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Cite as: September 2014 88 (09) LIJ, p.84

Court security 2014

Have you ever felt anxious, frustrated and helpless waiting in a queue to progress through security?

A court appearance, aeroplane departure or other vital task urgently awaits you. Then, belt off, arms outstretched as a scanner is applied to your person you feel your trousers gradually slipping south. Security nowadays is invasive, inconvenient, ubiquitous and absolutely necessary. It wasn’t always like this.

Indeed, before 1980 a person could wander into the Supreme Court with a gun in his pocket without let or hindrance. One man did.

A most remarkable and tragic file handled by my firm was the matter of Dragovic v Kraja which came before the Supreme Court in 1980. Our client, Nazire Dragovic, the plaintiff, had a savings account in a local bank with a modest balance of about $13,000. Nazire was unable to access her account without a second signature supplied by her brother-in-law Sulejman Kraja, which he withheld. Argument between them led to violence.

Nazire consulted us. We advised that she apply for court orders against her brother-in-law. The matter finally reached hearing at the Supreme Court before his Honour Justice Tadgell after lengthy interlocutory proceedings. It lasted several days.

His Honour ordered judgment for our client, damages for assault, interest and costs.

The defendant had made threats to our client and her legal team before and at court. He was known to be violent but little more was thought of it.

At the conclusion of the case, our client, the young female solicitor from our office who had conducted the case, our court interpreter, Nazire’s bodyguard and a friend who had sadly turned up on the wrong day to give supporting evidence moved off from the court down some stairs and along a ground floor corridor within the Supreme Court quadrangle. All were in good spirits.

The solicitor later remarked that she heard a clatter of footsteps on flagstones approaching rapidly from behind. Suddenly shots rang out.

The defendant had been in wait, seated outside the court unnoticed, until our client and her party passed. He drew a handgun, rushed up from behind and shot our client’s bodyguard, the unfortunate friend who had come on the wrong day, and the interpreter, a gentle and scholarly man who was known affectionately in his community as “the professor”. He shot our client and our young solicitor as one of the men collapsed across her.

The three men died. Nazire, though wounded in the face below her jaw, recovered, and the solicitor suffered flesh wounds but thankfully, other than shock, also recovered.

Within moments people appeared from everywhere. The defendant attempted to flee but was apprehended by a policeman.

The sequel to this outrage occurred several years later when Mr Kraja was convicted on three counts of murder and two of attempted murder. He was jailed for life.

This tragic and horrific episode in the history of the Supreme Court must have surely been a, if not the, catalyst for the security which is now de rigueur not only in Melbourne but far and beyond.

ANTHONY C. ROSE, Anthony Rose & Mainwaring Lawyers


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