Major security alert after man allegedly produces suspect device at hearing

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Security at a family court in Ireland is under review after a man allegedly produced an imitation gun and suspect device during a hearing.

A man was arrested after the incident at the Phoenix House complex in the Smithfield area of Dublin on Thursday morning.

A major security alert was triggered, with bomb disposal officers from the Irish Army deployed to the scene as the building was completely evacuated.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team carried out a controlled explosion and removed the suspect device for further examination. The security cordon was subsequently lifted and hearings resumed on Thursday afternoon.

Judge Susan Ryan was presiding over a family law hearing when the incident happened at about 11.30am.

Unlike a number of other court buildings in the city, there are no airport security-style scanners at the Phoenix House complex.

Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said: “While thankful that nobody involved was injured, I am nonetheless conscious of the impact on the judge, court personnel and all others who were in the court at the time.

“The security of the courts and the safety of all who use the courts is a matter of the highest priority for me.

“The courts play a fundamental role in our justice system and must always be able to operate without hindrance.

“I commend the Gardai for their swift actions in response to the incident that unfolded. The matter is now the subject of a Garda investigation.”

A spokesman for the Irish 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”.

Gardai stand by a cordon
Gardai at a cordon by the Luas in front of the family court building at Phoenix House (Niall Carson/PA)

“This level of security has been operational in the Four Courts and the Criminal Courts of Justice for over a decade,” he added.

“Such security measures limit the opportunity for incidents such as the one this morning”.

The Council of The Bar of Ireland said: “The shocking events in the Family Court in Phoenix House this morning and other recent high-profile incidents involving assaults on barristers are of utmost concern to The Bar of Ireland.

“Issues of safety and security of barristers, and all those working in the courts system, are an absolute priority for the Bar and these matters have previously been raised with the courts service.

“The Bar of Ireland will continue to actively engage with all relevant parties to ensure the protection of our members and to facilitate a safe environment in which barristers can advocate on behalf of their clients.”

The arrested man was taken to the city’s Bridewell Garda station, where he remained in custody on Thursday evening.

Thursday morning’s incident caused travel disruption in the city, forcing the closure of a Luas tram stop outside the building.

Crowds of office workers and barristers dressed in court attire gathered at the security cordon as the operation continued over lunchtime.

The Smithfield area is popular with tourists, as it is close to the famous Jameson whiskey distillery and a number of hotels and youth hostels.

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