between two 53-year-old women originally from China exploded into a vicious, bloody fight in courtroom 32 of Vancouver’s Law Courts on May 25.

Jing Lu was rushed to hospital with numerous stab wounds. Catherine Shen was handcuffed and jailed. She faces a charge of attempted murder.

Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)

The Ministry of the Attorney General was quick to say that security at the Robson Square complex would be reviewed.

But will anything change?

More than 30 years ago, in courtroom 30, one of B.C.’s best-known lawyers was the victim of a pocket knife attack during a custody dispute. Despite that, anyone can still enter the building and proceed to almost every courtroom without walking through a metal detector.

On Nov. 28, 1990, the mother of a 19-year-old man with cerebral palsy and her lawyer were stabbed when the father went berserk, just after Justice Anne Rowles left the bench.

This reporter was a young freelancer for the Whistler Question newspaper, covering the criminal contempt case against 62 Lil’wat Nation members and their supporters. RCMP officers arrested them for the four-month Duffey Lake Road blockade, a Pemberton Valley land dispute that began in the same summer as the armed Mohawk roadblock near a disputed golf course Oka, Quebec. The sheriffs were kept busy as Justice Bruce Macdonald struggled to keep decorum.

Ex-Deputy Attorney General David Vickers

I happened to be at the right place, at the right time, in the third floor corridor when paramedics wheeled a man past me on a stretcher. The patient was David Vickers, who had been Deputy Attorney General under one-term NDP Premier Dave Barrett. Vickers was runner-up to Bob Skelly for the NDP leadership in 1984 and failed to win a seat in Saanich and the Islands in the 1986 provincial election.

I rushed to the payphone to call the news desk at Canadian Press, where I worked on the weekend sports desk during journalism school.

Vickers was treated for an arm injury and released. His client was hospitalized with serious wounds. Social Credit Attorney General Russ Fraser vowed to review security. But not much happened until 2002. That is when $7.2 million of construction was finished to create the high-security courtroom 20 for the Air India terrorism trial. Included in the package was airport-style security machinery.

More than a decade ago, officials spent $2.2 million to secure courtroom 67 for the trial of United Nations gangsters. But the walk-through metal detectors are used on an as-and-when-needed basis.

New Westminster courthouse (B.C. Courts)

The entrances to the courthouse remain unencumbered. Criminal matters are a priority assignment for sheriffs. Not civil appearances, like Lu versus Shen.

A year after I witnessed Vickers being wheeled away, a jury acquitted the assailant, Oakville, Ontario’s Thomas Sawyer, of attempted murder and aggravated assault. A psychiatrist testified Sawyer had been in a disassociated state when he stabbed his ex-wife and Vickers, who tried to protect his client.

There are metal detectors, however, at the B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster and Provincial Courthouses in Vancouver and Surrey, after a deadly incident in mid-1990.

Pak Chee Wu, 38, brought a handgun with him to the New Westminster courthouse on June 11, 1990 for the appeal of a three-month sentence for illegal crab fishing.

Wu took five people hostage and demanded a sum of money. The emergency response team arrived. A shootout ensued. Three officers were injured. Wu was severely wounded.

The immigrant from China succumbed in Royal Columbian Hospital almost two weeks later, on June 24, 1990.

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