A lawyer for Ibrahim Ali in his first-degree murder trial said police told him a person close to the proceeding brought a handgun into the Vancouver courtroom on Friday with “intent to kill.”
Kevin McCullough said in an interview with The Canadian Press that police told him the Glock firearm was loaded.
He said he and his wife were called to the Victoria Police Department on Sunday, where officers informed them of the incident. McCullough said he then told his co-counsel.
“I am fearful for my safety, the safety of my co-counsel, Mr. (Ben) Lynskey, and the safety of Mr. Ali at all court appearances,” McCullough said Monday.
“It’s a sad day when defence counsel or people who are being zealously represented, and somehow that turns into a society where they want defence counsel to be hurt, killed, intimidated and threatened.”
The trial concluded Friday with the B.C. Supreme Court jury convicting Ali of killing a 13-year-old girl in a Burnaby, B.C., park in 2017. The girl’s name cannot be reported because of a publication ban.
McCullough said Monday that he intends to file notice to appeal Ali’s conviction.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Attorney General said Monday that safety and security of all courts is a “top priority.”
“All weapons, of any kind, are strictly prohibited from being brought into a courthouse. It is our understanding that a police investigation is underway.”
Victoria police also said in an email there was an “ongoing investigation” but they were unable to provide details.
“You can direct further inquiries to Vancouver PD, as this is within their jurisdiction,” the email said.
Vancouver police did not immediately respond to questions about the alleged incident in court, while a spokesman for the BC Prosecution Service declined to comment, saying: “I have no information to share on that.”
McCullough said in the interview that he and Lynskey met with the BC Sheriff Service on Thursday and sought security measures, including that a metal detector be used. He said they were told any decision would be made by the judge but that was not implemented.
In court on Friday, he asked Justice Lance Bernard if the proceedings could be moved from Courtroom 53 to a secure courtroom in light of what he said was a “litany of death threats.”
But Bernard said he didn’t know if another courtroom was available and the move didn’t take place.
The B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver does not have metal detection and other security checks for all courtrooms.
Courtroom 20 in the complex is surrounded by bulletproof glass that separates the public gallery from lawyers, the judge, defendants and the jury. A vestibule outside the courtroom allows members of the public and media to be searched before they enter.
McCullough said his office also received a death threat targeting him shortly after noon on Friday. He said police went to the office and took statements from staff members.
Both defence lawyers also received death threats earlier in the trial, shortly after the death of Crown witness Dr. Tracy Pickett.
In September, Pickett, a sexual assault expert, testified that the teen’s injuries strongly indicated that she had been sexually assaulted.
But her testimony under cross-examination was never completed and she was found dead on the day she was due to return to the stand. The judge later told the jury to disregard all of her testimony.
In hearings without the jury present last week, McCullough read out a note in court that he said he’d received, threatening him and his family with violent deaths.
“It will happen before Christmas. The last thing you will know is that your family suffers like the child suffered. I am suicidal due to childhood predators looking for someone to cause pain to. I’ll burn myself alive.”
McCullough said intimidation and threats are “very disappointing.”
“I’m very worried about our society,” he said.
The main Crown evidence against Ali was semen found inside the girl’s body that was a DNA match for Ali.
McCullough told the jury that the girl was not an “innocent” child as the Crown had portrayed during trial, that she was a teenager and that it wasn’t “outlandish” to suggest she may have found Ali attractive.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.
This is a corrected story. A previous version said Kevin McCullough met with the BC Sheriff Service on Friday. In fact, it was Thursday.