The reported negligence of the person holding the key to the St. John’s Magistrates’ Court caused proceedings for Monday, April 3, to be interrupted as cases had to be adjourned.
Reports say that staff showed up for work only to meet the doors closed and hear complaints that the key could not be found. The entire building was locked and there was no way to get inside.
Further reports say the key is usually left at a police station. However, it was unclear what had happened to it on Monday, although there was talk of it having been misplaced.
Originally, the key had been in the care of a police officer, who would open the court each morning for the cleaners.
However, sources say, because there had been some dispute about the officer having access, the key had been handed over to the administration of the Court, who made other arrangements for it to be kept.
As a result, staff, litigants, attorneys and the magistrates who had already shown up to work – some as early as after 7 a.m. – were forced to wait until sometime after 11 a.m. when the key was located.
The court was subsequently opened, but several matters were affected, including the hearing of new cases.
Persons in police custody who were expected to make their first appearance before a magistrate were taken back to the police stations – either be granted station bail or kept in custody overnight depending on the gravity of the charge.
Matters that had been docketed for trial had to be adjourned, with complainants and defendants told to come back on another date.
Even parents who had gone to collect child-maintenance payments complained about the incident.
One woman tells REAL News she was frustrated about the matter, since she had not been feeling well and had to walk to the Knuckle Block facility – only to be told she could not collect the cheque.
She says the staff seemed carefree as they stood outside of the building, conversing and laughing with each other.
The woman says she left the premises, but had to return for the cheque after the keys were found, and this took up a considerable portion of her already busy morning.
A source says this is not the first time the key could not be found, and is actually the second time within months.
Chief Magistrate Joanne Walsh is on vacation and was not present for this second incident.