Concerns over summer courthouse closure

Bishop Street courthouse, Derry,
Bishop Street courthouse, Derry,

Victims, defendants, witnesses and legal practitioners could face a 110 kilometres round trip to court this summer as essential maintenance is carried out on Bishop Street Courthouse.

Earlier this week, District Judge Barney McElholm adjourned a number of cases to Omagh Magistrate’s Court in July.

Local solicitors have raised concerns about the impact of a potential move to Omagh for victims and defendants. They also have concerns that there has been no consultation with local practitioners in relation to the closure of the local courthouse.

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service has confirmed that court business in Derry will be ‘disrupted’ during the summer months to facilitate essential maintenance. However, it did not confirm that court business was being moved to Omagh.

A spokesperson for the NICTS said that ‘work is ongoing to deciding alternative venues.’

It added that ‘a court user forum is being held next week with key stakeholders to discuss the matter.’.

Ciaran Hampson, secretary of the local Bar Association, said the people of the North West will be ‘disadvantaged’ by the move.

“It is accepted that building maintenance may be required. The north west is a legal hub and one could argue the current building is not fit for purpose. What we need is a new court building but in the absence of a devolved government that is not going to happen,” he said.

Mr Hampson said ‘the people of the north west are potentially being prejudiced and disadvantaged due to the uncertainty of where the court will be sitting.

“The NICTS is completely shutting down the building for this maintenance work to be carried out, rather than a partial shut down so that all hearings during the summer months will have to be held elsewhere.”

The solicitor added that it was ‘unfortunate’ local practitioners have not been consulted about the move.

“We were only made aware when the District Judge began adjourning cases to Omagh.”