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Inside the day a litigant attacked another in B.C. Supreme Court

Records obtained via freedom of information reveal talking points surrounding an attack at the Vancouver Law Courts
Records obtained via freedom of information reveal talking points surrounding an attack at the Vancouver Law Courts | Rob Kruyt

The day after a litigant in a longstanding feud stabbed her nemesis in the Vancouver Law Courts nearly two years ago, a ministry of attorney general manager downplayed the severity of the vicious attack.

Provincial Court Judge Kathryn Denhoff found Qin Qin Shen guilty on Feb. 14 of attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of a dangerous weapon and assault with a weapon. On May 25, 2021, Shen attacked Jing Lu with a hammer and knife inside a courtroom.

Policy analyst Alvin Lau’s recommended talking points, obtained via freedom of information, acknowledged the ministry’s awareness of what it deemed an “assault incident” and that “the matter is now before the courts.”

The talking points also said B.C. Sheriff Service members are situated throughout every provincial courthouse and all weapons of any kind are strictly prohibited. “The ministry will be reviewing the facts of this incident to determine what if any further measures may be taken,” said the prepared statement.

By contrast, Chief Sheriff Paul Corrado’s May 26 major incident email described the “horrific scene in courtroom 32.”

“The court clerk assigned to this civil courtroom activated the emergency alarm after a female member of the public attacked another female in the courtroom with a knife and hammer. The victim sustained several puncture and laceration wounds,” wrote Corrado.

“The sheriff response was immediate. A responding deputy directed the assailant to the floor and quickly tossed the hammer and knife aside before placing her under arrest. Sheriff first-aid officers assisted with stabilizing the victim until EHS arrived on scene. The victim was subsequently transported by ambulance to Vancouver General Hospital for further treatment.”

Corrado said response to emergency events is very difficult and emotionally challenging and the sheriffs acted heroically.

“The sheriffs who responded to this incident, were professional and were able to de-escalate the situation within minutes of arriving on the scene,” Corrado wrote.

Jenny Manton, the assistant deputy minister of the Court Services Branch, called the day “like none other” and acknowledged director of operations Michelle Bennett, senior manager Karie Tasalloti, senior inspector Steve Jervis and superintendent Jackie Smith.

“The responses of the clerk and sheriffs to the horrific situation demonstrated valour and courage, as well as the importance of training for an emergency or unexpected situation,” Manton wrote.

“I know that our responsibilities in the justice sector require strength as we work with people who can be under a great deal of stress. The last 48 hours have been difficult, but have been made easier thanks to BCSS for arranging to conduct debriefings at courthouses across the province,” Manton wrote, noting the critical incident stress management team led by Dr. Georgia Nemetz.

Bennett replied with a commendation for manager Manjit Gunglay, who had been in her role for four months. She was setting up courtrooms on the third floor when the incident started and rushed to courtroom 32 when she heard a commotion.

“She provided immediate and ongoing support to the impacted clerk, while the sheriffs did an incredible job of apprehending the attacker and administering first aid to the victim,” Bennett wrote.

Government facility manager CBRE was called back for additional biohazard cleaning after the first visit didn’t do the job to remove all blood stains from the red carpet.

“It may be when it was wet they couldn't see them but you can clearly see them in person. I feel the tiles will probably need replacing. As well, the side of the table appeared to have a blood palm print on it,” Tasalloti wrote. “The room has not been properly cleaned.”

The courtroom was not in use for the rest of the week and the cleaning could be done anytime during the day.

A statement from the ministry of attorney general called safety and security for all court users “a top priority” and that it conducted an internal review jointly with B.C. General Employees Union.

“Based on the recommendations of that review, the following changes are being implemented: Updating the Sheriff Policy Manual to require active assessment of court matters with unknown risk level; Mandatory documented refresher training for court administration staff on active lethal threat training every three years; and Mandatory documented refresher training for court administration staff on emergency procedures every three years.”

The Law Courts sometimes use metal detectors during high-security trials. Provincial Courts in Vancouver, Surrey and New Westminster, however, have airport-style security at entrances.

In November 1990 at the Law Courts, a man stabbed his estranged wife and her lawyer David Vickers, a former Deputy Attorney General, in courtroom 30. Vickers had tried to protect his client from her ex-husband. At trial, Ontario’s Thomas Sawyer was acquitted of attempted murder.

In June 1990, Pak Chee Wu used a handgun to take five people hostage at B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster. Wu was severely wounded in a shootout and died in hospital almost two weeks later.