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Bomb scare at Winchester Crown Court
1:53pm Monday 16th April 2012 in Winchester
THERE was major disruption in Winchester after a bomb scare at the city's combined courts on Monday (April 16).
The building was evacuated at lunchtime after police received a telephone call.
Officers set up an exclusion zone of 200 metres around the court buildings off the High Street as a precaution. This was later reduced to 100 metres but was left in place for several hours.
Once the court building was empty, specialist military and police officers searched it from top to bottom.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service confirmed that all cases at the court were suspended. He said: “Obviously we will have to reschedule all of the cases that were due to be heard, and we will do our best to re-list them as soon as we can.”
He added that prisoners held in the court’s cells were driven back to jail when the building was evacuated.
Several nearby offices and businesses were also affected, including Hampshire County Council’s headquarters. Hotel du Vin in Southgate Street was also evacuated with some tourists stranded because they could not retrieve their cars.
As the drama, or lack of it, unfolded, the patience of some people began to wear thin. Traffic was blocked in several roads including Gladstone Street where one motorist was ordered to return to his car after arguing with a policewoman directing traffic.
Judith Burnett, owner of the Old Fashioned Sweetie Shop in High Street, said: “I know they have a job to do and it’s difficult if it’s a bomb but if it’s not safe to have businesses open why is it safe to have someone drive past in a car? I’ve lost an afternoon’s takings and most of my trade comes in the afternoon.”
Tony Whyman, owner of Childhood’s Dream in Southgate Street, said he’d lost about 60 per cent of his daily income. He said: “We need to know the threat level because we need to know if the response was proportional or if the police have overreacted. We’ve only been told it’s a credible threat.”
By 5.30pm it was downgraded to the point where the cordon was lifted and traffic was flowing freely again.