Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Thursday, 22 November 2012

Justice Committee

The Justice Committee called for the shelving of Executive plans for the closure of four courthouses, on 22 November 2012.

Department of Justice (DoJ) and Courts Service officials briefed the committee on the proposed closure of courts in Magherafelt, Larne, Limavady and Bangor. The courthouse in Strabane was given a reprieve.

Peter Luney of the Courts Service said this would result in proceedings being held in bigger and better-equipped buildings with better waiting rooms.

Stewart Dickson of Alliance said he was concerned about the closure of Larne courthouse in his constituency.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness said he was "not terribly impressed" by the proposals. He said the rural population was widely dispersed and other buildings could be modified for courtroom use.

Mr Maginness, who is a barrister, said he remembered working in Newtownbreda Petty Sessions when it was held "in Cooke rugby club in the bar room".

The North Belfast MLA suggested that the closures be shelved in light of a future general justice estates strategy review covering around 100 buildings.

Stewart Dickson said that, although he would love to see Larne courthouse stay open, it would need a quarter of a million pounds in disability access adaptations.

Jim Wells of the DUP said he thought "the whole thing is a bit premature".

The committee agreed to recommend to the department that the proposed closures were premature and should be considered as part of the general review.

DoJ officials then briefed the committee on proposed reforms of legal aid in the civil and family courts.

Justice committee membership


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