Screaming woman sparks court panic
A Christchurch courtroom came to a halt today, with the panic alarm sounding when a woman began screaming at the judge.
A registrar hit the button that brought security staff and police rushing to the No 2 District Court, but the woman had already run from the central-city courthouse.
Judge Paul Kellar left the court, which did not resume for about 30 minutes after the incident.
The shouting happened when Judge Kellar refused bail for a 29-year-old man the police had described as a prolific offender who is facing 30 more charges, mainly of thefts from cars.
The man, who cannot be named because of the discussion of his criminal history, is choosing to go to trial on the new charges and now faces a long wait in custody before the hearing.
Defence counsel Andrew McCormick had sought his release on electronically monitored bail, but the police opposed the move, saying that he had a bad record of offending while on bail and still posed a risk.
McCormick said the man's partner wanted him to be released so that he could support her as her mother was ill.
But Judge Kellar declined bail because of the man's long history of offending, which includes several prison terms, and his apparent relapse into methamphetamine use.
As the decision was announced, the man's partner stood up in the public seating and began yelling, "What would you know?" at the judge before advancing into the courtroom to try to hug the man in the dock.
She was stopped by the police officer escorting the man in the dock and told to leave the court, and by then the panic alarm was going off.
After further shouting, the woman left the court and the man was escorted back to the cells.
There is usually a police staff member at the back of the court, but he had been called away to speak to someone just before the incident.
When security staff and police arrived at the courtroom a few seconds later, she had gone, and so had the judge.
It is understood the woman will not be charged, but her name was taken for an incident report that will be filed.