Saturday, July 29, 2006

Protecting Judicial and Legal Officials

According to the London Free Press article Death threats raise alarm (July 27, 2006), the "Canadian Human Rights Commission has stepped up security for staff working on hate crimes in the wake of death threats from an American white supremacy leader".

The death threats were made against Commission staff, Federal Court of Canada Justice Konrad W. von Finckenstein and an Ottawa lawyer.

On a related note, in the United States, the BJA Clearinghouse, a component of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, has published a document entitled Protecting Judicial Officials: Implementing an Effective Threat Management Process.

"This report presents 10 basic elements for the successful implementation of a threat management process. These are the golden rules that demonstrate how the judiciary can identify, assess, investigate, and manage risks of violence to judicial officials. The judiciary needs to incorporate an effective threat management process for defusing the risk of violence before it erupts."

In Canada, it appears that threats of physical violence more often target lawyers than judges and court officials/employees.

Karen N. Brown, a criminology PhD at Simon Fraser University, is one of the very few researchers in Canada who is studying this topic. Her work shows - no surprises here - that family and matrimonial lawyers are at the highest risk of being threatened. Her M.A. thesis is called An Exploratory Analysis of Violence and Threats Against Lawyers (2003).

In an article in 2005 in The Peak, a Simon Fraser student newspaper, Brown explained why Canadian judges are less frequently the object of threats and assaults: "the vast majority of the public would usually blame the lawyer as the person responsible if any problems were to arise. Brown also pointed out a judge would be harder to threaten or physically attack inside the courtroom. She noted that judges in court are positioned higher up and further away, are equipped with a panic button, have a sheriff close by, their own private chambers, separate exits, and are not listed in the phone book."

The Canadian Bar Association has become increasingly concerned about lawyer safety and has put the issue on its agenda in the past 2 or 3 years. At its 2005 annual conference, the Association widely disseminated a Personal Security Handbook for lawyers (produced by the Ontario Bar Association).

Earlier Library Boy posts on threats to the judiciary:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:57 pm

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