Limavady Courthouse will remain open until at least September 2015, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.
The Courthouse has been under threat of closure since 2011, when the Justice Minister David Ford announced the move, and which he subsequently confirmed a year later.
The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) say “the intention to close Limavady Courthouse remains”, but “it is necessary to bring forward some court boundary changes to facilitate the closure, which we expect will take place around September 2015”.
The NICTS said it is still intended to transfer Limavady court business to Coleraine and “that NICTS staff will move with the business in the first instance”.
Secretary of Limavady Solicitors’ Association, Peter Jack gave the news a cautious welcome.
“I am delighted at this temporary reprieve,” Mr Jack told the ‘Journal’. “I am delighted for Limavady court users and Limavady police who will not have to waste their time trekking to Derry and Coleraine courthouses. I am also delighted for court staff.”
Mr Jack said, however, Limavady Courthouse should be allowed to stay open permanently. Mr Jack described the move to close the Courthouse as a “knee jerk reaction from a bean counter deep in the bowels of the NICTS”.
“It is quite obvious that Limavady Courthouse is needed to serve the Roe Valley borough of more than 30,000 people,” said Mr Jackson, adding: “We still say there should be local justice for local people.”
Local solicitor, Paddy McGurk of MacDermott, McGurk & Partners has been practising in Limavady Courthouse since he started his career.
“I am opposed to Limavady Courthouse moving in the first place,” said Mr McGurk. “It is a vital service to a substantial community. A large number of people are serviced by the Courthouse and I am delighted for local people who need a Courthouse.”
President of Roe Valley Chamber of Commerce, David Brewster said: “It is being kept open, not as any commitment to local people but because the Assembly cannot get legislation through that would permit Limavady courthouse to be closed until September next year,” said Mr Brewster.
“It’s merely a stay of execution, but in that time local businesses will continue to benefit from the footfall of those attending court.”
A spokesperson for the NICTS said: “It remains the intention to close Limavady Courthouse and transfer that business to Coleraine. It will be necessary to bring forward some court boundary changes to facilitate this closure, which we expect will take place around September 2015. The NICTS will liaise with the Judiciary to consider options for listing the conjoined business at Coleraine. The NICTS will work closely with Land and Property Services (LPS) to ensure compliance with government guidelines on the Disposal of Surplus Public Sector Property and seek alternative uses for the courthouse. It is envisaged that NICTS staff will move with the business in the first instance.”