Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Perimeter Security Coming to Alberta Courthouses

Starting with the Edmonton Law Courts building and the Calgary site of the Court of Appeal on April 10, 2006 , and following up in the summer of 2007 with the new Calgary mega-courthouse and other circuit points, anyone entering a courthouse in Alberta will be subject to a drastically stepped-up security screening.

Law Society of Alberta - Court Security

I have chosen the word "drastically" because at present, persons entering courthouses in the Province are simply not screened at all.

There will be a "fast track" lane with reduced security measures for judges, lawyers, court staff, police officers and emergency personnel, but these individuals will have to produce proper identification or be forced to wait in the full-screening line.

Perhaps this is a necessary or if not necessary at least a prudent step to take, but I can't help but think that we are succumbing to the very fears that terrorist interests have been preying upon by deciding to take this step.

It is not as though there is no security under the current system...armed Court and Protection Services (CAPS) officers were present in almost every courtroom, and are never far away if needed. Not to mention that in criminal and traffic courts in particular the concentration of police officers is often astounding.

So far, we have been able to avoid much of the "culture of fear" that has developed in the U.S. following September 11th, but this new measure may be a significant step away from the openness and freedom that we have enjoyed as Canadians.

On a practical note, it will be interesting to see how well these "airport-type" security measures are administered...particularly when one considers the number of people who will have to get into the Calgary mega-courthouse every day at about the same time.

The already time-consuming and often inefficient court process may just get a whole lot worse, leading to many more citizens being frustrated and disappointed from their experiences with the justice system.

And ironically, aren't people who are incredibly frustrated with the justice system the ones who would be most likely to be a security threat in the first place?


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