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Woman stabs herself in court

IN AN alleged act of self-harm, a woman stabbed herself repeatedly while in a Coffs Harbour court-room yesterday.

Witnesses said the middle-aged woman pulled what appeared to be a kitchen knife from her handbag and stabbed herself in the abdomen in front of a magistrate about 11am.

It happened after a ruling went against her in a small civil claims matter.

Subdued by sheriff officers and treated by paramedics, the woman was rushed to the Coffs Harbour Health Campus where she was reported to be in a stable condition late yesterday.

The Department of Justice and Attorney General has now vowed to review security at the Coffs Harbour Courthouse.

A witness, Anne Beasley – president of the Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour Law Society – said the incident highlighted the need for greater screening and the use of metal detectors in the local and district courts.

“This could have been fatal,” Ms Beasley said.

“There needs to be protection for court officers, legal practitioners and the general public.”

Ms Beasley, who was on the bench at the time, said the woman appeared agitated when costs were awarded against her.

“I heard the commotion and saw her holding what appeared to be a kitchen knife, which she was striking herself with.

“She was bleeding profusely and when I last saw her she was lying on the floor after being subdued,” she said.

The stabbing happened during a civil court hearing involving an insurance company.

A department spokesman said the incident was a rare occurrence, and would bring forward the review of court security to examine whether systems can be improved.

“The duress alarm was activated and sheriff’s officers and police officers reacted quickly,” the spokesman said.

“We are advised that the woman in question is being treated in hospital and we wish her a speedy recovery.

“The woman was not facing any criminal charges and was not regarded as a significant security risk,” he said.

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