WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7: Prisoners are being sped from jail to court under armed guard amid blazing sirens and flashing lights, in the wake of a new wave of gang-related gun crime.

High profile inmates are being rushed from Westgate into Hamilton in armed convoys with an entourage of police motorcycles, vans and cars to prevent escape bids and retaliatory attacks.

Last week vans ferrying 26 inmates to the Supreme Court Arraignments Session were backed up by armed cops and extra ground support. And this week convicted murderer David Cox was brought from Westgate to the Court of Appeal in Hamilton under armed guard.

The convoys speed across the island, forcing civilian traffic to pull over to ensure they are not separated.

National Security Minister Wayne Perinchief said a strong police presence is needed to deter the possibility of retribution.

He said the convoys carrying prisoners had to travel through known gang areas and there was a risk of attack: “A very strong police presence is not sending out the wrong message. These are people charged with serious crimes. With the Court of Appeal in particular David Cox is a convicted murderer. There is a lot at stake here. Public order and public safety are paramount.”

Assistant Commissioner Paul Wright told us the goal is to ensure the safety of the public, not to spark alarm: “Every court appearance has a risk assessment and the police deployment is commensurate with whatever the threat is.

“We work in partnership with Corrections and court staff to find the safest possible way of transporting a prisoner to court.

“We look at whether there is any affiliation with gangs or the threat of a prison break.

“The safest way for a prisoner to appear in court is via video link and that is provided by the Indictable Offences legislation, but video link is not always appropriate and is not always permitted by law.

Sheer numbers

“The first that people would have seen of this high profile prisoner escort with extra equipment and an armed police presence would have been at Supreme Court Arraignments on November 1.

“The reason for that was a combination of sheer number of prisoners that had to get to court – 26 in total – and problems with the video link.

“These prisoners had to be moved in manageable groups based on intelligence and risk assessment. The objective is to maximize the safety of the public, the police officers, corrections and court staff but also the accused himself.

“With an escort of this nature inevitably the vehicles need to stay together in formation through junctions and some disruption to regular traffic is inevitable.

“We do not take this kind of escort lightly.

Risk

“This week when the Court of Appeal has been sitting the risk assessment called for an enhanced and armed police presence to augment the basic security at the court.”

Lieutenant Colonel Edward Lamb, Commissioner of Corrections, concurred that the increased police presence last week was “due to the increase of inmates being taken to arraignments”.

Referring to use of police escorts this week he added: “This would have to do with David Cox being what we call a ‘high profile’ inmate.

“And the extra police would have been part of the collaborative efforts between us and our Police colleagues to ensure safe custody to and from the courts.”