Local courthouse closure would be a ‘catastrophe for justice’

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Closing Limavady courthouse and forcing users to “troop over the mountain to Coleraine” would be a “castastrophe for justice and democracy in the Roe Valley”.

That’s the resounding opinion of the Limavady Solicitors’ Association, whose secretary Peter Jack says it makes economic sense to keep the 290-year-old building open.

The Main Street Courthouse is one of five the NI Court Service wants to close to make savings of roughly £400,000. Today is the last chance for supporters and anyone with a view on the move to submit them to the Court Service.

NI Court Service claim that closing Limavady and transferring business to Coleraine court on Tuesdays would save £54,000, however, the local legal fraternity believes otherwise.

“It makes economic sense to keep this building open when one looks at the fact that the Court Service will have to pay money to keep a closed building in some kind of shape and also there would be further expenditure for the police, for witnesses, for court users who have to travel to Coleraine. So, whilst I am not being foolhardy, sheer logic dictates that Limavady Courthouse should remain open,” Mr. Jack told the ‘Journal’.

Last month NI Courthouse chiefs were met with a packed courthouse of vocal supporters from across the community, who made sure their concerns about closing the facility were heard.

“The second reason the courthouse should remain open is because of the non-economic arguments, i.e common sense. This would be so difficult for so many court users to get to Coleraine or Derry. Logic and common sense and reason would dictate that Limavady Courthouse should remain open so if everyone who attended the public meeting in Limavady was able to see the logic of keeping the Courthouse open, then surely the Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Service will also,” said Mr. Jack.

After the close of consultation today it will be a few weeks before the future of Limavady Courthouse is made public, but Mr. Jack is “confident” the robust campaign in the Roe Valley will have changed minds.

“Everyone in the Limavady Solicitors’ Association is delighted with the widespread public support which was evident at the Public Meeting and also from the amount of people who were very happy to be photographed with the Save Limavady Courthouse banner. I look back and I am glad what everybody did. I feel that it was a real community effort,” he said. “Hopefully the NI Court Service will see that there was a groundswell of opinion behind the Courthouse and most of the speakers at the Public Meeting weren’t lawyers. They were ordinary members of the public who just failed to see the sense of closing it.”

Mr. Jack said he and the Association’s membership were “knocked out” at the strength of support for the courthouse, and not just in Limavady but Dungiven, Greysteel, Myroe, Magilligan.

“Although it’s called Limavady Courthouse, it serves the needs of 30,000 people only 12,000 of whom live in the town. This is a Borough Council Courthouse. Talking of the Council I am also completely grateful to the politicians and the Chief Executive of Limavady Borough Council who have supported our endeavours and who have put in their own response.”

He added that in relation to closure: “I just don’t even want to think about that. I don’t want to have a negative thought about this. Quite frankly, I think it would be a catastrophe for justice and democracy in the Roe Valley if every court user is forced to troop over the mountain to Coleraine. What the Court Service tend to forget is that many people just have one brush with the legal and judicial system in their lives and we want that court appearance to be as smooth, as efficient and obviously as humane as possible. Local justice by sheer definition should be served up locally. In short, the courthouse in Limavady ain’t broke so why on earth are the Court Service trying to allegedly fix it?”