Labour's justice spokesman is calling for a high-level investigation into the theft of two police Glock pistols from New Plymouth's courthouse.
The Ministry of Justice yesterday conceded it had no idea exactly when the two guns went missing.
The two pistols were involved in the police shooting of Steven Wallace at Waitara 14 years ago and were being held at the courthouse as evidence when they were stolen.
The guns were only discovered to be missing when one was found in the possession of a man arrested for methamphetamine charges last year.
Labour justice spokesman Andrew Little said the incident raised serious concerns about the security systems in place at the courthouse.
"Any evidence held by the courts is meant to be kept under very tight security and whenever police of any authority are handling it, there's meant to be a tight chain of custody and a record kept," Little said.
"If that has been done properly, there ought to be a record of who's had access."
Whether the failure was on the part of the police or the courts, a high level investigation was essential, he said.
"We need to know how anybody could have access to weapons.
"I'd be very interested to know how a breach of this level of security happened."
Courts Minister Chester Borrows said he was angry and disappointed to hear the guns had gone missing.
"It's a concern for the courts and also for the police because at some stage the police file has been written off so the exhibits should have been returned."
If a criminal had been operating in the workplace there was no telling how much mischief they had made, he said.
The ministry would not give a reassurance to the public that nothing else had gone missing from the courthouse or any evidence compromised.
A spokesman said the guns should have been returned to the police once the appeal period had ended.
Wallace was shot dead by police in Waitara's main street in the early hours of April 30, 2000.
The 23-year-old, armed with a baseball bat and golf clubs, had been on a rampage smashing dozens of shop windows in the town centre.
The shooting set off a nine-year- long saga of official inquiries and court hearings in the landmark and controversial case.
The officer who shot Wallace was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Due to the active police investigation into the theft of the two firearms, and that a man is before the courts on a charge of unlawful possession of one of them, the ministry could not comment on who had access to court exhibits, the spokesman said.
He was also unable to comment on the specific changes to security in the courts for security reasons.
- Taranaki Daily News