Flood shuts down Ottawa courthouse

A flood brought an abrupt halt to proceedings at the Ottawa courthouse on Elgin Street Tuesday morning, forcing the building to be evacuated and shut down for the day.

The courthouse was closed at 10:30 a.m. after a water main broke just outside the Laurier Street entrance to the building, causing water to pour in.

“Repairs are underway and it’s anticipated that the courthouse will re-open tomorrow,” said Rick Haga, executive director of the County of Carleton Law Association.

Cases including a police sergeant’s high-profile sex assault trial were postponed due to the burst pipe. Ottawa Police Sgt. Steven Desjourdy’s sexual assault trial had been scheduled to continue today.

When service workers shut off the water main it shut off the water to the courthouse and city hall.

The lack of running water for toilets and other necessities created a health and safety issue, which prompted officials to close the building.

“We were about to recommence a jury trial and it turns out there’s been a pipe that broke in the criminal vault downstairs where they keep the exhibits and things and it was filling up with water,” says James Foord of Foord Davies LLP and president of the Defense Counsel Association of Ottawa. “I guess whenever they have that type of situation the water will keep flowing until it fills the room which could include the cell block.”

Foord says everyone in custody awaiting bail hearings or sentencing had their matters adjourned until Wednesday morning.

It is the second flood this year at the courthouse. Earlier this spring a water system on the roof broke and leaked into the judges’ chambers and courtrooms.

“The Superior Court judges actually lost a lot of chambers and a couple of courtrooms and the pre-trial areas were water damaged and not able to be used,” says Foord. “It’s a bit of an infrastructure disaster.”

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