SA's court security under scrutiny
A security expert says if you are smartly dressed, you get taken straight past the metal detectors.
JOHANNESBURG - Security at South Africa's courts is under scrutiny following yesterday's shooting incident at the Pretoria Magistrates Court during which two officers were shot.
Speaking to Talk Radio 702's John Robbie on Wednesday, Stan Bezuidenhout, a Forensic Collision Homicide Reconstructionist, says the current security in South Africa's courts is not good enough.
Bezuidenhout who has worked in the security industry says security is completely lax at the country's courts.
"I arrived in a suit and briefcase at a courtroom inside one of the well-known jails in South Africa. They asked if I was going to court and immediately they ushered me past all the metal detectors, into the jail, through the gate and another door. They left and came back and I was then taken into the court with all the other suspects. I was carrying a 45 calibre pistol."
On leaving, Bezuidenhout says he pointed out the discrepancy to the official in charge of security but a month-and-a-half later when he returned, the same thing happened.
Bezuidenhout described how he once intervened in an incident at a Port Elizabeth traffic court.
The shooting involved two groups of suspects, believed to be part of two separate gangs.
A suspect from one group allegedly withdrew a knife and tried to attack an opposing gang member, who then withdrew a firearm and began firing shots at his attacker.
"The suspect then ran into the court and barricaded the door. The magistrate ran out, the orderly at the time was out of the courtroom. I had to disarm the man myself. He was then arrested."
Bezuidenhout says there should be a standard security protocol in place.
"Only people who look suspicious are treated with suspicion. But if you're wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, you get taken straight past the metal detectors."
"Dangerous suspects, who are sometimes not even cuffed, are not kept separate. Once they come out of the holding cells, they are basically free while orderlies that are there to protect everyone are not allowed to have firearms - apparently because this intimidates defendants."
Bezuidenhout says it boils down to skills training.
"In my experience, when a police officer gets appointed to core duty for a number of years, after about a year, that officer loses a lot of his street smarts. He goes through boring court processes every day, he becomes complacent, most suspects cooperate and when this kind of thing happens, officers are not trained to deal with it."