Courthouse closure plan ‘blow to justice in the Larne area’

Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

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Local councillors say Justice Minister David Ford’s failure to consult them over Ballymena courthouse’s proposed closure is “a disgrace.”

Local councillors say Justice Minister David Ford’s failure to consult them over Ballymena courthouse’s proposed closure is “a disgrace.”

In January, Mr Ford announced plans to close eight of Northern Ireland’s 20 courthouses in a move which was met with widespread local opposition.

DUP Larne Lough councillors Paul Reid and Gregg McKeen said they were “deeply disappointed that the Justice Minister David Ford plans to serve the second blow to justice in the Larne area.”

Councillor Reid stated: “It is a total disgrace that Larne’s DEA councillors have not been consulted about the closure of the courthouse in Ballymena where Larne cases are now heard.”

Referring to the closure of Larne courthouse in March 2013, he added: “The Justice Minister previously told the people of Larne of the benefits that the closure of Larne court house would bring. This included safeguarding the future of Ballymena Court house.

“There is no doubt that the closure of Larne courthouse still incurs expenses to the Department of Justice.”

The DUP representatives said that they believe “justice is best served at a local level” and that it would be “impossible” for individuals to travel directly to Coleraine or Antrim via public transport if Ballymena courthouse closed.

“It’s simply not good enough that justice is no longer served in Mid and East Council area,” Councillor Reid added.

“Justice is best served at a local level.

“It is totally unacceptable that the best the Minister of Justice has to offer to Larne people, in the way of a justice system, will be outside public transport availability.

Councillor McKeen added: “This will result in people missing court dates and hearings, through no fault of their own, and warrants having to be issued for their arrest, as a result of not attending court.

“This will also add another layer of bureaucratic tape to the already stretched PSNI.”

The DUP councillors, who described the loss of Larne court house as “like losing a symbol of justice,” are now seeking an urgent meeting with the Justice Minister to discuss their concerns.