Plans to close the historic Courthouse in Limavady have been slammed as a “completely retrogade step” and likened to “cutting a knife through the heart” of the town.
Local solicitor Peter Jack blasted the move, which is being considered under cost saving plans by the Northern Ireland Court Service. He said it would deprive local citizens of a vital link to the criminal justice system and be a blow to local police, as officers would be spending more time out of the town to attend court elsewhere.
Limavady Courthouse is open each Wednesday for petty sessions. However it is also used for inquests, tribunals and small claims courts, as well as taking the overspill from Derry when Bishop Street is busy.
“This would be a blow to court users, to Limavady and the police as well,” said Mr Jack. “It would be like cutting a knife through the heart of Limavady.”
Should the move go ahead, Mr. Jack fears that other organisations, such as the PSNI, may pull out of the town. He said there were fears that if the Courthouse closes it could be sold off and turned into a pub.
“And wouldn’t that be great,” he said. “That’s the last thing Limavady needs.”
The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service launches a consultation paper today seeking views on the proposals and says no decisions on the proposals will be taken until all of the responses to the consultation have been fully considered.”
East Derry SDLP MLA John Dallat said: “A decision to close Limavady courthouse runs contrary to the commitment to support decentralisation of government services where possible. Courthouses are used frequently by people who have neither the money or means to travel to bigger towns such as Derry or Coleraine. For that reason alone this decision would be discriminatory. It is also bad for Limavady, which has been devastated by loss of jobs and amenities. The minister would be exceptionally foolish to go down the road of closure for these and many other reasons, including the needs of the legal profession who use the facility and support its future existence.”
During 2004/05, £42,100 was spent on Limavady Courthouse as part of a programme of work to improve the standard of facilities at the courthouse.