Victims of violence will be placed at high risk

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

The closure of Derry’s courthouse this summer will put the victims of domestic violence in ‘immediate risk of harm’.

An organisation, which supports such victims, claims that travelling to courts in Omagh and Coleraine will put women’s safety at risk.

Donna Maria Logue, a spokesperson for La Dolce Vita Project, which supports men and women impacted by domestic violence, urged the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service ‘to reconsider the proposed closure.’

The NICTS has announced that the Bishop Street Courthouse will close from July 9 until the beginning of September for essential maintenance.

Family and youth court business will be moved to Coleraine while all other business, including Derry’s specialist domestic violence court, will relocate to Omagh courthouse.

Ms. Logue said that the relocation will put victims at risk of meeting the perpetrator and in ‘immediate risk of harm.’

She added that going to court in the city to give evidence, or to get an emergency Court Order can be ‘overwhelming for victims,’ but the extra travelling will now create further stress and ‘risk’ for them.

“Victims of domestic violence often have to organise their route in advance of going to court in the city. Travelling for a long distance will add further complications for victims”, Ms Logue maintained.

“They may not have the money to travel to Omagh and if they have children, the length of time they are away at court will cause problems.”

That said, Ms. Logue hopes the relocation of the court will not deter victims of domestic violence from attending court.

However, she said the additional travelling and potentially travelling alongside a perpetrator may help victims decide that it’s ‘too much’.

She also told the ‘Journal’ that her organisation will be under added pressure to support victims through the court process as a result of the relocation.