Police have carried out a drugs raid ... at a courthouse.
In unprecedented scenes the PSNI swooped at Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday.
The court proceedings were halted for around half an hour and the courtroom cleared as specialist drug detection dogs then mingled with defendants in the adjacent public waiting area.
A police chief said the dogs indicated that six people present in the courthouse had recently been in contact with drugs.
Those individuals were brought to a private room for a search but no drugs were detected and there were no arrests.
Speaking to the press at the court, PSNI Chief Inspector Simon Ball said: “A concern had been raised that people were coming to the court carrying drugs. They were discarding drugs paraphernalia in the court grounds.
“Between the police, the Courts Service and the Judge it was agreed we would bring down the drugs dogs.
“The dogs - Jazz and Marty - will indicate if people are in possession or had recently been in contact with drugs.
“We had six ‘indications’ but after searches there were no positive detections.”
Chief Inspector Ball added: “We want to send out a message that controlled drugs are not acceptable anywhere but particularly in a court.”
The officer said they had “good feedback” on the raid and he pledged: “We will be back”.
He said ten officers were involved in the operation.
It is understood the police action was connected to an incident at the same courthouse on October 19 this year when a drugs link was suspected.
That day a man (25) appeared to take ill in the foyer of Ballymena Courthouse and was taken to hospital by ambulance.
It is understood the man was due to have been a defendant at the October court.
At the time an eye-witness said: “The man was standing at railings outside the court door and appeared to stumble and when court staff brought him inside he seemed to be blacking out every thirty or forty seconds.
“Staff lay him down in the foyer until an ambulance crew arrived about five minutes later and the man was taken away in the ambulance,” said the witness.
A Northern Health and Social Care Trust spokeswoman said at the time the man had been admitted to Antrim Area Hospital for “observation”.
The same individual was back at Ballymena Court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to possessing the Class C drug ‘GBH’ on October 24 this year.