RCMP have stopped working in the Whitehorse courthouse’s cellblock after personnel from the force’s departmental security branch (DSB) identified several “deficiencies” during an inspection Jan. 18. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

RCMP not using Whitehorse courthouse cellblock due to ‘deficiencies’

The cellblock is still being used by courthouse staff, including court sheriffs

Members of the RCMP have stop working in the Whitehorse courthouse’s cellblock after personnel from the force’s departmental security branch (DSB) identified several “deficiencies” during an inspection Jan. 18.

What exactly those deficiencies are, though, neither the RCMP nor the Yukon Department of Justice will say.

In an emailed statement, Yukon RCMP Supt. Brian Jones said members of the DSB’s pacific region team travelled to the Yukon “to conduct a comprehensive review of security-related infrastructure, equipment and projects.”

While the Andrew Philipsen Law Centre in downtown Whitehorse is a government building, the cellblock is regularly used by the RCMP’s PROVOST unit, whose members assist in transferring people to and from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC.) The cellblock contains five holding cells, a control area, hallways that lead to the courthouse’s five courtrooms and a sally port where police vehicles can enter and exit.

Members of the RCMP’s DSB inspected the cellblock Jan. 18.

“As a result of deficiencies identified during this review, subject-matter experts from the RCMP’s departmental security section recommended that the cellblock not be used by RCMP staff,” Jones wrote in the email.

“Effective January 18th, 2018, the cellblock will no longer be used by RCMP employees, until such a time as deficiencies can be addressed, and the cellblock meets RCMP standards.”

Jones was not immediately available for further comment. Yukon RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid said the force would not be identifying what the deficiencies are, nor what the DSB looks for when conducting inspections. Reid also could not confirm when the DSB’s last inspection in Whitehorse took place.

In a phone interview, Yukon Department of Justice spokesperson Dan Cable said the DSB’s inspection was part of a regularly-scheduled routine and was not triggered by any complaints.

He confirmed that most of the deficiencies are “security-related,” but declined to elaborate.

“What I can tell you is that the deficiencies will be addressed, that we’re working with the RCMP now to do that.… We will be working with our partners at highways and public works to address the building’s deficiencies and get them repaired,” Cable said, adding that the departments are still working out how much the repairs will cost and how long it will take for them to be made. He also noted that, in recent years, the cellblock’s cell doors and camera system have been upgraded.

In the meantime, court proceedings will continue as usual, Cable said, with the RCMP’s PROVOST unit continuing to facilitate prisoner transportation. The justice department also has video services available at the WCC and courthouse that would allow individuals to make appearances via video link.

The cellblock is also still being used by courthouse staff, Cable said.

“The cell block is still operating, all the cameras are still there, everything’s there, people are still working there…. All the things that were going on, for the most part, are still going on with some variation in that the RCMP are no longer working in that back area,” he said.

While the holding cells aren’t being used by the RCMP, Cable confirmed that, in theory, they could still be used by the courthouse sheriffs.

“It may be possible for the sheriffs to use them…. They’re not deficient in the sense that they can’t be used,” he said. “The RCMP has said they’re not up to the RCMP standards, but there’s a difference there.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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