Woman in gun threat to appeal court judges

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The Independent Online
Two judges were threatened in the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday by a woman carrying what was believed to be an imitation handgun.

The dark-haired woman, who was wearing a green anorak and believed to be in her early twenties, walked calmly in to Court No 7 through a door normally used by solicitors and up the steps to the judges' bench.

According to Michael Stokes, QC, a barrister who had just walked into the court room to oppose an appeal in a murder case, the woman then took out the gun and pointed it at two senior Court of Appeal judges - Lord Justice Beldam and Mrs Justice Bracewell. A third judge, Mr Justice Mance, managed to scramble out of a door and raise the alarm.

The woman shouted: "I have been assaulted, I'm tired of waiting."

Mr Stokes said as he walked in to the court, she turned and pointed the gun at him. "She looked at me and said: `You, don't move'. I was about 20 feet away," he said.

"My junior, Amjad Malik, who was in front of me, said: `There's a woman pointing a gun at you'. So I turned around and walked out again," said Mr Stokes, adding: "I must admit the gun didn't look real. It looked more like a Rambo-type thing, a fake one."

Another barrister, Tom MacKinnon, who was conducting an appeal in the court when the woman walked in, said that Lord Justice Beldam and Mrs Justice Bracewell deserved medals for bravery.

"The woman pointed the gun at the judges and said: `People will be shot unless my appeal is heard today. They have taken my children'. Mr Justice Mance calmly left the court to raise the alarm while his fellow judges urged the woman to put down the gun."

Mr MacKinnon said Mrs Justice Bracewell told the woman: "Why don't you put your gun down. Let's consider this."

Armed police evacuated the courts, situated in the Strand in central London, and sealed them off along with the surrounding streets as they searched for the woman.

Court No7 is on the first floor of the Royal Courts building, near to the courts of the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls.

The woman is believed to be known to the courts' security staff. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said yesterday that there was "no suggestion" that anyone had been taken hostage by the woman. She added: "As far as we know nobody has been hurt or taken hostage in the incident."

Yesterday evening at 5.30pm the courts were still sealed off.