The courts service is aiming to “dispose of” Larne Courthouse after revealing that it has spent £18,769 on the vacant building over the last two years.
After operating in the town for 110 years, the landmark building closed its doors on March 28 2013, with all court business being transferred to Ballymena Magistrates’ court.
A courts service spokesperson told the Times: “Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) has instructed the Departmental Solicitors Office to review the Title Deeds for Larne Courthouse.
“When this process is concluded the property will be disposed of in line with the Department of Finance and Personnel guidelines on the “Disposal of Surplus Public Sector Property in Northern Ireland”.
“In the interim this property is available to rent. The current rental rates for Larne are £65 per session and £30 per hour thereafter. Rental rates are set by Land and Property Service.”
Former Larne Lough Councillor John Matthews, who sat as a lay magistrate in the family and youth courts in Larne for 14 years, said he was “sorry that the court service saw fit to withdraw courts from Larne.”
“Justice should be as near to the people as possible,” he stated.
“The bus service to Ballymena is inadequate, and there is a threat to withdraw Ballymena courthouse itself.”
Reacting to the thousands of pounds involved in the vacant building’s upkeep, Mr Matthews stated: “The figures seem crazy.
“It’s not a good use of public money. And how much is it costing to transfer business to other venues, and for barristers and the public to travel further?”
Over the past two years, £6967 has been spent on the building’s repair and maintenance, £304 on waste and sewerage, £5125 on energy and £6373 on rates.
Mr Matthews, who has been nominated as an honorary member of the Lay Magistrates Association, says he would support the courthouse being turned into something which would draw people into the town.
“The building is sound so it would be appropriate to turn it into a Game of Thrones museum, with the number of dramas,” he laughed.
“Game of Thrones is not going to diminish, it will be repeated even when the series ends.
“The show is terrific for Northern Ireland, it has been such a success.”