Discovery of bullets in Bendigo Magistrates' Court toilet highlights security fears

The discovery of more weapons in the Bendigo Law Courts has highlighted ongoing security concerns, a senior local lawyer says. Picture: NONI HYETT
The discovery of more weapons in the Bendigo Law Courts has highlighted ongoing security concerns, a senior local lawyer says. Picture: NONI HYETT

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FOUR bullets were found in a toilet cubicle in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court this week.

A knife was also found in the toilets outside a court used for a Supreme Court trial in Bendigo last week, along with small empty ziplock bags in bins in the female toilets.

Court security discovered the .22 calibre ammunition in toilets in the precinct’s newest building on Monday, beyond a security checkpoint which includes a bag scanner and metal detector.

Police attended and seized the items.

Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby said the discovery further highlighted the need for an upgraded court precinct in Bendigo.

She said security measures were failing to protect victims, legal practitioners and the general public in an increasingly hostile environment.

“Whatever our security system is, it’s not working.”

Bendigo Law Association president Jennifer Digby

“It makes you wonder if these items are being brought in regularly.”

Extra security guards were added to the court precinct in the last 12 months, but they are not equipped with radios. Instead, guards are asked to hold up “yellow cards” for assistance.

Visitors to the court can also bypass the security checkpoint on days when family violence matters are usually heard by the court, to avoid victims and perpetrators lining up together.

Ms Digby said plans had been drawn up for an integrated court precinct at the current location, but calls for the required funding continue to fall on deaf ears.

“Bendigo has been shortlisted to have upgraded or purpose-built courts for years. Ballarat has recently had purpose-built courts finished, and Shepparton is having them built,” Ms Digby said.

“I don’t know why Bendigo is being overlooked, as one of the largest regional courts.

“Do we have to wait for a serious incident before anything is done?”

She said the prevalence of ice-affected people in the precinct also heightened the risk.

Last month, a number of Bendigo lawyers spoke of the need for a purpose-built court facility, highlighting their safety fears for clients and victims.

The state government is currently prioritising funding for next month’s state budget. Court Services Victoria placed the upgrade of the Bendigo Law Courts as its main infrastructure priority.

Annual reports from the County Court also spoke of the desperate need for a solution to safety concerns in Bendigo.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Marilyn Warren, who this week announced plans to retire from the role, has been a vocal advocate of an improved court precinct in Bendigo.