AUGUSTA – The fence atop Memorial Bridge has worked at least once to prevent suicide, authorities say.

On Aug. 5, 2009, it deterred a court-committed patient at the Riverview Psychiatric Center from jumping into the Kennebec River, according to police.

The testimony came during a hearing Friday in Kennebec County Superior Court to determine whether the fence should be removed.

The suicide-prevention fence was reinstalled in 2006, after the bridge was rebuilt.

Before the reinstallation, some residents circulated a petition to try to prevent it, saying no one had jumped in the year the bridge was without the fence.

In a spirited debate, anti-suicide groups were pitted against those who wanted to see the fence disappear, to open up views of the Capitol dome and other sites in Augusta.

The fence was first installed in 1982, after Rep. Patrick Paradis introduced a bill calling for it. Statistics supporting the measure showed that 14 people had leaped to their deaths from the bridge from 1960 to 1982. Nine were patients at the nearby Augusta Mental Health Institute, which Riverview replaced.

The patient involved last year slipped away on a group outing.