Plans to close several courthouses across Northern Ireland have been met with dismay by lawyers, who say access to justice will be severely limited for vulnerable people.
The Department of Justice Northern Ireland (DoJNI) revealed yesterday (29 January) its proposals to close eight courthouses in a bid to reduce costs.
“Access to good local court facilities is vital for people who need to use the justice system,” said Martin Hanna, Northern Ireland representative of national not-for-profit group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) which campaigns on behalf of injured people.
“Most plaintiffs will already have to travel a fair distance, and now they will be expected to travel even further, adding costs and stress to the already daunting experience of having to go to court.
“It’s not just the people who lose their local courthouse who will be affected. I also fear for the strain on the remaining courthouses which will have to pick up the workload. People whose local courthouse survives the cull could face long delays brought on by the extra work. The workload will not be reduced, but the facilities to cope with it will be. It’s a recipe for chaos and must not happen”.